The Pettitfiles


The human condition, bicycles, paths and people.

I was coerced recently into a conversation spun by a magician of mankind. Before I had realized what had happened I was pried open as he was licking his fingers searching for the cliff notes to some of the worst and greatest chapters to date. His monologue was remarkable clear, honest and truthful. And for some goddamn reason I can’t let it out of my thoughts.

An educated man I proudly suffer for, and still can’t believe our paths had crossed to the depths they have, it’s a relationship I would’ve thought impossible years ago. Back then we’d be two curious anomalies sniffing each other out all the while thinking that’s how the other half lives, they’re more fucked up than me.

Wealth, was an unknown to me until I had finished high school. Although my experiences and pride in what and where I’ve been had usually left me with enough brass to allow me to hang in any situation. It took me over thirty years to realize more importantly wealth isn’t just a comma in bank accounts but structure of family, relationships and bonds. Those had always alluded me, the only true bond I knew was a love of bikes, being outside and seeing remarkable things and the kind that kept my ass out of jail. We all see in perfect view our past, and most feel the need to insulate themselves in moving forward. I’ve always prefered to feel the burn or chill , feel the effort exerted from my body and watch veins of effort rise and collapse.

What he’d seen in a couple years and hours spent stuck to my wheel was the most concise advice I had heard.   “Let all that go” he said a few times, and while he doesn’t know everything he knows enough and mixed with a gifted brain and time to think, I already knew he was right. “You have to allow yourself to be proud of who you’ve become, what you’ve done and allow yourself that confidence”

Hearing a man that I hold in such high regard say that to me brought a wave of emotion that crested behind my eyes. He isn’t perfect, nor his family or some beliefs, but he’s human.   His body has been riddled with ailments that would kill 99% of cockroaches but he’s still here, busy as ever, pouring miles into his legs and riding with his boys, I feel the same crescendo of emotion knowing that I’ve become one of “his” boys as I did when he actually spent earnest time thinking of me.

I’m lucky to have had three remarkable men of all different walks of life lend me parts of them. Oceans, fathers, patriarchs and of course bikes, but more importantly personalities. I had countlessly given myself to people not deserving of my loyalty, compensation and time. I allowed all the things that don’t matter come before those that do, and sometimes it takes the smartest guy you know to remember to smell the flowers and allow gratitude and time to look around.

I was fractured when I came here. I had a half broken cross bike, a couple dollars in my hand and an idea that I knew that I was more than my years, that the internal drive was grinding on plates and a new range was going to be formed out of sheer effort and time like those backbones of mountains I love so much.

A 16 penny galvanized nail held a shimano ultegra shifter together, bent down towards the bottom of the hood causing a caules to form and blood to drip while sprinting or climbing, or just riding the shitty asphalt and gravel I began the reclamation on. I was really never even that good back then, I was a creature of places and experience, my friends put in honest hours and time and where a ways a head of me, but I was free, I was alive and I saw tons more than they did in their suffocating state of anarobia. I rode myself from 210 to 200, 200 to 190 and hovered there for a year. Then morphed another 5 pounds and now average around 178-185 depending on habits and miles.   My shoulders no longer look like a man who uses his body as a fulcrum, but I’m also not a T-Rex cyclist build either.    We are defined by our lifestyles, our individual human condition and some combustible drive we can both describe but cannot define, however through our efforts and the collection of people we attempt to put words and images to it.

We all need structure, we are creatures of habit, integrity and influences. A collidiscope of images, experiences and people. I have learned to be loved, to allow a few good quality people into my life, to be soft and rounded. We all have acts in life and if we’re lucky the number climbs with age and we become muses and thespians, characters and friends. A bike and a drive brought me these people, a four hundred dollar two wheeled machine allowed me to stretch my legs and shed a skin I hated and never felt like myself in, that two wheeled machine allowed me to tramp down the divide, a couple podiums, pondered life in the aspens and thin air, but more importantly brought a wave of souls to me that I’m inspired by, encouraged, defeated by and laugh with, and days and nights are not lonely or misplaced now.

Some of the biggest pillars of my life have died, I feel a solace that I helped in some way, and that I was helped by a worn out bike that allowed me to leave death beds for mountains, unattended funerals to rivers and given the time to realize in effort of pedals turning over days to months. As a kid anxiously waking his tired father before day break on the only day he didn’t work, I’d make coffee, have the truck loaded and warmed up to becoming a balding, grey spattered bearded man reaching towards forty the thing my latest mentor and I agree on is the start line. There is no substitute for miles, for effort, for saddle time, for heart, lungs and soul. That the economics end to some degree on that damned line, you can look like a million bucks, but effort brings out the nature of who and what we are, I was surprised that him and I where dead on in that regard. He sat at the end of the table and waved a finger at me and said, “That’s exactly right JP” We both know you can’t fake it forever. That those with minimal hallways lead to the shortest corridors of perspective and places, those who seek gratification over gratitude.

