Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One Month Off

It's time to get back on the horse. After a 30 day leave of absence, I'm back in the blogosphere.

Here's a nugget of truth that could change your life:
Sylvester Stallone is in the boxing hall of fame, as of today. The world is a wonderful place.

I've had a weird month the last 30 days, and I can't really put my finger on it. It's been full of ups and downs; a lot of perspective shifts. I've felt a lot of clarity, and I've felt lost. I've been chasing some focus, but stagnating.

I may be spreading myself too thin; I may be ambivalent about what really drives me at this point in my life. I can't help but notice the stark contrast between my ambitions and my contentedness with the little pleasures of each and every day. I feel like this has been a recurring theme in my life over the last year or so, and I struggle with balancing these sentiments. I want to channel some of my ambitions and do something great, yet I relish the ability to enjoy the simple things in life with the people that matter most to me on a daily basis. I need to practice some discipline, and I need to determine where to place that discipline.

I've made a lot of decisions in my life, and I stand by the vast majority of them. Some of them were good, and some of them were bad. That being said, I'm confident that I've been able to learn from almost all of them, and I'm a better person for it. An old friend of mine passed away recently, and I can't help but contrast our lives since we last spoke. At one point we were in a very similar place, and I feel that the disparities in some of the key decisions we were making at that point in our lives has led us to the situation today. It's humbling to think that we could've just easily made different decisions at a few key points in our lives and ended up in drastically different places. My thoughts rest with his family.


The snow season is here, and I'm thrilled about it. I've committed to Squaw Valley USA as my home mountain for the season, and I'm excited to explore it this winter. It's a real mammoth of a mountain, and I can't wait to immerse myself in the famous lines that are all over the resort. I'm already feeling as strong as I was at the end of last season, and I'm thrilled to progress a whole lot more this season. The forecast for a deep winter (coupled with the unbelievable company of some of my closest friends) is exciting - it's going to be a great season.

Of the many famous local skiers and riders here, no one carries as much weight with me as Jeremy Jones. Big mountain Jeremy Jones. He's a living legend. And on my birthday, I got to follow him. On a snowboard. In person. Seriously - that was the coolest thing I've ever done. I tried to follow him, but I didn't get very far. On a high note, I've got a hero line for my season - if I can successfully ride just that one line this year, the year is a success.

I'm off to do some Ironman training.... what did I get myself into? Eric - it's on.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Snowfall and the Impending Season

Steps are being made here - one by one I'm getting my feet on the ground. Professionally, socially, and personally. I've succeeded in securing at least 2 jobs and at least 2 season passes. I'm guaranteed the ability to snowboard every day this season as a result of my work and personal investment in my priorities. I've met new friends and started to further my career here as a fitness professional. Overall, I'm filled with a sense of accomplishment. I'm quite happy, and I love living with some of my best friends in the world. The snow is falling.

These next few weeks will be marked with angst as the big resorts bide time before they open for the season, but we've always got backcountry options. As long as Mother Nature keeps the storm window open, there are turns to be had. Moreover, local resort BOREAL has a few park runs up already. It's time to get progressive.

I already feel a sense of urgency - I intend on getting better this season, and I'm not sure how much time and energy I'll be able to put in in April and May. The impending Ironman in June requires some dedication, and I knew that going it. I just have to remind myself what I've invested in (financially, mentally, and physically). Worst case scenario: I cut the season short, and add impetus to coming back (or exploring a new mountain home) next winter. Decisions, decisions.

I can't wait to visit my parents next month, and I look forward to seeing Japan. I'm currently evaluating what options exist for me to spend some additional time there in the spring or summer of 2011.

We're currently sharing our home with Max, a friend from our Border2Border travels. I think it's wonderful to host him here, and I'm very glad that we've remained friends. We met on a beach in California that served as both of our homes that night. Random chance introduced us. Of all of the highlights of the Border2Border trip, the people we met and shared time with are my favorite.

