Eight Months?

Eight months since my last post.

How come?

Not that a lot hasn’t happened. Au contraire! A surprising number of events have jam-packed the last eight months. Much of it too wonderful to believe I deserve it. A little bit of it, I believe not.

I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time thinking about how I really FEEL about the summer of 2018 and I’m not sure I’ve really wrapped that up and put it to bed yet. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps tomorrow.

I had plans. Most of which worked out wonderfully, but the “big event” of the year was a flop and I think I’m slowly moving from a state of huge disappointment to a place where I can say to myself “this should have been expected anyway” and ultimately, a change in attitude, a sliver of acceptance, and a need to make changes in priorities.

Let’s get to the start and see what this all means.

The year of 2018 started off with a bang! I took possesion of a new bike at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show. Dwan Shepard, owner of Co-Motion Cycles  delivered my new custom Co-Motion Pangea Pinion touring bike there in Hartford Conneticut, after putting the bike on show for the weekend. You can imagine (if you are a serious cyclist) what that meant to me. And I was honored when the Radavist posted a blog saying that it was their fave touring bike at the show!

Taking Delivery!

I had nearly 1000 miles on the bike before my the first gig with it: a new Colorado-Utah tour that I helped my friend Ruth develop for Adventure Cycling.

Castle Valley Overlook
Paradox Valley Colorado

We each did a run of that tour, and I had a great group to do it with. OK … it didn’t exactly hurt that part of the group was made up of my wife Karen, and three other good friends, but the rest of the group was wonderful to ride with and we had a really great time!

At Gateway Canyons Resort

Post tour – a group of us did the loop of the Colorado National Monument outside the Grand Junction / Fruita area.

Colorado National Monument

Afterwards, and parting ways with Karen and friends, I headed north (by bike, of course) from Grand Junction Colorado toward Missoula Montana where I would meet my NEXT tour group. I took a couple weeks to cover the 900 miles to Missoula … solo … and it turned out to be a tour experience that will rate in the top five best trips ever. I got to ride in a region of the country that I never expected to be in, and it was more scenic AND challenging than I would have imagined. Dinosaur National Monument, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Big Hole Valley and Gibbons Pass Montana! Whatta Ride!

Big Hole Valley – NOT Snowing Today!

Back in Missoula for second time, I spent a week there relaxing, exploring town and prepping for the “big one”. I was to lead a group to Alaska. Yeah, really. 62 days from Missoula to Anchorage Alaska. I’ve been to Alaska and have experienced nearly ever mile of the route (plus!) back in 2010 when Karen and I went via motorcycle, so I was stoked!

I met my group on day one, we had our orientation meeting followed by dinner … and the red flags went up! Most of the group was prepared. I felt really good about most of the gang. But there were a couple that I could see were NOT ready for this kind of tour.

This is a tour that is rated amongst the toughest Adventure Cycling offers, and there were some that were clearly not a good fit for the spirit of such a tour. Yes, it’s an issue that many tour leaders face at times. There’s even a joke among many of us about that question people sometimes ask of us: “Is it True?’ “Is what true?” “That … there’s always one?”

Yes, all too often, we get “one”. One person who signed up who is in over his/her head. Maybe not physically ready. Maybe not experienced enough to get off to a good start. Or most importantly … not mentally in tune with the concept of a real adventure. We all define adventure different ways, and admittedly, I’m the old guy, and I’ve been “adventuring” so much longer than hardly anyone I’ve ever had on any tour I’ve led that perhaps I expect others to “get it” more easily than they do. Perhaps I’ll admit some guilt here. At our orientation meetings, we set expectations. What the group can expect of the leader. What the leader can expect of the group. Perhaps my expectations of the group … of each individual … were too high.

But since I expect grown adults to read and understand tour descriptions, and be realistic and honest … at least with themselves … I shouldn’t have go into a high adventure tour expecting to be a babysitter.

So, I had “one”. I’ve always had “One”. But not just one this time. And this was the tour I shouldn’t have had ANY.

We got started, but with each passing day, it became more obvious that more than “one” did not make a good choice in joining this tour. When we took a rest day after only 4 days into the tour, some members of the group caused our host camp enough grief that the management called me aside to report the trouble my group caused the staff. I was embarrassed. I was angry.

All downhill from there.

Eight days into the tour, I had had enough. In the midst of the gorgeous mountains of the Kootenay National Park of Canada, I let headquarters know I was done with this group. I managed my anger long enough (4 more days) to get the group through Banff and Jasper National Parks and up to Jasper Alberta Canada. By then, HQ had found a replacement leader to take over for me from there.

Relieved, I spent an extra day in Jasper unwinding and diggin’ on the gorgeous mountain scenery before hopping the ViaTrain to Toronto.

Trail Riding Outside Jasper

Arriving in Toronto, I had a choice. East end or west end of Lake Ontario? Going around the west end of the lake to cross back to USA and home to Rochester would have been a quick 2 day ride, but with a lot more traffic and no new territory. But, going around the east end would let me check out the Waterfront Trail along the north shore of the lake.

OK … that was an easy decision!

Day one out of Toronto took me over 100 miles to Trenton.
Day two took me over 100 miles to Kingston, the ferry to Wolf Island, the ferry to Cape Vincent and to camp at Westcott Beach State Park.
Day three took me through the wildly rolling backcountry hills to Red Creek NY where Karen intercepted me and took me home.

Home was pretty cool. We had WarmShowers Guests, The Pride Parade and Festival, local fun rides with Black Girls Do Bike, and my local club rides. It was great being home. Then, since I was home … I picked up a sling of gigs for Wilderness Voyageurs that I would have missed otherwise.

Wilderness Voyageurs Finger Lakes Tour

Bonus Adventure! Another Adventure Cycling tour leader who owns his own bike tour company (River’s Edge Cycling) contacted us looking for help to run a cross-state cycling tour of Massachusets. We love Mass, so of course … we can help! Karen worked support van and shuttles and I worked the luggage truck plus shuttles.

Upper Body Workout – Twice Daily

Good times! Thanks Gary!

Back home, I had another string of Erie Canal and Finger Lakes gigs with Wilderness Voyageurs to wrap up the season.

My Backyard

Karen and I have been hosting a get-together of tandem mountain biking friends for a good many years. We’ve called it … FART … the Fall Allegheny Rally for Tandems. This year was number 25 and we decided that 25 years is a good time to wrap it up.

The Final FART

We have made wonderful friends and watched many “stokids” grow up from trailers, to stoker positions to captaining to college over the years. It’s been a great ride. Love you all!

Finally, we wrapped up the year with one last adventure. Hawaii. My friend Ruth has started her own bike touring company … DamselTours … which is a woman-only tour company. She designs affordable bike tours for women, but somehow, I “rated” and got to join Ruth, Karen and gang on a loop tour of the Big Island of Hawaii. My name during the tour was “Brianna”.

Before the Climb Out!

We had a WONDERFUL tour of the island with great weather, scenery, camping, snorkelling, eating, and incredible riding!

Final thoughts on 2018? A mixed bag in the early part, but in the end … pretty awesome! It certaily wasn’t perfect as I thought it should be, but in the big picture … it was even better than I expected!

How can I beat 2018?

Well … 2019 marks “Year 25”. Karen and I celebrate our 25th anniversary, and we have big plans. Stay tuned!

Life Behind Bars