Monday, July 15, 2019

New Friends On The BackBone

A group of avid cyclists recently took on the Black Hills BackBone. Here's a bit of their story, at least the small parts that I know.

Mike Prendergast is a Colorado cyclist who discovered the Black Hills BackBone through this blog a couple of years ago. Intrigued by the idea of a cross-state gravel ride, Mike created his own west/east gravel route across the northern part of Colorado and rode it with some friends over several days. Some time later, he contacted me with questions about riding the BackBone itself, including some of the logistics. Eventually, in late May this year, Mike led a party of eight on a journey to South Dakota to ride the Black Hills BackBone over four days.

The Colorado group gathers at the USFS Picnic Spring Campground near the North Dakota border,
on the eve of their four day Black Hills BackBone journey. (photo by Mike Puccio)

The Colorado group arrived in the Black Hills on Thursday May 23rd, the afternoon after a spring storm left over a foot of fresh snow in Spearfish and more on the higher elevations. Further north, the snow dissipated, but it was a cold, damp night camping at USFS Picnic Spring Campground near the North Dakota border. The prospect of riding the BackBone over the next four days looked bleak.

The Colorado group drives through Spearfish en route to USFS Picnic Spring Campground,
with at least the paved roads now clear of yesterday's foot of snow.
The higher elevations received even more snow. (photo by Matt Puccio)

On Day 1, the Colorado group rode from the border and almost immediately plowed into soggy mud. After a long morning without respite from the wheel-sucking slog, they turned east onto paved State Highway 20 to rendezvous with their support crew at the town of Buffalo. Cold, tired, dirty and discouraged, they were done with the BackBone route and were looking for something else, anything else, to ride.

Hearing that news, I called out on social media for road reports around Spearfish. Thanks to a quick and positive response from Christopher Grady, the Colorado group received surprisingly good news that the gravel roads on the prairie were dry and hard. I then forwarded to them the Spearfish routes of Lucas Haan's Black Hills Gravel Series for alternatives to their planned Day 2 ride up O'Neil Pass. They sounded skeptical, but grateful, and said they would take a look at the roads in the morning.

Starting from the North Dakota border on Day 1, the Colorado group plows through sloppy roads more mud than gravel.
(photo by Mike Prendergast)
Day 2 brought sunny, clear skies and moderate winds, drying the roads even more. Encouraged, they rode the 50+ mile "Scenic" route of the 2019 Black Hills Gravel Series out of Spearfish. From all reports, they loved the route and the ride. Around the campsite that evening, they considered how to spend their remaining two days in the Black Hills.

While the Colorado group rode around Spearfish on Day 2, I checked out the BackBone route in the Central Hills by riding up Black Fox Camp Road, over Flag Mountain, and down Williams Gulch Road. With the exception of a couple of short stretches going up Flag Mountain, the roads were clear and relatively dry. Upon hearing this report, Mike Prendergast thought they might ride Day 3 of the BackBone as they originally had planned, i.e., O'Neil Pass to Custer. Yeah. Maybe they could get back on it.

On Day 2, the Colorado group rode the 50 mile "Scenic" route of the 2019 Black Hills Gravel Series - Spearfish,
which included stretches of the Black Hills BackBone, like Crooked Oaks Road here. (photo by Mike Prendergast)

On Day 3, they went for it. Shuttling up O'Neil Pass, the Colorado group rode the BackBone route all the way to Custer on hero gravel and dirt roads. Catching up with them at their Custer campsite, I heard excited chatter about the route, the scenery, the roads and even the weather. One said it was his best day on gravel ever. They all enjoyed sharing a day of pedaling bicycles on sweet remote roads through some of the best of the Black Hills.

