the bad place

the bad place

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Nutmeg Country: The first part.

The woman across the room flashed me. 
Not a top flash, mind you. A bottom flash. A front bottom flash. Full and pronounced. With no provocation or introduction. I considered flashing her back, as that seemed to be the vernacular, and it seemed rude not to, but instead just walked up and pointed to the worn paperback of Gogol's Dead Souls in her hand, telling her I'd always wanted to read it. "It's okay," she said dismissively through a row of lip piercings. She was seated on the floor with her back against the wall. Her head was shaved and beneath her grey sweats and hoodie, I could see heavy tattoo work on her hands, throat, and scalp. Her face was angles. Sharp and long. She pointed at my stomach and asked, "How did you get those?" Those what? "Abs." I looked down, realizing I was still clutching my t-shirt in a hand and walking around in a state of post-ride undress. I laughed and leaned in against the noise of the room to tell her. She cocked her head to the side and cupped a thoroughly pierced ear. I tried again, but she shook her head. "Write it down. It's way too loud in here," handing me her beaten paperback and a pen. But I was having problems. Numbers and letters looked the same, and I kept mixing them up. I felt drunk. And had vague memories of an edible. What was it? How strong? Too strong? I crossed out the gibberish I'd scrawled on the inside of the back cover and tried again. A nonsense equation when all I needed was a word. "Hey... it's okay," she said, tilting her head to one side and looking at me with jet black eyes. "No, I've got this," crossing through another botched attempt. I heard her sigh loudly as I tried again. 
"Hey... nevermind," she said suddenly, brusquely taking her book back and getting to her feet. She towered over me, fantastically tall. "I'm out."
And then she glided away and I tried one more time to tell her where I got my abs, yelling into the suddenly empty room...


A truck horn blared nearby.
I opened my eyes slowly and pulled my head out from beneath the blankets, rolling onto my back and looking up at the roof of the van. Stretched my feet to each corner of the mattress and watched the already dwindling threads of story fade away. 

What the fuck... was that dream?

Though to be fair, I legitimately do have great abs. They're just currently hiding under too much skin. 
I pulled a tattered curtain aside and peered into the relative quiet of the Walmart parking lot. Beneath a turning maple that had done very little last night to hide me from the glare of streetlights. I was substantially less into my jaunt than I'd intended, but as I get older, I like driving at night less and less. Add to that the anxiety that the van's headlights might just (and certainly have) decide to just... stop working...  
When it gets dark, it's best to just find somewhere to hunker down.
The intent was to be somewhere north of Hershey, PA, but instead I'd wound up in Winchester, VA. It meant my drive would be longer today, but I was ok with that. Because it also meant I could get my morning coffee at Hopscotch. Years ago, I discovered this strange and startling punk rock oasis of a record store/coffee shop, and it's become a ritual ever since. A fresh red-eye, a sticky bun, a bag of good dark roast, and a moment of cultural and musical reverie, and I was off... alternating bouts of Baxter Dury, 108, and Lightning Bolt with podcasts about NOMEANSNO, Kid Congo Powers, and Penelope Spheeris. 
Eight hours later, I pulled into Cold Spring Farm, in Colchester, Connecticut. Site of the Nutmeg Nor'easter version 5.0. 
I parked my van in the field and went to find my friends. Whoever they might be. 

Well shit... look who I found.

I first officially met Benedict back in 2016 when I was asked by Bikerumor to cover Specialized's relaunch of the Sequoia: their a-bit-late-to-the-party entry into the already shark-jumped category of "gravel." The resulting article (if one could deign to call it that) is the kind of hot mess that chagrins me on a literary and journalistic level, but that I still stand fully behind if only because it pissed off so many fucking people. 
We stayed friendos, and would occasionally see, sup,  and stay together at various events through the years.

I later met Arya (then Namz) at the Philly Bike Expo during a particularly messy time, and we subsequently bonded at NAHBS in Hartford, swapping t-shirts and doing a deep dive on the pitfalls of polyam, silly hardcore kids, and who even knows what else.  I am, (and I quote)... her "favorite emo boi." I accept. Honestly, I'm just glad to be a "boy" and not a "man"...  because I feel so very old these days. 

I consider myself ridiculously fortunate to know them both, and to have watched what they have done individually and together grow, evolve, and flourish. Substantially. From reluctant poster children for brands that wanted a piece of their burgeoning charisma, to the fiercely independent (and always extremely kind) bastions of... whatever it is that they are. Because tropes aside, they are both wholly unique. And are heavy forces of inspiration to multitudes of new and seasoned riders. Myself included. 

This would be the fifth installment of the Nor'Easter, but the first that I'd made it to, despite years of trying. And because I like to ignore emails and fly blind, I wasn't even sure what to expect, save that I was ready to roll with any of it. Even front bottom flashes. 

One thing I did expect: a certain dress code. Oh, to be sure, we are all sui generis, with our own myriad and complex lives and tastes. But we are also all stomping up to the barn in our Blundstones and highwater Carharts to fill dangle-mugs with coffee. And while some of that is a bromidic paint by numbers costume... some of it is honestly just finding your crowd. Which was kind of the point. Because while a love of bikes is a common thread for most of us in "the industry" that doesn't mean you feel at home there. As in... while a Tool t-shirt and a soul-patch can at times be more palatable than a wicking Under Armour button-up and a goatee... both are still a far cry from a crooked Los Crudos patch randomly spotted on the street. (In Wilkes-Barre, PA of all places.) 
You know?

Another thing I expected: lots of Crust. And I was right.  

I'm told that attendance was nearish to 400 people. Out of that, I would wager that at least 200 of those were on Crust bikes. And out of that number, I would guess a nearly fifty/fifty split between Evasions and Bomboras. With a healthy smattering of Lightning Bolts and Romanceurs in the mix. Toss in some Rivendells, Panasonics... Surlys, All Citys... a few Fireflys...  and a notable and singular Fast Boy that made my chest hurt. 
But you know... I actually really like Crust. I do. I've liked them since they were just a patch on a hat and an oddball fork. An occasional stem. Maybe a handlebar. Rumors of a frame. I like their branding. Their ethos. Their colors. Their videos. Their Onlyfans. Shit, I even like their bikes, despite sometimes struggling to tell them apart. Are they great? I mean... they're fine? My Bombora is literally everything I need it to be. I've ridden it a lot of miles in a lot of different places and you know what?... it's totally fine. 
Like all the bikes I own.
Totally fine.

