Riding East With Tom

Tom and I are not alike.

He’s into obscure Welsh rock. I’m into hip hop, I think. He went to law school. I was done after high school. He leans to the left, I lean to the right of whatever left means. I don’t think he’s religious at all. If I didn’t have faith I think I’d be dead. Tom likes a very tall riding position with an absurd stem because ergonomics. I like a low, sleek position, because vanity. Tom was a pipe smoker once upon a time. I’ve literally never smoked anything, ever, not even the tires on my car. 

The roads out east go on all day long, and would continue into the next day were you were curious, and fit enough. Over each roller is another. Once at the top of any given roller you are denied parole and sentenced to ten more, your good behavior ignored by the cows, horses, and deer that decide such things out here.People used to try to live out east when living meant a lot more than it does now. Nature dehydrated their houses, money, and spirit and left only dust. People still live out east, but in an F350 / Dodge Ram sort of way. Still living, but probably a little less so than their predecessors. As a city dweller I’m in a unique position to judge hearty country folk because I know how to blow out my lawn sprinklers on my own. No sprinkler companies service my lawn thank you very much. I’m a survivor.

Tom and I rode all day long, into exactly the last light of the day. This was an important ride for me and Tom, on a friendship level. I’m quite burnt out on work, life, and everything in it. I wanted to cut our loop short because of fatigue. Tom wanted, needed to do the whole loop. Soon he will take a stint off the bike to battle cancer. Him needing to do the whole loop was enough reason for me to need it too.

We talked and rode bikes all day. Tom cares about people. I care about people. Tom loves his kids. I love my kids. Tom is a giver, and that’s a goal for me. Tom wants the world to be better. I want the world to be better. Tom loves, loves, loves crazy rides. Ditto. The crazier the better. I want people in my life that I can just talk to, all day long. Tom does too. Guards come down.

Tom and I are very similar. We figured that out a little bit more while riding together, out east.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the Spaces Between Them

By Logan Jones-Wilkins 

I try to avoid cliches. 

After copy editing last year with a classically gnarled old-school journalist, I have been on the prowl to slash and burn the cliches I have in my writing. I think I am improving. Nevertheless, sometimes those cliches are cliches for a reason and I’d be a fool to let a good trope pass me by. So, as I have emerged from my forced concussion sponsored reset, I am going to have a little fun with some lazy formatting because it’s what I want to do. Sue me. 

In my ruminating on my summer in Ecuador, the old Clint Eastwood cliche keeps seeping in. It was good. It was bad. It was ugly. And I just couldn’t help but share this worn triumvirate in the third installment of Ecuador shorts. 

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Armenia Dispatch: Chapter 2 – The blitz

Armenia Bikepacking

Words and images by Evan Christensen with supplemental images by Stephen Fitzgerald

When I walked through Tom’s door and saw a flood of bikes and bags and cameras sprawling over the floor on the other side, I knew I was walking into another adventure entirely. Bo and I had been alone, just the two of us, for months up to the point. We’d ridden with other people for two days at the most, and in the three months riding to Armenia together we had developed a harmonious rhythm. It had been dug deep and as we fell deeper into that entrancing rut we rode through splendor and excitement and pangs and a new world at our own pace. We were happy with it. I felt like it could have gone on forever. 

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Ecuador: “A Landscape Without a Country”

The following is an except from my upcoming article on the larger political and economic story from Ecuador. Although it may not be a cycling specific piece, it is the perspective of the region and the context of the cycling. Enjoy and look out for the full story soon.

Situated one ridge over from the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador, deep in the towering shadow of the mountainside staircase of an unnamed mine, sits San Antonio de Pichincha. In an arid landscape, defined by human domination of the landscape, the town is hardly reminiscent of the bustling metropolis to the south. 

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A Bus through Guayas

Over the month of August, I spent my time backpacking through the country of Ecuador on a research grant from the University of Richmond. While the subject of the research was not a cycling story, the scenes from the road were on their own, little nuggets of intrigue. Here is the first!

The absurdity of Guayaquil, Ecuador is hard to understate. In the dense neighborhood and enclaves, the worlds of many fuse into a convoluted web of urbanization. As I wheeled to a halt at the sudden terminus of a bike path on the outskirts of the city, that chaos was inescapably and suddenly present. 

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Finally there: Armenia Dispatch 1

The big mountain, the big city. 

I’ve never done research on a place I’m traveling to. I’ve never read the top 10 lists and taken notes or looked into the history or geography or culture. I’ve always followed my gut and shown up jet-lagged and blind and let the bike and whoever I meet along the way lead me through discovering a place. I don’t often regret not making it to the most known places. I’ve found stumbling through a place is how to really get to know it’s charm. 

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On Assignment Dispatch 3: Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey

I wrote recently how I feel like I’m using this bike ride from Milan to Armenia as a dress rehearsal for the ride around Armenia. I’m excited and nervous and desperate for everything to go right for us when we’re there. I want to fall in love with Armenia more than any other place I’ve ever been. The history of the land there makes me want to go and just give it a long, aching embrace. I’ve done research and thought about it and now that we’re here, in the final stages of transit, riding a train across Turkey and only a couple days of pedaling from the border, that excitement is ready to burst. But this dress rehearsal is not yet over, and unlike an actual dress rehearsal this ride has been very much real and unscripted. The last 3,500 kilometers have been an adventure indeed. 

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On Assignment Dispatch 2: The Balkans

This is the second dispatch sent in by Evan and Bo from their ride across Europe to Armenia, on assignment for Rodeo Labs.

The Balkans. Have you heard of them? Can you point them out on a map? The Yugo and Burek and Rakija. Do you know how important these things are to modern day Europe? Have you heard of Tito? A leader, peacekeeper, hard nose, and uniter of nations that stood up to the US and the USSR during the ColdWar. Six weeks ago I knew none of it. In my advanced placement world history classes I never heard the slightest whisper of it. But these mountains and nations stood in our way between Italy and Armenia, so through the Balkans we went. 

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On Assignment: Venice > Armenia. Dispatch 1

Note from Stephen: In late May may dad, who lives with my mom in Armenia told me that the country was overly ripe for exploration by bike, and that Rodeo should put on a bikepacking race there. I was at first skeptical. If the riding there is so good why haven’t I heard more about it? But after I flew over the country in 3d on Google Earth and looked at some of my dad’s photos I was convinced that further exploration was at least necessary. The only problem was that it is quite difficult, nay close to impossible for me to get there any time soon. As life would have it Evan Christenson had just finished a bikepacking tour of the the Baja Divide with his girlfriend Bo Shan. Evan was looking for what was next in life and was in no mood to settle down for anything mundane. In nearly no time at all the idea hit me: Perhaps Evan and Bo could be sent ahead to scout the country and report back? I pitched the idea to Evan, and then Evan pitched me back a more rounded out concept. It was decided that Rodeo would create its first ever On Assignment For Rodeo Labs project, and Bo and Evan would be the first to undertake an expedition such as this under such a title.

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Georgia Rodeo Rally – Del Rio Road trip

The summer heat is upon us at Georgia Rodeo Rally and we know to beat the heat one must take your gravel rig to the mountains and gain some elevation. Fortunately for us an oasis appeared – our Rodeo family up in east Tennessee, George and Clint have invited us to come to their neck of the woods near Hot Springs, NC to wrassle some gravel and climb some mountains – Snowbird & Max Patch. Of course, we could not refuse. We accepted their invitation and give you the Georgia Rodeo Rally – Del Rio Summer Field Trip.

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