“You can never go home again.” Martin O Blank’s defining line from the film Grosse Pointe Blank has stuck with me since I first heard it in the late ‘90s. It stuck with me because I thought, until recently, that it was bullshit. I moved away from Grand Rapids, MI for work and school in Colorado in 2004 but would go back to visit at least every year. And nothing seemed to change. My friends and the city itself seemed perfectly preserved in time. It always felt like home. But after a big move to Arizona and a pandemic, nearly five years passed without a visit. Then, after that time away, when my family and I road tripped Michigan this past July, I realized that Blank might have actually been onto something. My friends and the city had changed. In exciting ways to be sure, but things were markedly different and the area felt less homey for the first time in my life.
In addition to riding some amazing purpose-built singletrack in my former hometown of West Michigan this past summer (more on that to come!), another highlight was linking up with Mitch Mileski for a very unexpected type of trail riding. Mitch manages the Fulton Street location of the Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. and, having also grown up in Grand Rapids (just much more recently than me) he knows the city very well and was generous to show off a few hidden gems. I met up with Mitch early on a moody weekday morning with a typical summer weather forecast calling for a 50% chance of precipitation.
During a visit to my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI this past summer I stopped in at Velocity USA, purveyors of finely shaped and colorful formed aluminum. Jill Martindale – resident endurance racing aficionado and winter weather lover – graciously took time out of her day to show me around their manufacturing facility. I’ve been a fan of Velocity for quite a while (still have a 20ish-year-old set of Deep Vs kicking around) and was very geeked out roaming around the factory with Jill, observing the precision processes that go into creating each rim and wheel build, and meeting the folks that make it all happen.