One thing I didn't expect at the Nor'Easter... The level of organization. Things were dialed. Parking made sense. Camping made sense. Food made sense. There were ample porta-potties and wash stations. Talks. Presentations. Rides. Coffee. It's not that I didn't think Ronnie and Arya capable of this level of coordination and structure. It's just that I sometimes forget that just because I struggle wildly to effect any kind of order and peace in my own life, some of my friends are actual adults with their shit together. 

That first night, I wandered from fire to fire, introducing myself to strangers in a forced attempt to crack the shell I've been building over the past few years. And perhaps that meant I was messier than I've been in a while. Nothing untoward, mind you. Just butting up against the decorum of suggested quiet hours. Because while some of you perhaps needed sleep... I needed this. Needed to get away. Needed to be anonymously social. Needed to be outside. Needed to ride my bike all day. Needed to stay up late by a fire talking to people I didn't know about cacti and the lime-cycle and about what inspires us to keep moving.

Every so often someone tells me that I'm living their dream: Chasing my passion. Owning my own business. Doing what I love. I literally do not know what they are talking about. Because regardless of what I occasionally broadcast to the world, what I really do, with very few (though occasionally dramatic*) exceptions, is work all day, a minimum of six days a week. And the nature of that work, however romantic it may seem, can be extremely frustrating, thankless, and monetarily fruitless. 
And maybe once upon a time, that toil was "rewarded" with trips to races or events that I could never afford myself; energizing respites from the often depressing vacuum of my own market... These days? Like so many of us....
Je suis mort. 

Enough so that even driving five hours just to wake up in a Walmart parking lot in Virginia felt like a coup. 


*Ummm... I maybe went to Portugal.

Friday, October 15, 2021

PMBAR: Back to Playing the Crying Game

My butthole was destroyed.

Nearing a paltry seven hours of constant riding, hiking, pushing, fording, falling, and carrying, with too many more to come, I was already raw. And outside of the rivers and creeks and wet trails, the uncommon fall humidity was ensuring that my kit, particularly my bibs, never dry. So that all of the spandex-filtered trail detritus, grit, and salt I'd been slowly accruing in there was now colluding with that moisture to sand down all my sensitive bits. And I was becoming hyper aware of all the places I'd missed during my application of chamois creme. Places outside the normal purview. Enough so that by the time we finished however many hours from now, some blood stains in my post-race boxer briefs were a given.

So you can imagine my mood. 

Versigtig, ek's nog steeds fokken giftig.

Yes. I realize that it's been almost two years since I've written a thing here. Or anywhere, really. What can I say? My spark went out. Or rather... I let it. For the past few years, like all too many of us, I've just been sleep walking through the days, and through increasingly destructive patterns of intentional isolation, too much work, not enough travel, an excess of empty bottles, and very sporadic pockets of any real quality time on the bike. All of which leads to a decided lack of spirit, much less any feelings of creativity. And the process of crawling back has been a bit like trying to start a fire with so much wet wood. Doable, but difficult. And yet, well... here I am... watching the exhausted Moleskine notepad I just lit with a match burn in a pile of relatively dry kindling. Who knows? Maybe something will catch.

For the first time in too many weeks, things were actually falling into place. The Van of Constant Sorrow was not only drivable, but capably so. Oil leaks were fixed, wiring issues were solved, wheel noise was gone. (I even had fancy new bumpers and a legitimate hitch rack. Like a big boy.) I had full coverage at the shop for the weekend. Childcare was handled. My bike was ready. And I was getting out of town at a reasonable time. What? The? Shit?

Arriving just prior to dusk, I met up with my other life-partner Rich and we secured our usual primo camping spots at the start/finish. Then we rode to the HUB to pick up our numbers, and missing the beer cut-off, headed on over to Oscar Blues Brewing in the pleasant chill of a mountain evening. Even the shit show of a college homecoming and multitude of drunk white yuppies (yuppies are still a thing, right?) and the cringingly loud band covering Steve Miller's "The Joker" that greeted us couldn't dampen my relatively dry spirits. 


"The Face of Chaos"and Dr. Mike. And me.

We drank too much. That's a given. But less in that sad way we've all been drinking too much lately, and more in a pleasant spirit of muted and cautious camaraderie, a thing I've simply not been a part of for a bit. So it felt, if not triumphant, then... totally fine. 

The next morning brought only mild headaches and plenty of time to sip coffee and gather our gear for the 8:30 start. Shuffling around in a state of decadent unpreparedness among what seemed to be too many fully kitted racers all ready to go. At which point Rich informed me that he was wrong, and that we actually had less than 15 minutes to get ready. Not 45. Which, if you've ever seen me before any race start, just meant that I was now completely in my element. Let rapid entropy commence. 

Five checkpoints, three of them mandatory. A few rules regarding off limit roads and glamour paths, but otherwise, bag them however you see fit. Once again, I left navigation completely up to Rich. Not only does he relish such things, but I just have no clue. I should. But I don't. It's like a mental block with Pisgah. Directionally it's less of a nautical star to me and more of a möbius strip. I can no more point north when I'm there than I can tell you which trail is Buckbeak and which one is Bearbutt. (Pretty sure it's the one with the wet, off-camber roots. Wait...)

After a cursory look at the map and some vocalizing of intent to the ether, (or to me, for all the good it does) Rich folded it away and said "Let's go." And thus began an eleven and a half hour day of occasionally riding, often pushing, sometimes descending, but always struggling. During a podcast one time, I erroneously stated that typical PMBAR mileage is in the range of thirty. I was apparently on crack when I said this. We were looking at a minimum of seventy five, and that included teleportation. 

How to Train Your Butthole.

It had rained for over a week in the mountains, so everything was wet. Even the gravel roads had a spicy element of hot, sexy, drag. Soft spots that made you work harder than you wanted to move forward at a snail's pace. Parts of trails were drying, but the roots were still ice-slick with humidity, and staying clipped in and upright on some bench-cuts was proving difficult. For me, anyway. A multitude of micro-crashes and stumbles was getting in my head. During one fast gravel descent, while trying to shove a food in my mouth with one hand, the other slipped off my handlebar. I somehow managed to catch myself and steer my bike into a ditch, thus turning a day-ending and possibly life-changing crash into a minor skirmish. But it did a number. Cuts and bruises on my hip and elbow. My ass. My confidence. And my ego.

"Aren't you, like... @thegravelassassin or something?" Rich asked. 

"No. I say you he dead."

