Last Autumn, I found myself wondering, “How do I pack for a bike ride through Narnia?”. I had just been asked to sample a small section of the wonderful Oregon Timber Trail by my friend Gabriel. I packed a grocery bag full of Voile straps, my foul weather gear, a laminated local mushroom-foraging pamphlet, and prepared to step through the magic wardrobe.
Last weekend, Lael raced the Kenai 250, a two hundred fifty-seven mile self-supported mountain bike race in the Kenai Peninsula, the only area with an extensive network for singletrack trails in Alaska.
For decades, the little mountain overlooking my mother’s childhood home held a massive secret and my dad was in on it.
At just under 2,000 feet, Mount Weather sits along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the rural Virginia town of Bluemont. It served as the backdrop to my childhood memories of time spent at my grandmother’s house. These days, whenever I visit the area on my bike and ride by the house, I look up at the mountain knowing it’s the reason I’m here.
And what my dad once told me, this mountain might be the reason we are all still here.
I can tell you one thing; whenever someone tells me what I should do, I almost always do the opposite. I have been that way for as long as I can remember. In some psychology class years back, I learned about the theory of psychological reactance. It all boils down to an idea that people believe that they possess freedoms and the ability to participate in those free-behaviors. When those behaviors are threatened, something within us is sparked and we react. I find myself pretty apprehensive when it comes to telling anyone what they should be doing. For that matter, I mostly, don’t care what anyone else is doing. A person’s true character comes out regardless. You are what you do.
These past few weeks have been a time for action, introspection, listening, and resisting. Radavist reader Sasha Schellenberg sent in this submission to us for a Readers Write, reflecting on their own perspective of what’s going on in the world right now with the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. Without further adieu, here are Sasha’s words…
I do a lot of listening while I ride my bike. I listen for traffic and the odd redneck that will try to drive their diesel truck within a hairsbreadth of my handlebars (an unfortunate reality of cycling in parts of rural Alberta), I listen to my bike, always alert for unusual sounds (a result of seeing firsthand how small mechanical discrepancies can turn colossal if they go unnoticed for a time), and I listen for birds and wildlife (the upside of cycling in rural Alberta that makes it worth putting up with smelly trucks). Riding alone, cycling becomes a sensory experience, and it’s on those long gravel climbs, that half of me hates and the other half loves, that sounds seem to resonate clear as a bell.
Today we’re pleased to share a wonderful essay by Cinthia Pedraza on bike racing, white privilege, and the Corona Virus. In these trying times, it’s important to adjust our optics, listen, and most importantly, learn from these experiences…
Bike racers have been sitting at home watching the increasingly violent protests happening around the nation thinking “What can I do to help support Black communities?” In my local Austin community, I have seen donations in support of Black Lives Matter on my teammates’ Instagram stories, racers (including myself) protesting in support of an end to police brutality, and a massive outcry for justice that includes cycling voices like Machines for Freedom and Tenspeed Hero. That being said most amateur bike racers are likely to be white upper middle-class liberals who have a work from home setup where they are not at risk of exposure to Covid 19 or the struggle of the Black community caused by Covid 19.
Ventura is one of the last remaining quaint little beach towns in Southern California that is known for its surf. I know I’ve said this about Santa Barbara before, but compared to Ventura, the city just north has seasonal waves at best due to the Islands that block South tropical swells from barreling into its beaches. Plus, some go as far as saying that the Santa Barbara county line was, in a way, gerrymandered to include Rincon, the only break that really puts it on the radar. This is a tangent, but who cares, right? I know this is the Radavist, and we’re typically mountain people. Hang in there. The mountains are coming. Ventura has its unique point break right off the California St exit and next to the fairgrounds where I’d go to watch the Van’s Warped Tour as a kid in the 90’s. This point break is known as C-Street. I would argue rivals Rincon at certain swell angles, with its many take-off points that lead into a long, smooth yet punctuated ride requiring you to navigate sectioning walls through a sea of people and of the literal sea, making your way down the beach.
From the shadow of mount Tam to the coastal plains of Santa Barbara exists a quilt of broken earth. An underlying structure of torn apart geology transported hundreds of miles from where it was originally emplaced. A Mediterranean climate of warm summers and cool wet winters that becomes progressively drier towards the equator. A diverse floral assemblage stemming from the eroded remains of rocks past and present harboring condors, salmon and mountain lions. From North America’s largest estuary reflecting pastel sunrise to the sandstone peaks of the east/west transverse ranges gleaming pink and orange as the sun sets over the pacific.
He thought there would be a limit and that would stop him. He depended on that.
“An Atlas of the Difficult World – VIII” – Adrienne Rich
Before I left:
A month before I left, a bus hit me on the sidewalk as I avoided² the dangers of an indifferent suburb riding to the job I did as pittance-paid worker on a bike industry profit trawler. The night before I left, I couldn’t get the tire off, sobbed, exhausted. Six days before I left, I stopped having fun at a race and decided to bail, tired, beer softened, slowed wrong, ate gravel, wrist sprained. Before I left I destroyed my shell in the wash. Before I left I shook nothing down. I wasn’t ready but it didn’t matter. I had to go. How would I keep on otherwise?
