Entries in family (64)
I witnessed things this week that have forever changed me. I have met true angels, I've seen our medical system and all its awkward and litigious underpinnings....underpinnings that present themselves first, before the patient. But ultimately I have been in the presence of bravery that will stay with me and if I am 1/2 the man of my father, I will try to pass on a semblance of that bravery to my sons.
Keep the faith my father. We are walking with you and you have yet again inspired us.
In 1997 I took an opportunity that changed my life. It was to go and work with a small team of folks in San Francisco on some progressive technology and literally be in a start up that was going places. Fast forward and we succeeded. 15 people in a crappy building on Montgomery Street to a 500 person, $100mm dollar company. Great.
Back to 1997. It was a time that was mentally straining for me personally. I left New York to take that chance in San Francisco and in doing so left my family and friends. In fact, many predicted that my crusty East Coast-ness would ensure my demise amongst the peace, love and free-ness of the West Coast. But as we all know, the bike scene and the business being built ensured that wasn’t to be and the West Coast became my own. Most importantly, the woman that I'd resigned myself to never meeting was met and she became my life. San Francisco became my identity and my home.
During those early years, my mind shifted frequently. Violently. Would I fail? Was I doing the right thing? Have I abandoned people? Would I go back with my tail between my legs? Was the gamble the right one? I don’t dream any more, but the dreams then came fast and vivid and intense. Especially one on a specific night that truly I will never forget....
I could feel my entire family was there as I opened the heavy wooden doors to an anonymous 1920's-built brick cathedral in any town New Jersey. I knew I was late. As soon as I moved from the intensity of the outside light to the darkness inside the cathedral, I struggled to adjust to the light while my nose was overpowered with incense and the smells of the Catholic environment I grew up with. It was overwhelming but at the same time comforting.
My eyes stung but finally adjusted. They were all there.
All my living relatives as well. My sisters, mom, brother. My cousins and all those I spent my eternity growing up with and learning from. My Aunt Delores and her brother, my Uncle Ed...brother and sister to my own dad. They came to me and they had been waiting for my arrival. Totally smiling and beaming. Proud. I remember. They whispered things but I honestly couldn’t hear but their demeanor and pleasant smiles were irresistible. I basically floated along with them past all those familiar family faces as they brought me close to another set of doors. I drifted past faces of the living, save theirs, but all the while comfortable and happy as I know they were proud of me and I just allowed them to lead me.
We arrive at the doors where I knew instinctively they were bringing me. I’d seen this scene before and they needed me to be first. They needed me to lead the family into this room of pride where he was, waiting for all of us.
I looked at the two of them closely and saw them exactly as they were. Their features distinctive as I knew them in their lives. Delores’s shock of white hair perfectly styled in a way that never deviated from the 60’s and Uncle Ed’s receding hairline and happy eyebrows and that smile that I see in my own face and that of my dad’s.
They both smile an encouragement and with an arm each…Delores with her left and Ed with his right open the doors for me. I walk in leading everyone to the room of pride and he is there. Waiting. Lying. Smiling. It was his time to come back to the deepest, and truest, part of the faith he’s kept for his entire life. And all were waiting. And all were beaming.
Papa! I said. We’re all here man! My hands were on the velvet as I stood over him smiling, I knew all. Literally all of peace at that moment...even as I would be one to go on living. And yet the peace was emanating from him as the faith was strong so it was all entirely OK. All would be OK. My decisions were the right ones and his smile ensured that it would be OK. There was confirmation of pride.
And then I woke up. Completely at peace and with unshakable confidence over what's to come. The foundation in my conscious and exactly how I’d feel when this was to occur in the waking life were built from that one dream that I’d need to draw on some day.
I am calling upon that now. He’s very sick and I am going to be with him this weekend. I’m going to recall on that strength I inherited….or maybe gifted….in that dream.
Be well. Sleep soundly my friends and think of those you love in your dreams.
This is not a dress rehersal.
