Category Archives: Blog

Social Media Wins Again

Facebook

What I love about the modern age is that there are consequences for everything. If someone does something irresponsible or stupid enough to be noticed, chances are word will be spread and it will come back to haunt them.

We’ve seen this numerous times with the cycling community. I’m sure everyone who reads this blog remembers the pummeling that Specialized took for harassing a local bike shop for using Roubaix in his products. After remaining silent for a few days, they inevitably apologized.

Not too long ago, some Georgia lawmaker proposed licensing all bicycles in the state. The cycling community spoke up, and the bill was retracted promptly. The excuse, as you can see in this link, was that they wanted to start a discussion.

Wendy Nanney, enter stage left.

A congresswoman from Greenville proposed a bill to not only license bikes in South Carolina, but force them to get liability insurance. It was a preposterous suggestion, and as many have pointed out, would have never made it to a vote.

Someone found the bill online and posted it to Facebook. Whoever made the discovery deserves a ton of credit for what followed. It spread like wildfire. I saw it posted to a friend’s feed, then it started being shared, and shared, and shared again. I posted it to the SteepClimbs Facebook page where it got a TON more traction than most of my posts. I’m not taking credit for it spreading around the internet, but I’m glad to have posted it to raise awareness. My post alone got 5,000 views, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. On Sunday night, this story was all over my news feed.

It doesn’t end there.

Representative Nanney has a Facebook page of her own.

I wish I had screen-captured the first post she put up. Basically, it gave an overview of how a bill becomes a law, which shows me that she had at least watched the video below.

I responded, thanking her for the government lesson, and asking if she could share the process of voting idiots that proposed ill-conceived legislation out of office. She deleted my comment as well as many others. Frankly, I don’t blame her. Today that post no longer exists.

What’s amazing is that this congresswoman is from Greenville, which is one of the top cycling destinations in the southeast. Their Swamp Rabbit Trail is a model for urban cycling development. Greenville at one time hosted the US PRO Cycling Tournament, and holds plenty of other smaller tournaments. Her bill would have effectively banned anyone from out of the state from participating in any of these tournaments. I know firsthand how much revenue these events can generate. Her bill would lose the city millions, maybe tens of millions, in Greenville tourist revenue alone.

Lots of people ride bikes in Greenville and throughout South Carolina. I’ve met many of them. We don’t often talk about politics on the bike, but I happen to know that many of them are ultra conservative, many are ultra liberal, and many are smack dab in middle. I also know that they are a passionate bunch, and they all vote. This is the type of issue that could unite a whole host of people, and was a major misstep for the congresswoman.

The saga concluded today with the retraction of the bike bill. She explained it eloquently in this Facebook post. I love those first few words, “After the overwhelming response from the cycling community, I have decided to drop the Bike Bill.” Again, she was just trying to start a discussion.

We cannot take full responsibility. As it turns out, the Palmetto Cycling Coalition had learned of this bill a couple weeks ago and had been working behind the scenes to shut it down. I have no doubt that even without social media, they would have been successful. That said, it’s a terrific feeling to unite with thousands of people you’ve never met, yet share the same opinion, and together make things happen.

The Cycling Community is a force to be reckoned with. We won again.


Blue Ridge Outdoors

Highway 80 up to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Back in the early days when I first started this blog, someone complimented my writing style. I had done my share of writing in the past, including once having a book deal (that’s a story for another day), but had not given it much thought to do anything further. I didn’t need the money, and frankly, didn’t have the time.

As I got more comfortable writing and riding, I did develop a style, and when people would suggest I pitch stories for magazines, I didn’t rule it out.

One day a magazine contacted me. It was Jack Murray from Blue Ridge Outdoors, a regional and free magazine with a large distribution that spans the entire southern Appalachian area from Georgia to Virginia. They cover a wide variety of topics, most of which are up my alley, such as hiking, kayaking, swimming, and of course, cycling. Oh yeah, and sometimes beer too.

Steep descent down Hogpen begins.