Life is good, and I'm confident that you can make it great with some concerted effort and a will to find purpose. Impacting the world and the people around you positively should be a focus. I'm consistently trying to expand my influence in the world, and hope to contribute more every day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photos... As Promised

Photos are above, as promised. I'm assimilating more and more every day here in Tahoe City, and I'm really starting to enjoy the area. I'm pretty confident that I'll be working my job of choice at Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley, which is awesome. It's going to be a very full season. I'm making strides at the gym, and I'm looking forward to recommitting myself there next week (post-mountain job fair weekend). Our house is all here, and I'm excited to have a "family" feel. On that note - I can't wait to spend time with my parents and brother this New Year's in Japan. I'm counting my blessings.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Homes

I'm starting to settle into my new home here, and it's a very welcome process. The transition from a life of mobility (intrinsically linked to a certain lack of stability) to a more stationary situation highlights more than a few shifts in day-to-day life. I'm writing this entry sitting on my couch in my home, sipping tea from my coffee cup. I don't use "my" with ego, but with cause to identify that familiarity has a place in my life again for the first time (really) since last winter. Transition requires a lot of petty work: utilities setups, moving in, arranging and rearranging things around the home, and getting settled mentally (one cannot overemphasize this). Mobility never allows one to "settle" for more than a day or as little as an hour, and the chemical changes that occur in the body seem to go dormant. It's a bit of a jarring experience to stop moving. I can sympathize with marathoners who don't seem to know what to do after 26.2 miles other than run - your mind has to take a minute to "switch over". I'm settling in - slowly but surely. The Paul Simon record on my stereo and this cup of tea seem to be helping. As does the view of Lake Tahoe from my balcony.

My new home is shared with my dear friends Eric and Amy, and my new friend Katie. It's a two-story condo in the Dollar Point area of Tahoe City, CA, complete with 3 bedrooms, a lovely dining room, a full kitchen, and busts of a bear, a bighorn sheep, and an elk. And yes, we do have a view of Lake Tahoe from our 2nd story balcony. It feels like a home. I'm most excited about the fact that we're at the top of a hill, and (theoretically) when it snows a whole bunch I can snowboard from our doorstep to the bus stop and catch a shuttle to the mountains. I'll bet you can't do that.

Speaking of snowboarding, I've go 3 days under belt so far this season. 2 of them were in October, and I've already got a few new tricks in the bag this year. I've made some new friends riding up at the local park hill, Boreal, and I picked up a night pass for the season, ensuring that not a day will go by without snowboarding being involved this season (unless I decide against riding that day myself). I'm even more excited to know that there is bus service up to Boreal this winter, and that (as an employee of Alpine Meadows) I'll have a winter bus pass. Something about resort-to-your-house bus service just makes a winter resort town feel proper.

I'll be teaching my second class at A Sante Fitness here in Tahoe City tomorrow, and I'm excited to be working in the fitness community here. It's rewarding and motivating to surround myself with active people - especially with so many elite athletes in this community. I hope to build on my 2 classes per week throughout the season, and to hopefully start training this month. Lots to do - and 2 job fairs this weekend at Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley stand to add to the workload. I'm ready for it, and excited to see what the weekend brings.

I feel like I've said "I'm excited for the weekend" or "I'm looking forward to this week" a lot recently. I'm very glad I can say that. Take steps to add excitement to your life - it's worth it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Entry From North Lake Tahoe

The above photo is of San Francisco's Chinatown District, the below photos are of Lake Tahoe.

The whirlwind of the last few days has subsided a bit, and I've been awarded some time to write. It's almost uncomfortable to just be sitting here writing in a coffeehouse after all of the work I've been doing this past week checking boxes. Almost.... an espresso and granola are tough to make "uncomfortable".

I've arrived in my new home (at least until April) in Tahoe City, and it seems to be everything it has been hyped to be. The views are magnificent, the people are welcoming and refreshing, and the snowsports community seems to be on the leading edge. I've met more elite athletes in my 4 days here than I did all summer in Seattle. The gym I'll be working for this winter, A Sante Lakeside Fitness, is a great facility. They have everything I could want (except a pool) for the winter season, and an unbelievable training staff. US Ski Team trainers, an Olympic record holder, and a combined 50+ years of experience is a lot to walk into, and I hope to learn a lot from them.

I'm aching for snow to start falling not only to snowboard, but to get back to a steady work schedule. All of this serial vagabonding has taken a toll on my bank account, and I'm looking forward to seeing the numbers go another direction for a change ("up" would be nice). A hilarious sidenote of my employment-hunting travails - I scored a gig working the polls on election day (this upcoming Tuesday), only to recall that one of my 2 hours of scheduled work next week is on Tuesday, thus making working the polls impossible. At least my work involves riding a bike indoors.