Some of us are hoping for limits. There are reasons for that.
The first time I found myself in Puerto Rico was quite a few years back, it was on a sandy city street that ended at the beach in the Ocean Park neighborhood of San Juan. It was wintertime on the east coast where I flew in from, but I was now in a sunny island paradise.
The Salton Sea first appeared to me back in 2016, a couple of days into the Stagecoach 400 bike packing trip with the Borrachos. It appeared to me then as it appeared on this passage, an out of place body of water in the desert landscape, planar and mirage inducing. It could have been the heat exhaustion the first time I saw it, but the sea seemed to bend the horizon. We only saw it in the distance at that time, as our Stagecoach route took us up and away into Anza Borrego. This time around though, we’d pedal straight for it.
Credit: 906 Adventure Team. Cable, age 9, carving out his legacy.
(It’s a good day; it’s a bad day)
Shakespeare insisted that a name held nothing significant; in fact, a name is but an arbitrary designator. A rose, “by any other name would smell as sweet.” If the rose weren’t called a rose, we would still swoon over the sweet smell. Poor Juliet, the owner of a smitten young heart, failed to see everything that exists in a name. In my case, at thirty years old, I still carry my maiden name. Instead, I like to say it’s the name I’ve made for myself; I don’t see that changing any time soon. I grew up in the trailer park across the street from the General Motors Factory in Janesville, Wisconsin, and attended Jackson Elementary school. It was there I celebrated Andrew Jackson as a glorious president; Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. What’s in that name? A legacy of brutality*, I say.
*Yes, this is a reference to the 1985 album by the Misfits. Hybrid moments is one of my favorite songs of all time.
We had set aside that Autumn weekend months earlier, just after having briefly met at a bike race called Lost and Found in late Spring. Matt was planning an extended bike commute through my town and asked to camp in my backyard. I told him sure, I have a fire pit, so it can really be like camping, but I’m going to barnacle onto that trip because it sounds fun. This trip took on many different names, with the goal to write some mockingly weird shit about it, and this one stuck: Tour of the Barnacle: The Chronicles of Holding On. The Barnacle Tour fell through, and a story that will not be told passed between then and this, but hell, we decided to stick to doing some exotic bike trip that weekend.
The grass grows steadily, towering over us until we can no longer see the San Pedro Trail. My partner and I hadn’t seen anyone else that day and it was peacefully quiet. We can only hear the bees buzzing, ignoring our presence among the thicket of yellow flowers growing wildly across the trail. It was still early in the afternoon and we already had an eventful morning – dodging thorny bushes cutting both our arms and legs, navigating muddy streams covered with overgrown grass, surprising a few jackrabbits from their homes, and getting startled by two rattlesnakes lying across the gravel path.
It’s not long after we’ve packed all eight of our bikes and a weeks worth of gear to be loaded in the Western Slope Rides shuttle van in Moab, Utah, that Robert Warren, our driver, has us all rapt and pinned to our seats.
I put my bra back on and brush my teeth and walk from the dorm room past the pool table salon to the restaurant and out the door to my bike. It’s four in the morning and still dark outside. It’s a new day. I’m ready to ride. Rue is on her computer waiting at a table and follows me out.
The gravel pit turns to good, hard dirt and I begin the ascent. It’s my favorite kind of road, an even grade that feels like climbing the fortress walls to the castle as the road snakes up. It’s the morning of day 3 and I feel like I’m on a quick training ride, almost like the past two days haven’t happened or they’re a distant memory. I’m listening to music and my legs feel fresh and I’m having so much fun. The climb is an hour of effort and then a quick winding descent to the valley floor and dry Lake Kel Suu. Towering, freshly snow-covered mountains surround that makes me feel really small. I pass a couple of other yurt camps on my way to checkpoint 2 until I see the SRMR banner. A couple of little kids cheer me in. Jakub the Slovakian is packing his bike. I have to keep my focus. I take off my gloves and change the track on my GPS and take a couple of puffs from my inhaler and get my brevet card and my wallet and a couple of plastic bags and go inside the yurt. The floor is grass, so I don’t have to take off my shoes. Inside, a volunteer stamps my card and we get to talking. In some way, she’s related to Yura, the man with my favorite guesthouse in Bishkek. Yura doesn’t speak much English, but he makes jokes with his eyes and his hands.
I was always insecure about the fact that I was “uneducated” before I entered academia. Growing up in a trailer park and as the first person in my family to have ever attended a university, I was certain that I was something less than my entire life. The apple never falls far from the tree. And in attending University, I’ve learned that everything I was taught whilst growing up was lessons in obedience. I, an Anishinaabe woman, celebrated the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving time and Columbus on Columbus day. I always thought that I wasn’t Indian enough because I didn’t grow up on my reservation, I didn’t know my tribal language, and I didn’t look Indian. Tell me, what does an Indian look like? How could I trust a system that denied the lived history of my ancestors?