Remember this post, when I said I was going to try to make this summer better than the last two? The last two that included climbing to the roof of Africa and rafting the Grand Canyon? I think, with Joanie as my partner in crime, we’ve succeeded in creating the best summer ever.
We rode our bikes a ton, and during 100 Miles of Nowhere, we rode well over 100 miles and raised more than 700 dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association. We made 6 trips back to Colorado to spend time with friends and family during weddings, reunions and adventures. Our annual Utah trip to Crumbly Rock was a blast. And then, something special happened at the beginning of August.
Judge for yourself…
Yup, that’s right! I’m making an honest woman out of Joan.
We’re gettin’ hitched!
“When two people meet and fall in love, there is a certain rush of magic.
The bottom line is that people are never perfect, but love can be. Loving makes love.
If love is the outlaw, the most any of us can do is sign on as its accomplice.
Love belongs to those willing to go to extremes for it.
True, most lovers don’t work hard enough at it or with enough imagination or generosity.
Who knows how to make love stay? What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, especially when it seems superfluous or redundant, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.
Now that I’m in love, I haven’t a clue. Now that I’m in love, I’m completely stupid on the subject.
Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules.”
-Excerpts from Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker
The summer of 2014 has officially begun for me. I just got home from my last class of the spring semester, I’m not taking any summer classes, and we’ve started packing for our first road trippin’ adventure.
This milestone gave me the opportunity to reflect on my last couple of summers. It was a nice trip down memory lane. I’ve had some pretty incredible summers. Monumental. They’ve included travel to exotic locals, outdoor pursuits, laughter, joy, pain, tragedy, love, family, friends and so much more. I’m so excited for this summer, and we’ve got some crazy cool plans for the coming months.
Taking a look back, 2012 gave me the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the continent of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in an effort to raise money for the Cancer Climber organization (founded by my buddy Sean Swarner.) I met the most amazing people and was humbled by the beauty and challenge of Africa.
At the summit: 19,304′ above sea level.
Approaching high camp, a.k.a. garbage camp.
Truly a life changing experience. That summer was liberating, challenging and mind-blowing. I also went skydiving, gallivanting with old friends and explored several 14ers in my backyard.
The summer of ’13 was similarly impressive. I rafted the Grand Canyon. Yes, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I spent 16 beautiful days with 16 beautiful people in one of the most amazing places on earth. We hit the tongue and rode it straight (mostly! Oops, Lava!) for over two weeks of laughter. Thanks to LBK (Josh Kruger) for giving me the opportunity to take the trip. It was another one for the books.
Head first into the spray! Face shots for dayz.
Exploring the countless side canyons was a true highlight.
We live here right now?!? COOL!!!
So what does this summer hold for Joan and I? Sooooo many things!! Five trips back to Colorado, including a bachelor party (sorry Joan, I’ll be going solo for that!), the Dolores River Festival and 100 Miles of Nowhere, and a Rockies Reunion. We get to enjoy our family in Colorado a couple of times and play with our nephews, siblings, parents, cuzes, etc. We’re performing several times and teaching a three-week circus camp (Funtown Circus!) and exploring our new home in Flagstaff. We’re leaving for a week long camping trip in the vast deserts of Utah tomorrow. Life is good and summer is just beginning. Here we go!
This June, I’ll be observing my 10 year cancer-free anniversary. That’s a big deal. It’s crazy to think how much I’ve been through in that time, much less to think about what I was going through during and in between treatments. I endured six years of chemotherapy and in June, I’ll be 10 years out of the woods.
The amiable Fat Cyclist has a pretty cool tradition that he started in an effort to raise funds towards cancer research called 100 Miles of Nowhere. Every cycling destination seems to have a gimmick for endurance racing, with centuries, 24 hour, multi-day epics and a hundred variations on those themes. Fatty, in his typically absurd nature, decided he’d do a 100 mile race…
-in his basement.