In the morning we woke up around five, loaded up bikes and hit the shootout in Tucson, and he did what he does best.  Boast of the hogs in front, playing on the feelings and emotions of those in the group and saying “I don’t know who those boys are” to saying yea, “That one is my turbo diesel, and that one’s my boy”  I could hear pride and happiness in his voice, he too was alive, healthy and surrounded by people he’s always wanted, again, a person I would’ve thought I would never have anything in common with, the doctor and a mason, a masters and a laborer, but we’re the same on two wheels, pride went through my body and I cranked on the pedals with a smile, knowing I’ve reached a spot in life I’ve always wanted, and these situations and people where brought on by effort, bikes and honesty.  A chain, some gears, a couple tires and something to slow you down, we can be as big or as little as we want to be in life.  Even my relationship with my parents has greatly improved by realizing who we all are, that nothing will change that last name, but we can change the history and live out loud


The Pettit files~the road, fight and good fun

It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my folks and the gravel roads that brought me to and from school then back again. The routs had changed, grown over by the rain and sunlight covering two lanes of simple asphalt, photosynthesis has a power in the Northwest. It created a canopy that once was just a mild envelope attempting to drown out light, now however the darken lanes split with a ribbon of yellow seemed a different route that I used to take home, the distances between turns was shorter and rives not so deep.

Everything I knew and grew up around was callused. Shoulders, knees, hands, knuckles and fingers that shed like a Gardner snake, handling tons of wood, steel, rebar and sheeting that constructed the exuberance of imagination. Even the towns grew up rough and rowdy and they too seemed to find a mellower way to make ends meet. Those with money could expand blueprints, those with capability could build. The dichotomy always struck out to me, the beauty and the beast, the needs and the haves it’s a dance of interpretation that’s been honed over centuries

There is something soothing about my father’s presence now, pragmatic, sensible, understanding and still a youth of wandering and wondering. 50 years of work will do that to you I suppose. Your parents grace, coffee, small talk, and differences, they wiped your ass and fed you and soon the tables will turn.

We all have our own faults and transmissions, how we relate to ourselves and the world. My skin has turned and wrinkles begin to appear, grey and lack of growth of hair transcend my body. My hands sometimes don’t look like my own, they’ve become aged and bent, morphed by years and work. The idea of cultivation seems too long gone, planting seeds, ideas and thoughts we can harvest for future use but yet we’ve become a now, all knowing, and now people.

Legacy, fate and facebook post we all tell a story. A twang of harmonica and twisted strings help me find mine, blended with soft hops and bourbon whiskey I’ll recite a rhyme, never cast light where none needs to be, allow the curvature of earth and natural beams come to you on their own. Apps have transplanted color and texture, but now a hashtag will describe a situation and feeling.

In fits of sleep I can smell the raw gas burning from a 350 engine and carburetor that’s in need of a tune along with plenty of exhaust leaks. Low grade unleaded and the pull and drag of manual steering and the sounds of chunky rubber breaking loose over gravel as your forearms and triceps attempt to steer the steel beast. With my arm out the window and actual music telling a story coming through the stereo we gain speed down those old two lane back roads, cylinders fire off in rhythm as we are in search of a river, mountains, girls in bikinis and trails to ride bikes.

I was given an AM radio from our friends who owned horses, Id earned it from cleaning stalls and I remember waiting till my parents picked me up so I can have control over the dial and hear voices I never had before. I think I was 8 and up on the top bunk of a room I shared with my brother I had my first alone nostalgic music experience when Bonnie Raitt came across two shitty tiny speakers with angles from Montgomery, I turned knobs to hear it better and play with imaginary antennas, my world came to a complete stop and I closed my eyes and tried to understand what John Prine was trying to write and describe, but her fingers on the guitar and soul in her voice I was in love, I had and still to do have complete paralyze when she sings. The next song was Merle Haggard momma tried then Tina Turner, those where the first three songs I’d heard alone and was allowed the time and thought to process my ten acres and single wide world I knew just expanded tenfold by people, a little black chunk of plastic with two speakers and an antenna could transport me, at night I could actually tune into delta blues music, as I began to play in band, my soul was blues, honest, sad and love, truth music and described a feeling all I could think about was more as I twisted the knobs and asked questions to those how knew. I didn’t know how to, I asked people who knew, my uncle Jim told me how I could find muddy waters on AM radio over the crackle and shitty reception came to me in star war sheets and I was a skinny 40 pound pre-pubescent child who knew what a slide guitar was, I thought I had an edge.