On Day 3, the group found more sunshine on the Black Hills BackBone route from O'Neil Pass,
along Black Fox Camp Road, over Flag Mountain, through Williams Gulch and down to Custer. (photo by David Struck)

After a day of Black Hills BackBone gravelly goodness that began at O'Neil Pass,
the group enjoys the evening together in the Prendergast camper in Custer. (photo by Kelly Prendergast)
Day 4 awoke to cold fog and a forecast of more rain. Undaunted, the Colorado group spun out of Custer on the BackBone route through the mist and back onto messy roads. Eventually, they popped out of the forested, rock infused hills onto the prairie's edge at Wind Cave National Park and down into the village of Buffalo Gap to complete their journey.


On Day 4, the group braved more cold, wet mud on the Black Hills BackBone,
riding from Custer through Wind Cave National Park toward Buffalo Gap. (photo by Mike Prendergast)

For those four cold, wet days around Memorial Day of 2019, the Colorado group rode about as much of the Black Hills BackBone as one reasonably could. When faced with weather challenges, they rode through the day, re-assessed plans for the next day over the campsite, and rode out again in the morning. This was a fun-loving, resilient, hardy group of cyclists who loved the gravel roads of the Black Hills and vowed to return.

When they do, I hope to ride some miles with them.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Outfitting the Jones Plus LWB - BikePacking Bags

After a solid season of riding the Jones Plus LWB on my favorite Black Hills trails, I'm starting to get a decent feel for its top shelf performance capabilities. But I won't find its limits. The Jones is far more bike than I am rider.

This summer I'm loading it up for bikepacking, starting with a string of one night trips over a mix of gravel, dirt and trail. As time allows, I'd love to ride multi-days trips, such as the Southern Loop of the Double BackBone (3 days), the Double BackBone itself (likely 5-6 days), the DED Dirt Ride (5-6 days), or maybe even the Black Hills Expedition (although that would put me in the crazy camp). Eventually, maybe longer, but I'll start with some fun, low-key sub-24's.

Here's my lineup of bags for bikepacking, all by Revelate Designs, which I have accumulated gradually over the past four years: a pair of Truss Fork bags (fork), Harness + Salty Roll (handle bar), Loop Hole H-Bar (between the loops of the handlebar), Mag-Tank 2000 (top tube), Jerry Can (seat post/top tube), Terrapin (seat post), and fitted Frame bag (main triangle). Not pictured are a pair of Mountain Feedbags (handlebar) and an Egress Pocket (atop the Salty Roll).

Now, that's a lot of capacity, much more than needed for a one or two night trip. However, I'll use this setup to learn for longer trips, where I may use every bag. This bike can certainly handle it.


Early morning start on Pilger Mountain in the Southern Black Hills of South Dakota.

So, here's a quick run-down of the bags and how I'm currently using them.

Truss Fork Bags. In addition to being light and strong, the Jones truss fork provides a built-in structure to support a pair of bags. Jeff Jones saw this potential and created these bags with Revelate Designs. Jeff Jones Reveals Truss Fork Packs. With each bag offering almost the capacity of a seat post bag, one bag holds a sleeping bag and sleepwear, while the other holds a down jacket, sleeping pad and extra clothing. They can hold more.

Harness + Salty Roll (handle bar bag):  Currently, I pack a tent and extra clothes in the Salty Roll bag. The pictures here show the Salty Roll bag with a Marmot two person tent and some clothes inside. Again, it can hold more. And if I take my Big Agnes one person tent or my Outdoor Research Helium bivy bag, that bag compresses much smaller. I also have an Egress Pocket bag (not pictured) that is designed to fit on the top and front of the Salty Roll for more capacity.

Loop Hole H-Bar: This bag is barely visible, because it's tucked into the space between the lateral tubes of the Jones handle bar. It is bigger than you might think, is a great use of space and is on the bike full time. For bikepacking, it currently holds a pump, extra light, glove liners, skull cap, headband, wallet and medicinals.

Mag-Tank 2000 (top tube bag): This handy bag holds on-the-fly food and is large enough for my Olympus Tough camera, if that's not in my jersey pocket. The magnetic closure works flawlessly.

Jerry Can (top tube/seat post bag): This sweet, little, out-of-the-way bag holds my entire tool kit, including a spare tube, patch kit, tire plugs, extra sealant, mini-tool, LeatherMan and such. This bag also is a full time resident on the bike.