Snow has fallen enough at high elevations to bring about opening day for a local park-oriented resort, and there's a good chance that I go riding on Saturday. (That was fun to type) I'm currently weighing the pros and cons of buying a season's night pass for that hill at the fair price of $129. If I go that route, I'm not at all worried about value - I'll probably ride 3-5 days a week until December. My worries are centered around the hit that my productivity will take at the gym (both my own training regimen and my efforts to build myself into a trainer there). Decisions, decisions.

I feel like I've been doing a lot of questioning lately, of my lifestyle and of my aspirations. I have an undeniable sense that I need to be doing more effective work toward my long-term goals. I feel like I need to more acutely identify my long-term goals. I'm enjoying myself thoroughly, but I can't deny that I feel like I should be more productive with my pursuits. I know I have the work ethic, but I feel as though I lack direction. Perhaps I'm spreading myself too thin; perhaps I just need to think about smarter ways to attack the roadblocks to my success. I can't help thinking that I'm contributing to my own lack of progress. I feel like I need to center my focus.
The jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none hat is getting old.

I plan on spending a lot of time in the next few months identifying what I want to do in the next few years of my life, and determining just what investment (time, money, resources) those goals will require. I'm very fortunate to be in a position to invest in myself, but I need to be absolutely certain that I can see that investment through to success, and that the end result is truly what I want. Purpose is a weighty topic.

I remind myself: life is good. I'm in a great place, with great people. These thoughts will find resolution. I'll identify what I want, and I'll find a way to get there.

A high note for the day: By signing up for Safeway's "Just for U" program, I was awarded a dozen free eggs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some downtime in CA... closer to winter

Writing this from my friend Shane's couch in San Francisco, I feel fortunate to have friends like him (and his lovely girlfriend, Danielle) in my life. Consistent vagabonding has many pros and cons, and even more truisms. One of the most pervasive truisms inherent to my lifestyle is this: you are incredibly dependent upon the hospitality and generosity of friends and family, and you must be willing to accept that it won't be there at all times. Today I'm in the comfort of my friends' home - tomorrow I may not have a roof over my head. Beyond that follows a week of uncertainty before I move into my winter home in Tahoe City. I don't have an aversion to this situation, but I do admit that it takes a bit of will and a lot of willingness to accept the situation should it come to it (i.e. I have to be comfortable with camping in near-freezing temperatures in order to be comfortable with that possibility). Fortunately, I have the equipment to handle that possibility, along with the mindset to be comfortable with it. Who knows - maybe I'll be warm and comfortable in a new friend's home tomorrow night; maybe I'll be warm and comfortable (optimism) in my sleeping bag and tent.

The paramount point to take from all of this is that I am comfortable with my situation. It's an interesting one, I'll concede that - but I look forward to a little excitement and a little solitude. I have more food and survival comforts/necessities than some billion plus people in this world live with on a daily basis.

Tomorrow I head to Berkeley to meet my friend Katie for a morning coffee, then I'm off to Tahoe to meet with my future employer. Therein lies my motivation for heading up to my new home a week before I have one there - I'm anxious to get back to work. I'm anxious to insert some structure in my life. I'm anxious to apply some discipline. If I'm serious about maintaining a lifestyle that involves long-term travel, I need to be serious about getting to work when it's time to get to work. I know that if I spend the amount of time necessary to build my brand as a trainer in Tahoe City, I can be successful there this winter. I know that I can outwork everyone there, and I know what I can bring to the table. If I have to camp for a week to get my foot in the door and prove that I'm driven and capable, then that's what I'll do. Steve Martin has been quoted as saying, "To be the best at something, you must do so at the exclusion of everything else in your life." Words for thought.

Extrapolating on that sentiment, I am starting to get the very sincere urge to apply myself to something great. Something grand in scale. And no, I don't mean the Ironman this upcoming June (although that is indeed great and grand in scale, it's not what I'm referring to). Next July I intend on pursuing something big. In no specific order, my intrigue is focused on:

- international travel

- career building in the fitness industry/developing my brand

- recommitting myself to the music industry

I can't place my motivation yet, but it's there. I thoroughly enjoy the concept of aimlessly floating from resort winter to resort winter, but I want to keep it fresh and exciting. I want to attach value to it. And, right now, I feel that that dictates a different application of my time. Perhaps next winter I'm in a winter resort again, but I feel like I'm going to make it different. I may end up in (gasp!) a warm weather climate somewhere in the southern hemisphere. I have a lot of ambition in my heart, but I don't know where I want to apply it just yet. Some introspection is required. I need to invest in myself - and although the financial risk isn't as great as many other opportunities in this world, I need to be sure of how to go about it. I need to invest in myself knowing that I'm committed. My time and energy are worth more than my dollars and cents, and I don't intend on wasting either.

