Opening weekend: Tidewater Classic & Cavalier Crit

Racing

Alright! Things are happening! Here’s where my head’s at a week or so after the season’s start.

In preparing for a race, I’m often of two minds:

  1. I want to win so very badly
  2. I just want to ride a race I can be proud of.

I admit that it is a fool’s errand to want to win every race you enter. It is particularly foolish if you’re a beginner. But why bother signing up and racing if the goal isn’t to win?

Then I’ll often consider that there’s nothing wrong with losing a race, the important thing is to enjoy it and race enthusiastically. Even if I go out in a blaze of glory on a short-lived solo attack, that’s totally fine. It’s fun to roll the dice, even if your odds aren’t good. It’s fun to turn yourself inside out to help a teammate get a result.

Anyway, the season properly started last weekend.

The William & MaryTidewater Classic is a ~40 mile circuit with an uphill finish into York River State Park. Out representing Sweet Spot was Mike King, Neil Etheridge, Jason Walters and myself. 

Before the race, we caught up with the Carytown Bicycle Co. race team, who made the short drive east as well.

We all agreed it’d be wise for our teams to work together throughout the race, on the shared agreement that all bets are off in the finish. Our teams were some of the only ones from Richmond, we train together on the weekends pretty often, and with about 8 strong riders between us, we thought we could make sure we were all in good positions.

Mike is by far the most experienced of us and it showed. He did all the little things, like point out guys who might be crash-prone and remind us when to have an energy bar or gel. He was basically our road captain. For Sweet Spot, the idea was to maybe send someone up the road in a breakaway, but mostly try to line up Neil or I for a sprint finish. 

With about 10 miles to go, I was flicking through my gears on one of the circuit’s short climbs when my chain fell off. I immediately dismounted and feverishly tried to throw it back on the rings, all while counting the seconds I’d have to make up to regain contact.

In that moment, with grease on my fingers and other riders passing me on the side of the road, I was accepting I probably wasn’t going to have a chance to win. To just regain contact with the peloton I’d have to burn a huge amount of energy, and long sustained efforts are not my strong suit.

I got back on the bike and as I put my foot through the pedal to take off again, my rear derailleur snapped completely off. My race was over.

Ain’t much interesting to say about it other than: it sucked.

It sucks to pay the $40 to register, wake up early, shove oatmeal and espresso into your moth, drive out to Williamsburg, go over tactics with the team and have most of it be going according to plan, only to have a mechanical issue take you out of the race. It sucks. It sucks to be out a couple hundred bucks to have your bike repaired.

And it really sucked to not have a chance to roll the dice. Neil’s in fantastic form right now and I’d have loved to be his leadout, but I was walking back with my bike over my shoulder as the peloton passed me heading for the finish.

I caught up with the team after the race and they said the finish was absolute chaos, with Mike and Neil finishing somewhere in the top 20.

After getting back to Richmond, it was quickly determined that my Ultralight wasn’t going to be ready in time for Sunday’s race. I spent the afternoon whining and pouting and even considering not racing Sunday.

But I turned to my old Cannondale which had been relegated to commuting duties ever since I got my Ultralight. It’s a great bike, but does not compare in terms of performance.

But any port in a storm, right?

The Cavalier Crit was super technical with 8 serpentining turns and a U-turn around a roundabout, all of which were made even dicier by the fact it’d been raining practically all day.

I went into the race having effectively nothing to lose. I just wanted to finish a damn race after the way Snowcone and the Tidewater Classic went. It was only Jason and I there representing Sweet Spot, and our strategy was basically to fudge it.

Since it was a small field of about 20, I liked my odds to finish top-10. I think getting too caught up in tactics and strategy can really take the fun out of racing, and it was great to let loose after being disciplined on Saturday.

The race was an absolute blast. Tons of people launched attacks and we all took turns at the front chasing them down. We all pushed the limits of our bikes as we screamed around wet, tight corners and powered up a short climb in the middle of the course.

With a lap to go, a guy (whose name I didn’t get) went off the front and built a solid 10-second gap. We were all too cooked from playing Calvinball the entire race to catch him, but I was able to sprint to second place. It felt great to finish a race, even better to finish on the podium.

All in all, it was fun to spend a whole weekend racing, especially in some unfamiliar places. We didn’t get the results we hoped it for, but we got the early-season jitters out and most importantly, kept the rubber side down.

