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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Black Hills Gravel Series - Season 6!

The mountain is high, the valley is low
And you're confused on which way to go
So, I've come here to give you a hand
And lead you into the promised land
So, come on and take a free ride
Free Ride, Dan Hartman (1973)

"This is the way," proclaims Lucas Haan at the 2019 Sturgis Black Hills Gravel Series ride.

Great news for grass roots gravel! Gravel Maestro Lucas Haan recently announced the sixth season of the wildly popular Black Hills Gravel Series. 2022 Black Hills Gravel Announcement. As always, there's something for everyone.

More information is at BlackHillsGravel.com, including GPX files, cue sheets, photos, and highlights, as well as updates and discussions on the Black Hills Gravel FaceBook Group. Of course, there's a Black Hills Gravel Strava group, too. 

For 2022, the Black Hills Gravel Series will NOT have mass starts on designated dates. Rather, Lucas will create a set of routes for each month from April through October and make them publicly available as a "Ride Of The Month" challenge. At your convenience, you can ride and post the monthly ride of your choice. 

Dane Church on the the April ROTM of the 2022 Black Hills Gravel Series.

As in the past, he plans to offer three routes, increasing in length and difficulty, for each start location. They're named by color:  Green (10-20 miles, moderate elevation gain), Blue (20-40 miles, moderately more elevation gain and difficulty), and Black (50+ miles, significantly more elevation gain and difficulty, likely with an added challenge). A route exists for every level of ability, experience, and ambition.

Lucas also created a community treasure by archiving prior routes on the "Routes & Resources" page of the Black Hills Gravel website. It's a great resource of unique, fun routes on gravel and dirt roads all over the Black Hills and surrounding prairie that you can ride most any time.

Enjoy these rides. Bring your family. Invite your friends. Support the Black Hills Gravel website.

And especially thank Lucas for his tireless work to continue to make it all happen.

Free Ride, Edgar Winter Group (1973)



Tuesday, April 19, 2022

After The Great Divide

And oh, after the love has gone
How could you lead me on, and not let me stay around
After The Love Has Gone, David Foster, Jay Graydon & Bill Champlin (1979)

So many roads to explore in the Black Hills, and beyond.
This is Fuller Pass Road in Custer Gallatin National Forest, near the North Dakota border.

From the very day I finished my 2021 ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, I started fielding questions of what's next. Months later, I still do. Now, it's a valid question and I appreciate the interest. But, man. I don't know. I just don't know.

The time after achieving a big goal is always challenging, but the Great Divide is at a whole nother level. This developed over so many years of blue sky dreaming, so many months of detailed planning, and so many weeks of challenging riding. I don't know that I'll ever launch an adventure this big again. I just don't know. I certainly do not have one in mind right now.

On the other hand, I'm not done, either riding or writing. I have a laundry list of weekend and weeklong bikepacking routes rattling around inside my head that I'd love to create and ride, as well as a number of local and distant areas to research, map out, and explore. Also, there still are a good number of nifty rides and events, especially in Iowa and Minnesota, that I have yet to ride. I plan to ride more than a few miles in 2022.

Working through this post-Great Divide process, I remember writing a post back in October of 2018 about my journey after achieving a multi-year goal of riding my Black Hills BackBone cross-state gravel route. On a far smaller emotional scale, that post still rings true today. Here it is.



The "A" race. The premier event. The epic destination.

For endurance athletes, the end of the calendar year triggers dreams of the big goal for next year. What could it be? Is it even possible? How? To make it so, what must be? What must not be? The questions and analyses percolate for hours, days, weeks, even months. And that's just identifying it. Then the real work begins. Gotta plan. Gotta organize. Gotta train. Gotta turn everything around to focus on the big goal. 

I've spent most of my adult life with such a mindset, resulting in many memorable races, events, and destinations over the years. And many things outside of athletics. There's much to be said for setting a big goal and working to achieve it. I'm a big fan of big goals.

The big goal dominates all thought, like Pikes Peak looming over the Colorado landscape.
Back in 1989, my big goal was running the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Undue emphasis on results, however, inevitably leads to a letdown afterward. That is, after achieving the big goal, what then? Typically, I respond by identifying the next big goal and fixing it on the horizon. Start the process over again. Then again. And again. The process becomes a lifestyle, all dependent on setting and achieving the next big goal.

It's all good. Until there is no next big goal. Or identifying the next big goal is elusive. What then?

In July of 2017, I finally completed a bicycle ride covering the 310 miles of the Black Hills BackBone, a North-to-South remote road crossing of the State of South Dakota. Admittedly, the ride was different from that originally conceived, but I celebrated achieving a major, multi-year goal.  Three Days of BackBone.