And thus, 100 Miles of Nowhere was born.
It became a tradition that his faithful followers began doing in their basements, and then around their blocks and in other ridiculous locations for a race. The key was creating a crazy specific race category for your event, one in which ONLY YOU could possibly win (eg; 27-28 Male half way through grad school and 10 years off chemo).
I want to invite you to join me to celebrate, raise some money and ride some great trails. My 100 Miles of Nowhere will take on Sunday, June 8, in (an admittedly, non-ridiculous and actually really, really incredibly fun location) Phil’s World, an ideal location for group multi-lap rides. A few things to point out about the gathering and the riding:
- Don’t be intimidate by “100 miles”! The great thing about a loop system like Phil’s World is that you can make laps as long and as short as you like. Teams are encouraged for 100 Miles of Nowhere, so if you don’t think you have 100 miles in your legs, share the distance with a partner or two. The idea is that every gets to ride as much as they like and have a good time doing it.
- We want a festive atmosphere! Please come with fun things for the “pit zone”, aka the parking lot, the destination that all laps will pass through before heading out for me. This means bbq’ing, tasty treats, beer, music, (we might even bring our aerial dance rig!) etc.
- Phil’s world requests a $3 donation at the trail head for all non-annual members of Kokopeli bike club. Let’s throw them some additional cash for maintaining such awesome trails. You’ll understand why when you ride there…
- Unfortunately, there’s no camping allowed at the Phil’s World trail head. According to the BLM website, there’s camping “just back from the access point for Phil’s World” which is where we’ll probably end up.
- While this blog post, RSVP process and donation system are all very sophisticated, this is going to be a relatively bare bones event. The spirit is to get together, ride and have a good time. We’re not catering this thing. Bring food, gear, costumes, everything you’ll need for 100 miles in a somewhat remote location!
- The Dolores River Festival is happening Saturday, June 7 and if you’re coming for 100MoN, you might as well come early and watch Joan and I perform at DRF!
We haven’t established a fundraising goal and I don’t plan to get an official donation site up and running. I do ask, however, that if you decide to participate (and please do!), please make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Heck, if you’re reading this and can’t participate, please donate anyway! I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at ages 8 and 13 and the research successes seen by this organization are partially responsible for me being here today.
More instructions will follow as RSVPs start to come in.
We hope to ride with you in June!
“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”
For best results, please have the following tune playing (loud) whilst reading this post…
Pick me up and turn me round
(So I) guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong . . nothing
Hi yo I got plenty of time
Hi yo you got light in your eyes
And you’re standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Always for love
Cover up say goodnight . . . say goodnight
But I guess I’m already there
I come home she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time Before we were born
If someone asks, this where I’ll be . . . where I’ll be
Hi yo We drift in and out
Hi yo sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
Share the same space for a minute or two
Love me till I’m dead
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head Ah ooh
(Thanks, LJ, for the care package. And obviously, I own zero rights to Talking Heads property and I’m broke so don’t sue me.)
What’s your fondest memory of childhood?
I have so many great ones to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one.
There were all the family vacations to Moab, UT to ride the White Rim Trail over several days.
We went to Disneyland/world once each, and did the whole tourist thing.
And then there were lazy Sundays doing nothing much beyond watching the Denver Broncos with dad.
My dad taught me to love football. If you’d like to know about my prowess on the field, you’d have to ask Anthony Poponi or The Dave Noir (we played a few years of flag football together, and we were all pretty rusty. Actually, “rusty” implies that skill has decreased with time. Truth be told, we started rusty.) No, while I enjoyed playing football, I’ve come to realize that I’m much better at watching it.
I’ve always been a hometown fan. No matter the odds, you could find me pulling for the Broncos. And for a lot of my childhood, this taught me disappointment, then acceptance.
Until the season of 1997, when the Broncos won their first Superbowl (XXXII) in franchise history. The John Elway era ended with a repeat Superbowl win (XXXIII) in the season of 1998. And it was good.
