Take it away Ben...
Another year in SWRVE
I recently read an article highlighting the top five things successful people have in common. The first thing on the list had to do with clothing. Apparently successful people find a “uniform” and stick with it everyday. For example this article cited Steve Jobs and his turtle neck. Apparently eliminating the time it takes to plan wardrobes enables more time to focus on what matters. Success. I don’t necessarily see success through the same lens that the author was seeing it, but I do appreciate not needing to decide what to wear each day. Having spent the better part of 2017, (and 15 and 16 for that matter) in the same clothes, (SWRVE) I did feel somewhat validated that my life is headed in the right direction.
I’ve been grateful for the support of SWRVE and the durability/performance of the products they continue to make. Here’s a brief rundown of what I did and where I went with SWRVE in 2017.
Most folks know me as the person who rides a bike carrying a banjo and guitar all over the place talking to people about water and land. I have continued too expand and grow that mission through 2017. Early on in the year I made a new record called Sees Like a River and then spent much of the rest of the year supporting it. Here’s a video we made if you want to check out a song, called Handfuls of Water.
Midway through the summer, I rode a 1500 mile circle between Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois connecting the major waterways I’ve been advocating on behalf of since 2014. I started in Northeastern Minnesota near the Boundary Waters, and rode across the bottom of Lake Superior, down the West side of Lake Michigan to Chicago and home up the Mississippi River. The majority of this route was on dirt roads and trail, leaving me far from pavement and vehicles propelled at inhuman speeds by dinosaur bones.
From muddy, washed out backroads...
to the streets of Chicago.
Ever since a fat bike and pack raft trip on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska I did in 2016 (Here is a film my friend Bjorn Olson made about that trip called Instruments of Adventure) I have been interested in using the pack raft to explore my home land in Minnesota. This spring I started working on what will eventually be a 400 mile dirt and pack raft route in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota. In April I completed the 200 mile North to South section of the route and I will be returning in fall 2018 to finish the South to North side of the circle.
As someone who primarily tours, the racing side of riding hasn’t been much of a pull for me. However, as I’ve gotten into longer and longer rides the endurance side of racing has become appealing. This year I rode several ride/races including the first edition of the DAMn (Day Across Minnesota) 241 miles of gravel West to East across the state of MN. In October I went out to Idaho to ride in my friend Jay Petervary’s 120 Mile Gravel Pursuit in the greater Yellowstone mountains. Both of these events, as well as the Heck of the North Gravel series (which I also participated in), are rides that while competitive, place primary focus on the community and the landscape.
As my kids get older the possibilities for what we can do as a family expands. This year we got to Northwest Arkansas for a week of mountain biking and then in early June headed out to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming for the first multi-day bike packing trip as a family.
Family bike packing in Wyoming.
As the state of the world continues to be in upheaval with veils being lifted daily I have focused much of my time back home in Minneapolis and St. Paul working on building community events. Leading Mississippi river rides with clean ups has been one of the highlights. Picking up trash is not going to do a lot to directly save any of us, or the planet, but getting people out along the river does make a difference. It’s inspiring to watch as folks notice subtitles in the landscapes and neighborhoods. They then begin to form relationships with other members of their community, both human and non. Relationships are the initial steps to building care and reciprocity and picking up trash initiates this kind of relationship building.
Having paid my dues in the kitchen and restaurant world I’ve been excited to develop Ride With the Wolves with friend and chef Mike Phillips. Mike runs a charcuterie business called Red Table Meat Co. and is also a competitive cyclocross racer. Over the years we’ve found ourselves saying (while on our own woodsy rides) “How cool would it be to lead a bunch of folks into the woods, make them food and then play them music.” That is exactly what Ride With the Wolves has become. There is a lot more to evolve in 2018 but so far we have pulled off two Ride With the Wolves since October and a winter edition is in the works.
As the year winds down I’m finding myself looking back in gratitude, and forward with excitement. In late September after riding Jay’s Gravel Pursuit, he and I spent a couple days riding a short section of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, (a 2800 mile Adventure Cycling route from Banff Canada to Antelope Wells, NM). In 2018 comes the 20th anniversary of the route and Im presently working on a plan to ride it in its entirety playing shows along the way. I want to honor the communities and people who have supported the riders and route. When considering what I could offer those communities along the route in thanks I decided the best gift is to give what you have. For me that is music, so that is what I’ll give.
Wishing everyone a happy holiday and a spirited start to 2018!