In children’s literature, the bears, the pigs, the billy goats, and the blind mice all came this way. So did the wise men, the Stooges, and the musketeers. And in the cycling world, it’s often said that wrecks come clustered like this, too. Yeah, I’m talking about groups of three, but don’t worry, this post has nothing to do with story book creatures, fictitious men, or, thankfully, wrecking my bike. In the month of July I hit the trifecta when it came to having some amazing two-wheeled experiences that reminded me how powerful a tool a bike can be when it comes to connecting people and place.
I’ve suffered from Peter Pan Syndrome pretty much my whole life. Yup, I wear tights at times and have avoided taking life too seriously for many years. I wouldn’t say that I’m immature, it’s just that I’ve never really grown up and acted my age. In fact, I’d argue that I’ve always been a young spirit trapped in a much older body, which is what helped me be a bit of a kid whisperer for the twelve years I taught elementary school. Speaking of teaching, in early July I had the distinct pleasure of joining the Nor Cal Cycling League’s Junior Development Camp in Tahoe Donner as a coach, which meant that I got to tap into my inner teacher and child, while spreading some knowledge and joy, all while ripping some really challenging, fun trails with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. There were laughs, perceived barriers and limits burst, challenges overcome, new friends made, epic views seen, and tons of fun had each day of camp. Turns out, playing on bikes is fun for all ages.
Jack Kerouac wrote about it in “Dharma Bums”, calling it “as beautiful a mountain as you’ll see anywhere in the world.” It’s also considered by many to be the birthplace of mountain biking, which is fitting because it was on its craggy flanks that I did my first California MTB race way back in 1996. I’m talking about Mount Tamalpais, the crown jewel of Marin County, CA, a peak that gives you views of Mount Diablo, the Farallon Islands 25 miles out to sea, and, on very rare occasions, the snow-covered Sierra Nevada some 150 miles to the east. I’ve enjoyed this mountain on two wheels for the past 25 + years - mtb, road, and gravel - and was honored to get the invite to attend the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s 10th annual Mount Tam Dirt Fondo, a mountain bike ride that raises money for the MCBC’s Off-road program. I chose to do the 45-mile route and my day was highlighted by getting to ride with none other than MTB legend and founding father of sorts, Tom Ritchey, who I can confirm still CRUSHES it on two wheels. When I wasn’t chewing on my stem because of all the climbing or breathing too heavily while chasing Tom and his cohorts, I did enjoy some EPIC views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as stocked rest stops, friendly ride marshals and mechanics, and some unexpected friend encounters along the way. My day ended with a post-ride party among the horses at the Presidio Riding Club Stables in the Marin headlands.
I’m guessing most people haven’t heard of the Sagebrush War, let alone where it took place or what it was fought over, right? And who can honestly say they know the origin story of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox? What if I was to tell you that you could adventure by bike, horse, 4x4, foot, or any other means, between these two places and many others just like it in the Lost Sierra?! Well it’s true. There’re ribbons of dirt, and trails to be built, that will connect fifteen Sierra Valley communities through outdoor recreation and it’s called the Connected Communities Trail Project. I’ve spent the past two years exploring this region, documenting the potential in a short film called “Lost on Purpose.” Watch below!
We decided to return to ride portions of the Connected Communities trail network that had been destroyed in last year’s Dixie Fire, which raged through the Lake Almanor and Susanville areas, torching 1 million acres, so that my adventure partner Kurt Gensheimer known in some circles as the Trial Whisperer, could document the damage. Turns out fire is fickle and indiscriminate in its destruction, making it a bit hard to know exactly what the damage would look like. Let’s just say that the total decimation in certain zones was staggering, but that completely healthy and stunning forest existed, too. I likened the landscape to an old family patch work quilt: some patches were in worse shape than others, some even gone, while others were perfectly beautiful and intact, but all still connected by threads. There’s still a lot of work to be done up there, but we left more hopeful for the Lost Sierra’s recovery than we thought we would.
People, place, and pedaling. Now that’s a powerful cluster of three. Doesn’t get much better than that, really, which is why all of these events filled me with so much joy. Here’s to chasing your passions in whatever you do, and who knows, you just might hit the trifecta of fun like I did in July.