Somewhere near hour nine, Rich broke the news to me: ten hours probably wasn't in the cards. "Do you think we'll make it in before dark?" "Hopefully?" he shrugged, offering me a handful of gummy bears. But by now, I was done with gummies, even if I was out of food. I'd gagged twice on the last handful. I think one of the things that makes PMBAR so difficult comparative to other races is nutrition. It seems to be harder to eat and drink in ways that make sense. I don't know. Maybe some of that is the singlespeed. Those times when you can settle in and spin (and eat) just don't exist. Climbs that on a geared bike would be a great place to soft pedal and root around in pockets or open packets are, instead, full body endeavors:  Out of the saddle exercises in strength and leverage. Flat sections? They don't exist. This is Pisgah. And descents? Don't do it. (See above). And some of it is just stubbornness. We call it "packless PMBAR" and it basically means carrying as little as possible based entirely on our hubris of self-expectation. For example: Lights? If they hadn't been mandatory, I wouldn't have carried them. And I'd have been a very sad boy for the last hour of riding. 

I can't even tell you where we went, save that all of it was familiar. "The wheelchair ramp." The Butthole. Pilot. Clawhammer. Squirrel. Bennet. Some of it was glorious. Some of it terrible. All of it was beautiful. I may not know where we were, but Rich does. And I'm thankful for that. And I'm thankful for him dragging me along when what I want to do is sit in a creek and make cry-y faces. I seriously don't know where he gets his energy. It's not from food, because from a nutrition standpoint, I absolutely consumed more calories than he did, and I was STILL falling apart. I think Pisgah is just one of his happy places. I'm still looking for mine.  

Endurance racing is, in too many ways, just a mirror. And mirrors, for all their simplicity, are complicated things. Because you never know what you're going to get, even if it's all just a spectrum of the same fucking thing. There are those days where the angles align, and some trick of good light presents a you that seems, if not close to, then at least pointing in the direction of the who and what and where you want to be. And there are others, where every grizzled line, shadow, and blemish staring back at you are just another sobering reminder that beneath a veneer of time spent on self-improvement and growth, you are still the shit show you expected.

PMBAR, for whatever reason, has always been the equivalent of me in a gas station bathroom, illuminated by dim but glaring fluorescent overheads, and staring in dismay at my increasingly scabrous face. A juxtaposition of simultaneous gaunt and bloat. In that all of the positive habits and actions I try to cultivate in my life vanish in the face of adversity and I'm laid bare. Pouty, it turns out, rather than pensive. Melodramatic, rather than melancholy. Unstable... rather than stoic. I felt useless, because I had nothing to offer. No wisdom regarding route or pacing. No amazing fitness to carry us through. No sagacity regarding nutrition and hydration. I was Rich's old, fat, temperamental dog who he mistakenly thought would be fun to bring on a ride. And currently I was lying in a manure filled mud puddle refusing to budge. 

Strong boy.

Somewhere on Maxwell, I realized we were done. The final climb before the descent down Black to the finish, I'd been here many times before. Though now Rich was fading. I suspect most of that was the dawning dread that we were finishing after dark. And the emotional exhaustion of having to haul me around for a day. Even with lights that wouldn't stay in place, (because poor planning) the descent down the new Black was a damned treat. A buff and fast bench cut where there used to be a rutted out chute of rooty horror. I approve. And then we were there, crossing the line to a smattering of applause.

"Fourth," Eric told us. Meh... it didn't matter. We were done. Wait, what? Fourth overall? Second singlespeed? Alright, we accept. A minor victory in the face of our decrepitude, especially considering we had rolled across the line assuming that everyone had already finished. A cursory (and very painful) wet-wipe and bottle water clean up next to my van. Podium shots in the dark. Then drinking lots of Crank Arm beer and eating the simplest, but most delicious post-race burritos in the business. Swapping stories of woe with the mud encrusted husks of people crossing the line over the next few hours. 

John Haddock is a bucket.

"Ow. My butthole."

Apparently only 25% of the field finished this year. On a beautiful, clear day in October. That says something. There are longer day-races, to be sure. And harder ones. But not many. And we weren't even "racing." In that while yes, we did ride consistently, we were never in the fight or flight mode that comes from actual competition. Even when we knew that Jarz and Haddock were probably only a few minutes ahead of us. Meanwhile, I've aggressively chased Rich up and down these very same hills in races like the 111k that we're pitted against each other and felt fresher. So I can't quite put my finger on what it is about PMBAR that makes it so challenging. Fuck. I guess I better come back next year to figure it out. 

Incidentally, I tried to snap a few pictures of my butthole in the port-a-potty that night so that I could see the extent of the damage, and I even considered including them here. But they were honestly so visually disturbing that I just couldn't. Imagine taking a close up of your 45 year old butthole on a good day. Now, imagine its worst day ever. Imagine it.

Hey... have a great weekend!

I am awaited in Valhalla!


Monday, October 28, 2019

Van of Constant Sorrow, Part Four: A Nose for Emnity.

I could feel the thread unraveling. And I was compounding it. Worrying the ends with fractured starts and stops. When a dismissive wave of a hand and a "Ha! Nevermind. I'm drunk" would have sufficed, I was starting to expound. Tripping over an increasingly muddled vocabulary. Dyslexically swapping the order of words to create nonsense sentences. Then repeating iterations of the same theme with decreasing levels of coherence. 
All in the name... of an extremely inebriated and bizarrely timed rant regarding "the pathetic and desperate sexuality of men over forty." 


Who even knows why. Maybe it was a thing someone said. Or maybe it was the ubiquitous mirror of middle aged men wandering around, not so discreetly checking out the ass of everything that walked by. Or maybe it was just a thing that often and unkindly occurs to me in those times I overexamine my own august and ripe, and likely suffocating, tendency toward romanticism. But what I was ultimately trying to get at was... 

... god... men over forty are so fucking gross. 

case in point
But I digress.

After forcing Rich to ride with me to Pedaler's Pub for curry fries and beers, we went back to the race start/finish to watch the pros ride their mountain bikes around in circles for the Fat Tire Crit. There we found the beer tent and met up with my friends Thomas and Gabbi, who had recently moved to Bentonville and who were helping out with the event. Incidentally, you might remember Thomas and Gabbi from such films as "That Long-Ass Marriage Proposal at The Dirty Kanza Awards Ceremony One Year." Congrats, you crazy kids. 

By the by, check out Thomas' company, Maker and Racer... then buy stuff.

