Monday, June 11, 2012

Explorers

If you've been mountain biking for any significant length of time, you'll know that finding the next great mountain bike destination is something that everyone wants to do.  It's natural.  We come from a long line of explorers.  If you didn't, you wouldn't be here, you'd still be in Europe or Asia or wherever your ancestry is from, unless you're Native American, and even then your ancestors from about 10,000 years ago were explorers coming across an ice bridge that Sarah Palin now uses to go to Russia.

The Not-So-Serious Sailor
We want to be the first to discover that next cool place to ride (except for the locals, who've known about it all along and didn't want you to tell anyone about it).  We want to be able to start stories about said riding destinations with "I remember when I could go to Moab and there was only 1 bike shop and one stop light" or "I was in Fruita before anyone knew about it."  Imagine back when Christopher Columbus was an old codger, sitting around at some Venice sidewalk cafe, "Hey yo Christobal!  I was readin' your "Not-so-serious Sailor" parchment last night.  Was you really the first one to find Cuba?"  "Hell's yeah.  I had the first Cuban cigar!  It was given to me by some young chap calling himself Fidel, said he had big aspirations to take over this island and have all those people in, ahem, America, fuck Vespucci it should be called Columbia, get their panties in a bunch in a few years.  Honestly, I hope he can do it.  Serve 'em right for naming their whole continent after that sumbitch Amerigo"

Or something like that.  You get the idea.  We want to be able to come back from an expeditionary trip and tell all of our friends about this awesome place to go ride your bike, so here it goes.  I'm gonna tell you all about the next kick-ass mountain biking paradise.

What would you say if I told you about a place that has more legal singletrack than you can ride in a year?  What if I told you that this singletrack ranges from loamy, pine needle covered, and smooth to the most technical trails you'll find anywhere?  How about if we add in not one, not two, not three, but four excellent endurance races rivaling the best the country has to offer?  And for good measure, let's add an exciting bike component manufacturer to the mix.  What would you say?  You'd say, "when can we go" wouldn't you?  Yeah, I'm sure you've figured it out, but if you live in any proximity to the NSS World Headquarters, you'll know it is RIGHT HERE!

A view from the trail.  Are we in the Black Hills or
are we at Tahoe?
It feels like there's something happening here in the Black Hills when it comes to mountain biking.  We've got big bike companies here (SRAM), we've got big companies naming bikes after places here, and as I've said, we have some big stuff going on with endurance racing, two new races in the Tatanka 100 and the Black Hills Back 40, a 4th year of the BAM and finishing the summer with the Dakota Five-O, which sold out its 600 slots in 4 hours!  In addition, we've got the Black Hills Fat Tire Festival, which is a top notch event, even if Mother Nature wants to throw the screws to it every year.

If racing a LONG ways isn't your thing, there are tons and tons of trails for everything from beginner to top level riders.  We truly live in a mountain bike mecca, it is just a matter of time before the devout start making their pilgrimage here.  I've ridden in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and even Nebraska and I can honestly say the riding here rivals the best riding in any of those states AND the best part is a lot of the riding is right out your door, no need to drive for hours to get to sweet trails.

The secret is getting out that we are a jewel in the middle of the sea of Great Plains, something we've all known for a long time.  As a local, you probably want to keep this secret for yourself, but there isn't much we can do to stop it, so start getting your stories ready, you can start it out, "I remember when..."


Sunday, June 3, 2012

This is it, I promise...

May is a busy month.  With the end of school, PTA carnival, Cub Scouts wrapping up, going with the Ramblers to Moab, and various other commitments, a TON of birthdays, (including mine which was on the 31st when I turned 41, (which is kinda relevant to this story) so if you've not sent a bike related present, what the hell are you waiting for?) we were running around like chickens with their heads cut off (which by the way, if you've never seen, it's gruesome and hilarious all at the same time, but that's a topic for another day).  And, anytime you're super focused on stuff for a while, when the end comes, there is a bit of let down.  Which having a let down for me at the end of this particular month in this particular year was a bit tougher than normal.

I know I just talked recently about my dad when it was his birthday, but I'm gonna do it again.  And other than the fact that he had a mountain bike and it is now mine, this won't really have anything to do with bikes, but I'll get back to 'em next time around.

video
So, get in the way back machine and go to the day Kurt Cobain decided he'd taken enough trips around the sun, April 5th, 1994.  This is the day this journey started for my dad and it was just few days prior to his 45th birthday, which made him a few years older than I am right now, which I suppose, is the reason I'm kinda feeling weird about it right now.  Anyhow, this is the day he went into the hospital for a biopsy of his liver and removal of his gall bladder and left finding out he had a super-aggressive Hepatitis C that would ultimately be his demise and that he'd never work again in his life.