My mother and grandma could play anything and my uncle Jim was a musician. My dad’s father was equally amazing and gave a vast spread of offspring. My dad however knew three cords and zero rhythm but he knew what a song meant, growing up in England and Seattle the beetles where his go to, but when Bob Dylan always played on large vinyl in the house especially Reuben Carter the hurricane came on he would dance around shadow boxing me telling me to put my arms up and fight, it was his go to that we are against everyone, nothing was given and we need to fight and earn everything
Or it could be taken away from us, never back down, and do what you can.

To this day, I can feel my hands on the throttle of an old John Deere three ’48 wheel tractor, a large steel green lever just behind the steering wheel, tempting you with the slow rumble of the engine. Although I wasn’t allowed nor strong enough to drive, I tried. I sat in that springer steel seat and watched my dad and brother operate their feet to guide the green mass and thought I for sure could handle it, I broke many fences with that and the three wheeler, eventually though I became a good hand, after many frustrations and “learning” experiences.

I now awake in the early slatted blinded light of sunrise in a sub division looking out towards the pool with my girl by my side and the dog who had to get on the bed between 2 and 4 am. It takes me a minute to grab my bearings and figure out a path towards the coffee, blinking between dreams and reality then towards bikes and a lab top. That song by Bonnie Raitt is still in my ears, the first notes dragged along wood and bended steel along with numerous people who’ve guided me, my parents, grandparents, Aaron, Rice’s, Norb, the list is long but all their niches and catch phrases never leave me alone, and I know they’ve served me well in my desperate need of companionship and fortitude. Even now approaching forty I don’t own the vocabulary to express what they all mean to me.

Now the thought of soft pines and cool breezes fantasies my lobes as I ride in triple digit heat, motivation and gratitude wane in the atmospheric rise of temperature that turns mere metal objects into branding objects. I reduce polyester and Cotton and take a plunge into the pool, for a quite aquatic moment the imagination is awash of water that could be from anywhere, my imagination always goes to the Snohomish river and fingers of the the pilchuck, teanaway, and Yakima rivers. I pretend the air rising up is from the salt water of the pacific and maybe I’m with Aaron back in Alaska, or anywhere along the inside passage. I come to the surface as oxygen runs low and carbon dioxide high, then the imaginary balloon is popped and I’m indeed back where I started, but I bless the thought and brief reprieve.

I love my life, home and more importantly the woman who stands beside me and those friends that continue to surround me, together we’re and impenetrable force. Learning how to gauge my fight has been the longest learning curve, but its and all-encompassing effort, I still have a chip and carry a cut I feel my family has, but instead I turn it to gratitude, but I want the best out of myself and know I’m capable of having the things we didn’t early on. The conversations now with my parents are much different, my father and I both wanting the best out of each other, and sometimes we talk about the past, but we all have to know where we came from, and senior is alright, the struggles are now worth our relationship.

The old twist and bends from honest tunes, efforts and love now lead my life. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I reach into the stratosphere but always I’m in in the middle, back home hearing vinyl, skidding on a gravel roads, hand me down shorts and no shirt asking the world to bring what it has, cause I’ve got a couple knowing hands and a solid chin and a do or die effort inside, we live how we chose and these days dictate our lives, and nobody can take that away.

Anything is everything

Anything is everything.

Exclusivity, I had once thought was the right reserved to the upper crust. Manicured golf courses, valet parking, homes with top to bottom trim designed by an affluent home owner and architect. New cars, expensive skis and bikes ridden in places I’d only seen in glossy magazine pictures. Exclusivity usually meant a membership into some known or private club with secret handshakes backed with old money and free to do as they pleased.

Team and club sports with matching kits, fancy shoes and gear bags. Everybody moved as one and they used strength in numbers to achieve goals and ambitions, I however was never invited, nor did I let myself become involved in such bullshit.

I had grown up in a single wide mobile home on ten acres, exclusivity wasn’t a word that was in our vocabulary. I watched our neighbors build houses, have big machines cut into the ground for foundations, knocking down trees and clearing pastures, and we stayed idle with our humble tin can and barn. My father made attempts to short cut the process of building our house that my parents had blueprints for, that resulted in another learning experience and dealing with adversity while others condone and look down upon you, but we built our house and took the knocks on the chin, we never knelt to anyone.

I was athletic in high school and I knew it. Skinny and small I wasn’t built for much yet, but I was equally as strong as bigger guys with twice the endurance. By my junior year I was steadily riding my bike to school, 18-25 miles round trip. What started out as a show of defiance by getting kicked off the school bus turned into an experience to this day I still practice.