Once the races were over, we jumped in Thomas' "not as cool as mine but maybe it consistently starts" van and headed to a venue called "the Holler" where Gabbi joined us for more drinks. At some point I got up to order more beer and some well-deserved nachos, and returned to find Rich already eating a nearly full plate of them, apparently abandoned by some nearby patrons. FYI, Rich may have a million theories and practicums regarding weight and nutrition and race-performance and recovery... but uneaten-mystery-nachos-left-by-total-strangers-who-might-for-all-we-know-have-the-plague-or-mouth-leprosy is pretty much his go-to once beer four is in his system. 
It was somewhere during this time at the Holler that I delivered my soliloquy regarding the grotesque decrepitude of my cis species. The rest is a blur. We apparently made it back to our hotel that night, because we woke up there a few hours later... pulled on our kits... and headed to the race start.
And started.

It wasn't until mile 20 that my hangover began in earnest. Manifesting itself as a crushing headache, exacerbated by dehydration, the stubborn refusal to drink anything from my bottles, and likely precipitated by a good bit of frustration regarding our current predicament. 
Not angry frustration, mind you. More... exasperation. 

"Hey Rich... a guy just passed us wearing Peloton sweatpants."
No comment.
"Hey Rich... Peloton. You know, like the...
"Like the indoor bike, I got it."
"Yeah. Like that. Like the indoor bike. Peloton...  Sweatpants... "
A groan.

We'd already made the decision not to race. We were just there to fuck around. Stick together. Enjoy a long ride on fun trails. But we'd still kind of fucked up. The start was a long road, greenway, and gravel grind out to the trails of the Back Forty in nearby Bella Vista, where we would work our way back to Bentonville on the very extensive network of amazingly accessible single-track. And I wasn't trying... but a race start is a race start. You just kind of hang on to the train. But Rich wasn't hanging on. He was, if anything, drifting back. Some of it was gearing. I'd opted for the "I'm too lazy to change out my 34x19 and I'm sure it will be fine, whatever, fuck it, I hate everything." While he'd thoughtfully opted for a 32x19. And that's Pisgah gearing. Which is great for climbing, but shite for flat. And this start... was flat. So everyone was passing us as we just putzed along. Including Peloton Sweatpants. At a point, I tried to encourage Rich to step it up. Just because. But...
"I'm pegged," he said (and no, I don't think he knows what that means. Shhhh.). "My heart rate is 170."
"What?! No way. I'm at 136." 
Thus began a consistent and nonsense comparison of our heartrates for the next few hours (and days), wherein we discovered that I tend to operate at almost exactly 30 beats a minute less than him, whatever our effort.
And no... I don't know what that means, if anything. Because Rich has destroyed me at more events than I care to remember. But whatever the case... at that moment, I was barely working, while he was already... ummm... "pegged."
So I backed off... and as we casually cruised along, we watched rider after rider pass us. In various states of overdress, involving large flapping jackets and plastic bags protruding from their shoes. And giant backpacks. So many giant backpacks. Which was fine. Because who cares. Not me. See? I don't care. At all. Hardly. Pffft. It just meant that by the time we hit the trail, we were in a really bad place. Like... really bad. Really. Because as is too often the case, a very curious cross-section of people with seemingly very limited handling skills had seemingly worked very hard to get up toward the front... only to then seemingly display very poor trail etiquette by refusing to let other riders pass. We were now somewhere in the middle of a very long conga line of dabbing and dismounting at any and every root and rock in the trail that maybe looked kind of wet. Or you know... dry.  
Which was fine. If anything it was... funny? We weren't racing. (Oh, did I mention that?) But riding a single-speed really slowly up a hill is wayyyyyy harder than riding one quickly. And this train was riding up hills really, really, really slowly. 
And look... I'm really not trying to be an asshole... but I literally cannot understand what the fuck it was that people were carrying in their hydration packs. This was a fully supported 50 mile race that never passed more than one mile away from "civilization." But throughout the day, as we worked our way on and up, we passed multitudes of riders who looked as if they were doing La Ruta completely unsupported. Daypacks full of picnics and supplies and... what?
It reminded me of this...

Comparatively, Rich and I looked naked. 

Maybe it was a practice run? Getting ready for a big event that required carrying lots of gear. Or maybe... they were all just carrying multiple spare tires. Because from the beginning, we saw rider after rider on the side of the trail, repairing flats. I mean... it happens. And you feel bad. But you also feel judgey. Because maybe they should have considered something a little better, right? Maybe something with some sidewall protection, huh? Maybe they should have thought this through? Maybe they should have... fuck. 
Rich flatted dramatically on a trail called "the ledges." I saw the rock,  just after he hit it... jutting out of the tangled mass of concoidally fractured sandstone and shale. The kind of Paleolithic axe-edge that the thought of accidentally falling on gives you Where the Red Fern Grows shivers. Even with a boot, the aftermath was a mess... a rubber hemorrhoid grotesquely protruding through the sidewall of his tire. It took a while to even patch it.
Fortunately, I was in a good place.

Not long before, we'd turned the corner and found an oasis. The bacon wasn't done yet, but they had these. And more. I was ready to pull up a chair and start heckling for the next hour, but we'd worked our way through A LOT of riders... and the idea of having to pass them all over again... won out. We drank and rolled onward. Until Rich's mishap. 

Oh hey there, cowboy.

You pegged?

Rich wasn't the only casualty. The Ledges took out so many riders. From our vantage point on the bluff, we could see people all along the trail dealing with tire issues. And once we were moving, we passed a slew of the people who'd just passed us (and who had likely had the same judgey thoughts about our tire choice that we'd had of theirs). Less than a mile after spending upwards of fifteen minutes taking in the scenery while Rich fixed his tire, I felt the tell-tale wobble of a flat on my Cysco. Damn. I pumped it up and hoped for the best. Fortunately, the Notubes sealant inside did its job and I had no more issues for the rest of the trip.
I haven't verified it, but I heard a rumor about a statistic that at last year's Oz Off Road, only four of the pro-men didn't get flats. Yeah, you read that right. Only four didn't get flats. 
To Rich this was unconscionable. There is too much money on the line to allow racers to be taken out by one errant rock on a notoriously dodgy section of trail. But to me... that's just riding. The risk is inherent. And if you're in it to win it, you'd consider just running this section. Or... just carrying a giant expedition hydration pack full of enough gear to spend the next week exploring The Ledges.
Apparently locals don't frequent this particular section of trail. Because that's potentially an easy $80 day.