Next on the calendar is the Shamrock Crit Saturday in Virginia Beach, with the Sleepy Hole Crit in Suffolk the day after.

Hello, again: 2018 prologue

Racing

 Hello. It’s been a while.

It’s been nearly two years since I used this site for anything other than having my own dot-com email domain. Let’s blame Medium for that. I got distracted by its fancy UI.

Anyway, I’ve found I miss writing about cycling, and though I’m not touring, I am spending an awful lot of time in the saddle. The pages of this site retell my cross-country trips, and going back and re-reading them is a fun blast of nostalgia.

I think it would be fun to document my racing escapades in a similar way. I love free-writing, but I also suffer from pre-publication anxiety. Thinking of stuff about which to write and then share is tough for me, but I am jazzed about this.

The story so far: last summer, I dove into the local race scene and had a bit of unexpected success. That landed me on the Sweet Spot Cycling team, which after some shuffling with the Richmond Bicycle Studio team, brings us into the 2018 season as a cat 3/4 team with about 15 riders, which as far as I can tell, is a pretty deep squad.

It feels as though empires have rose and fell over the course of this winter. A few  50° or 60° days on the weekends have been toupees on this bald head of a season, but the cold just gets me down, man. For me it’s a Herculean effort to sit on the trainer for longer than hour or ride in anything below 50°, so I’ve been trying to ride on the weekends while spending the weeknights mostly in the weight room, sometimes in the studio, occasionally atop the yoga mat, and sporadically on the soccer pitch.

Our first race as a team was a few weeks ago at Carytown Bikes’ Snowcone, a training race out in West Creek that was a great litmus test.

I felt stronger at Snowcone than I was expecting, especially considering it was a combined cat 1/2/3/4 field with some serious local heavy hitters in it. My rear tire punctured with ~5 laps to go which pretty much ended my race. Getting my heart rate back up into the 170’s after having to pause and fix a flat proved too hard and I fell off the back. Them’s the breaks.

Next on the calendar is the William & Mary Tidewater Classic on the 24th. I haven’t raced it before (which will be a common refrain this season) but it’s my understanding it’s a mostly flat course with a slight uphill finish, which I like the sound of.

As I’ve said previously, I feel very much among my people on the SSC team. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, yet race like we’re an animal that knows it’s halfway up the food chain. No less than two weeks after our shiny new team kits arrived in the mail, the studio announced it’ll be closing, which I choose to see as a type of gallows humor and not a bad omen. Ever since I got into Riding Bikes Fast™ I thought it’d be SO cool to be on a team and wear a team kit with matching shorts and jerseys. It’s pretty neat to have reached that point. A big thanks to Erin and Greg for allowing us to be the goofiest billboard imaginable for Sweet Spot.

In short, I’m stoked. I’m stoked for longer, warmer days, I’m stoked to travel throughout the state and region, I’m stoked to have tan lines again. And I’m stoked to archive it all here.

It goes on

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

The night before the trip began, a double rainbow appeared over the Atlantic in Yorktown. From the hotel courtyard, we all joked how it was a good omen for the trip. It turned out it was more than just wishful thinking: TransAm 2016 was, by any account, a complete success, and I’m sad that it’s over.

San Francisco, and California in general, met all of my ridiculous expectations. The Sierra Nevada mountains felt an awful lot like the North Cascades, riddled with small, picturesque lakes and forever-reaching trees. Sacramento and its surrounding suburbs were quaint, while Davis was probably my favorite place from the trip, a town I could absolutely see myself living in.

Swimming in Silver Lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Visiting UC Davis' campus.

University of California at Davis

I had forgotten how magical the end tire dip is. After driving over the Golden Gate bridge, Kaylyn and I biked through Fisherman’s Wharf to meet up with the team and lead them to Crissy Field, where friends, family, champagne, and unforgettable memories awaited the team (Debbie’s daughter Alisha made an excellent video of the beach celebration).

IMG_4341

Route Leaders featuring the Golden Gate Bridge!

IMG_4333

Tire dip in the Pacific Ocean!