Without getting into the minutia of EVERYTHING that happened, I'll just say he was on the liver transplant list for 3 years before a man in Boulder, CO, fell in a climbing accident and was an organ donor, giving my dad another 10 years on his life.  If you're not an organ and tissue donor, RUN, don't walk to your DMV and make that change and let your family know that is what you want to do. If you meet your demise, you won't need any of those things anymore, so give 'em to someone that can use them.  Sorry...I'll get off my soapbox now and resume this story.

After his transplant, everything went really well for a while.  But, ultimately my dad's version of Hep C wouldn't lie dormant and began the attack of his "new" liver, but I suppose that is fitting for a guy that didn't do anything half-assed and liked a challenge.  He ended up being a walking experiment for the Hepatology department at University Hospital in Denver since they really didn't have anyone that had a transplant with all the medications necessary for that AND taking a regimen of chemotherapy to combat the Hepatitis all of which was a drain on him.  It made him sick and tired (literally and figuratively) so he couldn't exercise, which would make him weaker, which would make him more sick and tired, turning the whole thing into a vicious downward spiral.

In the late spring of 2006 he slipped getting out of the shower and broke his knee.  Both my mom and I knew it was ultimately going to be his demise.  Not that the Hep C wasn't, it was, but this injury was going to speed everything up substantially.  What little exercise he was getting was now gone and just getting up to his bedroom and around the house was going to be a mighty challenge.

That autumn saw him try to go see his dad in Arizona for a 80th birthday party, but he was turned away by the airline because he looked so sickly they were afraid to let him on, which was a good thing, since he went into the hospital for a few days.  Like usual, they were able to get him stabilized and he ended up going home.  But, these episodes would start happening in higher frequency throughout the winter and into the spring of '07.

Late in May of that year, I had to go to Boulder for an overnight meeting for work.  Through some crazy circumstances and maybe a bit of destiny, I ended up having to go back to Littleton and spend the night at my parents house.  Little did I know it would be the last time I'd actually see my dad when I could converse with him, though I spoke a few times on the phone.

That next weekend was Memorial Day weekend.  My dad watched Dario Franchitti win a rain shortened Indianapolis 500 and late in the afternoon went up to his room.  A short while later he went to the bathroom and slipped into one of those "episodes".  Usually my mom could just talk loudly to him and he'd snap out of it and go to his bed or like at the airport 6 months earlier, to the hospital and they'd fix him up.  But this time he wasn't snapping out of it, which is when I received a frantic phone call from my mom asking me to talk to him, that maybe a different voice would snap him out of it, which it didn't and at that point I told her to call 911.

The emergency service came and took him away.  He had done a living will earlier in the year, but because they wouldn't let my mom ride in the ambulance, by the time she got to the hospital it was too late to convey this information and they had put him on all sorts of life support equipment which gave us the unenviable task of "unplugging" him.

I'm just being honest here, but selfishly, it did make it convenient as we were able to make arrangements, which I suppose we should have been doing all along, but when you're living in a bit of denial and really everyday was a struggle for my mom to balance work and care for my dad, the last thing you have time to do or want to do is go make funeral arrangements.

So, we made the decision to take him off the life support equipment on Friday, June 1st.  To me we could have done it anytime, including on my birthday, but my mom refused that, so now I know the day after my birthday is the day we did that.  Trying to still celebrate my birthday that year was kind of difficult, but my aunt (his sister) stayed at the hospital with my dad, torturing him to the very end by reading him articles from Oprah's O magazine (FYI, if that EVER happens to me, I'll haunt your ass for eternity), while my family and I went out for dinner to celebrate as much as we could.

The thoughts of the next day are surreal as I remember a ton about it and hardly anything about that day, more like a collage of thoughts and images of that day.  I remember being there when the nurse came in and took all the tubes and junk out of his nose and mouth.  I remember his face grimacing when she pulled the stuff out which caused me to think maybe we shouldn't do it even though there was no chance of improvement.  I remember feeling bad for him as he lay there all day long, heart pounding along like a champ after the doctor told him a long time before he couldn't engage in sex anymore because his heart couldn't take it (lying bastard!).  I remember feeling a bit like a ghoul, not unlike going to the vet to have your pet put to sleep.  I remember getting a phone call late at night from my Lovely asking what is going on and I told her that nothing had changed.  I remember after I hung up with her things started to change rapidly, like he heard my conversation and didn't want to be a bother to any of us.  As his heart rate slowed, we all gathered around and said goodbye.  Then everything stopped and the nurse and doctor came in and called the time of death.  I remember all of us leaving and I was looking back seeing him lying there I felt weird about it, like I was walking away from one of my possessions and I should leave it lying there unless I knew exactly what was going to happen to him.  I remember going to the bar with my mom, brother, sister-in-law, aunt and uncle and getting kinda tore up after that.

Whew.  A lot of crap just spewed out of my finger tips.  I apologize for this long post, but on this 5th anniversary of his death which was on the same day of the week, I kinda felt like I needed to get it out.    I'm headed out on an epic ride this afternoon, so I'm sure I'll have a lot more fun stuff to talk about next time.