We hit another aid station less than 15 miles from the finish, and once again, I wanted to just sit in the sun and drink beer and eat meat. Which we did for a little while. But eventually that low-level anxiety of having to pass all the riders we'd just passed got the better of us. And we rolled out. So close.

The not-so-many expressions of Rich.

It was beautiful and  sunny, but days of nonstop rain had definitely left their mark. Sections of greenway were still underwater. At least one hub-deep roll through a tunnel that was probably knee deep when the first riders came through hours before. 
The trails, which I have to admit were amazing, alternated between being probably too sloppy to ride to "absolute perfection" (ugh) But the beauty of the Bentonville singletrack is that the money and infrastructure is there to fix them. Even if the event caused some damage, there's resources (cough, Waltons, cough) to put into getting them right again. So that events like this can happen, even when they probably shouldn't. 
We actually rode with one of the Walton sons for a good part of the morning. I'd had this hunch. A rider decked out in full Rapha keeping pace with us as we worked through the sea of massive hydration packs. Connecting random facts in my head. "Huh. Rapha. You don't see a ton of mountain bikers wearing full Rapha kits.. Maybe the occasional classic jersey, but not this full get up. Huh. Didn't the Waltons just buy Rapha? Huh... didn't I hear this group of riders talking about "local knowledge" a little bit ago. Huh... you know what? I fucking bet this is one of the Walton boys. 
And sure enough.
I mean... good to see someone actually put their feet where there money is. (That's a saying, right?)

Though I have complicated feelings about that all. I appreciate what is happening in Bentonville. It makes for an amazing destination and it is inspiring to see wealthy people invest in their community. But... imagine if even just some of that money, instead of being directed at making Northwest Arkansas a mountain bike Mecca, was invested back in communities where Walmart has historically taken a giant shit on the local economy and drained the lifeblood of the community. Helping build a network of trails in, say, some rural South Carolina town where small independent businesses can no longer thrive in the shadow of the Super Center. Helping make these places potential riding destinations where local businesses could take advantage of the sudden flood of entitled white men and their two wheeled mid-life crises. I mean... how hard would it be?

Think about it.

I don't even know what our time was when we finished. Five hours? Six? More? I do know that we were apparently second to last out of the singlespeeds. But I was ok with that. I'm really enjoying this not-racing thing of late. (I forget... Did I mention that?) True Grit. Rooted Vermont. Oz Offroad. I would stop and take pictures. Drink beers wherever they were offered. Not stress about time or place. But still feel a nice tingle in my legs of a long day on the bike. I got nothing to prove these days. I mean... pffft...  until I do.
We basked in the sun at the finish line like drunk little cobras. Until it was time to put some food on top of the multiple beers we'd imbibed, lest things start to go south.

I have no real rituals when I travel... and if I do, I try to change them out of spite, because rituals become routines, and god, I fucking hate routines. But there are still places I like to revisit when I'm on the road. And when I'm in Bentonville, much like my curry fries at Pedaler's Pub... if possible, I like to get coffee at Onyx, eat some food at Tusk and Trotter... and get cocktails at 21c. So I dragged Rich to the former for burgers... and then made him sit with me in the roomy gloaming of the 21c bar while I drank damned good Gin and Tonics... wandered around looking at art...
...and tried not to think about the fact that we were now on the downhill slope of our odyssey.
Reality was nigh.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Van of Constant Sorrow, Part 3: Get Down, Posers.

I was having a moment.

The kind of moment that...  catalyzed as it may be by the sudden and persistent creaking of a bike, has nothing to do with anything happening in the myopic now.
The kind of moment.... that if you think about it for even a second, has everything to do with the contained multitudes that you're currently running away from (or towards?)
The kind of moment... that is very much the culmination of your very poor compartmentalization of  "life stuffz."
The kind of moment... from which no possible good can come.

The kind of moment... where you pick your bike up over your head and throw it into the woods.

(le sigh)

We were riding Syllamo. And it was actually glorious. Sure, we had discovered at least 1000 different species of spider. Specifically, species of spider that like to build webs across trails. And sure, we'd descended a very long way and were about to pay for that. And sure... my bike really was creaking. Like... a lot.
But the trail was sooooo good. Sometimes tight and claustrophobic. Sometimes exposed bench cuts with views of the Ozarks. Rock slabs.Roots.  Gnarly in places. A goddamn pleasure in others.
Rich had a theory. It was my paragon rocker-dropouts. They were just dry after days of riding in dry conditions. I should take them apart and apply a thin layer of grease. My counter-argument that "Yea, but I already done that!" fading on my lips as I reconciled the fact that yeah... I had... but very, very long ago.

My chagrin at the tantrum was minimal. I mean, I wasn't proud. But I had too many other things on my mind to feel embarrassed by this particular outburst. That's forever the beauty and curse of a longish ride. Even as you navigate the crux of some rocky drop, or technical switchback, or grind your way up a loose, gravely climb, you're still always still processing the stupidity of "ugh... money!" or "I'm failing as a parent!" or "shit... did that order get placed?!" or "what am I even doing with my life?!" or "why don't they fucking respond to my text?!"
(Though I admit, I was disappointed to have lost a water bottle to my stupidity)

Hi Rich.

Rich... Hi.

Hey Rich. Hi.


We finished up just as the sun was going down. Loaded the bikes. Drank recovery beer. Cleaned up. Consulted the Five Apps.* Plotted progress.
*(soon, I promise)
I jumped into the driver's seat and turned the key... to a familiar wingey chug with no spark. Again. Then again.
Then... again.

This time, I'll admit, I felt a bit deflated. I still had confidence that the van would start. I just didn't know when. And it's one thing when it's just me... but other people were relying on me. Not to mention that the cuteness of this "not starting" phase was (pardon me) starting to wear off.
Also it was starting to rain.
Rich ate Spaghetti-o's and drank a Coors in the back, and incidentally, did a marvelous job of not seeming stressed while I rested my head on the steering wheel and said super intense and broody things like "well, poop."
It was dark now. And the rain was getting worse. And my mood was sinking.

Trying again... for no reason that I can discern, the van fired to life... (that'll do, pig).