What followed Elway’s retirement was a sad, winless post-season drought. On the rare occasion that the Orange Crush would make it to the playoffs, they’d likely be tossed within the first round. Opportunities were missed. My dad and I would watch, despondent from the couch, hopes high but expectations low.
After a series of greasy, could be plumber, cry-baby, (somehow fitting Orton in here), no prayer quarterbacks, my team has landed the prettiest girl at the dance. P.F.M. And he’s taking us to the Superbowl this Sunday. The Broncos are a new team with P.F.M. at the helm. While currently living in Arizona, I don’t have the opportunity to watch many games with my dad. But, without fail, we always talk about the most recent game over the phone.
A package addressed to me arrived on the doorstep yesterday. I eagerly took it inside and cut it open. This is what I saw:
That’s my Broncos hat from childhood. My initials and home phone number (!) have all but faded away, written on the inside with felt tip marker. This thing is from when I was single digits years old! And it came with a Dales Pale Ale stuffed inside it! And a chocolate bar!
I know the title of this post says my dad is cooler than your dad. Sorry if that hurt your feelings (or your dad’s feelings.) Your dad is probably pretty cool as well. But did your dad find your favorite childhood hat in the attic and send it to you since your team is back in the Superbowl? Did he stuff it with your favorite beer?!
My dad is super cool. We aren’t able to watch the game together this Sunday, but we’ll definitely talk about it over the phone.
It took a couple of weeks to get settled after the holiday break, but I’m back in classes and into the swing of the second semester.
This cute little cat with the tasteful beret (come to think of it, it’s kind of a raspberry color…) really epitomizes the spirit of those first two weeks. I’ve been in a state of constant vigilance since the start of the semester, and it has been a little trying. Getting used to new classes, expectations and a fresh schedule has required my full attention. But I think I’ve come down with something. A few other members of my cohort have shown symptoms as well. I’m not sure what the prognosis looks like, but I think I’ve got a little thing called “Graduate Student Guilt”.
GSG is described as, “a hyper-vigilant state in which otherwise reasonable graduate students are irrationally and illogically anxious and nervous about phantom commitments, imagined assignment due dates and fictitious upcoming exams.”
GSG is most common in first year graduate students, however it has been diagnosed in 10th year All-But-Dissertation (ABD) doctoral students. While the sufferer tends to believe a steady diet of caffeine and Tostino’s Hot-Pockets to be the cure, GSG has best been treated through a series of rational discussions with a significant other (also known as “talking off the ledge”) and long hours of rest. This condition is more frequently diagnosed at the beginning of academic terms.
I’m still in the early stages of this affliction, and my outlook is uncertain. I’m remaining positive and we’ll see how it progresses. I’ve got a great support system. I’ve actually been lucky enough to encounter many individuals who have successfully made it through their battles with GSG. Overall, they still seem pretty neurotic, but I remain optimistic. Wish me luck, friends…
Have you ever experienced GSG? Any advice for current grad students who occasionally feel the crushing pressure? Share your insight in the comments!
Across the room, the shining red digits of the clock taunted my restlessness.
“Just close your eyes, the more you dwell on it the less you’ll sleep,” I told myself. I drifted in and out of consciousness for what seemed like hours and gave myself permission to check the clock again.
On the other side of the bed I could sense a similar sleepless agitation from Joan. We tossed and turned for a while longer, with the optimistic hope that sleep would come and give us passage to a more reasonable hour of the morning. “Want to get up and catch the sunrise at the Canyon?” I asked sarcastically.
A long pause.
“Umm…yeah! Let’s do it!”
We had already been planning on taking a day-trip to hike around the Grand Canyon. Sure, we weren’t planning on leaving for another seven hours, but what the heck? Neither of us was really getting any rest. How cool would a sunrise at the 7th natural wonder of the world be?
Turns out, really cool.