Terrapin (seat post bag): This modular setup comprises a harness that attaches to the bike and a 14L dry bag that is easily removable from the harness. I like this bag for food, so I can readily remove it for overnight storage away from my sleeping area. Eventually, I may ride through grizzly country.

Frame Bag: Revelate Designs created this frame bag specifically for the Jones Plus LWB and it fits precisely. I use the right side of the top compartment for a 100 ounce CamelBack water bladder and it can hold more. The slimmer left side of the top compartment carries paper maps, compass, mud shank and my emergency flip phone. Again, it can hold more. The bottom compartment currently carries a water filter, stove and fuel. In these pictures it looks full because I also stuffed a light rain jacket in there.

Down Tube Bottle: I currently use the down tube bottle for HEED, but I know others store a tool kit there. Right now, the Jerry Can bag works great for the tool kit, is out of my way and stays out of the muck. Besides, if the HEED bottle gets too dirty, I can always toss the HEED.

That's a quick run-down of my bags for bikepacking. Or at least, my start of experimenting with bags on local sub-24's and the beginning aspirations of a bigger plan.

Pulling into camp atop Coad Hill, for a room with a view of Harney Peak.

For my 2018 posts about the Jone Plus LWB bike itself, with links to Jeff Jones blogs and videos, go to Jones Plus LWB - What It Is and Jones Plus LWB - The Build. For earlier 2018 posts about my decision to buy the Jones Plus LWB, go to A Mountain Bike Companion and A Mountain Bike By Jones.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Time to Ride

It's been such a long time, I think I should be goin', yeah.
And time doesn't wait for me, it keeps on rollin'.
Donald T. Scholz, Boston, Long Time (1976).


A relentless winter grudgingly surrenders to a dank, dreary spring, sequestering for months all but the most enthusiastic cyclist. Piling on, cynics smirk that the summer solstice marks the beginning of shorter days, as if the best of summer has already passed.

Don't buy it. Brighter days lie ahead.

Now is the time to ride. With a friend. In a group. With family. Solo. Before work. After work. On a day off. At an event. At a race. Just ride. It's fun and will stoke the fire for the next one.

The gatherings add up to relationships. The experiences add up to a lifestyle. It's always worth it.

Brad Kurtz and grandson Ayden Kurtz enjoying the day riding the 2019 Black Hills Gravel Series #1 - Spearfish.

Now is also the best time to help others discover the magic of riding remote gravel and dirt roads, away from the distracted drivers on pavement. Invite someone new to your next ride. It usually doesn't take much of a ride for a newcomer to start asking for other good places to ride.

Outside major urban centers, lightly traveled back roads exist most everywhere. Here in Western South Dakota, the Black Hills National Forest offers a treasure trove of remote gravel and dirt roads for the adventurous cyclist. With an embarrassment of riches, choosing where to ride can be confusing. Where does one start?

The best source of ride information is the gravel family itself, a friendly and welcoming lot. Ask around. Search social media. Enthusiasts love to share their enthusiasm and many document their rides digitally. In Spearfish, Rushmore Bikes has posted social media notices of its Wednesday night gravel rides for some time. Cyclists regularly post rides and events in FaceBook groups like Black Hills Drop Bar Dirt, Gravel & Cyclocross Riders. Even national websites like ridinggravel.com post local events on their calendars.

Out here, another great ride resource that continues to build is the Black Hills Gravel Series, which are great routes almost anytime of year. I've ridden some of the Spearfish and Sturgis routes in the dead of winter. Since 2017, Lucas Haan has published gpx files and/or cue sheets for something like 8 different routes of about 10 miles, 14 different routes of about 25 miles and 13 different routes of about 50 miles. As far as I know, those routes are still out there.

Of course, part of the allure of riding remote roads is experiencing new country that interests you. What better way to explore than to create your own route? Better yet, brainstorm routes with a riding buddy over a coffee or brew.