Pray for snow - I am.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Final Lap! Newport Beach, Encinitas, San Diego, and Tecate

::Touting my own literary prowess::
The long-awaited, much-discussed pinnacle of writing set to signify the climax of the Border2Border event is upon us! Feast upon my following piece de resistance!

Okay, that may have been a bit excessive, but I'm in the zone. Something about biking a few thousand miles through 3 countries caters well to some enthusiasm. I'm going to try and focus here for a minute, though, and recount the last few days events in unabashed detail. Put your seatbelt on.

Picking up where we left off - we rolled out of Santa Monica with sightseeing in LA on our mind, and headed straight for the Sunset Strip and the famous Hollywood Sign. Sunset Strip was exciting to see - we rode right past the Whiskey A Go Go and the Viper Room (as rock and roll as it gets). We cruised along Hollywood Blvd. and saw a lot of the famous "stars" in the pavement, which was cool. Eric may or may not have posed for a picture with Chuck Norris' star. At the end of our ride down Hollywood, we were able to see the famous Hollywood sign up on the hills. Pretty quintessential LA sightseeing.

We headed south out of LA around the Peninsula, following Highway 1 past Venice Beach and through Palos Verdes. Venice is truly the ghetto-by-the-sea, complete with a prison-style beachfront showcased a rusted skeleton of the famous "Muscle Beach" and luxurious cast-iron public restrooms. Pleasant. The attitude gradually shifts from that to euphoric as you get into Palos Verdes. Pretty high end living around those parts, and it contributed to an enjoyable riding day. We hammered along 1 all the way through Long Beach and Huntington Beach, breathing in coastline riding for one of the last times this trip.

We made great time on the day (even with the sightseeing), and made it all the way to Newport Beach before the sun started flirting with the horizon. If you've never been to Newport Beach, it's fancy. There's a Bentley dealership across the street from the Porsche dealership. It's like that. Fortunately, the town isn't without its down-to-earth people. While refueling at a local supermarket we met a lovely local girl named Lindsey, who is a bit of a traveler herself. She's lived in Europe and Egypt - two places I personally have on my list as well. It was very cool to talk travel with her, and she seemed pretty excited about the whole TakeYourBike project. I think she empathized with our plight as homeless travelers, as she offered us a place to stay for the night. She and her roommates were very gracious hosts, and we ended up leaving Newport Beach the next morning with a very positive impression of the place.

With only 63 miles between us and our destination the following day in Encinitas, we took it easy and enjoyed the beachfront ride all day. We leisurely stopped in Oceanside and Carlsbad, and arrived in Encinitas just before sundown. We spent a few hours touring the town and enjoyed a coffee at a local shop; I'd venture to say that the town won us over even before we met our hostesses. Kelsey, Jerah, and Karene are some of the nicest and most life-loving girls we've met on this tour yet. Meeting them is another positive credit to Couchsurfing, a great non-profit organization that we've worked with on this trip. We spent our evening there skating around the neighborhood with Kelsey, and enjoying a bottle of wine and some pleasant conversation.

Rising in the morning, we realized that we only had 20 miles to ride to our San Diego destination, and decided to spend much of the day in Encinitas. We had a leisurely breakfast, skating some more, played beach volleyball (Chelsea and I won, and are retiring undefeated), and had an unbelievable lunch thanks to Kelsey's cooking skills. We left Encinitas reluctantly around 3 PM, but we still had an adventure to complete. Heading south to San Diego....

We arrived in San Diego after dark due to Eric and I's inability to ride in a straight line, and were greeted by our friends Jeanne and Kevin, who agreed to host us for the night. Kevin had to work, so we only had his company for a bit, but we enjoyed going out for a drink with both he and Jeanne. The bar of choice had a rooftop seating area, and you could see the waves crashing on the beach from our table. Pretty cool.

