Sep 27, 2010

Biking for Bender

Earlier this year fellow pro mountain bike racer, Robert Bender, was diagnosed with cancer. He’s currently in his second round of chemotherapy, and although his spirits are high, so is the stack of medical bills piling up. To help pay them, Bender’s teammate, Al Laframboise hosted a benefit ride last weekend in Big Bear. More people than I could count came out to show their support and to take part in the post ride raffle at La Montana restaurant.

With help from his wife, Bender’s family, and a few locals, Al had long and short ride loops planned with a common feed station that was stocked with fresh fruit, cookies, and liquids. I did the long loop and was pleased to be led over all kinds of Big Bear trails that I never knew existed. After the feed station, Mt. Everest summiteer, and all-around nice guy, Paul Romero, led a couple of us on an extended ride that consisted of pure sweet singletrack. Most of it has been right under my nose the entire 15 years I’ve been riding Big Bear and I never even knew it. I’m not sure I could find it on my own, but getting to ride it just once was a pleasure.

The entire experience that day made me realize a few things: I really miss racing and riding in Big Bear on a regular basis; and I miss seeing Bender at all the races here in the southwest. On more than one occasion Bender has turned the screws to me while I was trying to stick to his wheel. I hope the day comes again where we’re racing in Big Bear, and that Bender is there turning over the pedals at a rate which causes us all discomfort.

We stumbled upon this beauty on the downside of a huge mountain. How it got there in the first place, I'll never figure out. And we forgot to check it for bodies. Dang.

We all nearly lost a lung getting to the top of this summit.

Biking for Bender had a great turnout.

Sep 21, 2010

I'm a paper hugger

I spend most of my day staring at dual flat screen monitors. The one to my left displays either Microsoft Outlook or Word, depending whether or not I’m on email. Sometimes when I’m lucky, I’m using MS Word to write something that could eventually make its way into actual print, in the form of a magazine, newsletter, brochure or advertisement. A paradox of sorts, the printed pieces are about technology - computer technology, to be exact. Meanwhile, to my right is always a web site of some sort. Right now it’s the San Bernardino National Forest web site because that’s where I wish I was at the moment – amongst the trees instead of the dual flat screens. Regardless how cheap, small, portable, and fast a PC, or a Kindle, or an iPad, or the next big thing gets; I prefer that my media began life as a tree. I’ll take paper pages over web pages any day.

As a kid I honed what little writing skills I now posses by reading mostly motorcycle magazines and Rolling Stone. I could even argue that in my junior high and high school years, I had two writing styles. One was that of a late ‘80s moto rag, with wit, humor, and passion, while the other was more of a long-winded rock ‘n roll inspired rant like you used to find in the pages of Rolling Stone. In college I began to branch out, but before I could get too far I found myself as a contributing writer for Cycle News and Dirt Rider. I thought I had hit the big time. I was, to quote Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe, almost famous.

But even before seeing my name in a by-line, or my picture as a test rider, when the thought of writing for a motorcycle magazine seemed like a pipedream, I took my magazine reading serious, like an education. There was no internet. It was just paper and ink and I loved it. My mom was forced to hide whatever magazine came in the mail on a given day because my dad and I would fight over first reading rights. Her method for preventing these quarrels was simple. Whoever asked about the day’s mail first got the first read. Nearly every day I’d come home and before she could ask me how school was, I’d ask her if the Dirt Rider came. Once we started getting Cycle News on a weekly basis, I knew that every Wednesday, sometimes Thursday, there’d be one waiting at home.

No matter which of the magazines it was, there was always great anticipation over who was going to be on the cover, and what stories would be inside. And because it wasn’t like the web where stuff changes hour-by-hour, sometimes that anticipation lasted for weeks.

As the internet continues to change the way writers write, readers read, photographers shoot, and unfortunately how magazines and newspapers layout, plan, and print their publications, I hope that the print media finds a respectable balance that will keep them afloat. Obviously, some of the damage has already been done. Many magazines have revised their style to more of a Web-like format. It’s not often you open up a magazine and see a page with words, a photo, and a caption anymore. Your average page now is cut up into little pieces – each piece a different “story” or a sidebar to the main story, which in itself is a fraction of what a good magazine article used to be. It’s no wonder so many people suffer from A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. Where does one begin when you open up a magazine and the layout looks like the graphic designer played 52 Card Pickup all over the page? Ever wonder why National Geographic doesn’t look that way? Probably because they’ve done an extensive story on how the human brain isn’t made to process unrelated tidbits of information that way. When I sit down to read a magazine I don’t want to feel like I’m an air traffic controller. That gives me a headache. I want the full story, not the Cliffs Notes.

I can go on and on about this topic until you are blue in the face. The irony is this: I went to school and worked hard so I can write things that get printed on paper, yet in order to do that, I have to spend all day in front of a computer.

Within the last two years more than 500 magazines have ceased publication. Doomed from the start if you think about it, PC Magazine and Computer Shopper were two that folded. Go figure.

Good old fashion paper.