Leaving Syllamo, we twisted our way through the dark hills and on to a campground at Bull Shoals. Accustomed, as I am, to simply wet-wiping my taint and sleeping in whatever parking lots look quiet and convenient... being in proximity to a bathroom and a shower was a decadent treat. And I availed myself of both; spending too much time trying to stay warm beneath a very weak stream of not-so-hot water, drinking my not-so-cold beer. Not nearly as satisfying as I'd hoped, but alas...
It was raining in earnest now, and that made for good sleeping. There's something immensely cozy about being warm and dry inside a vehicle when it's pouring out. Although... throughout the night, I kept feeling this occasional drop of water on my face. I attributed it to the rubber seals in the sunroof and side windows of the hightop on the Adventurewagen. The ones I need to replace fairly soon. But as it turns out.... I'd simply left the driverside window wide open, and the wet I felt was just the wind blowing rain everywhere. Like... EVERYWHERE. No wonder we had been so cold in the wee morning hours... Rich disappearing into the cocoon of his sleeping bag, and me piling any and all blankets I could find on top of me.

Admittedly, the wet driver-seat and gear was dampening my already dampened morning spirits, but the van-coffee helped. I sat on a tablecloth that lives in the van for no real reason, Rich navigated the labyrinth that is paying for a campsite, and we drove onward to Bentonville.
As we got closer to our destination, I might have asked Rich to check the weather at least 50 times. Because it was still shit outside. Cold and gray and wet. Really wet. He assured me there would be sun, but I was dubious. Just before pulling up to our hotel, we crossed a threshold in the clouds, and suddenly the sun was out. Gloriously so.

Once in the hotel room, I could tell Rich was in his happy place. He was no longer completely out of control of his destiny. I got it. He bustled about, unloading things and organizing, making us cups of shit coffee... while I just stood in front of my pile of things and stared into space.

Off to the pro-meeting... our first obligation of the day. Though there was some confusion as to why it was an obligation, seeing as we weren't pros, and our designation as "media" was extremely loose at best. I mean... does my internationally ignored blog count as "coverage?" We stood around and did our best to put names to faces of various pros. There's Geoff Kabush. Wait... is it? Where are his chops? Is he bald now? He looks so young. Is he younger than us? Then how has he been racing for longer? Was he just a fucking kid back then? And there's Kate Courtney. No wait.. that's Kate Courtney. Nope. Right the first time. And there's... the guy from Red Bull with the mustache. Lachlan McMustache. No. Payson McMustache. No, wait, that's the guy with the mustache. Shit, there are a lot of mustaches in here. So who's that guy? Does Lachlan even race mtb? There's that guy. Long hair O' Houlihan. Have I met him before? Oh hi, Kaysee. Hi Vicki. There's... Wait, that guys a pro? No way.
Knowing that pros were looking at us and thinking the same thing. "Those guys? No way."
Rich did get a call out from the race promoter, Todd, during the meeting though. "Dicky! I've been trying to get you to come to one of my races for years." Everyone turning around and scratching their heads in confusion. Dicky sinking into himself.

Once out, I demanded we go find food and beer at Pedaler's Pub.

Because I needed some fucking curry fries.

Next up: Part... goddamnit, I can't keep this up. How does Dicky do it?
Part something... featuring the night before and the morning after. Promise.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Van of Constant Sorrow Part 2: Oblivion, Oblivion.

Even when I can feel every wall of the trash compactor that is my life pressing hopelessly in... I'm actually pretty damned good at falling asleep. Wherever and however.
The danger is and has always been in waking up. 
Turning over or getting up to pee... I have to be extremely mindful of remaining mindless. Because if I acknowledge even one of the thoughts that is swarming around my head... it's over. All of the failings and bills and loss and fuck ups that I've been swatting away will find that one little hole in the shelter I built for the night, and come pouring in. And while I can and will (and always do) handle that in the daytime... I really prefer not to knife-fight my existential anxiety at 3am in the morning. Much less from the not-so-high-ground of a blanket on a couch in a friend's grown-up house that already makes me feel like an errant fucking child who will never have any semblance of my shit together. A house complete with non-sagging bathroom floor, windows and doors that actually close all the way, and a kitchen sink that you don't turn on with a screwdriver.

(Yeah... I turn my sink on with a screwdriver. What?)

But while stumbling into walls looking for the bathroom in the early hours, I'd made that accidental eye contact with an anxious thought, so I had a good ol' time dodging and stabbing and blocking and cutting... until Rich and Scott finally woke up.

Hey ice machine.

We weren't moving particularly fast. 
Unknown circumstances were muddling my clarity. I remember a brewery. And I remember... a bar. Next to TVB? And beer. And... a midnight hot dog at said bar. And... then a negroni. And then... more negronis? And then... I remember Rich eating a Tupperware full of mystery pasta from Scott's fridge. And charcuterie. And grapes. And a somewhat drunk collaboration on a word-salad that included such staples as "the bike industry" and "love" and "sex rooms" and "married people" and "sleepy cocaine." Until we all retired to our respective rooms and I wrapped myself in a blanket on the couch and audibly told my head to "leave me the fuck alone" for the umpteenth time.

Drinking coffee and eating a healthy breakfast prepared by Scott, we pieced our night together and I consulted the Five Apps* to plot out the day.
*(more on that next time)

I was eyeing Land Between the Lakes, as I knew the camping and riding was good, but decided to save it for the return trip... so a southern route won out.  Somewhere near Nashville to ride... then somewhere toward Memphis to sleep.
I was underwhelmed. As per Rich, my exact words regarding what we found were "shit trails in garbage woods."
Allow me to explain.
The trails weren't really shit. They were... fine. They were sinuous and technical. Rocky. Rooty. They just were very much like the trails I ride every day. And that just wasn't the epic amazing I was looking for at that particular moment... in my frenzy of escapism. Limestone or not.
And "garbage woods?" That's harsh... I know. All woods are good. I just mean that this was one of those areas that had obviously been clearcut in the last half-century and what was growing was a tangled mess of briers, invasives, and transition. That dense thicket of suburban forest that seems to lend itself to collecting trash. Appliances, Dasani bottles, diapers, and needles. You know?
After riding the twelve mile loop, we sat in the parking lot, debating our next move. I weighed in: "Man... I'd rather not ride that trail again. It wasn't doing anything for me. There's something down the road just a little. Let's go see what that's like."
So we chamois-drove our way down the road.