Then, I drifted.

Months passed. Fitness plunged. Weight soared. In October of 2017, the changing season eventually triggered a nagging feeling that I needed a big goal to kick start stuff. But identifying it was more than elusive. For some reason, I could not even begin to consider one.

A simple journey with no big goal in sight.

To clear my mind one day, I went on a long bike ride. Somewhere along that remote dirt road, I recognized what has been a mainstay for the past 10+ years - my daily bike commute. Every day I ride to work, unless a family commitment prevents it. It's what I do, regardless of weather, mood, physical ailments, or anything else. It's just part of my day. There is no big goal.

Well, maybe it's that simple. Maybe I don't need the next big goal, after all. Maybe I should just add something small to my daily routine. Make it part of my day. Like my bike commute.

But what? What's missing? Running. I don't run anymore, since all but abandoning it over 15 years ago. Thousands of hours spinning circles over the years must have physically changed something. Running now is awkward and uncomfortable, rather than natural and smooth. This will be difficult to start, let alone maintain, especially without a big goal.

Then, one morning, I just started. It was short (less than a mile), slow (barely above walking speed), and painful (ice and ibuprofen afterward). Too sore to run the next day, I ran again the day after that. To allow some recovery, I decided to run just three mornings a week, making my third run on my favorite M-Hill trails. Time passed, but progress was almost imperceptible. I repeatedly reminded myself that speed and distance mattered not. Just keep at it.

Now, over a year later, I am still running three early mornings a week. Speed, distance, and difficulty have increased some, but not a lot. Maybe that's the next step, or maybe not. I just love getting back out there running. A part of me awoke from a long slumber.

I didn't set or achieve the next big goal in 2018. It's much bigger than that.


After The Love Has Gone, Earth, Wind & Fire (live 1981)


After The Love Has Gone, Leonid & Friends (EW&F cover) (2021)


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Great Divide - Soundtrack

Over the past seven months, I've written 30 posts about my 2021 ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, in addition to 12 earlier posts about my preparations. Most include a reference to a song that helped me understand and express a particular experience. Relevant lyrics from such a song appear at the top of each post and a link to a complete video clip at the bottom. The song then becomes part of the story.

That's a lot of material over a long time. So, I decided to put all that together in a single post. Below are the lyrics quote and video clip of the song from each Great Divide post that had one. Now, I can go to one place to listen to all the music telling the story of my Great Divide ride. The title above the lyrics is a link to the corresponding post, in case the music triggers a desire to read the narrative. 

A. Prologue

1. Dreams
And oh, my dreams, it's never quite as it seems, never quite as it seems
I want more, impossible to ignore, impossible to ignore
And they'll come true, impossible not to do, impossible not to do
Dreams, Noel Hogan & Delores O'Riordan (1992)

Dreams, Cranberries (1992)

2. Gear List Plan (3 very different interpretations of the same song)
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.
My Favorite Things, Oscar Hammerstein II & Richard Rodgers (1959)

My Favorite Things, The Sound Of Music featuring Julia Andrews (1961)
The 1960's classic rendition of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound Of Music.

My Favorite Things, Pentatonix (2020)
For the 21st century crowd, a steam punk, Alice In WonderLand version of "My Favorite Things."

My Favorite Things, John Coltrane (1961)
For an evening around the fire, jazz legend John Coltrane playing "My Favorite Things."

I tried everything in my life, things I like, I try 'em twice,
You got that right, you sure got that right.
You Got That Right, Steve Gaines & Ronnie Van Zant (1978)

You Got That Right, Lynyard Skynyrd, live (1977)

4. Bike Plan 
No need to ask, he's a smooth operator
Smooth operator, smooth operator, smooth operator
Smooth Operator, Sade Adu, Stuart Matthewman & Raymond St. John (1984)

Smooth Operator, Sade live (2011)

And be a simple kind of man,
Oh, be something you love and understand.
Simple Man, Gary Rossington & Ronnie Von Zant (1973) 

Simple Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)

A dream written down with a date becomes a goal,
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan,
A plan backed by action makes your dreams reality.
Unknown

Gonna Fly Now, Theme Song from Rocky (1976)

Elwood:  It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
Jake:  Hit it.
Elwood Blues and Joliet Jake Blues, The Blues Brothers (1980)

Peter Gunn Theme, The Blues Brothers Original Soundtrack (1980).

For the full effect, here's the scene from the Blues Brother's movie, with the Peter Gunn theme song, Carrie Fisher as the Mystery Woman, and the "Hit It" quote.
The Blues Brothers, featuring Carrie Fisher as The Mystery Woman (1980).