Yes, I look incredibly smug in this picture.
We found an excellent perch away from the crowds and prepared ourselves for a breathtaking dawn.
We were started cold but knew the sun’s warmth would soon be upon us.
And in came the sunshine…
The sun began to spread, showering the landscape in light.
As the the day began, so did our hike.
Signs warned of the dangers of heatstroke.
The trail crisscrossed and lead us down, down, down.
Cheerful morning hike!
A look back at where we started.
Walls all lined up.
Deadwood. Ooooor live wood.
The return trip. All uphill from here.
Adventures need good partners. I’ve got the best.
The view from the top is much different from being down on the Colorado River. This was my first trip to the rim of the big ditch, and Joan’s second (but first in adult life.) In case I’m stating the obvious, it’s enormous. Like, really, really big. Friends, come and visit us and we’ll got check it out. Seriously, it’s only 90 minutes from our house. How crazy is that?
Here’s to making yourself feel small once in a while. Cheers.
Friends, what have you taught me?!?
A few weeks back, I posted A (non-)ode to Bad Coffee (which you should read for context before going on), a tongue-in-cheek gripe session about the chalky, bark-flavored swill I’ve been drinking during graduate school. It’s sold as “coffee” but I think it was mislabeled.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. So far, the non-ode has yielded six pounds of delicious, high-quality, free trade coffee beans. Is more on the way? I’ll have to wait and see.
Attached to a pound from Durango’s Raider Ridge Cafe was a response poem, reprinted here without any form of permission:
An ode to Good Coffee:
Here is some coffee that is not shitty,
It will wash away your sad self pity.
It does not taste of bark or soil,
It will not make your tummy boil.
It is 100 percent Fair Trade, you see,
The beans are roasted locally.
It has the most delightful aroma,
It would even wake you from a coma.
The taste, oh my! It will make you swoon,
You may choose to add cream and stir with a spoon.
So toss out that cheap bad coffee swill
And dig out your trusty coffee mil.
Don’t fret about saving your hard earned dough!
I think by now you already know:
That some thiings in life
Are not worth such strife.
Special thanks to my bean providers, Dave Noir (from Kaladi Coffee), Mother Dearest (hooking it up with Camp4Coffee) and Tracey and Jarrod (of the aforementioned Raider Ridge Cafe). You’ve all reinforced the notion that I should bitch and moan until treats arrive to shut me up. I appreciate it!
Now, about the shitty beer I’ve been drinking…
Joan and I spent 17 days in Colorado over the holiday break, and during that time I was reminded of some basic life lessons. To share with you:
1. Hold your friends close and your family closer.
Often, those two categories are the same. Especially when growing up in a small town like Gunnison, friends become family. When challenges face a community, people come together. Tragedy provides a powerful reminder of just how important the people in our lives truly are. Hold them close and tight, and enjoy the good times.
Living out of a suitcase is hard (but Joan and I already knew that.) Sometimes, it’s easier to let other people make the decisions and go with the flow. This was particularly true when people began to get holiday flus and colds. We have the most control over how we react to situations. We can have influence on the events that are going to happen, but awareness of our responses and understanding the circumstances makes adapting to those events much, much easier.
3. You can’t do everything…
My, what grand plans I had! I’ll back country ski with Jordan and Lani, we’ll hang out with John and Jackie in Denver, we’ll check out Ft. Collins as a possible next home base. Oh, let’s go to CB for New Years, too! These are all plans we had that didn’t quite pan out. High hopes fell short this time.
4. …But you can do a lot.
We got to see our nephews, go to the zoo with little ones, skied Crested Butte, Monarch and cross-country, saw TONS of friends, spent time with family, saw an incredibly creative dance show (directed by one of Joan’s old friends, ascendanceproject), stayed up till 12:02 New Years Eve and plenty more. We make our to-do lists long and difficult to complete but we fill those lists with great things, so those items we do get to check off are just as sweet. Quality and quantity.