Well, how do you do that? Most start digitally. Not surprisingly, I almost always start analog. That is, I pull out a hard copy U.S. Forest Service map of the Black Hills National Forest or the voluminous South Dakota State Atlas published by the South Dakota State Department of Transportation, which shows all public roads by county. I follow roads and near-roads, looking for interesting ridge lines, creeks, drainages, peaks, areas of former wildfires, small towns, abandoned towns, historical sites, or just anything different. Maybe I'll look for a spot on the map where I haven't ridden, just to find a way to get there. Maybe I'll look for an obscure connector between two better known roads. Maybe I'll just look. Then, when it comes time to ride, I simply piece together some of those roads to make a route of the desired distance and difficulty. Of course, I'll make a hard copy and bring it along.

Whether a route is digital, analog or by the seat of your shorts, it's all just pedaling a bicycle.

Time to ride.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Every Rider Has A Story - 2019 Gold Rush

Listen to any cyclist at the 2019 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder and you'll hear a compelling story. On that day, 300 some cyclists willingly rode from the comforts of the tourist town of Spearfish on messy gravel roads into the cold, wet, and wind of a nasty spring squall in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota. Whether striving to ride the 70 mile Gold Dust, the 110 mile Gold Rush or the 210 mile Mother Lode, all pedaled into that weather, on to those roads and up those Hills. Their reasons were their own, but they shared a kindred spirit.

To see what's out there. To see what's within. To face the day as it unfolds.

Since the race, I've started to hear some of the stories of other riders. Everyone endured an endless winter that curtailed planned training. Everyone overcame obstacles just to get to the start line and then to actually start riding this thing. Everyone was cold and wet. Everyone had mud everywhere. Everyone suffered out there in those conditions. Everyone has a story to tell.

Irrepressible Robert Cota cheering on all the riders spinning up some early rollers on Homestake Road west of Spearfish.
I second that emotion. (photo by Randy Ericksen)

In a day of stories to be told for years to come, however, the most compelling story I know is the ride of Lucas Haan. 

As most cyclists around the Black Hills know, Lucas is a free-thinking engineer/beermeister who infuses boundless energy, enthusiasm and creativity into hosting the Black Hills Gravel Series, as well as spearheading a variety of other community-based cycling endeavors. He's a force of nature making our cycling community better for everyone and seems to know by name everyone in the Black Hills who has ever pedaled a bicycle.

Lucas also is a talented cyclist who registered for the Mother Lode, despite being a novice to endurance racing. Analyzing like a School of Mines engineer, Lucas obsessed over the details of the course, learned hydration and nutrition, tweaked his new Black Mountain Cycles MCD, and planned a full slate of training rides leading to the June 8th race. Like everyone else, however, weather, work and family commitments conspired to truncate the number and length of those rides. Race day crept closer.

Now, cyclists are notorious sandbaggers about their claimed lack of training, but I seriously doubt another registrant for the 210 mile Mother Lode could say this. Shortly before the race, Lucas had not yet completed a 100 mile bicycle ride. Not this year. Not last year. Not the year before. Not ever.

That's nuts. Who does that? Who signs up for a race like the Mother Lode right out of the endurance racing blocks?

Just two weeks before the race, Lucas finally recorded his first century: a paved road hammerfest with some local fast guys. Lucas avowed that they took a few long breaks and that he was a little tired, but otherwise felt good to go for the Mother Lode. That's not exactly a conventional training plan, but it certainly revealed some latent abilities.

Lucas Haan on the wheel of Christopher Grady in the early miles of the 2019 Mother Lode.
(photo by Randy Ericksen)

On race day, Lucas steamed onto the gravel with the lead group and steadily powered up the 70 miles to O'Neil Pass in under 6 hours. That's a strong start for anyone. Although his Scandihoovian motor burns very hot, even Lucas was a bit chilled at TrailsHead Lodge in his lightweight wind jacket. Seeking solutions, he ate some grub and bought several chemical foot warmers, before dropping into the Central Hills for that big 100 mile loop that eventually climbs back to TrailsHead Lodge.

