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.

3 responses to “Blue Ridge Outdoors

  • bgddyjim

    Let me know if you ever head up towards Michigan. I’ll put together a ride up in Traverse City through the tunnel of trees. One of, if not the, most spectacular rides in the State. I’ll get a couple of the boys to come along and we’ll make a trip of it… Or DALMAC would be a good one too.

  • Jim Brennan

    Great post, Aaron! And congrats on being published. Your ideas are interesting. Keep up the good work and the readers will find you. And as you know it’s always good to have something to shoot for.

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