IMG_4325

Fisherman’s Wharf

Reaching the end as a Route Leader offers a different kind of satisfaction than reaching the Pacific as a cyclist. August 4th, 2014 remains one of the best days of my life, having reached the Pacific purely by bike. Riding every mile is (breaking news) a challenging physical feat, but being a Route Leader is more of a mental and emotional task at times.

I had ~36 hours in San Francisco before my redeye, and felt like I did well to make excellent use of my limited time. I think I took more Uber rides during my day in S.F. than I had the previous year combined, checking out every neighborhood. Chinatown, the Mission District, Pacific Heights, Embarcadero, and so on. I adore San Francisco, and could spend a lifetime exploring all its neighborhoods (and eating at the never-ending list of quality restaurants).

IMG_4391

Dolores Park

IMG_4382

Pacific Heights

IMG_4373

Embarcadero

Now that it’s over, I’d like to point out some things that I was terrified of acknowledging for fear of jinxing them.

The weather this summer was dry and perfect. We had so little rain, I don’t even know what most of our rain jackets look like. We had tailwinds through the flats. It never got too hot (at least for my liking). There was no flooding. None of these were true of last year, so I kept on waiting for the weather to worsen but it never did. Also, I have now gone two straight summers without getting a flat. I want to chalk it up to smart riding and quality tires, but after a certain point, flats come down to luck and I’ve been rather lucky.

Assimilating back into society hasn’t gotten any easier, and this year I’ve been feeling especially emotional. It’s allllll over.  I think leading two tours is plenty for me, and I’m no longer Bike the US for MS’ Program Manager. I’m not even sure where to start when describing my time as an employee there. It’s the coolest job I’ve ever had and I loved it. For the thousandth time, I thank Don, Cassie, and the board of directors. Bike the US for MS has shown me the world and I’m grateful to have been involved in all these different ways. It’s been so much more than just riding my bike places and helping others ride their bikes places. I got to see as we wrote checks to MS patients who needed new wheelchairs, lifts, and so on, and I’ve read the thank-you notes they’ve sent weeks later.  I’m not done riding for MS, that’s for sure.

And to the TransAm 2016 team, I miss you all already and running around asking strangers how their ride was just isn’t the same. You’re all stars and I hope we can hang out and ride again soon. I am so proud to have been a part of this group.

And because I love a good cheesy quote, I’ll cite Robert Frost: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Life is more or less going on for me, and it’s equal parts exciting and terrifying.

Thank you for reading.

A Hell Of A Place To Lose A Cow: Adventures in Utah and Nevada

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

In 1875, Ebenezer Bryce settled in south-central Utah, becoming the otherwise empty area’s first permanent resident. He famously described the land as “A hell of a place to lose a cow,” and he would go on to be the person for whom Bryce Canyon National Park is named. If southern Utah is a hell of a place to lose a cow, then I’d be interested to hear what ole Ebenezer would have to say about riding your bike through it.

IMG_4129

Mike at the start of a tunnel of red rock.

IMG_4176

Glen Canyon

Adam and Shanon ripping along some buttes.

Adam and Shanon ripping along some buttes.

For the first time this summer, I felt like I was in a place that was totally unlike anything I had ever seen before. Utah felt like Mars, but with roads. The painted canyons are even deeper reds and beautiful in person, and they’re all that exists out there. At camp, the temperature plummets in the 40s at night and heats back up in minutes when the sun rises. You wake up with a dry mouth and black boogers because of all the dust, and heaven help you if you run out of water. I honestly have no clue what would compel someone to ride the Western Express without support. There’s just no resources out there. This is a common thread out west.

I felt like I was on Tattooine in a pod race.

I felt like I was on the set of where the pod race on Tattooine was shot.

Capitol Reef National Park, considered one of the best places in the country to stargaze.

Capitol Reef National Park, considered one of the best places in the country to stargaze.

Cedar City, Utah, home to Southern Utah University and some apparently impassioned karaoke singers (as we learned on our night out there), was our outlet into Nevada. If Utah is remote, with towns small and far between each other, Nevada is nothing at all.

We’re riding through Nevada on US 50. In 1986, the now-defunct Life magazine described US 50, saying, “It’s totally empty. There are no points of interest. We don’t recommend it…We warn all motorists not to drive there, unless they’re confident of their survival skills.”