Sep 17, 2010

I feel a road trip coming on

There’s this Conor Oberst song called, “There’s nothing that the road cannot heal.” I can’t agree more. I don’t even remember the lyrics to the song, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the title itself. For me, a good road trip can fix a lot of things. Writer’s block? Go on a road trip. Cabin fever? Go on a road trip. Need a change of scenery? Go on a road trip. Emotional distress because Bank of America is making your life miserable? Go on a road trip. All of these problems can be healed by a good old fashion road trip to… wherever. Just away.

When I was younger and traveled more, there was no shortage of things in my travels that inspired me to write. Now that I spend my week days cooped up in an office and most of my weekends racing locally or taking care of life’s chores, inspiration is infrequent. This year I’ve driven and ridden the same roads, descended the same singletrack, looked at the same trees, gotten fuel at the same gas stations, eaten at the same restaurants, and bought ice cream at the same grocery stores with only a couple exceptions. One of those exceptions was a trip to Colorado, but I don’t really count that because I flew instead of drove. Flying is cheating. Flying doesn’t count unless - when you reach your destination - you spend plenty of time exploring. We explored some in Colorado this summer, but not enough.

There’s just something about traveling the country and seeing it from behind a windshield that excites me. You can stop whenever you want to get a closer look at something. If you’re lucky, you get to sleep in a different place each night. You get to eat different foods from unfamiliar restaurants. Basically, you get to experience life as it was meant to be experienced. Mankind was not meant to be so sedentary. It’s bad for the body and equally as bad for the mind. Whoever first said, “familiarity breeds contempt” must have appreciated a good road trip.

When I think about the past, my best memories did not take place at home or at other familiar places. My best memories come from places I visited on vacations, trips, and weekends. The memories are of the outdoors and of not knowing what’s around the next corner. They are memories of experiencing things that I didn’t already experience day after day. They are memories attached with photos and some of them can be found in the archives of this blog. And if you haven’t noticed, lately this blog is seriously suffering in the road trip department. It needs healing.

Sep 15, 2010

Did I mention I hate Bank of America?

When your back is messed up, your life is messed up. I've gone about 3 weeks now with some sort of aliment in my upper back and it's pretty much made me worthless. I'm uncomfortable at work, I'm uncomfortable at home, I'm uncomfortable everywhere except for in bed, and ironically, riding my bicycles. Something about the position I ride in gives my back some relief, but the moment I step off the bike, I'm in pain again. Well, let me rephrase that, I'm comfortable on all of my bikes except for my singlespeed. Unfortunately I didn't figure that out until I was on the second lap of the California State XC Championships at Bonelli Park last Sunday. The days prior to the race, my back was starting to feel better, but on Sunday as I wrestled my way up one of Bonelli's steep climbs, my back became pissed at me once more. Not long after that, I figured I was doing more harm than good and I called it a day. I felt bad for my pit crew, Ryder and Trish, who made the trip out with me, yet Trish insisted it was just nice to be out of the house for the day. And Ryder, well, he got to do a race of his own and spend a lot of time on one of Bonelli's many playgrounds, so he was a happy camper. The only looser was me and my injured back.

I've been to see a chiropractor three times since injuring it and I've even toyed around with going back to Pass PT, yet again. I'm a regular there now.  The reality is, I just need to take some time off from any physical activity until it gets better. No hard rides, no yard work, no heavy lifting, no nothing, pretty much. No nothing is difficult for me. I get antsy just lying around. I can't imagine how Trish must feel. She's been lying around with a snapped femur for almost two months now. I'd go bloody mad if I were here. My only saving grace is that it's football season. That'll keep me occupied Saturday through Monday at least.

From Tuesday to Friday, I'll likely be on hold with Bank of America trying to get information about my mortgage. I think Bank of Haiti could do a better job than those ding-a-lings over at B of A. I'm not even going to tell you what I think the "A" stands for in B of A. You can figure it out.

Sep 1, 2010

Thanks for All the Memories

I got a text last night about Cycle News going out of business. I didn't really believe it, but I got online and checked anyway. Everything seemed to still be intact so I went to bed and didn't give it another thought. I slept well.

This morning I got up, signed on to Twitter and saw bad news from editor-in-chief, Paul Carruthers. His tweet said, "My blog on the passin of Cycle News..."

It would sound petty if I sat here and wrote about how sad this makes me and how much the magazine's passing is going to impact my life, so I'll try not to, but the truth is, it does make me sad and it will impact my life - if even in the littlest of ways.

I was a contributor to Cycle News from 1994 to late 1998 when I became an assistant editor at the weekly rag with a new office in Costa Mesa. It was my first "real job" out of college and even after I left there in 2001, I still contributed semi-regularly until about 2003. I learned a lot in that time, made a lot of good friends, got to travel to a lot of cool places, got to ride some of the fastest motorcycles of that era, and most of all, got to experience what it was like to work at the World's Best Weekly Motorcycle Newspaper.

Working at CN was one of my childhood dreams come true, and even though I left thinking that I was moving on to greener grass, in reality I wasn't. Until I woke up this morning, even though I only ride pedal bikes now, there was always something in the back of my mind that thought I would end up writing for Cycle News again one day. But I guess that's one dream that won't come true. Thanks for all the memories Cycle News.