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Oh, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.
With A Little Help From My Friends, John Lennon & Paul McCartney (1967)

With A Little Help From My Friends, The Beatles (1967).

We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I'm really with you now, or just chasin' after some finer day
Anticipation, anticipation, is makin' me wait, is keepin' me waiting
Anticipation, Carly Simon (1971)

Anticipation, Carly Simon (1971)

B. Rideologue

The bells were ringing, our souls were singing
Do you remember, never a cloudy day
Ba de ya, say do you remember?
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, golden dreams were shiny days
September, Maurice White & Allee Willis (1978)

September, Earth, Wind & Fire (1978)

Everybody has a September in their life
You know that first time you heard God's voice
So you felt His love
So no matter what season you're in right now
After winter comes spring
So, if you love my Jesus, help me sing
Ba de ya, tell me you remember
Ba de ya, when your heart felt like September
You still had the joy and God was just a prayer away
September, Kirk Franklin (2007)

September, Kirk Franklin (2007)

In ways I can't explain and can't deny, the little that I have He multiples
Just when I feel He won't show up on time, God provides
God Provides, Kirk Franklin (2016) 

God Provides, Tamela Mann (2016)

Look for the bare necessities,the simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities, old mother nature's recipes
That bring the bare necessities of life
The Bare Necessities, Terry Gilkyson (1967)

The Bare Necessities, The Jungle Book (1967)

No, I cannot forget from where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be
Small Town, John Mellencamp (1985)

Small Town, John Mellencamp (1985)

You got to try a little kindness, yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness, then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets
Try A Little Kindness, Curt Sapaugh & Bobby Austin (1970)

Try A Little Kindness, Glen Campbell (1970)

You should've been gone, knowing how I made you feel
And I should've been gone, after all your words of steel
Oh, Sherrie, holds on, holds on, holds on
Oh, Sherrie, holds on, holds on, holds on
Oh, Sherrie, Steve Perry, Randy Goodrum, Craig Krampf & Bill Cuomo (1984)

Oh, Sherrie, Steve Perry (1984)

It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog
It's been a hard day's night, I should be sleeping like a log
Hard Day's Night, John Lennon & Paul McCartney (1964)

Hard Day's Night, The Beatles (1964)

Oh, a storm is threat'ning, my very life today
If I don't get some shelter, oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
Gimme Shelter, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards (1969)

Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones (1969)

Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones (2003)
Live, 30+ years after releasing the original.
They just keep on rocking.

Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan.
Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time. A long time.
Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars (1977)

Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars (1977)

Into the great wide open, under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open, a rebel without a clue
Into The Great Wide Open, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty (1991) 

Into The Great Wide Open, Tom Petty & The HeartBreakers (1991)

You say yes, I say no
You say stop, and I say go, go, go
Ooh, no, you say goodbye and I say hello
Hello, Goodbye, John Lennon & Paul McCartney (1967)

Hello, Goodbye, The Beatles (1967)

Roads go ever, ever on, under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone, turn at last to home afar.
The Lord Of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein (1949)

There And Back Again, The Hobbit (2012)

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen's off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head.
White Rabbit, Grace Slick (1967)

White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane live at Woodstock (1969)

The sun is shining in the sky
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped raining, everybody's in the play
And don't you know, it's a beautiful new day
Mr. Blue Sky, Jeff Lynne (1977)

Mr. Blue Sky, Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven't changed, haven't much to say
But man, I still think them cats are great
The Boys Are Back In Town, Phil Lynott (1976)

The Boys Are Back In Town, Thin Lizzy live (1976)

And oh, my dreams, it's never quite as it seems, never quite as it seems.
I want more, impossible to ignore, impossible to ignore.
And they'll come true, impossible not to do, impossible not to do.
Dreams, Noel Hogan & Delores O'Riordan (1992)

Dreams, Cranberries (1992)

Spent the last year, Rocky Mountain way, couldn't get much higher
Out to pasture, think it's safe to say, time to open fire
Rocky Mountain Way, Joey Vitale, Joe Walsh, Ken Passarelli & Rocke Grace (1973)

Rocky Mountain Way (live at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium), Joe Walsh (1976)

Oh, ho, ho, it's magic, you know, never believe it's not so
It's magic, you know, never believe it's not so
Magic, David Paton & William Lyall (1974)

Magic, Pilot (1974)

A duck walked up to a lemonade stand
And he said to the man, running the stand
"Hey! (bum bum bum) Got any grapes?"
The man said "No, we just sell lemonade
But it's cold, and it's fresh, and it's all home-made
Can I get you a glass?"
The Duck Song, Bryant Oden (2009)

The Duck Song, Parts 1-3, A Forest Fire Film (2009)

I would walk ten miles on my hands and knees
Ain't no doubt about it, baby, it's you I aim to please
I'd wrestle with a lion and a grizzly bear
It's my life, baby, but I don't care
Aint that tough enough, aint that tough enough
Aint that tough enough, aint that tough enough
Tuff Enuff, Kim Wilson (1986)

Tuff Enuff, Foo Fighters with Jimmie Vaughan, live on Austin City Limits (2015).