Nevada has leaned into this harsh criticism, proudly describing 50 as “The Loneliest Road In America” and each town along the route has passport stamps for The Official Survival Guide to 50 (the bit of literature from which I read about the Life quote). Collect enough stamps along 50, mail them to the Nevada state offices, and they’ll send you a certificate signed by the Nevada governor declaring that you survived Highway 50.

So, yeah. We’re riding our bikes along it? Again, I don’t know how anyone could ride this route on their own, it is so mind-numbingly desolate that to be out there alone is terrifying. You’re at the mercy of the sun, and if you were to get heat exhaustion or have a mechanical issue on your bike, the odds of someone driving by you are slim. It’s so unexciting I haven’t even taken photos of it. There’s simply nothing to look at.

This is probably a solid 15 miles in sight. Nevada has been a game of going over summits, then descending into basins. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is probably a solid 15 miles in sight. Nevada has been a game of going over summits, then descending into basins. Lather, rinse, repeat.

S'mores at camp in Ely, NV.

S’mores at camp in Ely, NV.

Route leading is often draining, hectic, and challenging. But sometimes, it's awfully nice.

Route leading is often draining, hectic, and challenging. But sometimes, it’s awfully nice.

Nevada is an area that clearly wasn’t meant to be inhabited. The heat and lack of vegetation, water, and resources makes you feel like nature is saying, “Get out of here, everything here is dead.” And so that’s what we’re doing.

In two nights we’ll be into California, and in six days we’ll have reached San Francisco. The last week is always mentally challenging for me: I’m just so excited to get to civilization and welcome the team into the Pacific, that I’m begging the days to go by faster. Knowing just how great the end is makes the final riding days feel that much longer, but I’m doing my best to enjoy the time left and to not focus on the glee that’s awaiting us in San Francisco.

 

RIP Anne Davis

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

I’m unsure where to start, so I guess I’ll dive right in.

A week ago, Bike and Build cyclists Anne Davis and Laura Stark were hit by a car while biking. Anne was killed and Laura is in critical condition.

This is my third summer on a cross-country tour, and this is the third time I’ve heard of other cyclists on charity rides getting hit and killed by cars while I was on the road. In 2014, Jamie Roberts was killed while riding with 4K for Cancer. Last year, Patrick Wanninkhof was killed while riding with Bike and Build. Before then, Bike and Build suffered losses in 2010 and 2011, as Paige Hicks and Christina Genco were hit and killed while riding.

I apologize if there are other losses that I haven’t heard of and am not listing. I really hope that’s all there is, and all there ever will be. Digesting these stories hasn’t gotten easier. I can’t help but feel afraid I might be next.

Cycling across the entire country, and cycling in general, are inherently dangerous, but that doesn’t make these accidents okay. And it certainly doesn’t mean they’re not preventable. I’m afraid some drivers see cyclists as intruders on the road instead of as people with lives, with families, with futures. No hobbyist should have to be afraid of getting killed by someone else while doing what they love, yet it’s the sad reality cyclists face.

Of course not every driver is aggressive, and I’m regularly passed by people who slow down and give the legal amount of space while overtaking me. But those who do drive aggressively toward cyclists keep me up at night, and they fail to realize that when they’re buzzing someone, honking, yelling, and most terrifyingly, running them off the road, that they’re putting another human’s life in danger. I try to empathize with people who do this, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would turn someone else’s life into a game of inches instead of taking an extra five seconds out of their day to pass safely.

There’s nothing I, or anyone, can say that makes the passings of Anne, Patrick, Jamie, and the hundreds of other cyclists who are killed each year, easier. This isn’t an attempt to eulogize people I never knew. It’s just a plea to, if you’re a driver, please consider that cyclists are people. They’re fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. Just take the extra time to pass safely, and please, please don’t text/talk/drink and drive.

I hate vague statements like “X is more than a Y” but for me, cycling has been more than a hobby. It’s given me a job, friendships, and countless hours of joy in the saddle, and I don’t plan to ever stop riding. It’s just hard to want to when I hear about what happened last week. I’m not the only one who’s afraid.

I can’t imagine the sadness everyone impacted by these fatalities is feeling. On behalf of Bike the US for MS and the 2016 TransAm team, I extend every sympathy to the Davis family, Stark family, and the entire Bike and Build community. We’re thinking of ya’ll.