Fatherhood. I wouldn't even know where to begin if I were to blog about being a dad. It's nothing short of miraculous. And there are many dimensions to that miracle. From seeing your child born to their first gut laugh to walking to talking to running to riding to controlling your impulse to duct tape them up into a ball and put them in the closet when they whine.....well, it just goes fast. The work is put in every day by my wife and me to focus on these children growing up healthy, happy and most of all, as respectful gentleman. Yeah, we're in the full on 'poopy' phase where they fall apart in ball uncontrollably laughing if they hear the word poo or see a diaper, but as my mom has told me countless times: "Choose your battles." So I've got that going for me....
So like all good Hallmark Holidays, dad's get theirs too. And the fellas did it up right. Today was the epic, or now called, the Ned-ic. An apparent record was set on the RTD bus to Ned today according to the driver who was overseeing the loading of the bikes into the belly of the bus. I wish I had counted, but it was packed to say the least.
The Boulder Cycling Mafia was fairly well represented today, save for Bobby who rode 8 hours Saturday and followed that up with 24 beers in fast succession. Sorry you missed the Ned-ic, Bobby. We had The Torrence bros in the house, Waltworks, FRZ, J-Fry and Bri....too many to name.
When we got to Ned and unloaded, we began our journey. By the time we got to the high school, we split ways with quite a few of the folks and the 'Lucky 7' shaked out. We were led by Dave "I will NOT get you lost, I've got a GPS" Weber, Freeride Zach, Nick Stevens, Antonio G, IMBA Drew, Rob "I am Gonna show you some" Love and yours truly. We threw it down for roughly 3:45, which does not seem like an 'epic', but 4000' of altitude gain at 8-9K feet over 40 miles is a good'un in my book.
Dave W did NOT disappoint. He actually scouted this the weekend before with that GPS and my GOD, we were on literal pristine technical singletrack for MILES. This one section in the vicinity of Lump Gulch was so sick, I started to pop a....OK, trying to keep this a clean site. We traversed up this technical rock climb that required tons of body English and insane power to get up and over. Tons of matches burned but it felt too damn good.
Wheelies pulled, tabletops launched, some skin lost, swerving in and out of trees. My God, what a day to be alive and healthy. It was insane to see these parts of our state that even core MTB'ers rarely see. SO, with fried legs and limited liquids. we made our way back to Boulder and celebrated by ceremonially dipping in the Boulder Creek. the muscles thanked me.
Work has been all consuming as we acquired a fairly large company and have been knee deep in integrating. The good news is that the new crew and offices are in some of my old stomping grounds in Scotts Valley, CA, a stones throw from Santa Cruz. The even better news is that there are some core bikers in the new crew and I'm getting dialed into lunchtime ride action, etc. Got to get a bike out there....
I dialed in some trail runs in the early morning hours amongst the redwoods. This picture says it all. The trail then dwindled down into sweet single track, famous in the area. The running has been going on but I applied myself these few days and flew which was cool. I felt light.
But STILL, this year will be different. It already feels different. Darren gone and my father having had a scare combined with the increased level of intensity at work and i feel lost again. Lost in the sense that i have no ability to focus and it's incredibly hard to put the cross hairs on anything meaningful these days and believe in it. The family has been my sanctuary and I'm blessed for that. I've got to dig a bit deeper and try and keep my hands on the control stick as this gets squirly. T's in my camp and he knows me by now and can help me traverse the nastiness as I continue to try and stay fit, but ultimately it is up to me. What I want and what is important.
I'm going to go into channel zero mode on my ride today. See what comes about and see i I can focus mysely on this ride and understand a bit what the engine has left in it.
It's now a few days into all this. My wife is by every definition a hero. She was able to be by her sister's side in under 10 hours. She has turned off her instinct which is to feel for the situation and emote on it...instead to be stoic and strong and be the hand that her sister is holding during this period...even while her sister may not even realize she's gripping a hand.
She's just there for her.
Dealing with estate planners. Dealing with funeral homes. Dealing with...honestly just dealing to keep her sister's family strong.
