Saturday, October 31, 2009

Colorado Springs - the US Olympic Complex

This update is being written from the US Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs. I just ate the breakfast of champions with America's champions. Wheaties at the Olympic training compound. Epic. If I don't go on the best bike ride of my life today I'm going to be disappointed. It is absolutely perfect outside - about 45 degrees and bluebird. I can see the Rockies from the window here (see photo). My friend Matt Chrabot is hosting me (I'm fairly positive this isn't allowed, so I hope he forgives me for writing about it), and it has been a very pleasant stay. It's invigorating to be surrounded by the amount of focus and dedication that is in the air here. Literally everyone present is completely engrossed in their goals of being an Olympic champion. It's humbling. These are America's finest athletes. They live their respective sports. Matt, for instance, is the reigning US National Triathlon Champion. He's quite inarguably the best triathlete in the country. His dorm is a mini-training compound (within the training compound itself), ripe with equipment, conditioning tools, nutritional necessities - literally every facet of his life can be traced back as relevant to his ultimate goal of being an Olympic champion. This is why he and people like him will succeed. It's inspiring. You need to pare down your life sometimes to realize your potential. Focus. Find your inspiration and throw yourself into it. A lot of people don't even grasp this; even fewer practice it even in part. But I', inspired and encouraged to know that these elite athletes are putting themselves in a position to succeed by virtue of their uncompromising dedication to their craft. I have learned something here today.
Once my breakfast digests, I'm loading up the T-Bird and hopping on the bike for the 8-mile-or-so jaunt to the Garden of the Gods. I'm not going to try and describe this place now; rather, I'll be sure to take some photographs and post them here later tonight or tomorrow. It's a perfect day for a ride and some outdoor photography, so this should be a blast. Before I go I'm throwing a dart at Apollo Ohno's dartboard. I'm at the Olympic Training Complex - these activities are readily available. Thanks, Matt, for the opportunity to spend a day here.

On a serious note, I want to thank Rob in Denver for something. At one of my many moments of bliss yesterday, when he could tell I was just about as happy as I could be, he said "Even though you've never been here, welcome home, Chris". That means a lot to me. And I'm thrilled to be home.

Thank you, Jill, for today's morning coffee. It was fantastic.

Friday, October 30, 2009


First chair of the snow season is TODAY, OCTOBER 30. I feel like I'm cheating at something. I slept remarkably well on Rob's couch, considering I'm usually like a kid in a candy store when it comes to first tracks and can't sleep at all past 6 or 7 AM with hopes of getting up for first chair. Today is different - I don't think my better expects snowboarding on October 30, and is in recovery mode. I needed it, so that's a good thing. Also, I'm trying to settle myself down. For all of you who haven't gone snowboarding with me before - I'm a nut. A lunatic. I can be up and raging at 3 AM, but you can bet your last five bucks that I'll be the first one kicking in the morning and pushing everyone out the door in hopes of beating the lines. Powder days, ice days, bluebird days, overcast days - it doesn't matter. I'm focused on one thing when I'm up riding, and that's riding. This season has to be different. I live here. I have all season to get in everything I want. No impending pressure to stomp tricks before the trip is up. No pushing myself past exhaustion because I'm not sure when the next chance I 'll get will be along. It's different in Colorado - we all get to do it again tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that. Or all 3. I'm spoiled now. But I need to settle down and take my time. Colorado pace.
So we have a nice breakfast (thanks to Rob's kitchen handywork), and get packed up to head up to A-Basin. I can't believe A-Basin is open. And they have a jib park set up. It doesn't make any sense. But there's 2 feet on the ground in Denver, and sensical or not we're in the Jeep and on our way. It's October 30.
We pass Buffalo Bill's grave on the way up, which was a pretty cool roadside attraction. But our goals lie past Loveland Pass, and we press on. It's a pretty hairy drive up, and it's good we have the Jeep. On our way up we pass what is described to me as a common occurrence in the mountains of Colorado. Backcountry snowboarders and skiers. But we're not in the woods off piste of a resort, or past an access gate on snowmobiles. We're on the highway. This is the coolest part of my trip so far. People are parking their cars on the side of the road at the top of the pass, getting out, booting up, and dropping. Just dropping off the road and finding lines back down to the basin. RIDICULOUS. I'm overcome with excitement. And the kicker? Everyone is getting to the bottom, taking off their board and boots, and hitchhiking back up to the summit. To do it again. I love Colorado. Despite my desire to just stop here, we press on. We arrive at the parking lot and it's on. Apparently some other people have the internet or a radio and know that A-Basin is open. We don't care. It's October 30. A lift ticket purchase later I'm in line. To get on the chairlift at Arapahoe Basin, Colorado. It's October 30. We get to the top, butter the bread, and start playing. Snowboard season has started. We play on the runs for a bit, and I get the itch to go check out the jib park. It's a few boxes, a picnic table, and really cool spin/jib barrel combo. I played around for most of the rest of the day here, enjoying the vibe of a Colorado terrain park, and the amount of skill level I'm surround by. It's humbling in the best possible way. I get my freestyle legs back by the end of the day, and am elated.