Lucas insisted that the sun came out for some of that loop, but I think that was just his disposition working to convince his hands and feet that it really was getting warmer. In any event, after dark the temperatures plummeted into the low 30's for his final climb back up O'Neil Pass. Some racers saw snow. At TrailsHead Lodge, Lucas saw newspaper as insulation and created a makeshift puffy jacket for the frosty descent in Spearfish Canyon. The rookie goes old school.

Lucas cruised into Spearfish shortly before midnight to become a Mother Lode finisher on a brutal day. And his time of 18:49:49 earned third place in the Under-39 age group.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Congratulations, Lucas. I can't wait to see what's ahead for you.


Lucas Haan celebrating his finish of the 2019 Mother Lode.

Here is a sampling of Randy Ericksen photographs of other cyclists out there braving the elements in the 2019 Gold Dust, Gold Rush and Mother Lode gravel races. Each has a story to tell.

Wet, wind and cold, right from the start of gravel on the Mother Lode.
Lead dog Nate Keck avoids the spray of wet gravel on the early miles of the Gold Rush.

Homestake Road rollers introduce Gold Dust riders to wet gravel.

Zach Stone taming his bucking bronco on the Gold Dust.

On the Gold Dust, Erik Lindquist suppresses his ever-present smile for the mud-covered, gravel grinder look.

This spring's latest look - mud splattered white.

On the Gold Dust, Casey Bergstrom flies off Cement Ridge in search of more mud.

Climbing into the clouds toward O'Neil Pass. I'm shivering just looking at that damp cold.
This photograph captures the day. 

Finally, here's a link to Randy Ericksen's album for more pictures from that day. 2019 Gold Rush Photos by Randy Ericksen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Arrogance at the Mother Lode

Our mission was called a "successful failure" in that we returned safely but never made it to the moon.  Commander Jim Lovell, Apollo 13 (1993).

Last weekend I started the 210 mile Mother Lode, bailed at the top of O'Neil Pass, and endured the route back to Spearfish. So, essentially I rode the 110 mile Gold Rush in difficult conditions, but it doesn't feel like a successful anything. This race will fester until I learn something meaningful to apply long term.

Grossly under clothed for the conditions, here just a few miles from the start of a 210 mile race.
(photo by Randy Ericksen)
One could argue that my first mistake was registering for the 210 mile Mother Lode in the first place. However, I enjoy this course running through the Black Hills back country that I regularly ride. I also love to hang out with the people drawn to this event and to support our local folks putting it on. And I completed this race in 2015 with much tougher time limits, as well as the 110 mile Gold Rush on a single speed in 2013 and 2018. This event is right in my wheel house.

Maybe registering single speed for the Mother Lode was a reach, but I think not. I've ridden a lot of single speed over the past 20+ years and, more significantly, all my miles for the last eight months have been single speed, whether pave, gravel, dirt or commute. I think switching to gears shortly before the Mother Lode actually would have been harder.

I wish I could use the excuse of inexperience of riding in bad weather. No sale. Along with a long history of rides, events and races in questionable conditions, I have commuted by bike to work almost every day, year around, for the past 11 years in Rapid City, South Dakota. I have the gear, experience and temperament for riding through much worse than what hit the Mother Lode.

So, what happened?

Arrogance.

Before the Mother Lode, I grabbed my bottomless bottle of optimism, filled up a mighty mug of arrogance and chugged it. The weather didn't seem that bad at the start in town and the forecast looked to improve. I didn't want to carry a bunch of seemingly unnecessary, heavy, bulky cold weather gear all day and into the night. I've ridden harder events in worse conditions. Confidence slid into hubris. I started very light on clothing, basically a summer kit and light jacket, and brought embarrassingly little else along. Horrible decision. It cost me the race.

In my Jeep, I left behind practically a warehouse of cold, wet weather clothing: waterproof shoe covers, waterproof socks, waterproof insulated gloves, waterproof over mitts, tights, thermal tights, rain pants, long sleeve wool jersey, long sleeve thermal jersey, thermal jacket, balaclava, and even a helmet cover. If I had my 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots along, I could have ridden through a blizzard with all that gear.