I am manning the fort. I am answering my sons' questions on Uncle Darren's passing. I am not comfortable in explaining how it all occurred as I am in the air 3 times a month at a minimum.
I got the kids to school today and I started working and then had a categorical f-it moment. I can't focus and I went to purge. Jumped on the 9'er and rolled Heil from home. I bomb up the road in the AM sun and see some things moving and they are just MONSTER turkeys. So I snap pics and day dream....
We go up to Madison to hang with Darren and family. We are tight cousins with children the same age...perfect. We've been to Italy together, Disney Land together..you name it. D takes me on his greatest passion: a hunting trip for the day. He's a Utah boy and it's in his blood. We're going for Turkey and we've got 12g over/unders and some food and a whole day to chill. In fact, I get to use his dad's prized Browning Field Grade that day so I am honored.
We go out a hiking in these epic pastures of Wisconsin. Shots here and there but I get squat. It's beautiful and freezing cold. D's all gussied up in his hunting best...I'm in sweat pants, Wellingtons and invariably making WAY too much noise for a purist like Darren. We get ourselves to a point where there is a small brook crossing...about 3 feet wide and sincerely about 2 to 2.5 inches deep water. A "no brainer" as it were.
I take a casual step across this mellow trickling brook and HOLY SHI*T!!! I sink up top my pathetic yang in quicksand.
Darren is on the stream's bank about crapping himself laughing at me. So, I open the chambers and eject the shells and have to hurl his papas Browning at him (which he caught).
I'm an awesome hunter.
D did end up getting a fatty for us all which we Q'd up that evening. He should me how to clean and prep that beast for dinner.
It goes by quick folks. It ain't a dress rehearsal. Live this shit like you have no idea.
Which you don't.
The ride was purging. Beautiful. Now to continue the balance. It is easier with that ever so small adjustment to the mind's lens. I need no large wake up calls. I live life I feel as fully as I can. But to ensure it is as clean and pure as I can...that is another level of balance.
Can I? Are you?
It continues to be unthinkable as I type this. It continues to be...as it is often suggested...like a nightmare that you phase in and out of during the waking hours and yet when the mind's haze realizes once again like a wave that it is real and he's never coming back, the wave happens again and engulfs you. It starts as this rush of heat and panic somehow intertwined with one another with a race of the heart that feels more rooted in the stomach than in the chest. The moment your mind settles in to its normal peaceful rhythm it is shattered.
We lost him last night.
Christ please stop this. We lost him and that wave is back and it again is real.
The ring woke us shockingly at 3 AM. Those calls occur at night occasionally but thankfully they're often by mis-dials and you settle yourself back down in bed once the heart stops racing and your eyes, which remain open for a bit thinking and refuse to shut, close themselves on their own and allow you back to your peaceful sleep.
The caller ID this time was our loved one.
It is too soon to know why or what or how. The helicopter was brand new. Maintenance perfect. The pilot and doctor on this med-flight dear friends. 100's...1000's of flying hours. The nurse on board a compatriot.
They delivered their human cargo like an angel would have done...safe....at the hospital. And they flew off again to repeat this mission of life saving like they have done 100's of times before.
They fell off the grid. It lies in pieces. It is our lives.
Darren, can you hear me? I've nothing but a key board right now and the wave of heat that keeps going through me will not stop. Can you hear us? We love you our lawful brother, our husband, our father our son. You have two children my children's age. You have a wife...the sister of mine. Darren....please Christ wrap him in your love.
You need to look outside right now whoever reads this. You need to find a way to do this. For one second in your life heed this. Read the characters on your screen but listen to the message. You need to find light right now and you need to feel it on your face. You need to listen to me like no one has ever talked to you before and do nothing but breathe once you have found that source of light.
Reflect. On what is important.
The next mission is to reach out. You need to embrace those that enable you to be a better person. A better husband. A better cyclist. A better father. A better son. Find them and touch them. Even if it is as inconspicuous as putting a hand on their shoulder...or engulfing them in a hug.