Conversation from one of the hikes back to the top of the park:
Other guy: "Yeah!"
Me: "Yeah, I'm stoked - that was my first nosepress to 180 out."
Other guy: "Cool."
Me: "That was my first nosepress to 180 out - and I landed it in October."
Other guy and about a half-dozen other riders making the hike: "YEAH!"

Great session. Hiking the park at 10000 feet has exhausted me, and I couldn't be happier. Despite my exhaustion, I debate taking a backcountry drop on the way home, but I think better of it due to my being tired and knowing nothing of the terrain. Again, I've got a long season ahead of me. I can take my time. Finally.
We get back, go to Breck Brewery in full gear to depress everyone who was working, and head back to Rob's. I have to go to Colorado Springs, and he has to go chase some tail. Rob's a great person - thanks man for your hospitality and general awesomeness. I couldn't think of a better way to start my season. Cheers.

More from Colorado Springs soon. Going to visit Matt at the Olympic Training Center. Should be interesting!

Denver (is AWESOME)

So Denver is awesome. What a cool town. I've had nothing but positive experiences since I got here. I'm leaving today, which saddens me a bit because Denver is a great place. I absolutely intend on spending some time here in my lifetime.
Picking up where I left off - I left Barnes and Noble to grab that beer at the Breckenridge Brewery, and really enjoyed the walk/mass transit ride to the brewery. It was snowing outside, and I would've loved to have walked the whole way in the snow, but I wanted to experience the Denver mass transit system. Other than Seattle's, this is the best I have seen. The whole city is an infrastructure of free shuttles, trams, buses, and lightrails. Very cool stuff. I enjoy the community aspect of mass transit, and I am a firm believer that you should never take any mass transit anywhere without striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. It will pay enormous dividends on your life, and you never know who you might meet. I (on this particular occasion) happen to meet a lovely girl named Chassidy (forgive me if I misspelled your name, dear) who happened to work at the very brewery I was headed to. So we walked for the rest of the way, and discussed the awesome coincidence of an October snowstorm and my arrival to Colorado. It's befitting, I think. I wanted snow, and I got it.

When you want something with all of your heart, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it. - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

We arrive at the Brewery and momentarily part ways - she has to go work and I have to get that beer. So I got to the bar, and ask for a recommendation. I got three (see attached photo). I commit to clearly the pick of the litter, the 471 IPA. It's hoppy, delicious libation, and I enjoy it thoroughly. Upon chatting with the bartender about my desire to go riding tomorrow. she points me over to the other side of the bar, where sits her manager and a fellow 471 fanatic and snowboarder, Rob. Those similarities being relevant to the situation, I feel inclined to go over and introduce myself, which I do. He's excited to meet someone with a love of his choice beer and snowboarding (which I still feel should be a more common occurrence, us being in Denver and all), and we celebrate with some Irish whiskey. As with most potent beer/Irish whiskey stories, we ended up hanging out there for a bit and talking very loudly (attributed to our enthusiasm for the subject matter and desire to offend most of his coworkers, not to the alcoholic content of our IPAs) about how we're going snowboarding tomorrow. It's October 29th, mind you. This went on for a while, and Rob agreed that we should go up together tomorrow, and that his couch would serve me better than the front seat of my T-Bird. Although I have to agree with him, after a few 471s I'm pretty sure I can sleep well just about anywhere. But his hospitality is appreciated, and I take him up on the offer. We part ways, and I pay my tab, say goodnight to my new friends at the Breck Brewery, and throw in the headphones. I'm excited to wander Denver for a bit - I choose Nada Surf's "Let Go" for the occasion. It's perfect.