I’m in Cedar City, Utah, a mere 12 days away from San Francisco. After last week, I just want to use my final dozen days as a Bike the US for MS route leader to get this amazing team through the Nevada desert safely to the bay. I’ll post some pictures and anecdotes from Utah when I’m feeling more up to it.

RIP Anne, and best wishes to Laura.

 

Runnin’ on through the Rockies

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

Much of the joy of the TransAm has been how new everything is. A year ago, I was mostly concerned about reliving all the best parts of my 2014 tour, which was a mistake. This time, I haven’t even been in many of these states, much less stayed the night. The childlike wonder I felt in 2014 is back: I have no idea what to expect each night. And it’s been really rather nice.

An abandoned amusement park in western Kansas.

An abandoned amusement park in western Kansas.

IMG_4017

Some dorks and I. 

Haswell, CO: population 58, no café/market/anything, and home to The Nation's Smallest Jail

Haswell, CO: population 58, no café/market/anything, and home to The Nation’s Smallest Jail.

Eastern Colorado is remote and flat, with Pueblo being the only point of interest east of the Rockies. Though Pueblo itself was really interesting. The Arkansas River rips straight through Pueblo, and it was once a major steel mill city, bringing in immigrants from all over. It was truly refreshing to see some diversity in culture following the monotony of towns in Kansas, and the moment you’re west of Pueblo, you’re in Rockies.

The Pueblo Riverwalk.

The Pueblo Riverwalk.

The Rockies

The Rocky Mountains. 

Since then, we’ve been at least 5,000 feet above sea level as we’ve climbed and descended through the Rockies. The landscape out here is breathtaking twofold: the mountains are beautifully imposing, and it’s literally hard to catch your breath out here due to the elevation.

"Wait, where are we?"

“Wait, where are we?”

View of Telluride from a gondola which runs up and over the mountain.

Telluride, as seen from the gondola which runs up and over the mountain.

I say this all the time, and have probably written it in the past, but it really is shocking how quickly it’s gone by. In three weeks, I’ll be in San Francisco, which is just wild. We’re on the western edge of the Rockies in Telluride, with eyes set on Utahn canyons and Nevadan deserts.

Missouri & Kansas: Rhymes with misery & A lot of nothing

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

I’m a bit pinched for time, so here’s a photo diary from Missouri and Kansas:

MIssouri! Rhymes with misery!

Missouri!

A cyclists' hostel in Farmington, MO complete with air conditioning, laundry, and beds. A cyclists’ hostel in Farmington, MO complete with air conditioning, laundry, and beds. Basically a five star hotel.

This is Tommy Johns, holding his self-published book of life stories, some related to living with MS, others not so much. He's a Missouri native who's been a friend of the organization for years and he met us along the way on three separate days: just before his hometown, in his hometown, and then in Pittsburg, KS on our rest day. And I don't think I didn't see him once when he wasn't smiling ear to ear.

This is Tommy Johns, holding his self-published book of life stories, some related to living with MS, others not so much. He’s a Missouri native who’s been a friend of the organization for years and he met us along the way on three separate days: just before his hometown, in his hometown, and then in Pittsburg, KS on our rest day. And I don’t think I didn’t see him once when he wasn’t smiling ear to ear. Meeting people like Tommy are what make the trip so special. 

IMG_3975

Mike’s butt as we rode into Newton, KS, on some of the smoothest tarmac I’ve ever been on.

This is Mike Risisca, who's become a bit of a legend along the TransAm. He's been a few days ahead of us all summer, and his signature robot sticker is everywhere: on street signs, in bathrooms, in bike shops. I finally found and met him in Larned, KS and he's as nice as his little robot logo is awesome. We're hoping to tag up with him again in Pueblo, CO in a few days.

This is Mike Risisca, who’s become a bit of a legend along the TransAm. He’s been a few days ahead of us all summer, and his signature robot sticker is everywhere: on street signs, in bathrooms, in bike shops. I finally found and met him in Larned, KS and he’s as nice as his little robot logo is awesome. We’re hoping to tag up with him again in Pueblo, CO in a few days. Here’s a link to his blog. 

A really good dog I met in Carbondale.

A really good dog I met in Carbondale.

I've broken up with Clif Bars and moved onto Larabars. Sorry, Clif Bars, I would say it's not you, it's me, but I'd be lying. Larabars are just way tastier.