I can't believe this list as I write it. Why did I leave any of that behind? What was I thinking? Inexplicable. Simply inexplicable.

I'm left with arrogance. Simply believing I know everything and can do anything. It made for a miserable, borderline dangerous day on the bike and a bitter disappointment.

Added a light weight rain jacket shortly after the first picture, but that was all I had to add.

So, here's a little play-by-play. By the time we hit gravel at the 5 mile mark, I'm already wet and chilled. Some prairie rollers exposed to drizzle and Wyoming winds then turn chilled to stone cold. The gradual, more protected climb up Sand Creek Road stabilizes body temperatures for awhile, but the occasional exposure to those Wyoming winds steals hard earned heat. With numb hands and feet, I pull into the 36 mile aid station at just over 3 hours, about the same as last year.

Ahead stands a short, steeper pitch on Moskee Road and some exposed rollers, but I know the long, gradual, protected climb up Grand Canyon Road follows. So, I hunker down with the objective of somehow making Grand Canyon Road and then warming up during the 20+ mile steady climb to O'Neil Pass. It looks to be about 6 1/2 hours to the top, comfortably within the 7 3/4 hour limit.

Nice plan. Made it to Grand Canyon Road. Made it up O'Neil Pass. About 7 hours. Never warmed up. Not even a little. Despite climbing steadily for 2 hours, primarily downwind or out of the wind, I only get more wet and more cold. A deep, penetrating wetness from a soaking drizzle, compounded by low temperatures, occasional wind, and grossly inadequate clothing. Spinning the final rollers near the top, I can barely hold the bike steady and barely operate the brakes.

At the 70 mile checkpoint at TrailsHead Lodge, the sun finally pokes through the heavy blanket of clouds. At first, I am elated, hoping that perhaps I could dry a little, or at least warm up. But that brief burst of sunshine brings the opposite result. I realize that, right here, right now, is likely the best weather I'll see for the rest of the race. And right now, I am still shivering and shaky.

From O'Neil Pass, the Mother Lode turns south for a 100 mile loop into the Central Black Hills that winds back to TrailsHead Lodge for the final checkpoint and then drops about 40 miles down to the Spearfish finish. That 100 mile loop showcases some gorgeous back country on fast, forest gravel roads that are not particularly difficult. However, there is virtually no development and often no cell phone coverage. That's not a hundred miles to ride solo when shivering hinders you from operating a bicycle.

After a raucous internal debate with wild emotional swings, I eventually decide to cut short the Mother Lode. At such a time, I am grateful for the unexpected company of a friend, Matt Bergen, an Odin's Revenge race director there to support his son Lane. Thanks, Matt. That helped a lot.

With my race over, I enjoy a sloppy joe sandwich prepared by the good folks at the TrailsHead Lodge and start to ride the route back to Spearfish. That long, cold descent confirms my decision. On the final 14 mile, steady descent on paved Spearfish Canyon Road, I actually stop three times to walk to warm my feet enough to feel cold. The last walk takes over a half mile for that to happen.

Eventually, I plop into my Jeep still stuffed with all that gear staring at me. Just sitting there, staring at me. I hear them mock, "How was your race? Did you have fun? Can I go along next time?"

I start the engine, crank the heat and strip off wet clothes. Shivering eventually gives way to shaking my head.

Questions, no answers. Disappointment, no solace. Anger, no outlet.

Eventually, on the drive back to Rapid City, I process the experience enough to realize that my own arrogance doomed this race before the start. That's something I can work on.

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Life of Passion

Headlines scream from every conceivable media outlet around the world. 11th climber dies on Mt. Everest this year! After briefly identifying the climber, the stock article quickly moves to more general issues of the numbers of climbers on the mountain and the cost of such a climb. Media commentary amps up controversy. Lost in the fog is the life of the individual.

