I love people; I love places; I love activities, memories, and journeys. But things? Things are good only for the utility to foster euphoric externalities. I would rather make do with less than do less with more stuff. Things like multiple pairs of shoes, pants, devices just never get me jazzed.
Music and bikes are life savers. Pair them together and even the worst of times can be the time of your life. Nothing has made this clearer for me than the last twelve months. Through it all, the pairing of riding and music has truly transformed my year into unquestionably the best year of my life. Without these rides, and the soundtracks that accompanied them, I would have a diametrically different assessment of what this year has done for me.
If life is, as Forrest Gump claims, like a box of chocolate, then 2020 is home to only the chocolate that nobody thinks they want. Yet, despite the funky, rancid, and downright rotten aspects of this year, this particular box of chocolates has some hidden gems. It may not have been the chocolate we had hoped for, but in some cases it has been chocolate I have truly cherished. Here are just a few of those chocolates:
Cover Photo Taken By Mark Yanagisawa
Bike racing? Never heard of her.
Cyclist far and wide have spent 2020 siting, wishing, watching, and waiting for racing. This new new landscape of cycling, one where intentions are crafted anew and every rider’s motivation have been tossed, churned and been spat out, has been a reckoning for many with competitive ambition. Some, who rode because of racing, found the year insufferable. Others, who in the past have raced to authorize the time to ride, have relished in the flexibility and creativity necessitated by the pandemic.
Our craft is about projections, blueprints, and framework. While our products seem final in their own context, it is up to us to first enact the scene before scrupulously building and maintain our creations. No matter what we say to explain away our decisive power to dictate our own perspective, that poetic justice is ultimately undeniable. If taught to work around our bias and prejudice, the power to scrutinize, probe and vet is the only path to free and fair constructions of our products. Products which are one of the few things that allow people to connect with thoughts, emotions and revelations that may yet escape their personal perspectives.
There are some places which defy even the best of cameras.
These are places where the sheer veracity of color can’t be quantified by a manufactured pallet. Where the scale and magnitude of the landscape is too significant to be downsized. Places so unique that any fleeting snapshot of moments in time neglects the peripheral context to illustrate the divine profundity of its individuality. These are the places of poems, of songs, and of myths that transcend the visual and can only be truly expressed through the emotions of the most exquisite lyrics.
I didn’t have a lot of food, but it was enough. I didn’t have a lot of comfort, but it was enough. I didn’t have a lot of money, but it was enough. I didn’t have a lot of gear, but it was enough. Last of all, I didn’t have a lot of time. But it was enough.
A simple proposition, but one that can entail so many different things. Some mountains are best tackled by a lightweight road-bike, others call for a machine that is a bit burlier, and some can only be conquered by one’s own hands and feet. However, every once and a while there comes a certain summit that calls for blurring the lines between those spheres of separation.
For what seems like an overwhelming majority of our population, loneliness is a wasteful feeling. Loneliness is mental destitution; a dead-end street on the front stoop of depression, anxiety, and even death. All around the world, millions face these dead-end streets, and all too many never escape. Over the last year I have had my fair share of trips down that path. There have been the soggy winter rides, the classic case of college isolation, the solo Valentine’s Day dinner, and, of course, the never-ending quarantine in a no-stoplight town.
Written June 1st, 2020, edited and published June 6th.
The following piece is a written reflection of the Rodeo Adventure Labs sponsored athlete and contributor Logan Jones-Wilkins. These sentiments and perspectives are that of the author and should not be viewed as the opinion of Rodeo Adventure Labs, although we support our athlete’s choice to use his position to voice his opinions.
Tonight, I am full.
Full of life from the purity of nature; full of friendship from time spent with an old friend; and full of fitness from the miles spent careening around the mountains of Arkansas. Yet, now as I sit in my living room at 1 AM Monday, June 1st struggling to find an elusive sleep, I am also filled with sadness. Sadness for my black and brown compatriots who still live in fear of those who are charged with protecting them; sadness for the men and women who have lost their lives too soon and their families who have not been given the justice they deserve; and sadness for all the loss racism has caused in this country that I have always called home.
It is storm season in the Delta.
Every spring here in the fertile flatlands of northeast Arkansas, with the planting of the cotton comes the yearly dance with satellite storms. For any cycling enthusiast, these storms provide a dynamic setting for any adventure. One minute, blue skies line the horizon and the wind is at your back. The next moment, you make a right-hand turn and get slammed by a 20 mile per hour cross wind with a blueish grey shelf of clouds barring down on you like an airborne grim reaper.
Last Monday, I experienced this challenge myself out on a recovery ride with my little brother. As we wheeled out of the driveway in our 900-person town of Wilson, Arkansas, blue skies were overhead and the omnipresent wind which has ruined many days was nowhere to be found. Only after we left the town of Wilson and entered the endless expanse of pan flat cotton fields of the Delta, could we see the dark clouds on the horizon. Tully – my little brother who tends to actually think through things – questioned our choice to head towards the storm, but I refused; I wouldn’t be scared away by some angry clouds. The skies above us were bright and my good energy would not be stopped.
Tully and I bumbled along the rutted county road that lead north of Wilson to the town of Marie, cracking jokes and enjoying the fresh air. Yet, up ahead what had been a distant dark cloud had slowly morphed into a panoramic display of stormy fury. Lightning cut through the blackening background as thunder rolled off of the clouds that were beginning to bare down on us. As we turned away from the storm, a little trickle of fear started to wiggle its way up my spine. Over my left shoulder sat our house under the distant cluster of trees and water towers while over my right shoulder sat a cloud that only seemed to grow. As the sky began to turn green and our impending doom became clear, we made a quick left onto a rutted gravel road and pointed our wheels home. We were off to the races.
Whether it is the lack of competition in my life lately, or the lack of anything at all, the impetus of the fear of the storm was the only spark I needed to get the proverbial competitive juices flowing. For the last two-ish months I had been without competition for the first time I can remember. From rec soccer, to cross country skiing, to the last half decade on the bike, my life has been dictated by how far I was from my next start line. At first the void of races was a relief, a change of pace I wasn’t familiar with. Then, as the days became weeks and the weeks months, I began to feel stuck..Stuck in a house I have never lived in, stuck a thousand miles away from where I want to be, stuck with more schoolwork than I knew what to do with, and stuck without the tether that had anchored me for years. I even tried to write a post for this journal multiple times only to be foiled explaining the very “sticky” situation I just described.
Everything was just…off.
Yet, as I took off down that gravel road with my brother in tow, that stuck feeling evaporated into a euphoric smile on my face as forgotten adrenaline pumped through my legs. In the face of the roaring wind that gathered behind us and spits of water that hit my arms, I was giddy with excitement and joy, bouncing wildly down a dirt road covered with baseball sized stones. In the distance was a lonely tractor shed which served as the only possible shelter for miles. With the house still four miles away in an ever-darkening distance, the metal roof and its many ton John Deere cotton farming machinery would have to do as our race with the storm moved to its critical phase.
As I was sitting under that tin roof huddled behind a ten-foot-tall tire, I could help but thinking how fun that little race had been. I had to be present, focused, and powerful instead of living a life where time was at a standstill, yet also seemed to be slipping away constantly. In the week since that ride, I have felt much better on and off the bike. Although races still may be many months away, my little race with the storm gave me that feeling of carnal exhilaration that I’ve been missing. Going forward, I am going to be chasing that feeling. Maybe not the same fear of a possibly life-threatening storm barring down on me, but feelings, nonetheless.
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