At times during your life you read something inspiring. Something that someone else wrote (not just a meme, kids) that speaks not only to your heart, but seemingly from your heart. It’s a thing you feel like you could have written, from your own perspective, to explain why you do what you do. My good friend Guitar Ted published something today on the Guitar Ted Productions blog that pretty much sums up what makes Gravel Travel such an enjoyable thing for me. YOU CAN READ HIS POST HERE.
I’ve cultivated a pretty good solitary bike life over the years. As a lifelong introvert, I spent (and spend) a lot of time by myself. I wasn’t really liked by other kids when I was young, so I rode my bike alone quite often. Most kids wouldn’t want to ride like I did, or simply weren’t allowed. (This was around the time of the paperboy kidnapping in Des Moines, and although we were in Denison, some parents were a little freaked out and wouldn’t let their kids out of their sight) These rides might be across town to my one good friend’s house to watch Chuck Norris movies, or down to the creek to work on building a fort, or just to see how many laps I could do around our block. Either way, if it was summer time these rides would sometimes last from morning until after dark, putting me well after when I was supposed to be in the yard. In or around 8th grade I got my first road bike, and took to the highways of Western Iowa riding from town to town, mostly alone, enjoying the peace and fresh air. My mind was, and still is, always buzzing. Riding bikes helped quiet that a bit, and in my adult years I have used these rides to organize my ideas and sometimes flesh them out a bit. I carry a notebook with me, and use the voice recorder on my phone quite a bit. Riding and being alone works well in my little world. I do have the luxury of being fairly well known now, so when I do get out of my own space I have many wonderful people to see and talk with. It’s a good balance for me.
I’ve also cultivated a pretty good social bike life over the years. I’ve done the BRAI and the ride out, and have gone on countless party rides where I have made some of my best friends to this day. The bike scene in Iowa is one of the strongest, most cohesive, that I have witnessed in all my travels. I love all of my bagger friends, my party friends, but gravel riding… this is where GT’s words really come in to play. Gravel folks are a different breed. Humble, kind, smiling through pain, accepting, they are some of the greatest souls I have had the privilege of meeting. They push their own boundaries and limits in order to get to a place they want to be. There is a certain comraderie in this “scene” that is made up of what I would call Social-Solitary individuals. Everyone* at these events has been through similar training, hours upon hours of sitting in the saddle while banging along those old dusty trails, many if not all of those miles and hours done alone, or sitting alone on a trainer in the winter just turning cranks and sweating to whatever movie or show you are binge watching. When they all get together, it’s time to talk, smile, share, and look forward to crushing some gravel with like minded individuals. You can be grilling a steak at the Grinnell Steak House for the Trans Iowa Pre-Race Meat Up with RAW champion/Endurance Wunderkind Sarah Cooper and DFL slugs like myself at the same time, no egos, no bullshit, just smiles, laughs, and talks of dog chases and hill climbing** I have met some of my favorite people and good friends through these events and going on gravel group rides, and formed life long bonds. I love riding with them, and even more my introverted side loves reading about their exploits. When you know someone well enough that you can picture their words and tone when faced with problems on the road. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m actually getting a little choked up here. Maybe I need to lay off the coffee.
What I’m getting at is that gravel folk are good peeps, and one of the main reasons I ride the shit that I ride. Love you crazies. GO READ GUITAR TED’S POST, I should probably stop typing now, it’s time to ride.
*The last few years have seen a number of Type A mentality types trickling in to events. They have taken to turning some of these grass-roots races into your typical draft-line road race. That’s cool and all, but gravel grinding wasn’t supposed to be the domestic version of the Paris-Roubaix.
**Coming from a profession where the Ego is often oozing from my contemporaries, it’s refreshing to not have that stiff necked smirk across the table during conversation.