Friday, July 29, 2016

Free rides? No, freerides! An Epic trip of Epicness

What does this blog have to do with goats? Well, my friend Kenny recently started posting a picture of a baby goat on any Facebook post that contains a political rant. No real reason, other than to break up the bullshit with a little bit of goaty awesomeness. I think it's a damn fine practice, and I'd encourage you to do the same. 

I've always liked goats anyway. With their obstinacy and funny pupils. So, in honor of Kenny, today's post will be peppered with random baby goats that I found on the interwebs. 

Running a blog is a funny thing.  When I started this blog, more than two years ago, I would email it to a few friends and family.  I was lucky if my posts, in those days, got 30 views.  

Nowadays, things have changed some.  My posts have been shared by IMBA and Dirt Rag, among others, and my readership is now comprised mostly of people I've never met. 

I like to think we're all friends though.  Hopefully, you're coming back because you're digging what I'm putting out. And I bet, if we met, we'd have a beer together.  Or at least ride bikes.  

Speaking of beer, I am reminded of a conversation I had recently with a friend who is a prosecuting attorney. He was telling me that a certain brand of soda (guess which one) appears so often in crime scene photos that they have started referring to it as "crime juice." 


It got me thinking about the drinks I most commonly see in mountain bike photos. Guess what tops the list? Beer, of course. That is why, from now on, I will be referring to beer as "mountain bike juice."  Juice is healthy, right? I may or may not be drinking said juice while typing. 

But back to the topic of blog traffic. I have been checking my stats and noticed something interesting.  See, this blog is a Google platform, and, as such, Google provides me with some basic analytics on my readership.  It tells me things like total page views, referring sites and so on.  Possibly the most interesting stat is geography.

In the last few days I have seen a spike of traffic from Russia, of all places.  270 views in the last few days alone.

To all my Russian friends, I say Привет! and Добро пожаловат!  Don't know what brought you here, but welcome.  Unless you're looking for Clinton's emails. I can't help you there. 

I went to Russia in high school on a student exchange, shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  That's where I first tried vodka ("Russian juice") and puked in a Moscow hotel room (sorry Mrs. Ulanoff).  As a sidenote, I have puked all over the world.  But that's another set of stories.

What I really brought home was a life-altering perspective change.  It's amazing what a good trip can do for you.  You come back with an awareness of the smallness of your own world view and the realization that some of the things you accept as "real" and "given" simply don't exist in other places.  

And, you can see that, even without the trappings of your own culture and belief system (surely the "best" beliefs and institutions), people in other places still manage to survive, prosper, laugh, and have good lives.  

On the flip side, you can see what's really good about your own home - what you have to offer that's different than other places.  Funny how changing your location can make you appreciate what you have. 

Same thing is true in mountain biking. For instance, I have previously reflected on the different lingo in other places, such as Michiganders' annoying habit of calling double track "two track."  

It's doubletrack, dammit.

And, on a recent trip to Sedona, my attire stood out from everyone else's. I was all "dirt roadie" in my kit of bibs and a road jersey (pretty typical here in Ohio), while everyone else at the festival was all "western as fuck" to borrow a phrase from Drunk Cyclist. They were all bro'ed out in their baggies and enduro jerseys.  And probably laughing about my display of Lycra. 

I look good in Lycra 

But, what I really enjoy about travel is the escape.  Putting distance between yourself and the "normal" of your life.  Meeting new people and trying on their way of life, trying new foods, smelling different air, and especially riding trails in different ecosystems. 

How could I truly appreciate the punchy, rooty, muddy Ohio trails without having experienced the sharp rocks in Eastern Pennsylvania's Allegheny mountains 

or the dusty red trails in Moab, 

or the aspen trees in the Colorado Rockies, 

or the granite domes and pine forest of Pisgah? 

Now, I'm not going to make it to Russia again anytime soon, but I am planning on a more local adventure.  An epic trip of epicness. From Columbus Ohio to Bentonville Arkansas and back. 

There is nothing like a good road trip. The gas station food, the bugs on your windshield, sleeping in the car, and stopping at random places for mountain bike juice. 

The ultimate destination is Bentonville Arkansas for the biannual IMBA World Summit in November.  I can't wait to see what the trails there will hold. 

I attended the 2014 Summit in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in case you've been reading that long, and you can find my posts on it here, here, here, and here.  What a blast.

Bentonville promises to be equally amazing.  The area, with the help of the Walton Family Foundation and IMBA, has doubled-down on mountain biking, recognizing the value of being an outdoor destination.

Slaughter Pen - image from
Bentonville has tons of local trails - everything from downhill and free ride at Slaughter Pen to bike park jumps and man made features at The Railyard to cross-country single track at nearby Bella Vista. I can't wait to hit these trails. And Saturday's epic ride will be choice!

And the IMBA Summit itself is packed with all kinds of goodies for mountain bike nerds like me. From seminars and breakouts from industry leaders to vendors and demo bikes. Hans "no way" Rey and Danny MacAskill will be there to humble your own thoughts of being a MTB badass. 


Plus, the folks at the event know how to get down and party! Did I mention that one of the sponsors will be New Belgium Brewing, sponsors of some of the finest mountain bike juice known to man? 

On the way to the summit, I plan on riding the Berryman Trail in Potosi Missouri and camp there too. It's a 26-mike loop in the Mark Twain National Forest. And it's an IMBA Epic to boot. 

On the way back from the summit, I plan to hit the O'Bannon Woods trails in Corydon Indiana. This is a rugged 18 miles through the rocks and ravines of Southern Indian, according to MTB Project. 

I can't wait for the trip. P.S. I'm looking for a travelling companion.  November 8-13.  All it would take is gas, grass, or ... Oh wait. Just gas money. Interested? Get in touch and we will talk details. 

Be brave and do it somewhere else. 

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