Update: Due to Rob's general benevolence and hospitality, my shopping plans get scratched. I'll look into boots somewhere else along the way... or just drink a few 471s if my toes get cold again this winter. I assure you that it'll take care of the problem.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Denver, CO

Ahh.... I just arrived in Denver, and couldn't be happier about it. The morning's drive from Limon, CO to Denver almost killed me. I am FRIED. But even as I write this I'm getting looser. Some lunch and a beer at Breckenridge Brewery should cure what ails me. That's first on the list for after I write this entry and catch up on all the other little to-do's. So today started as most days have, uncomfortably contorted in the front seat of my Thunderbird. Well rested though - you'd be amazed how well your body recovers despite the existence of what you would perceive to be detriments to that goal. It's 26 degrees and the wind chill is down to 10. I waited a bit before committing to this observation, hopeful that it would drop to single digits and I could really have some bragging rights (Update: I realize that it probably get well into single digits in the dead of night while I slept, and I am going to brag about it.). I got out of the car with my sleeping bag still on to help stave off the elements and stretch out. Aside from some cold feet (PF Flyers, for all of their accomplishments and fanfare, do not provide much insulation), I am 100%. I feel well rested, but hungry. Fortunately the Holiday Inn Express across the street holds my salvation, and I take my time in their heated lobby to enjoy some yogurt and a bagel. After filling up on coffee and gasoline (the T-Bird got the latter - despite the picture I painted of my accommodations last night I am not masochistic), I head toward Denver. I made some great headway last night before I retired, and only have about 80 miles left. I leave just before 9 AM. Once on the highway, I am met immediately with adversity. The storm is in full force, and as thankful as I am for it's blessings at A-Basin I will get to enjoy on Friday, I could do without it while driving. It's a complete white out at times; I have 15 feet of visibility in my best moments. The snowbanks on either side of the road are to be measured in feet. My only refuge is the taillights of the local in front of me. He's a brazen one, and is tackling passes like someone is handing out free yachts just up the street. I commit to staying on his six, despite my low level of comfort with his confidence, out of necessity - if I lost those taillights I would have been a white car in a white world with no road. The thought was enough to provoke some riskier driving. Still - the drive took 3 and half hours. You could identify my car by my fingerprint impressions deep on the steering wheel. For those of you who tried to reach me this morning - I turned off my phone to limit distractions. I cheated death on more than a handful of occasions as it were, and juggling a phone call wasn't in the cards.

My one regret from the drive in is not the harrowing drive itself, but the lack of visibility coming in. I never got to see the Rockies come into view from the plains of eastern Colorado. I have been looking forward to that image for a long, long time. That being said, I am in the mountains now and will be sure to be positive about that and enjoy them from the inside out for the next 6 months or so. I'll make do, I'm sure.

I'm elated to be in Denver, a new city for me, and excited to get out into town and walk around a bit. I have some shopping to do - my PF Flyers have failed me for the last time and I am buying some Colorado-proof boots. Preferably with dead animal on the inside. I also want to buy a copper slide for my guitar - the Bobby Bare record I was listening to last night inspired me. And I need to get that beer at the Breckenridge Brewery.

Currently listening to: Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" courtesy of the Barnes and Noble radio station

Currently reading: an article about Crested Butte in Ski Magazine as recommended by Hunter - thanks buddy.


Note: This entry is being written in Denver, due to the fact that a time-relevant update was impossible last night. No wifi and had to stop in the middle of nowhere to rest for the night due to exhaustion and weather. It will be narrated as I would have had I been able to update late last night.