Jack was writing a piece on mountain centuries of the southeast and wanted to hear descriptions from people with experience. He was looking at specific events, and I was able to give him some material for his piece, and I also told him about some big ones that weren’t on his radar. Those were included as sort of a sidebar. The piece came out well. Jack did a nice job. You can read it here. That photo is one I took of Jeff Dilcher as he was about to descend the steep part of Hogpen Gap.

Since then, I have heard from them periodically. Devan Boyle asked me to contribute to a piece about bike lanes on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The genesis of the article was pretty interesting. It was a question and answer argument piece, with two opinions of either for or against. My first reaction was that there should be bike lanes everywhere and anywhere. I even wrote a piece saying as much. As I thought about it further, I started to reconsider, and eventually I was steadfastly against bike lanes. I’m very proud of my defense, and feel that most people agreed with me. Even though I’ve written professionally on salary and with a book publisher, this was my first paid freelance article gig. However small, it was exciting. You can read it here.

Around the middle of last year, as I was ramping up my training, I decided to ride the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway with the Kinetic Potential Coaching crew. That was a terrific topic, which I thought could be bigger than just the blog. I reached out to BRO and pitched the story. They loved it, and I was making preparations to not only ride, but write along the way (which in hindsight, probably would have been impossible). The injury bug changed my plans, and rather than write about myself, I wrote from the perspective of another rider. That ended up being Julie’s story, which is another one of my favorite articles. You can read it here.

I have a great relationship with Blue Ridge Outdoors, and as of recently, am considered a regular contributor. In fact, if you pick up the latest issue, you’ll see my mug near the table of comments in the contributor round table. They asked who my favorite outdoor hero was, and I named Jens Voigt. They had to edit down my full response, but it was something along the lines of “I’m embarrassed to say how many times I have borrowed his mantra of ‘Shut Up Legs.’ There is another round table in next month’s issue where I may have been included, and I should appear periodically going forward.

We’ve worked together on ideas for a couple other pieces, one of which is about this lengthy injury process, but we are going to wait for there to be an ending — hopefully me back on the bike. It will be tough to condense this nearly two-year saga into 800-1000 words, but I think I’m up for the task.

There is another that I’m currently working that I’d rather keep quiet, but I know that readers of this website will find it interesting.

For a free magazine, they have high quality content. I have been a regular reader ever since I was first approached by them, and it has deepened my appreciation for all things Appalachia. It has given me so many ideas about things to do off the bike, that the next big trip I take up there will probably have a little more variety. This last month they had an excellent article by Jess Daddio about Zoe Romano’s experience running the Tour de France route. Yes, running. It’s an accomplishment that I followed avidly last year through her Facebook and blog, and I thought Jess did a fine job of telling the tale.

I know people will ask, where do I go from here? Will I start pitching to other, larger scale magazines? That answer is no. This blog is pretty much regional and even though I’m a transplant from the west coast, I’ve come to love the southeastern USA. That doesn’t mean I won’t venture away from here and check out some exotic cycling destinations. I’ve already done that to some degree, and have plans to do so again next year in Europe (more on that later), and have a lifelong plan to travel the USA. I know that a lot of those adventures would be a good fit for larger publications, so I won’t rule it out if i become healthy and have some free time, but for now I’m good where I am.


Ride Mitchell For Me

mitchell summit

I’ve said many times on this blog that the Assault in Mount Mitchell is my favorite ride. Even though I’ve only ridden it three times, it is the one that I planned to ride every year for the rest of my life. There’s just something about the excitement and anticipation of the event, the fact that you travel from downtown Spartanburg to the highest point east of the Mississippi. It is the ultimate fitness goal, whether you are not competing against others or with yourself. Just achieving the summit is a major accomplishment, but setting a time goal, training throughout the winter and into the spring, and then beating that goal is something to continually strive for.