I’ve broken up with Clif Bars and moved onto Larabars. Sorry, Clif Bars, I would say it’s not you, it’s me, but I’d be lying. Larabars are just way tastier.

Shanon and I on the Kansas flats. It's pretty shocking just how little is out here. For as far as you can see, it's just nothing.

Shanon and I on the Kansas flats. It’s pretty shocking just how little is out here. For as far as you can see, it’s just nothing.

The hotel from which I'm writing this. I've never seen a motel with an indoor atrium/pool/jacuzzi, but I really dig it.

The hotel from which I’m writing this. I’ve never seen a motel with an indoor atrium/pool/jacuzzi, but I really dig it.

My continued adoration of the Bike the US for MS alumni family

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

There’s quite a bit of hooplah about Virginia on the TransAm. I didn’t really want to believe my native land was considered hellish, unforgiving, and among the most challenging states on the route. But compared to Virginia, Kentucky was much smoother, literally and figuratively.

Sitting on behind Mike & Shanon in central Kentucky.

Sitting on behind Mike & Shanon in central Kentucky.

Adam said Kentucky’s slogan might as well be, “Kentucky: Pretty much what you thought it was.” There’s Wildcats gear everywhere, every local town seemed to have a bluegrass festival, and the countryside was vast and serene. I don’t have many interesting things to say about Kentucky. It was nice. I turned 25 in a place called Booneville, which is a sentence I never thought I’d write. I had a wonderful day, yet it’ll be forever afflicted by the shooting in Orlando. My heart aches for all those affected and lost. I am disgusted at the Senate’s faux empathy for the LGBTQ community, and I hope and hope and hope that the LGBTQ community gets the protections it deserves and that firearms are embargoed. I digress.

There's an amazing passive-aggressive battle amongst Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, and probably a few other states about what Abe Lincoln's hometown is. Illinois state signs declare the state is "Lincoln's Boyhood Home" yet Kentucky's LaRue County proudly announce it's where he was born. Everybody's trying to get a slice of old Abe, apparently.

There’s an amazing passive-aggressive battle amongst Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, and probably a few other states about what Abe Lincoln’s hometown is. Illinois state signs declare the state is “Lincoln’s Boyhood Home” yet Kentucky’s LaRue County proudly announce it’s where he was born. Everybody’s trying to get a slice of old Abe, apparently.

Jeff and a feral kitten

Jeff and a feral kitten

But we’re onto the midwest! After a night in the eponymously named Cave In Rock, IL, where there’s a (you guessed it) cave in a rock, we have a day off in Carbondale! Oh, let me tell you about the Green family and Carbondale.

Brian Green is a Bike the US for MS legend, having ridden and route-led both the TransAm and Northern Tier from 2010 to 2013. Now, when the TransAm team rolls through his hometown of Carbondale, his family puts everyone and them some. Yes, they provide smoked turkeys, homemade garden salsa, kegs of beer, and (brace yourself) HOME-MADE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES, but just being around a family who are so enthusiastic about the cause and willing to talk with us about our travels (they know more about the routes than I do) is a dream. They’ve done so much more than just house and feed us, and I really can’t say enough good things about them. Thank you to Pam, Gene, Brian, and the entire Green family.

The aforementioned cave in a rock in Cave In Rock.

The aforementioned cave in a rock in Cave In Rock.

It’s shocking to think we’re 1/3 of the way through the trip already. In a few days we’ll be in Missouri, before going into Kansas. Keep sending me your addresses and I’ll keep sending you postcards from bizarre places. Best wishes.

A waitress called me “Babydoll” and other things from Kentucky

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

“Route leading is cake,” I thought to myself, like an idiot in the spring, arrogantly undermining the calamity that is the first week of any trip.

Week one of TransAm 2016 was consistent in its attempt to smash both my sanity and the team’s collective legs, but we are here in Kentucky, and things are settling in.

Zach cruising down the Capital City trail on day 1 on his freeeesh new Vaya

Zach cruising down the Capital City trail on day 1 on his freeeesh new Vaya

 

Troutville, VA

Troutville, VA

Having a gaggle of alumni around for Virginia was a delight, and if you’re reading this Rob, Zach, Joe, Brian, or Olivia, come back. We need you. These are the first three days of my entire Bike the US for MS experience which Joe Letchford hasn’t been around for, and I feel like a lost child at a county fair. Come find me, Joe. Regardless, it was a really nice first week, highlighted by going along the Blue Ridge Parkway, rendezvousing with Harding in Charlottesville, and a much-needed rest day in Blacksburg.