SUCCESS! I am in colorful Colorado, and there is SNOW ON THE GROUND!!! I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw it. It is October 28th, and there is snow on the ground. I fire off a bottle rocket to celebrate the snow, since I've already used the good stuff at the welcome center (see photo). I'm sure that was quite a sight - me, completely underdressed for the sub-freezing temperatures, arms raised in "V-for-victory" style, just before midnight lighting off fireworks at the Colorado welcome center. In a hilarious example of resourcefulness, I ran out of matches that I got with the fireworks due to prevailing winds rendering them useless, but was unwavering. I ran to my car, light the cigarette lighter (glad I drive a '96 Ford - made when it was still PC to put a cigarette lighter in a car) and ran back to the firework site I choose in time to light it before the wind and cold knocked out the heat. What a feeling. Fireworks were really the only option for this kind of celebration. It's worth noting here that getting to Colorado wasn't the only cause for celebration, but leaving Kansas as well. It's the last 300 miles of solitude that get you. It was pleasant at first - if you can't find peace within yourself on the American highway at night in Kansas, you are truly troubled. But as the night wore on, the mundane repetition and total lack of human element took its toll on me. I started stopping for gas, water, coffee, etc. all separately as an excuse to break things up and hopefully talk with someone for a moment. I'm by no means lonely out here - I am relishing every second of the freedom that comes with it, but the plains of Kansas are character-testing. I encountered about a 30 mile stretch where it was raining - again - and the most intense of phenomena occurred. Apparently in Kansas they are biased against marked roadways, and the highway had no lines. Just black tar pavement and what looked to be Post-It notes marking the center line. In the downpour, I could've sworn to you I was driving across a lake. A Kansas lake road. I would have photographic evidence of this, but I feared that if I took my focus off of the Pac-manesque center line for one second my car would sink. Thank you for understanding.

With optimism in tow, I'm off to Denver.

Currently listening: Bobby Bare Jr. - Young Criminal Starvation League

Kansas City Part two

I wanted to make sure that I touched on Kansas City, which was a very cool town. I met nothing but nice people, and was very impressed with the artistic qualities present all over town. I enjoyed a very nice bike ride through the windy (and hilly) downtown and riverfront areas, and got in a workout and a shower at a downtown gym. Overall a very pleasant place to be. I would recommend it withstanding the unfortunate truism that it is in Kansas (and Missouri).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kansas City!

Greetings from Kansas City! Not sure if I'm in Missouri or Kansas, but my gut says Missouri. The rain has finally stopped. It's nice outside. I hesitate to say it even feels warm. Nice weather for a bike ride, so I'm going to go out for a bit when I leave this coffeehouse. Found a gym to work out in and clean up at in downtown Kansas City, so I'm going to go do that. Then it's off to Denver! It's DUMPING snow right now, so maybe instead of a bike ride I'll get some street snowboarding in in October. This is ridiculous. It's ridiculous that I even got away with typing that right now, not even getting into the fact that that option is a reality for tomorrow. I can't believe how much snow is coming down in the Denver/A-Basin/Loveland area. Moreover, I can't believe that I get to play in it on Friday!
I'm off to pal around in Kansas City for a bit and get athletic. On two wheels is the only way to tour a new city.
I ALMOST FORGOT! I bought some fireworks today in Missouri! Part homage to Wes Anderson, part my own enthusiasm for bright lights and loud noises, part my desire to celebrate this journey's arrival in Colorado (I've already decided that these babies are going off at the Colorado welcome center tonight) - I couldn't hold back. Twenty dollars later I've got enough ammo to get expelled from a grade school. Check out my score in the photos at left.

UPDATE: I just found out that I am indeed in Kansas and will more than likely be at A-Basin on Friday due to recommendations from friends and their terrain park team getting on it quicker than the guys at Loveland.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Louisville/Indiana/Illinois/St. Louis!