When we arrived at the trailhead of Montgomery Bell, I realized I'd actually ridden there before. On one of my previous westward Odysseys.
It had been just as perplexing then.
Lots of intersections to accidentally go the way you just came from. I distinctly remembered the trail known as "Downhill" and how it had seemed... a) not particularly great... nor b) particularly "downhill." Nonetheless, we started to ride it this time. Until I noted the leaf cover, caught my fifth spider web to the face in 50 feet, and remarked on how it seemed very... "underused" compared to anything we'd ridden thus far. So we turned around... and finally found the good stuff. Just in time for it to get dark. We rode everything backwards. In the wrong order, apparently.
I was fine with that.

Baffled or not, we'd enjoyed and successfully managed to exhaust ourselves. The trails were similar to our first stop, with no shortage of roots and rocks... but they had more personality. Creek crossings and climbs. Old growth trees.
Mission accomplished?
Nearby Mexican food and big beers won out over parking lot Coors and Spaghetti-O's... and we headed down the road to sleep at Natchez Trace.

That night, listening to Rich semi-snore next to me, I dreamt about meticulously peeling red grapes and convincing my bank to let me date its recently divorced daughter.
No... I don't know what it means either. Sounds important.

The Scream
Next up: Part... whatever. (Hush. We'll get there. I mean... I'm writing. Aren't you proud of me?)


Friday, October 18, 2019

Van of Constant Sorrow Part One: The Sads and the Fury

If Rich was panicking, I couldn't tell. But at mile zero of our odyssey, the tone was already set:

"It'll start... it'll start. It just... don't worry... it'll start." Turning the key to a wingey chug with no fire. Backing off and trying again. More wingeing. Giving it a moment and trying once more. Then again. Stressing the starter and eventually just flooding the engine.
"Ok, let's... we just need to let it sit for a while. It'll start."

More like DADventurewagen... amiright?

And it would.
I had full confidence in that. It's... just a cute little phase the van is going through these days.
Not starting sometimes.
It's... cute.

The plan? End up in Bentonville, Arkansas by the weekend. At the very least in time for our event on Saturday.
The course? Errrr....

Despite the ambiguity in our trajectory, I'd actually thought about our potential meandering and where it should take us quite a bit. I just... thought about it in that way that I tend to think about things. Less a linear timeline of sense and sensibility and more an accidental (or intentional?) conflagration in the fireworks store. One thousand points of exploding light. In every direction.

We'd roughly agreed on Knoxville as our first stop, but I'd imposed two very strict caveats on our trip.

One: Avoid rain.
Two: Wait for no one.

Number one is a no brainer. If you have fluidity of choice, you seek aridity. If your destination shows unridable wet, but you could find sun and warmth instead... fucking duh!
Knoxville was looking dicey. Potential storms all day. So in my mind was the potential for a chaotic southernly route as well. Head south to ride FATS in Augusta, GA. Then across northern Alabama. Ride Anniston. Ride Oak Mountain. Maybe stop in Oxford, Mississippi for a meal so that I could have a moment of osmotic literary inspiration. Up through Memphis and on to Hot Springs or Syllamo.
Until the moment we got in the van, we didn't know which way we'd even head. Knoxville won out. Lucky.

Caveat number two, btw, is a bit trickier. But... if you grew up with a friend or older sibling who liked to convince you to do things with them, but then, more often than not, couldn't do those things at the time they said, but then said they could maybe do them later, so you waited until they could, but then, as it turns out, they still couldn't... and by then it was too late for you to do fucking anything...
you understand.
Wait... for no one.

Rich had so much stuff.

So much stuff.

It may not look like it... but that's just because I just couldn't get the angle right. That bag... is huge. Rich can fit inside of it. Easily. And I admit, when I saw it, I felt a momentary pang of stress. Yes, more stress than the van not starting. I mean... that's just what vans do. But that bag? It would take up ALL THE ROOM. And there isn't much room in the van. The milk crate got a pass, simply because I could pile my stuff inside of it too. And the chair we never used also gets excused... because you never know. But that bag. That fucking bag.
Meanwhile, while I was stressing about Rich overpacking, Rich was stressing about the bikes. Specifically about my bike maybe kind of touching his bike, and about how, if given a half a chance, it might try to vibra-saw his frame in half as we trundled down the road. I mean... I get it. Finding out at the trailhead that the left ESI grip you were counting on has been sliced in half and you get to ride glove to carbon for the next couple of hours is deflating. But the van don't have no hitch. And I ain't got that hitch money. So trunk rack it is. Eventually he got a system that he was happy with and he was in charge of bikes for the next week.

When we got to Knoxville, without incident, Scott, incidentally, wasn't ready... busy as he was learning how to service an e-bike.
But then, having skipped lunch, neither were we. And we had time. So I gave rule number two a little leeway. And as our friends Gary and Chris had "left the conversation" about riding before we even arrived, there were less balls in the air. Literally. So we ate tamales with Daniel, who had taken the day off to join us. Then piled into the TVB Sprinter and headed to the trails... which are pretty special.
And when we did roll out, even if the pace occasionally hurt so good, and even if Scott kept death-coughing plague into the air ahead of me.... I was very much in my happy place.

Which is to say... riding my bike... somewhere else.

"Make me look bald."
Look for Part 2 wherever you look for things like that. Coming soon.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Sweaty Bottom Boys

"Hey Rich... remember this spot?"
From behind me a sad and small "maybe?"
"It's where we almost got arrested."
A sad and small sigh... "i remember."

It was Bill Nye's fault. Or so I tell myself. His eyes had changed. That's how you know. When he stares somewhere past you rather than at you... it means he's about to start arguing with and about things that don't warrant arguing with or about. In this particular case, the cop he'd conveniently crashed his bike in front of.
The cop who had blooped his siren at Rich, Nick and I for riding three abreast down the empty 2am morning road.
"Single file!"
And then... when he sped past us and we saw his cop-lights go on in earnest some quarter mile ahead I turned to Rich and said "How much do you want to fucking bet that's about Bill Nye?" And sure enough, when we rolled up... there he was... standing in front of said cop, doing a completely shit job of defending his thesis, the subject of which appeared to be "This... Is, Like... Bullshit. Or Something." Me going into hyper-reasonable-and-elocutive-to-appear-sober-but-probably-just-making-it-worse mode: "My sincerest apologies, officer, but you'll have to excuse my unruly friend. Our ultimate destination is my humble domicile, which lies just beyond this next traffic light, and once we arrive, you have my word as a gentleman ... we'll... ummm... (shit)... try and... (losing it)... not be... (think, man!)... quite so... umm... (argh!)... drunk? (cringe)
"I could arrest y'all, you know."
Heads hung like chastised children.
"You walk from here. If I see one of you even touch a pedal on those bikes, you're going to jail."
Staring at our feet and nodding.
Shadowed by a police cruiser for the mile long walk back to my house with our bikes.

