Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Report of the North

My two cents on the 2009 Heck of the North:

When I was a kid my parents used to haul my sister and I around the country in this big brown conversion van my dad used to drive. As we made our way around the country we would always stop at some out of the way campground and set up for the night before moving along the next day. I can vividly remember our trips to Colorado, South Dakota and Tennessee. I remember packing into the van and heading for Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and Canada. These trips were perfect. I always had my Walkman and my Mountain Bike Action magazines. For hours I would look out one of the many windows and dream of riding the epic landscapes we passed in our travels and experience life as though I were living in the pages the bike magazines I read.

Somewhere along the line my parents fell in love with the North Shore of Lake Superior and so it became a permanent summer stop on our family vacations. We would always journey up through Minneapolis along I35. Without fail we would roll down the hill into Duluth and my eyes would be locked to the passing scenery. The pine forests and rock outcroppings would command my attention. I was always in awe when we entered the gateway to the North.

As a family we would always set up in the same place at the same campground just south of Two Harbors. It would be a week full of day trips to some of the most beautiful places in the upper Midwest. It was here that I fell in love with the great outdoors. It was here where I longed to be. I didn’t know it then, but it was here where cycling would become my favorite pastime.

In 1995, during a stay at the aforementioned Two Harbors campground, a friend and I rode our bicycles on some of the trails at Gooseberry Falls State Park. I loved every minute of it and couldn’t wait until I could do it again.

Last Saturday I got my chance. 14 years later I finally rode my bicycle again in the Great Northwoods. Thanks to Jeremy Kershaw and his wonderful family I was finally able to get back to what I had fallen in love so many years before.


The weekend was amazing. Burrito Union burritos. One fist or two? Ski Hut and the Continental. The tent in the backyard, the nighttime walk through the woods to meet Rich and John and Ian and Elise. The after party at the Buffington’s. More burritos with Jim and Roxanne and Steve and Jeff. Getting carried to the car. Garrick and Erik and the guy in the bivy. The two guys from Decorah and the super fast fella from Madison in the fancy hightops. Baked goods and growlers and bacon and tuna. Unbelievable.

The ride itself was stunning. Endless gravel roads sheltered by deep green pine trees and algae covered ponds. Emulating the pro's by putting a foot down in the corners. Losing a pump early and a bottle late. Washboards and long, slow inclines that never seem to end. Bogs, logs, grass and rocks that suck feet, legs and wheels into their grasp. Riding with the heavy hitters and falling off the back. Stopping and talking to myself. The help from Jeff and his riding partner. Sitting and talking to myself. Getting back on the bike and forcing myself to press on. Riding with Rich. Walking with Rich. Going over the bars. Paved stretches that both sooth and abuse. The busy motorists, casual joggers and cyclists that litter the highway and the beachfront park. The music in the park and the subsequent seven bridges that end in a punishing climb to the top of Medin. The finish line. Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Gentlemen.

Al: The downhill killer.
Alex: Pugsley #1, nuts!
Drew: King of the Mountains.
Felix: Flat tire anybody?
Greg: Silent member of the QBP/Surly club.
Jeff: Pugsley #2. Mustache #1
Jim: Just in time to make the day. Thanks mi amigo.
John: 8 speed or 9?
Kevin: Budweiser waster.
Kurt: Cameraman #1/Chi-town posse #1
Lee: Chi-town posse member #2
Mike: Chi-town posse #3/Endurance Animal
Matt: South Lyndale member of the QBP/Surly club.
Ryan: Pugsley #3/Sole owner of the quality muttons.
Steve: The Mad Hungarian
Tim: Pugsley #4/26.7!
Woodrow: Gravel tester.

Thanks again fellas. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful summer. I'll link to the photos as they come to me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

You have no idea.

Hands down the best ride I've ever been on. Epic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where to go this weekend.

View Casa de Almanzo in a larger map

As the dust settles.

In the few days that have passed since I spit out the post titled "Wow", with a ton of help from those that sent letters and comments showing their support, I have come to realize a few things. I have discovered that what I was apparently seeking was right in front of me the whole time. I found that my life is, in fact, full of wonderful things and that sometimes, when I am so terribly consumed with myself, I fail to see the forest for the trees. For example:

This morning I loaded my son and daughter into the trailer and we all rode to school. I made sure my daughter got her glasses out of her backpack and kissed her goodbye. I told her I loved her and that we would see her after school. She walked toward her group of classmates and my son and I headed to grandmas so that he could reclaim his bike from her porch and ride it home.

With both of us operating under our own power we started up the short climb toward home, he on the sidewalk (he's 3) and me in the street. This isn't the first time we've made this trip, but for some reason it was the first time I saw my role in all of it. He rides on the sidewalk, stops at the intersections and waits for me to ride into the middle and check to make sure it's safe. When I wave him through, he crosses and it goes that way until we get home. the important thing that I noticed wasn't my ability to wave a child through an intersection, but rather, it was being there in the first place.

Before I left my old job I was working Wednesday through Friday with hours that would have prohibited me from picking up my daughter from school. All of this on three days of the school week. With my new hours at the new bar I am working Sunday and Monday. These days, with slightly different hours, allow me to take my daughter to school, ride bikes with my son and do the same in the afternoon (only in reverse). I get to be a dad. A dad that rides bikes.