There will be no Mitchell for me this year. If I were on the bike with even a basic fitness level, I could possibly ramp up my training and get in adequate shape to complete the ride. That is what I did last year. Even though it is a disappointment to not ride, I know many other close friends who are giving it a shot. I hope to be able to attend as a spectator or volunteer and cheer them on.

In the last several years that I have been following the event, it has been a quick sellout. Last year was a little slower, and this year there are still several spots remaining. Since I cannot ride, I’m going to ask that I live through the experiences of my readers, many of whom I know will attempt Mitchell this year.

I’ll ask that people send a paragraph descripting their experience and I’ll post as many as I can after the ride. Please send me an email, or comment on here or Facebook if you’d like to be part of that.

There is a button to the right that will take you directly to the registration page.

Please know that this is NOT an advertisement for Mitchell. I still and never will accept advertising on this website. This is just my way of supporting my favorite ride.

Please register and see why I love it so much.

The Mitchell summit looked a lot different than the base.

My Wife’s On Jeopardy, Baby

jeopardy

Warning: This post has absolutely nothing to do with cycling, but it is far more exciting than any of my physical triumphs.

As I mentioned recently, since this blog is so hyper-focused on cycling, I find little time to share much about myself, the proprietor. This seems like a good opportunity.

My wife has taped on the Jeopardy game show. I am not legally allowed to say how she performed, but I can say that it ranks as one of the most exciting (and nerve-wracking) experiences of my life.

Allow me to backtrack a little. I’ve mentioned recently that I’m a snob film buff, with some collegiate work in film studies (technically a cognate due to scheduling issues).

I met my wife at a film festival. Our first “date” was at a weird movie where a disturbed individual sticks a live chicken head in his mouth for pleasure. Yeah, weird, and we didn’t really know that going in. Our second date was about an elderly painter who finds a healthy, young subject in Daniel Craig (pre-James Bond days). Let’s just say that her paintings were of rather graphic acts that she performed on him.

The two movies are The Mudge Boy and The Mother if you’re interested in weirdness.

She now teaches English at a local college. She’s a smart cookie, with a German and French undergrad and a Linguistics masters degree. She also has a thing about borders. When I take my cycling trips, she likes to know where any border crossings are. When I rode Clingman’s Dome, she thought it was the coolest thing that the road straddles the line and crosses over between NC and TN several times, even if does not have state signs. She’s also into currency collection, collecting foreign and hyperinflation notes.

She’s an interesting, unique, lady, and I’m glad I married her.

We’ve been fans of Jeopardy for years, and she always does pretty well. The more you watch, the better you do, and she can now pretty much wipe the floor with me and probably most people I know. One day she got the wild hair to take the online test. She passed and later auditioned, and much later, we found that she made the cut for the show.

As I’ve documented all too well on this blog, I had surgery scheduled for 1/31. We got the news about the Jeopardy acceptance shortly before that, and I had to travel during my recovery period. It wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

As for what happened, the ten pages of legalese has sufficiently scared me into saying anything. I can say that her show will air on June 16th. She may or may not have done well, and I may or may not have begged her to buy me a new bike. Either way, we’ve decided to have a viewing party and, regardless of the outcome, will have plenty of fun stories to tell.

I do love her, and crutches or not, I was glad to support her for this exhilarating and stressful ordeal.

handicapped tag

One odd coincidence already is that her air date is the same day that my temporary handicapped sticker expires. We have joked that even though she is going to be on national television, that I’ve somehow made this about me. Hopefully I will be up and around, walking and riding, and able bodied to help her celebrate (or not) her moment in the sun.

Hopefully this had a happy ending. We’ll be able to tell you in a few months.


On Happiness

GoodRideLogo

Not long ago, Michael from The Good Ride approached me and asked me to write something about camaraderie and charity rides. I agreed, and at first wasn’t sure what to write. Once I got my muse, the words just poured out of me. I was surprised by what I said, but in a good way. This may be the best thing I’ve ever written, and based on early reaction, it seems to have clicked with people. I think most people who participate in charity rides, from either the organization or riding perspective, should identify.