What a day. I'm going to start from now and go backwards. I'm in a Hampton Inn in downtown St. Louis, with a cold Budweiser recently having graced my lips. It's cool outside - not cold, but you can tell it's cold where it should be cold. I'm looking over some maps and driving options - there's been a change of plans in my change of plans. It's going off in A-Basin and in Loveland, and I'm going to keep driving through Kansas City in order to get some fresh powder in October come Friday. That was fun to type, so I'm going to do it again. I'm going to get some fresh powder on Friday. Friday, October 30. I'm a good 12 to 13 hours from Denver, where I'll be staying on Thursday night, and have tonight and tomorrow to make that happen. I'd like to get there early enough on Thursday - like 9 AM early - to tour the city and do some cycling before I meet my new Couchsurfing buddies. If you haven't checked out that great project, please do - Brilliant. So I'll be driving tomorrow (and maybe stopping in Kansas City to check that box) and hanging out in Denver on Thursday. Then it's up at dawn to go catch first tracks on Friday. I have to decide which resort to go to. Decisions, decisions. As long as the choice is "which powder should I go play in on October 30?", I'll deal with it.
St. Louis is pretty cool. The Gateway Arch is INCREDIBLE (and yes, I walked through it going west). I wandered the city for a bit, and got the downtown vibe. It's like a quieter, cleaner, less angry Philadelphia - minus the Rocky statue. I enjoyed getting a Budweiser here. I felt authentic, even though a Belgian company is now responsible for that beer finding my palette. Before arriving in St. Louis, I drove through Illinois (shame on you Illinois and Missouri, for not having well placed welcome centers with big "Welcome to:" signs for me to take gratuitous photos with). Not a whole lot going on in Illinois on I-64; it's not Kentucky-at-night quiet, but it's pretty cool and still. I stopped at the inappropriately unadvertised Illinois welcome center and recorded some demo tracks inside while the rain kept coming down. It's pretty humbling to be putting some soul down on the metaphorical tape while someone 3 feet away is buying a Twinkie from a vending machine. But thus is life - make of it what you will. That room was as good of a place as any to sit down and do some recording. The world is my studio.
The song I wrote today was written with a great amount of inspiration from my grandmother, who passed away today. The song isn't for her, or really even about her, but she contributed greatly to it. You could argue that she contributed greatly to everything I've ever written (and for that matter most of the actions and words that shape my life), and you'd be right. But this one is special. I think she'd like it. Not in the "my-grandson-wrote-it-so-it's-infallible" way, but genuinely. I'm celebrating her life. She was the greatest person I've ever known. She has no idea how much she meant to me, and how much of the good in my person she helped shape. I reiterate: live your life the way your grandmother would want you to - you'll never go wrong.
Before Illinois, there was Indiana. Not a whole lot going on in Indiana, but at least their welcome centers bring the goods.
I woke up outside Louisville, KY (4 states today!) which was a cool town. I had a nice breakfast, then ambled into town to grab coffee (in addition to breakfast coffee, which is an entirely different entity) and update the blog this morning and catch up on work. I then took a bike ride around town (despite the rain), which is cool. Louisville is old and trendy at the same time. It's like the whole downtown area is going through gentrification at the same time. Nice people though. And I saw the biggest baseball bat in the world. Prove me wrong.
I'm off to go make moves toward Kansas. Excited to listed to the Chris Bell record Adam Froehlich just recommended to me. I think I'll stop for a bike ride in Kansas City tomorrow morning if this rain ever stops.

Currently listening to: Chris Bell - I Am the Cosmos

In loving memory of Paula Cloyd, my grandmother. This blog is dedicated to her.


So I get to the Kentucky welcome center and am elated to find a "WiFi Hotspot" sign. Glory! Alas, it was not to be had... Kentucky wants a Paypal deposit of $1.95 for fifteen minutes. Thus, this update comes from a nice little coffeehouse called Java Brewing Company in Louisville. Slept at a nice little spot outside of town - my bedding arrangements are depicted in the photographs at left. Waking up with an americano here, and plotting the day's bike ride. Going to check out a place called "On Your Left! Cycles". Awesome name. Then going to bike the riverfront. After a day's worth of riding and touring, I'll stop in somewhere and update with the day's events. Kentucky!