The Blue Ridge Mountains living up to their name.

The Blue Ridge Mountains living up to their name.

Leaving Blacksburg was particularly hard, especially in light of some personal news: upon reaching San Francisco in August, I will be leaving my position as Program Manager with Bike the US for MS. I hope very much that this isn’t the end of my involvement with this organization, and I feel inclined to use cliches when I talk about all of the memories I’ve made thanks to Bike the US for MS. Holding this job has been a  joy, and I am forever thankful for the opportunity. Thank you, Don and Cassie.

What’s next for me is a meltdown for another time. Right now, I’m in Kentucky on the eve of my 25th birthday. All I want for my birthday is blue skies and a tailwind tomorrow.

Some final notes:

  • Send me your address so I can send you postcards! I’m serious. mike@mikeplatania.com. Gimme it. They’ll be good. Promise.
  • If you want, send me stuff! We get mail drops from the following towns on the following dates: June 20th: Carbondale, IL 62901 | July 1st: Larned, KS 67550 | July 11th: Telluride, CO 81435 | July 21: Milford, UT 84751. If you want to send stuff just address it “General Delivery. Attn: Mike Platania” (I like cookie dough Larabars, hint-hint-nudge-nudge).
  • Since my photos are often too large for the free public WiFi I use to write these, check out my Instagram for more frequent photos of what I’m seeing and doing. Similarly, I’ll be using Strava whenever convenient.

 

 

 

 

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

 

 

 

 

California, here we come

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

In 2000, I was given Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 mistakenly for my birthday. My best friend and neighbor, Tim, said he planned to get me Cool Boarders 3, but he and his mom could only find THPS2. 

I couldn’t be bothered that the gift was a second-choice, as we ripped off the cellophane packaging and threw the bright-yellow disc into my Playstation and logged hours into what’s now considered one of the most iconic video games ever. This happy accident has affected my life more than my nine-year-old brain could ever have imagined.

What followed were my teenage years, which I spent skateboarding, identifying as a “skater” and revering skating as the sun around which my life revolved. And my Mecca was California. Skateboarding was invented there. Jamie Thomas’ iconic Leap of Faith happened at a San Diego high school. California was where all the major companies were based, where all the best skateparks and spots were. School II in THPS2 was set in California. Blink-182 recorded “The Mark Tom and Travis Show” there. Things were happening in California, and I couldn’t get there, which only worsened my desire to get there.

“One of the great activities (for kids) is skateboarding,” Jerry Seinfeld said.

“To learn to do a skateboard trick, how many times do you gotta get something wrong until you get it right? And you’re falling and hurting yourself. You learn that trick, now you got a life lesson. Whenever I see those skateboard kids, I think, ‘Those kids will be alright’.”

16 years later, I still haven’t been to California, I don’t skate anymore, and Tim and I don’t talk nearly as much as I’d like. All of which bum me out, but such is growing up, I guess. I’d like to change all of these. At least I know I’ll get to do change one of them.

My employment at Bike the US for MS started in October, following two summers of riding and then route leading. My hiring is a testament to the notion that if you hang around long enough, you’ll eventually find yourself in the right place at the right time. And if you’re really lucky, you might find a way to weasel a paycheck out of it.

I’m really fortunate to have the job I do. It afforded me a chance to get out of my parents’ hair in Richmond and head back to Blacksburg, which has been a joy. I had struggled mightily to find work, as is documented on this site, and when I got a call with a job offer on the other line instead of another rejection, I was euphoric. I still am. And one of the fruits and vegetables that comes with being Bike the US for MS’ Program Manager is being a route leader when called upon. Last winter, I was called upon.

This summer, I’ll be leading a group of cyclists from Yorktown, Virginia to San Francisco, California. At long last, I get to go to California. I suppose it’s only appropriate that I go by bike.

The TransAm is a grand, obfuscating, and hot ride, a tour about which I know little. I’m really excited to write about it and share my experience here, and thank you for reading.

images