So, let's burn off the fog and see the light of a life of passion. How do I know? Chris Kulish was my work colleague for 15 years, a fellow associate working his way to partner in the largest patent law firm anywhere near Colorado. He also was my friend.


Chris Kulish after summiting Mt. Everest. (photo by Chris Kulish)
This picture appears in print, broadcast and on-line media reports around the world.

Chris excelled in the rarified air of complex electrical engineering patent prosecution. If you're thinking that's pretty specialized, you are right. Very few individuals are capable of thoroughly understanding state of the art electrical engineering applications and then translating that technical know-how into the arcane world of patent prosecution. Even fewer do it well. 

When Chris started with the firm in 1987, he immediately bolstered the promising electrical engineering patent practice. Through the 1990's, both Chris and the firm grew and prospered. However, the unrelenting workload eventually took its toll. Chris left in 2002 to seek an environment more conducive for carving out blocks of time to pursue his passion of climbing.

Although we rarely worked together directly, I enjoyed regularly talking with Chris. For example, the interplay between patent prosecution and litigation provided limitless questions for his inquisitive mind. Almost always, our discussions resulted in him offering a fresh insight that moved forward my analysis of a pending project.

While an exceptional patent lawyer, Chris was exceptionally passionate about climbing. All kinds of climbing. That's what he did. That's what he was about. That was him.

So, we never just talked about work. Sometimes, we didn't talk about work at all. Chris loved to share stories of climbing big mountains and big walls, such as Long's Peak in Colorado and El Capitan in California. He climbed as much as he could during those years, but yearned for time to pursue bigger peaks on longer expeditions in more exotic locales. I know that, due to work commitments, he reluctantly turned down several invitations to join friends on expeditions to the Himalayans.

But Chris kept at it. He kept climbing. He kept working to keep climbing. He lived a lifestyle to be able to keep climbing. He spent a lifetime climbing. He lived his passion.

Reaching the summit of Mt. Everest not only fulfilled a life long goal, it also propelled Chris onto a very short list of individuals who have climbed the highest peak on each of the Earth's seven continents. The commitment of time, energy, work and skill to accomplish such a feat is staggering. That's a lifetime living his passion. That's a life to celebrate.

Rest in peace, Chris.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunshine On My Shoulders

If I had a tale that I could tell you,
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile.

John Denver, Sunshine On My Shoulders (1971).

Soaking in the late afternoon sun, I roll toward the last checkpoint of the last Odin's Revenge.
Such a memorable day is possible by riding other days that were not so ideal.

If truth in advertising laws applied to calendars, March would show 83 days this year. This long, cold, lonely winter seems to relish revealing momentary glimpses of spring, like Lucy repeatably offering to hold the football for Charlie Brown. Then another snow dump abruptly plants us flat on our backs.

Throughout this never ending March, you keep going out there. Sometimes it's fun to be outside in harsher weather, but not always. Sometimes you just go out there because that's what you do. In any event, you know winter won't last forever and you want to be able to ride well when the weather finally improves. So you go.

In the midst of a long, wintry ride a few weeks ago, the sun burst through the persistent clouds to briefly brighten my day. At that moment, this old John Denver song popped into my head and made me smile. I sang it, off and on, sometimes loudly, for the rest of the ride, well after the sun disappeared under its covers. It changed my ride.

This day on this road will come.

I later learned that John Denver wrote that song while enduring a lingering winter. How appropriate. Here's his story, as recounted in Wikipedia:

"I wrote the song in Minnesota at the time I call 'late winter, early spring'. It was a dreary day, gray and slushy. The snow was melting and it was too cold to go outside and have fun, but God, you're ready for spring. You want to get outdoors again and you're waiting for that sun to shine, and you remember how sometimes just the sun itself can make you feel good. And in that very melancholy frame of mind I wrote 'Sunshine on My Shoulders'."

Time for some Sunshine On My Shoulders.




Go ahead. Sing along.




Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for sunshine for all the while
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost all the time makes me high
Sunshine almost always

Songwriters: John Denver / Michael C Taylor / Richard L Dick Kniss