Exchange love with them. For Christ or whomever you need to you feel light on your face and you feel that love of yours being exchanged.
It can not be replaced.
The pieces are scattered. My love is with her sister. They are facing something that should never be faced. But must.
This is not a dress rehearsal. There are no winners, only those who have acted beautifully in the play we're born into.
Darren, I love you.
What do we do.
Wow things have positively changed. When you put it out there and you trust yourself and have absolute faith that you have not f'd with the universe....all the while doing what you think and feel in your gut is the best you can do...and the right thing to do....the dominoes tend to fall in the direction you want them too.
It's been a rush the past 2 weeks and I am trying to ride/train when I can but life is moving extremely fast. The 3rd side of the teeter totter has been resolved in ways that I didn't anticipate and not scraping the ground so much...at least affecting my brain in bad ways like it was. I exhausted/belabored/dragged you all through the BS but now I feel like I am flying again.
Can I balance all of this new exciting stuff with my goals in racing and the eternal goal not to be an absent/angry/lifeless father/lump of a husband? Well, there is no option so I'll have to figure out new levels of balance. I will make it so.
Never hesitate and always trust your gut. It will see you through to what was meant to be. Always.
There are no accidents.
Are you with me?
The teeter totter is coming back into balance.
I didn't even know how to pronounce the town when I moved to CO some years ago. Fruita, Cahlaradee. Say it: Froo-tah. And it was, as legend already has it: epic. Our family and about 5 others packed up Griswald style and pointed our Family Trucksters towards this great town Thursday through Sunday. We set up camp and commenced some serious play.
First, some background: Fruita as you'll see on Google Maps is essentially as far west as you can get in Colorado before running into Utah. It's right near Grand Junction and on a couple of our MTB excursions were right at the border. The town of Fruita has...well not a helluva lot. It's got dinosaurs, shale oil deposits and mountain biking. And, oh, the mountain biking. I've been on epics before and this ranks at the top. The riding is very 'high desert' but is pure single track. What you trade for in deep-woods East Coast rooted single track, you make up for in other was like slick rock features, riding up through snake-like riverbeds (e.g. imagine a star wars like 'tunnel' of twisty/rhythm singletrack with walls on either side of you and you're railing this thing at mach speed). So, the terrain is very Colorado/high desert, but not all open and exposed slick rock riding in barren desert. It is single track amongst tons of greenery, over rock features with vistas like you see above.
Before I left, a team mate of mine, AC"2", sent me a the most beautiful and thoughtful note on Fruita about its riding, the beers...you name it. Written as a local due to the fact he was one. While I am an advocate of trail preservation as an IMBA and BMA member, AC had a very particular and personal way of putting it. And I quote...
So Fruita virgin,
First of all you are gonna love the one track man!!! Can't wait to hear what you think after all the hype and shit over the last decade.
I am envious of your "first time". Remember one thing though, it is bad ass cuz its narrow!!! Keep it narrow!!! All the trails in the valley were 18 inches wide for a long time until the onslaught of front rangers and the like in the last half dozen years. One simple rule... Your tires should NEVER leave the trail. Not to pass oncoming traffic, not to "go look over there", not to pull up beside your homey and chat about how this is better than workin', nor to avoid that cow pie.
The Desert doesn't heal, one tire track in the harmless looking grass or "bare dirt" will be there for years, and if it doesn't attract more tires it will surely act as a water channel and really eff up things after a while. If you do "miss your line", and we all have, take the time to stop, lift your bike back to the trail and kick dirt over the tire track, thank the desert for its mercy and giv'er.
I tell you all this, now, at you most vulnerable time, as a virgin, and out of respect that I believe you have the wholesomeness as a bike rider to appreciate it. Preserve this for your kids!