Carry on my wayward son, there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest, don't you cry no more
Carry On My Wayward Son, Kerry Livgren (1976)

Carry On My Wayward Son, Kansas (1976)

Dream on, dream on, dream on
Dream until your dreams come true
Dream on, dream on, dream on
Dream until your dreams come true
Dream On, Steven Victor Tallarico (1973)

Dream On, Aerosmith live (2004)

23. Top 10
It's the final countdown, the final countdown
The final countdown, the final countdown
The Final Countdown, Joey Tempest (1986)

The Final Countdown, Europe (1986)

You go back, Jack, do it again
Wheel turnin' 'round and 'round
You go back, Jack, do it again
Do It Again, Walter Becker & Donald Fegan 

Do It Again, Steely Dan live on The Midnight Special (1972)

C. Epilogue

I don't need a whole lots of money
I don't need a big fine car
I got everything that a man could want
I got more than I could ask for
Some Kind Of Wonderful, John Ellison (1967)

Some Kind Of Wonderful, Grand Funk Railroad (1974)

I'm going to pack it up
I'm going to give it up
I'm going to put you right out of my mind
I'm going to pack it up
Pack It Up, Freddie King (1974) 

Pack It Up, Freddie King (1974)

Some folk built like this, some folk built like that
But the way I'm built, don't you call me fat
Cause I'm built for comfort, I aint built for speed
Built For Comfort, Willie Dixon (1960)

Built For Comfort, Howlin' Wolf with Eric Clapton (1971)

4. Believe 
Seraph: Did you always know?
Oracle: Oh, no. No, I didn't. But I believed . . . I believed!
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

The Matrix Revolutions (2003), Ending Scene + Credits

And oh, after the love has gone
How could you lead me on, and not let me stay around
After The Love Has Gone, David Foster, Jay Graydon & Bill Champlin (1979)

After The Love Has Gone, Earth, Wind & Fire (live 1981)

After The Love Has Gone, Leonid & Friends (EW&F cover) (2021)

I just want to celebrate another day of livin'
I just want to celebrate another day of life.
I Just Want To Celebrate, Dino Fekaris & Nick Fesses (1971)

I Just Want To Celebrate, Rare Earth (1973)

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The Great Divide - Believe

Seraph: Did you always know?
Oracle: Oh, no. No, I didn't. But I believed . . . I believed!
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Start & Finish images from my 2021 ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
Framed by the chain that carried me the entire 2,651 miles.

There's nothing quite like the enduring satisfaction of working to achieve a massive goal formed from a long aspired dream. For me, riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is destined to be one of those most cherished of experiences. It will always be a big part of me.

To merely stand on the Canadian border at Roosville, Montana, prepared to take on the Great Divide, felt like a victory in itself. Then, one day, many weeks later, I stood alone on the Mexican border at Antelope Wells, New Mexico in sheer joy and utter disbelief. The magnitude of the achievement overwhelmed me. This is it. This is why to dream audaciously, set goals boldly, and work relentlessly to achieve them. See Living A Dream and Give Yourself A Chance.

Living this dream did not come easily, though I thought I was well prepared. In the first six months of 2021, I rode my Jones 29+ bike over 500 miles unloaded and another 1,000 miles fully loaded, mostly in chunks of 40-60 mile days on rolling gravel roads. In 2019-2020, I bikepacked more than 20 overnighters, several two nighters, and a big 7 day shakedown on the Cloud Peak 500 route that nearly broke me. Cloud Peak 500 Wrap. And a lifetime of endurance sports certainly gave me a chance to even consider such a ride.

Not impressed, the Great Divide hammered me from the start. Working through a difficult first two weeks, I eventually found my rhythm and rode stronger, longer, higher, and faster as the weeks passed, even as the roads and conditions deteriorated significantly in New Mexico. At the end, I believed I could have continued to ride even stronger for many, many more weeks. See A Hard Start.

But I did not know that at the start. Nor after those first two weeks. Nor at any other point until the final day. No rider really knows. I certainly didn't and, no matter what well meaning others said to me before, during, or after, they didn't know either.

But I believed. I believed.

The Matrix Revolutions (2003), Ending Scene + Credits