But wait. That... was literally months ago. Sorry, I got distracted. Let's go back to NOW.

Rich was wearing flip-flops.
Not sandals, mind you, like the usual pocket-tee clad, five-panel-hat doffed, mom-jort, leica-around-the-neck cool-kid-industry-fan-boyz of the now. But flip-flops. Flimsy, shitty department store flip-flops. On SPD pedals.
And while it wasn't a long ride to the first bar... maybe four miles...  it was long enough that flip-flops probably weren't the choice. Probably, in fact, they accounted for the mysterious gash on his foot the next morning.  But nonetheless... there he was.

Christian had joined us. He's been giving me some much needed help at the shop lately. I admit I felt a little bad subjecting him to the insular old-person dumb-speak that Rich and I tend to communicate in, but Christian shares our common thread of being unable to refuse a late night bike ride to a bar for "one more."
We're all healthy bundles of habits here, in case you were wondering.

Now allow me to attempt some math.
By the time we were even en route to the first bar that night, 130 pounds of Rich had, by my exhaustive calculations, already imbibed seven seven percent beers in relatively short time. Myself just beyond five, each at a rough average of six point five. Which, if I'm not mistaken, the sum total of which is less than or equal to: we probably should have just ridden home and gotten a good night's sleep.
And before you vent your righteous indignation at our failed failings in coping with our various vices and addictive personality traits, imagine, just for a moment, being human. And being confined to the awkwardness of a human body, with all its oddity of elbows, toes, and ears. Testes. Tongues. Labia. Buttocks. Uvulas. And a nose. A FUCKING NOSE. Now imagine another human body approaching your own human body and talking to it. Talking to it with all of its strange anxieties and tics, built layer upon layer of 50 years crawling around on this rock trying to create meaning out of nothing. Now imagine not really knowing what to even say, so in the same way that people crack their knuckles or laugh at their own jokes or run their fingers through their hair, or scratch their neck, or compulsively put on chapstick...  you just unwittingly and consistently take another sip of the drink in your hand. And that drink happens to be beer. And in that moment, this simple act happens to help you push past the fact that just behind that nose and beyond those lips, the person talking to you has a skeleton inside their body and is currently pushing air through a voice box somewhere in their throat that makes sound waves that travel through the air into your gnarled, lobed ears where tiny bones tap a message to your brain that translates their honking into some semblance of a thing that kind of makes sense.
So please... fuck you and your righteous sobriety. Because you're just as much a bundle of anxious, shitty coping habits as I am. You just have one less excuse.
(I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. Sobriety is good. It's just that... noses. Right? With nostrils. And we all have them and we act like it isn't the weirdest goddamn thing and some of them are actually quite nice.)

Gads... where even was I?
Oh yes...
Entirely too much to drink the night before a "race." Plus more. Plus midnight fried chicken and cheese fries. Once home, Rich fell asleep on the couch while I sipped rye whiskey and chuckled ruefully to myself about the vast and terrifying emptiness of even the most fulfilled life.


The next morning, riding our bikes ten miles to the start of the race, we both had a moment of panic. An effort up a hill that stressed our legs and heart was telling. This was going to hurt. And by panic, I mean... depression. Being sadly resigned to the fact that today was going to be much harder than it should. And that once again in a long line of once agains... it was our fault.

Even though the shop has always been involved as a sponsor, this was my first year getting to actually participate in the JA King and Queen of the Watershed Race. Long has there been the ambition of doing a race that connected all of the trails in Greensboro, but logistically it seemed difficult. Long stretches of greenway. Busy road crossings. Which means the enduro format is perfect. Each trail is a "segment" and you can cruise at your own speed between them.
It also means that you have to ride each segment harder than you probably wanted to.

When I caught Rich on the first trail, after starting 30 seconds behind him, I knew how things would shake out. This would create a cascade of despair that would increase throughout the day, until he was a complete shell of a man... full of regrets and doubts and self-loathing. So... pretty much like any other day, but more, probably. I myself felt ok. A little hungover, but I've been worse. My 40's, while more pervasively melancholy, seem punctuated with less "oh god, oh shit, I'm dying" mornings on the floor tangled up with the toilet than my 30's.

So... winning?

My goal for the day was to ride hard enough to hurt... but not hard enough that I ever felt the panic or pain of "racing." Because I don't know if you got the memo, but that shit is the worst.  I was also still nervous about my butt. I'd injured it a month ago... launching entirely too far and high into the air off a jump, somewhere in Tennessee...  and it's kind of been an asshole ever since. Pun intended. But that's another story. Suffice to say I wanted to test it, but not too much. I already felt ridiculously squirrely, having been off the mountain bike for almost a month. I crept through and across every loose corner and wet bridge like it was my first time on a bike.

The trails? They were fine. I mean... they were great. But these are my backyard trails, mind you. And it's difficult for me to wax poetic about my backyard. My suburban despair is strong enough that even the word "yard" is triggering.
And I've ridden these trails so many times that I like to make sweeping statements about preferring a staple in the cheek or groin to another day out on them. Is that true? I don't know. It's just that there are people out there who crave routine, and relish in consistency. And I just... don't.
But even through my all consuming melodrama about being in one place too long, I'm aware that we have a good thing with these trails and that it's only getting better.

So... winning?

When we were finally done, Rich was as toasted as I've ever seen him. This from the guy who consistently shames me through eleven hours of Pisgah.


The point is... if you have a calendar that you put races on, you should put the JA King and Queen of the Watershed on there. What's a "JA King" you ask? It's a company that makes measuring equipment, owned by a guy named John King who happens to be a cycling fanatic, and who is a great patron of our local scene, and who I, incidentally, once told to eat a bag of dicks.
It was a long time ago.
(You should ask him about it.)

Tomorrow, Rich and I will be getting in the van and meandering our way to Bentonville, AR for the Oz Trails Off Road, where we will be doing a bang-up job of covering the event as "media." Rich is calling it the Van of Constant Sorrow Tour. I'm calling it Old Brother, Where art We. Neither are very inspired or funny. But that's pretty much who we are these days.
We'll be trying to be active on social media, so follow us at @teamdicky and @revoltingcogs if you don't already. We can't promise anything, but if we were, it would be a whole lot of worn-out mediocrity. So if you're into that...


There, I wrote a blog. Happy?