Perfectly said AC. And it was as pristine as he describes. The singletrack is PERFECTLY carved into the terrain. Each side bordered with this micro-biotic plant life. Think lichen but softer and greener and leafier. The trails were clearly designed by someone who has a vision of literally making someone smile for hours. The trails rhythm perfectly and leverage the terrain to keep you sailing and railing. If I were to explain them very generally (e.g. across many of the rides we did), I'd say that they were like a flat land dual-slalom course with high banked berms that come in succession one after the other after the other after the other so in some sections your momentum and skill at rhythming without pedaling will keep you flying. There are PLENTY of climbing sections if you link up the appropriate trails which we did along with natural stair cases going up and of course down...all formed from layers of rock. Some were so beautiful I actually said "Is this legal stuff we're on????".
I asked about some of the history when I met locals and all roads seemed to come back to Troy Rarick. This is the apparent Godfather of MTB-ing in Fruita and founder of Over The Edge Sports. While I am not here to spark a debate, on many occasions of the conversations I had, Troy was described as the guy who essentially 'saved' the town of Fruita. In other words, pivoting the town's economy from nothing to a true destination spot for mountain bikers...and with them, an injection of cash for the economy. It was he and others who worked hard to create the trail networks and work with BLM et al to make the trails what they are. I went into the shop to see if I could talk with him but he was at Sea Otter this weekend. Bummer. There is however an interesting interview Troy gave on Fruita and its 13th Annual Fat Tire festival in the latest 5280 Magazine (cover above) if you can source it.
To the riding specifics....
There was a GREAT crew for the weekend! It ranged from Rocky Mounter team mates Rich Z and John G and their posse of friends like Li'l Dave, 'Precise' Andy, Rally Sport Paul to our mutual family friend, supreme fast man and former GT rider Antonio G. In addition, ALL our wives and kids were there and had this huge, fun communal atmosphere. We did 3 epics....with the last day being the mother-load.
Day 1 we did at dusk which was beautiful. We railed for ~ 2 hours parts of the Kokopeli system...e.g. Horse Thief, Prime Cut among others before it got too dark and we needed to get back to the families.
Day 2 was a semi-epic wherein we did the "18 Road" network including Joe's Ridge which we did parts of in reverse...e.g. I climbed and cleared the 31% climb you see to the right. Ha! The Ahrens 29'er was SICK on the steep climbs! Don't worry, we railed it all in reverse to get in the spine-like descents at speed. Unbelievable. My day ended prematurely (although at the very end which was cool) with my Mavic Cross Max 29'er front wheel essentially coming 'undone'. I couldn't believe it! I have the 26'er version on my 1 x 1 and have NEVER taken a trui9ng wrench to them in 100's of miles. On less than 300 miles the front whee; undid itself. The front effectively came un-tensioned and spokes popped out of their hub housings. I was able to get it dialed in though at Over The Edge in Fruita.
Day 3. Boing! Epic. we went back and railed a fairly monster section of the Kokopeli system at fairly insane speeds. We did Mary's amongst a variety of other trails. This should be on EVERYONES must-do-before-I-die list of trails.
Each day, all the wives would do their own daily epics as well, covering much of the same ground the guys did. A whole crew of the ladies would gear up and take off while the guys watched the kids, then we'd switch off when they came back.
As you can see above, the trails literally circumnavigate the whole rim of the mountainside and give you insane views of the Colorado River. The terrain is mostly single track, extremely technical rock sections and short link-up sections of fire road. We did one section, Troy Built, which was ridiculously fun. It was a complicated set of 'problems' that had you thinking and thinking...if you are drilling it at speed like we were. It traversed through this whole bizarre volcanic rock section then sent you up, climbing single track to you gain altitude to come back down a bomber decent.
Best of all was the 'scene'. 5 or so families all camped out in tents and pop-ups around a communal cul de sac with no less than 15 kids ripping around on their bikes, unicycles, Razors in addition to fishing at this huge lake and eating 'smores until they were all collectively psychotic from the sugar rush. Nothing better on earth than seeing the kids in that much bliss.
So kids, the Fruita trip will become an annual. I do not feel like I 'completed' enough and am craving to get back. So go and have an epic time but heed AC's advice above and keep those fat tires center lined with the singletrack!
Some digital celluloid....