I recommend you click over and give it a read.

One of my conclusions from the article was that, because of all my charitable efforts, I’m happier now than I was a few years ago. Not much else has changed. I have the same job, earn roughly the same amount of money, and have the same wife. Even though this was not a surprise, it’s not something one asks oneself. I don’t take daily, weekly or yearly inventory of my happiness.

That brings me to Anita Mac, who was not happy. In fact, she was so unhappy that she committed suicide.

Anita Mac

Anita Mac

I came to find Anita when she found me. She ran the blog Travel Destination Bucket List. The topic was strictly a travel blog, not exactly like this blog, but she cycled at some of her destinations. She was more of a touring cyclist and didn’t blog about it often, but I came to enjoy her blog. I subscribed and armchair traveled through her.

Aside from a comment or two on her blog or mine, I never got to know Anita personally. All I knew about her was what I read and the pictures she showed. She was always smiling, usually beaming with happiness. I found myself often envying her. From the exterior, she seemed to have what everyone wants.

I’m not privy to everything that led to her fateful decision, but from reading her last couple of blog postings and some things elsewhere, it sounds like it was a relationship problem. She loved to travel, but did not have a companion to travel with. That made her travel miserable, and when you take away her passion, there’s not a lot left.

When I learned the news, I was shocked. Even though I didn’t know her, this was the last thing I expected from her. I would be shocked at anyone’s suicide, but especially her because of that outward appearance that she kept.

That made me think of myself. A lot of people read about my adventures on this blog, but they know me about as well as I knew Anita Mac — not well at all. From the words I write, they probably think I am a happy, enthusiastic person, which I am, but everyone is human.

I’m not going to deny that cycling is such a passion for me that it resembles an addiction. The same was the case with Anita’s travel. When you take away the addiction, there has to be something to fill that hole to keep us going, otherwise we will fall.

Without knowing Anita’s particulars, it is clear that she didn’t have anything to support her once she lost the ability to travel. I’m sure the relationship troubles didn’t make it any easier.

Over these last 18-months, I’ve had no choice other than to hang up the bicycle cleats and spend some time on the couch. I’ll admit that the first time I was off the bike, winter of 2012 and spring of 2013, was not the best of times. I would go so far as saying I was depressed and angry. There were other contributors, but at times I did not handle my sequestration well. I was nowhere near as low as Anita Mac, and never was close to contemplating such a drastic action as suicide, but I would not have called myself happy.

The moment I got back on the bike, I felt instantly better — even better than I had before. Probably because things had been so dour, I felt like I was on top of the world. My completing the Assault on Mount Mitchell last year ranks as one of the best feelings in my life. There were plenty more of them. Even though I had a few setbacks, I was able to enjoy an active season and tell many stories.

When the injury returned, I remembered my plight from earlier this year. I knew that I needed something to fill that void, and I found it. I continued to help others, albeit from afar, and I made plans to contribute to the rides that I enjoy, although this time as a volunteer and not a rider. I also found plenty of other activities to sidetrack me. Believe it or not, I’ve actually enjoyed this extra time. I spent some time with my wife, took a nice trip, and caught up on a lot of old movies I had missed.

Unlike the last layoff, I have remained happy. This time I should have had an even tougher time because the pain was worse, and I had to deal with surgery. This time I’ve kept a positive attitude and that has made the difference.

Sure, I’ve had bad days, which usually coincided with extreme pain or the inability to do something. Last Friday was one of the worst days I had because of some stomach and pain medicine disagreement issues. Everyone has bad days. The difference between a happy person and an unhappy person is that they can get past the bad days and not let them linger. It seems like Anita was not capable of this, and regrettably, she did not find that travel partner that she needed. The ending was a tragedy.

So, my message to you, whether you are a cycler, blogger, or other type of adventurer, is not to get caught up in an addiction to such a degree that you lose touch with what makes life great – relationships, love, charity. Everyone can find happiness, just some people have to look harder than others.

R.I.P. Anita Mac.


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