Currently listening to: The Kentucky Colonels - The Kentucky Colonels

Monday, October 26, 2009

Charleston, WV

I'm writing this entry from a lovely hotel in downtown Charleston, WV. No, I'm not staying here - I just needed to rape their Wifi and charge a cell phone and camera battery. And get some coffee. God bless America - so much is accessible. I just left a great gym downtown - Capitol Fitness (which I recommend if you live in Charleston) - where I checked in with a free trial membership to utilize their facilities to get a good sweat in and then take a shower and clean up. I didn't get a chance to shower my last day in my old house in Norfolk - too many wonderful friends, too little time. So it was great to catch a shower today. I used the name Chris McCandless to sign up for the free trial, in homage to the lategreat Alexander Supertramp. I feel great now. Clean, exercised, and with coffee. What a great situation. As if the rest of the day wasn't unbelievable in its own right. I slept in my front seat at a rest area near Charlottesville, VA - comfortably enough. I brushed my teeth and cleaned up, and had a pleasant conversation with the attendant there at the rest area. She had a huge amount of pride in her job - something not to be undervalued. I then stopped at a different hotel - God bless America - and had a lovely breakfast. Chastise me if you like, but my stopping for a free breakfast on the Holiday Inn Express tab is a good thing. Not just for me, but for the guests of the hotel. You're lying to yourself if you think they don't recycle food from one day to the next. That being noted, my pillaging of their yogurt, bagel, and muffin reserves forces them to put out fresh goods for the paying customers of their business. Who deserve it, since their not just dirtbags stealing breakfast. Everybody wins. God bless America. I then somewhere along the way lost a Conte's water bottle that I was using to carry fresh water with me on my journey, which is a bit disappointing. I loved that bottle, and looked forward to telling every cyclist in Colorado about how Conte's owns their local bike shop. But alas, it was not meant to be. I am now enjoying water from a recycled Vitamin Water Bottle. It works just fine. A great moment of clarity for me today - I came to the turn onto Route 219 to Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. I have worked there the last 2 winters, and loved every minute of it. Too many epic trips to recount here. But today I laughed at the thought of taking the same exit I looked forward to taking so many times before. Perspective. That which brought me so much joy as recently as March, is no longer of value. Not to discount or devalue any of the experiences tied to that exit, but you can't get sentimental. I'm onto bigger and better things. Progress. You can't get complacent. The world is too big. It's egotistical to assume you've found your utopia already. Go find it. I can assure you that you'll be surprised what motivates you. I loved taking that exit for YEARS, but today I drove right past. Onward and upward.

Currently listening to: The Honorary Title - Scream and Light Up the Sky

Currently reading: Paulo Coelho's The Winner Stands Alone


So here we are. Leaving Virginia. My entire life is packed into a 2 door Ford Thunderbird. LIterally everything I own (see photos). Going to play the last rock show of my Hooligan Era - those guys will be dearly missed. They have a great thing going, and I love them to death, but despite my love for them and for rock and roll and the music business in general, I'm glad to be leaving. One month was enough. The late nights, the missed mornings, the physical strain of less-than-stellar sleep and smoky bars - it's all too much. And the dynamic of complacency is enough to drive you crazy. But it was a great experience, and one that I am eternally thankful for. Hell, I got the seal on my arm for life. Hooligan brotherhood. They will be missed. But today I'm leaving that show and not going home. Or at least not the home I've been used to. I gave that key back this afternoon. I'm leaving the club and going left. WEST. To my new home. Probably a bit more dramatic than is necessary, but I feel like I have a penchant for oversizing significance sometimes. But I also don't think I can put enough emphasis on this - I'm leaving the show and going WEST. I'm moving to Colorado. Tonight. And if that wasn't enough, I get to tramp across the country for the next week. This is incredible.

Before I check out of the Virginia mindset entirely, it's worth noting that I have an incredible group of friends here. The last weekend has been very, very pleasant, and between the last bonfire of the season at 8047 Galveston and the brunch the Jesse threw this morning (he's the man, for those of you who don't know), I am just overjoyed. I have some great, great friends. They will all be missed, and I look forward to the next time I cross their paths.

Currently listening to: Nada Surf - Let Go

Currently reading: a map of the United States