5. Bringing joy is the best.
We had a top secret plan in the works for several months and executed it masterfully. Thanks to many individuals, one of Joan’s long-time dance friends received an aerial dance cube as a surprise present. And she flipped! It was so much fun to bring her out, blindfolded, and surprise her with this dance apparatus. Jess is going to have so much fun getting to know this piece of equipment and it was super cool to be a part of the gift giving.
6. Home is where we are.
Crested Butte, Gunnison, parts of the front range, and Flagstaff all represent a little bit of home to us. Wherever we were, we were able to enjoy it. Yes, we do keep all our possessions here in Flaggy-boy, but we still feel very connected with other places as well. With that said, Flagstaff has been a great home to us, and we were glad to get back after a long road trip.
What lessons did you learn over the holidays?
More than two weeks after I received the news that you were gone, I still can’t believe it. I still expect to see your crooked grin waltz through the door, a springy, bouncy step carrying your lanky frame. Wes, I can’t believe you’re gone. We miss you. I miss you.
The news was delivered to me in a rather unceremonious way. My phone vibrated and without looking, I ignored it for the moment. I was engaged with a conversation with my family, after being away at graduate school for a semester and I was enjoying the raucous debate. I finally glanced down and read, “Wes Ochs died last night.”
And that was it. That was all the information provided. Not because the messenger was being callous, but simply because there was no additional information available. By and by, reports came out indicating possible causes of death. An enlarged heart was suggested as a factor, a tragically poetic explanation that makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. Indeed Wes, you had an enormous heart.
I want to remember the great things about you. I don’t ever want to forget the way you could make us all laugh and smile. You gave without asking for anything in return. You were a true friend.
On December 22nd, Denver Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes against opponents the Houston Texans, setting a new NFL touchdown passing record and clinching a playoff spot for the Broncos. Wes, you were the biggest Broncos fan I knew and Mannings record seemed particularly symbolic the day following your death. I remember going to your house in junior high and thinking how strange it was that you had bottles of mustard lining your shelves. Even after you explained to me that this particular brand of mustard was endorsed by Ed McCaffery, wide receiver for the Bronco’s from ’95 to ’03 (and your favorite player) I still thought condiments were better suited for the refrigerator. The excitement and zeal you lived with overflowed into all aspects of your life.
Speaking of middle school, remember all those toilet paper raids we went on during those days? Apologies to the homeowners of Lower Castle Mountain, because we colored that place white with 2-ply several nights a month each summer. Sorry to point this all out while you’re not here to defend yourself, Wes, but this is a definite highlight of my childhood.
You kept me in basketball through high school. Sports were an extra challenge for me during this time, as I was going through chemotherapy. In an act of solidarity and unity, the entire freshman team shaved their heads to match my drug induced baldness. Wes, you were a big part of that experience and a great leader for our team. I was never especially skilled at the sport and looked to athletes like you with admiration. I wanted to be like you and always looked up to your ability to play with such talent. You encouraged me, picked me up when I was down and helped me improve my game outside of practice. Wes, you were an incredible teammate. And you looked terrible bald.
Wes, I can’t end this letter to you without mentioning one of our biggest, running jokes. Dude, I love you, but you had the most hilarious habit of making accidental same-sex innuendos. (Reader, if you don’t know exactly what I mean, please familiarize yourself with Tobias Funke, a character from the TV show Arrested Development and great example of what I mean.) I’m not going to post any here, but I’ve got an endless supply that will always make me chuckle. You always made people smile.
With improving consistency, a handful of 2005 GHS graduates have been getting together in Denver for a yearly (and trust me on this part, extremely informal) reunion. You were a pivotal part of that process and would often host all of us. I’m looking forward to this for 2014. We’ll need to find a new host for it, but we’ll toast to you, tell stories of your memory and celebrate like you were with us. Because, in us gathering together, you will be.