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The GU'd Life: On the Road Again

I started sleeping in cars at a very young age. No, my parents weren’t nomads or homeless and - for all you armchair Freuds out there - it wasn’t due to some deep-seated fear that they were going to leave me while I slept (although I do remember having a particularly disturbing nightmare about being chased by giants as my parents drove off). I began crawling into the front seat of my dad’s '79 Chevrolet C-10 Silverado with my sleeping bag, stuffed Snoopy, and pillow around the age of five just because it seemed like a fun adventure to have in our driveway. Turns out the gypsy/nomad gene was strong and a habit was formed that would follow me for the rest of my life as I traipsed across the country and globe living out of vehicles for short periods of time and loving every moment of it.

Fast forward forty-six years, five Volkswagen vans, a Ford Econoline, a Ford Transit, and I’m still sleeping in cars. It’s just now the bar has been raised really high since my wife and I now own our dream van, a 2019 Mercedes 2 WD built out  by Sync Vans. We’re those van nerds that have vanity plates, which riff off our last name Hauswald: HAUSVNN. So why am I talking about #vanlife? Because I’m excited to be packing for my first road trip of the 2022 season, the Sea Otter Classic, a multi-day bike race and industry gathering in Monterey, CA that’s become the official industry kickoff event for the year. I first attended Sea Otter in 1997 and, ironically enough, slept in my van while poaching a buddy’s camp spot. I have returned pretty much every year since, which basically means I’m the cycling version of the Swallows of Capistrano! Being that my zodiac sign is Cancer, habits don’t die easy, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I would be sleeping in my van once again at Sea Otter, this year crashing with some friends who coach in the NorCal Interscholastic Cycling League.

 Yuri's van at Sea Otter

I motored down to Monterey earlier than years past so I could attend the leadership event hosted by Life Time, which meant that I got some quality time to connect with a number of long time industry colleagues and, even better, make some new friends. The Sea Otter Classic Summit: A Global Gathering of Outdoor Industry Leaders was a two-day gathering focused on topics that the bike and outdoor industry are working on such as climate change, outdoor access, the surge of e-bikes/transportation, inclusivity, and the metasphere (please don’t ask me to explain it, or why we need it in the outdoor industry). KC Cross (they/them) gave a moving talk called “Beyond the Binary,” and California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot spoke eloquently about the myriad issues facing California. At the top of the list were climate change, fire, equitable access, biodiversity, and outdoors for all. He shared that California is investing $35 billion into land conservation and fighting climate change, which left all of us Californians feeling hopeful about our local environment’s future.

Yuri with KC Cross 

Considering the past two years, when Sea Otter was first postponed and then a modified and a much smaller version was held in October of 2021, this year’s Sea Otter felt like old times, when things were really bustling. For someone like me, who has been attending Sea Otter for nearly 25 years, it was great to see this marquee event shining again, bursting at the seams with attendees and brands. And to be totally honest, this year was really emotionally charged for me for a variety of reasons, the main being that it was my first time out in the wilds since my accident. I’m still injured, which means crutching or using my Niner RLT e9 RDO to gimp around the venue. Not being fully weight-bearing yet and still prone to significant leg and knee swelling made standing - with or without crutches - difficult and physically taxing. Don’t think I’m complaining, because I loved every minute of it. I’m proud to say I even survived a remote Smirnoff icing, an oddly funny drinking game that millennials love playing with each other, especially if it involves an elder like me.

Yuri at Sea Otter with Bear National Team

Seeing athletes that I work with or know and watching brand partners like GU and Garmin activate around a course cleanup so that sport nutrition trash can be upcycled via TerraCycle, or GU and Orange Seal sharing a coffee and stroopwafel hour with athletes Savilia Blunk and Cole Paton pulling shots filled me with so much happiness and pride. Having meaningful connections with 20+ year industry family, friends, and sponsors was the icing on the Sea Otter experience cake that left me with a heart brimming with gratitude.

 Yuri at Sea Otter

Since I can’t quit the habit of sleeping in my van, I plan on pointing it north to Oregon later this month for the inaugural Special Blend Gravel camp, a women's-only three day riding experience that culminates in riding the Gorge Gravel Grinder. I’m honored/flattered to share that I’m the only dude invited, so that’s where I’m headed next, but I’ll save that adventure for a future tale.