Rising the next morning, we woke with only one thing on our mind - Mexico! (note: we were so focused on our finish line, we forgot to wash our dishes from dinner the night before... sorry Jeanne and Kevin - we'll make it up to you!). We started riding in overcast weather, and it progressively worsened throughout the day, unfortunately. We started the ride in Canada in the rain, and it seemed fated to end in Mexico in the rain. We recommitted ourselves and pressed on - only 50 miles separated us from sweet victory! We rode through the eastern county in the rain all day, up and down, up and down. Our cyclometers told us that we were getting closer..... as we hit about 10 miles to go, a peculiar thing happened. I'm not sure what the technical term is, but I started to become overly anxious that we were so close. Thoughts of "What am I supposed to do now?" and "What if we can't cross the border?" and "What's next? Do I want to finish this?" started to enter my head. I've heard of a similar condition whereby marathoners suffer from depression and lackluster energy levels after completing their goal - after all, after you've accomplished what you set out to do, what's next? Where's the challenge? It was a very interesting ordeal to experience. I wrestled with the situation for what seemed to be an eternity, then: there it was. "Welcome to Tecate". I almost fell off my bike. Eric and I stopped for a victorious photo opportunity (above), and couldn't stop laughing. Something about finishing was absolutely hilarious. We had made it, but there was still one more box to check.

We rode down the hill into the town of Tecate to meet with Amy and Dyland and victoriously cross the border. Suspense was high, and we were all pretty interested to see what the hype was all about crossing into Mexico. After all, pretty much everyone we've met on this tour has cautioned us that it was pretty dangerous right now. We'd been unswayed by any of this the whole trip - plenty of things in the world are dangerous, and many of them are worth the risk. Moreover, we weren't going deep into Mexico - our destination was just over the border. How bad could it be?

Mom, you've got two options here:
a.) read all about the lovely sights Mexico has to offer here.
b.) don't read anything at all, and just pretend that Mexico is lovely, and that we had a great time there.

But, since you're going to keep reading anyway, just remember that we're all okay, and everything is alright.

Guess what? Mexico IS really as sketchy as everyone has told us. In California, they even sell Mexico insurance at the convenience store at the border. I'm just going out on a limb here, but usually insurance is for when you put yourself in a dangerous situation. As in "car insurance" for when you drive a vehicle that kills millions upon millions every year. As in "health insurance" for when you do stupid things like actionsports and jump off of cliffs for fun. As in "Mexico insurance", for when you (for some stupid reason) have to go into Mexico. Intense. But let's get to the story, shall we? First off, you can actually walk into the country. There's an undeniable feeling of lawlessness when you can casually stroll across a border with no one saying anything to you at all. Compared to the background check and 20 questions routine coming into the States, it was a little unnerving. We couldn't stop laughing about how easy it was to walk into Mexico. Absolutely ridiculous. Our laughter stopped, however, when a few local flew past us on the street riding fourwheelers. Weird enough on its own (the whole fourwheeler in traffic thing), we were put to even more unrest by the fact that they were wearing Kevlar bulletproof vests. That's the sort of thing that you don't really see that often. After they rode past, the whole situation didn't feel right. It became incredibly apparent that we weren't somewhere that we were supposed to be, and that the "rules" that applied just a few feet north of us had exactly zero bearing where we stood then. We decided as a group that walking the Tecate Brewery (just a few blocks away) was probably not the best idea, and settled on picking up our victory beers at a local corner store. Walking in, we felt a bit better (they had more Tecate than any store I've ever been in in my life - see above), but a general feeling of hostility was pervasive. We took the time to salute our trip with a cold Tecate in Tecate, but that was about it. After nearly catching the attention of local police (who, by all accounts, don't really adhere to much of the law), we decided that a mainline back stateside was in order. We met some fellow Americans who were headed back as well, and we all made our way to the border en masse. Getting back into the States was easy (in comparison to crossing back in from Canada), and we were glad to close the Mexican chapter of our story.

We all loaded up into the truck (yes, all four of us - Eric and I are allowed to ride in a vehicle now!) and headed back north to Encinitas. Our ride back was fairly non-conversant; I was trying my hardest to process what we had accomplished in the last few weeks. If and when I do sort all of that out, I'll let you know. It's pretty weighty stuff.

Our hostesses in Encinitas offered their home to us for the next few days, and we're recharging our batteries. A lot of tea, relaxing, and recovery is in order.

I'm pretty proud to have accomplished what we set out to accomplish, and I can't wait for the next big adventure. Does wintering in Tahoe count? We'll see....

I'm off to the Bay area for a few days to tie up a few things and secure our home for the winter, then it's off to Tahoe City to start work. Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to that. That, and snowboarding. Every day. Fall, snow, fall.