A few years ago now, my friend Joe Parkin guest-edited Dirt Rag magazine, and he asked me to write a story for it. With Dirt Rag sadly gone and the story likely to disappear into my magazine pile forever before long, I decided to put it here for safekeeping.
This is a story about bikes and friends and recalcitrant trails, and the ways that our worlds collide in ways we never quite expect.
I have included Joe P’s original introduction, because it made me laugh at the time, and it still does. I reproduced this thing from my original file, so any errors belong to me. Don’t blame Joe. He’s totally innocent. The Oxford commas, for example, all mine.
My friend Jen See has a big brain—as in Ph.D. big. Despite that, she writes a lot of stuff about bikes. When she’s not writing about bike-related things, she surfs. A couple of years ago, she gave me a copy of Chas Smith’s Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell, which is a totally awesome read, by the way. [Jen: Heh, that’s where my copy went!] Recently, she went on a media trip that included a trail that I don’t like at all. She didn’t either. Mostly. Though she ended up finding something positive. I asked her to write a piece that felt like Chas Smith [Like I could really ever ghostwrite Chas!] but was still completely Jen See [That part, I can do, for better or worse]. I think she did it. —Joe Parkin
We’d driven out to the desert with mountain bikes and beers, the necessary ingredients for a weekend of trouble making. Up a muddy road, the campsite sat high on a mesa overlooking the torrid landscape of southern Utah. We pitched tents and pulled cactus thorns from our fingers. Clouds billowed overhead, promising a future storm. I didn’t like the look of that, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Sometimes I regret my life choices.
Hey hi I am bad at remembering things including it seems, updating my website. Which, I am supposed to have and keep current and whatnot. As I have said before and I will say many times more, I am bad at the things. It’s been almost a year, so why not update it, I said today. So here we are.
Should I tell you some things I wrote about? Sure, you’ll say, tell me all about those things. Let’s just do this listicle style, shall we?
It appears I spent a lot of time in Lemoore at Surf Ranch without ever going surfing. This makes no sense, but who said anything had to make sense in this world. For Men’s Journal, I hung out at the Founders Cup event and dragged my cameras around the 700-meter pool. Also, I wrote about drinking truck stop coffee on the Grapevine along the way. This ain’t a boat trip.
The Tour de France is winding through France’s flat farmlands, as it does every year around this time. Want some reasons it’s cool? I contributed to a list thingy for Bicycling.
I also wrote a story about sprinter Mark Cavendish, which was pretty ruthlessly overtaken by events. Thanks to some quick work with my editor, we managed to salvage it, but it was a close run thing. Honestly, I just needed the guy to finish a safe fourth. I feel like that should not have been too much to ask. But it’s the Tour, so you know, you rarely get what you ask for.
I did a feature with framebuilder Aaron Stinner for Mountain Flyer magazine. We did a long interview. Then I cruised around the workshop and made pictures. I still had to portraits, which I get weirdly nervous about. I like doing them! But I still get weirdly nervous. The light was doing its shitty coastal fog thing and not in an interesting way. Coastal fog can be good, but this was not good coastal fog.
So we went out to the roof, because that seemed like it could be cool, but the light was still bad. I tried this and that and tried to be patient like, maybe this’ll work out somehow? I really need this to work out somehow. Then light got all soft and I made Aaron laugh and we got pictures on the roof. If you want to read it and see more photos, go here to buy a copy, http://www.mountainflyermagazine.com/
If you aren’t familiar with Stinner Frameworks, they make beautifully painted steel and titanium bikes. Check their ig @StinnerFrameworks for some eye candy. If I win the lottery, I’m totally buying one.
I’ve never had a custom bike and it would be a rad project to dial in a custom geometry. I have… weird proportions. For bikes! I fit in water great. Bikes, not so much. I’ve always wanted to do a custom road bike that would fit just that little bit better than the stock bike I ride now — which, is by no means terrible. I don’t need a custom bike. But it would be amazingly fun to build one. Amazingly nerdy fun! Which in my opinion is the best kind of fun.