Everything I thought I was working for as that "young, talented artist" is right here. I have a successful race. I have beautiful kids. Basically, I have the world at my feet. Sure the current money situation isn't great, but the freedom in knowing that our dependence on the credit card cyclone is gone and our hopes toward a cash only lifestyle are two things that provide light in what has seemed to be an unending tunnel. I will find more work that I believe in and I will give it my all. I will be a better husband and I will be the dad I always hoped to be. I will continue to ride my bike and make every effort to make riding bikes an easier thing to do for all people. This is art, in fact, this is life and if you sit back and think about it...they're one and the same.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Gentlemen's Ride Info (again)

About the Gentlemen's Ride:

There is going to be a party at my house on Friday night the 18th of September. (That's next Friday night for those of you that do not keep up with the regular calendars.) This party will feature a photograph installation inspired by the Almanzo 100 and everything that has come since its inception. Doors open at 7pm and close at 10pm. (See, we gotta ride 100 miles in the morning so we probably ain't staying up super late.) BYOB&B (Bikes and Beer)

On Saturday morning we are going to ride the very same Almanzo route as was done in May. The major difference is that we will be leaving from my house instead of the bike shop. I will ride us all out to the gravel and the mileage should be pretty close to that if we had left from the shop. We will leave sharply at 8am. I would suggest meeting at the house around 6:30 or 7:00 as I will be making waffles and coffee. There will not be any formal announcements as this is just a casual group ride. Fear not, I will have all the pertinent information ready for you the morning of (or the night before if I see you at the house).

I guess that's that. If you have questions let me know.

Also, there is a gentleman in Minneapolis who is looking for a ride down here for this business. I know him and I will stand up for him if anyone has room. He can be found over here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


A little more than five years ago I made a deal with my wife. I argued at the time that I was some talented young artist that was going to do things correctly and sell a bunch of work and creatively make things for a living. At the time of the agreement I had five years to make it work. Five years to become financially successful with my efforts. Five years to live my dreams. Five years.

As I write this I sit in the faintly lit room that has become my office, my bedroom and the place I go to when I feel the need to get things straightened out. My favorite mix is playing on Pandora and I am looking backwards. Looking backwards at five years of sleepless nights and midnight meetings and carefully executed efforts to try and make something that would be able to support my family so that we could begin the next stage of our lives.

I am 31 years old. I have a beautiful wife. I have a nine year old daughter who lives in Rhode Island with her mother and step-father as well as a five year old daughter and a three year old son, both of whom live with my wife and I. I have a mediocre education with no degree. Aside from a group show in Chicago in 2006 and some odds and ends appearances at local coffee shops, I have no real record of ever having done anything successful with my artwork. I have chased what I thought was something I could catch. I have tried to make it work. I have applied for shows and been rejected time and time again. I have strained my marriage to the extreme. I have spent my five years.

It’s done. The deal is over. The time has come for me to hang up my hat and get back in line, but before I do I want to say something.

I built a goddamn bike race. A bike race that I will not make anyone pay for. A bike race that has no potential to earn anything. A bike race that I will take to my grave and cherish for the rest of my life. I built something that takes more time and energy than anything I have ever done in my entire life. I built something that I love. I found cycling and I found racing and I took those two things and I did something with them. I started a race and invited some people and tried to give them the best experience that they could possibly have. I did it. I took everything I new about hospitality and design and art and I applied it to something that I thought would make a difference. I started a project that has brought more people into its fold than I would have ever anticipated. I documented every possible angle of the last four years and I have done it without question. I have done it with pride. I have become a better cyclist for it. I am stronger than when I started. I am faster than when I started. I am different than when I started.

All of that and I was unable to hold up my end of the deal. Five years are done. I have no money and no real chance of getting any. My wife and I have retained an attorney and we have begun the process to file for bankruptcy. I have tried to sell my bikes, which is something I swore I would never do. I have tried to sell our car. I am working for three different employers right now. I am so incredibly fucking lost right now I cannot even begin to put it into words.

I quit my job of ten years because I could no longer live with working for people who didn’t care about their employees. I thought I was standing up for what is right and while I still stand behind my decision, I know deep down it was the wrong thing to do financially. I made a mistake. I tried to do the right thing for the right reason and now I am paying for it. Which leads me to believe that everything in this goddamn world is a bunch of shit and unless you charge everyone and their brother for anything and everything there is no positive outcome. If you’re not the one pulling the money in then you’re the one throwing it on the goddamn floor so that your unbelievable fucking prick boss can rake it all up.

Four years I spent building the Almanzo. Four years hoping that it would open a door somewhere. Four years trying my hardest to make it the best race of it’s kind. Four years trying to raise the bar so that others who made races would have something to aim for and here I am. At the end of a five year agreement with nowhere else to turn, but back to the fucking slave owners that I so despise. Time to get back in the trenches and work the shitty hours for next to nothing while the owner gets fat fucking rich. Time to put on the fucking monkey suit and smile because it means more money. Time to say yes sir and yes ma’am because it means two dollars instead of one. Time to not “give” anything away because “we gotta keep an eye on our food costs” or “we gotta keep an eye on our liquor costs”. Well you know what? I don’t really give a shit about your costs! Maybe if you were a little more generous with your stuff, people would return the favor.

The race will live and I will be there for every moment of it, just as I have for the last four years. I will continue to ride my bike and hopefully get faster and stronger. I have enjoyed every single second that this Almanzo project has been alive. I look forward to what comes for it in the years ahead. I hope the things like the Gentlemen’s Ride and the photo installation and the film and everything else that has touched the Almanzo flourish and people come and go and take their experience back to their own lives and share this idea of giving and giving with everyone they meet.

I don’t have solutions right now and frankly it seems as though I’ve run out of ideas for a spell, but I trust that everything will work out. Everything will be just as it is supposed to be. The bankruptcy will be old news someday. The money will return. I will find my financial (read:career) path and everything will be fine. Someday.
I realize this may not be the place for this, but this is my life. This blog is the artwork I have spent the last five years working on. This blog and this race. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you all at the Gentlemen’s Ride or in May or at some other point in between.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Tuesday, September 1, 2009