When you grow up rough, your confidence is most affected. I was shy and had a hard time looking people in the eye while talking to them, and even now occasionally I catch myself doing it. The need to please others before myself has put me in awkward and unrewarding situations.

I played soccer, ran cross-country but it was more to show people I could do it, and that I was just as good as they were but I wasn’t happy, I was competing against myself for than anything, for some justification that I was indeed good enough, that out running or out playing them gave me confidence. Now I see it as a shallow way to build myself up, that ego is an evil and is usually the head of those exclusive pricks I hated so much. We were fighters down to the nail full of pride, vengeful and sometimes misused our strength.

I raced my first handful of mountain bike races in hi-tech hiking boots, soccer socks, tighty whities, soccer shorts and some kind of shirt. I had graduated bikes up to a Kona hot, a sweet steel frame designed by Joe Murray, 3×7, thumb shifters and fully rigid. The introvert had found a release of an inner being that before stayed dormant and repressed. I was in the mountains with other strays and outcast, wildly athletic people charging up ski hills and bouncing down them. We would battle then afterwards reflect on what and who had just punished us, grievances aside the warriors had their fight and now we were all friends again, I had found a calling.

My personalities and competitive nature had for the first time a positive place to go. I raced on cheap bikes with washing machine parts spray painted by me and my dad dueling out with kids on high end aluminum and this new thing called carbon fiber in muddy cross races. I didn’t put in the time some of them did, nor was I a fan of NORBA cross-country races that only lasted an hour and a half, I liked big loops and carrying back country tools to fix any ailment, otherwise it felt like a team sport where you could rely on others instead of the singular effort of you against nature and the balance between the two.

Most of the time I ride alone now, especially on the mountain bike. I enjoy the wholeness of the effort and always have, from not having much for most of my life to now steadily building and acquiring, I’m in a place that’s sometimes foreign to me, but I know I’m deserving of it. Knowing where I came from to where I am now, the different paths, jobs, houses and states, everything is different, but the current is 100 percent the same.

Enjoying a lazy rainy summer day in Bartonville Texas at the home of my girlfriends parents, I perused the magazine isle at barns and noble finding the history of mountain biking magazine. Realizing my generation was at the boom of the sport, and now we ride towards our 40’s fit greying, balding and covered in scars. Enjoying what we’ve accomplished and the ability to ride steeds we once could only touch in shops, it’s amazing to look around and feel the pulse that we’ve created. That longevity, creativeness that we’ve sprung and be a part of it all. We try to segregate ourselves, to find an individual niche that makes people take notice of us, what we do and what we like to ride. We point and mock, and try to establish some sort of exclusive grouping of likeminded people, when truth be told we are all just looking for the same ending result. Mountain bikers have longed not gave a fuck about groups or clubs, if you liked to ride bikes-cool, if not do your thing and I’ll do mine.

We should take pride in the different endeavors that bikes bring to us, and allow our minds to expand at all the possibilities. Without a handful of wingnuts who just wanted to ride down mountains a lot of us would be years behind all the fun we’ve already had. It’s a beautiful thing the beast and machine, the lines of mountains match the lines on my face, maps and stories of where we’ve been. A bike raised me in my youth and has raised me to be a better human, it is my greatest ally, deepest confidant and pursuer of things left unseen and mountains to climb, there is nothing exclusive about that.

The Pettit~Files, reclamation cyclist, pursuits and endevours.

Florescent garage lights flicker as my eyes hemorrhage to gain vision.  The house is cold and the only noise comes from Mr. Coffee percolating the caffeinated goodness, I swipe the ipad to Pandora and now tunes fill the space I share alone with my thoughts.  My lips meet the hot coffee in a porcelain cup as the rest of me attempts to awake from the fog of sleep. I know as soon as I hit the garage door button more blast of cold will cover me. It’s dark out and will be for hours, skin is exposed to bare air, crisp and cool it draws any moisture and makes me look older, I know however at 36 I’ve gained plenty of miles, most of them off the bike. 

                Fumbling for warmth, gloves and something to cover a bare scalp, I attempt to chug the heat from a cup for my last bit of reprieve from this lonely chill.  Lumens now shoot towards my neighbor’s house and music attains my brain as cold heavy legs clip into contraptions that hold me to a machine.  Everywhere my head turns, a narrow beam of light accompanies it, I wish my concentration could be as accurate. 

                It’s pavement for a couple miles, then the familiar trailhead.  Darken empty parking lot, humble and chilly.  I unlock the suspension, adjust a couple things and make my way to the rocky trials.  My legs move like pistons, and my body the serpentine belt, but these glow plugs aren’t warm yet, the parts aren’t lubed and it seems a convoluted mess of things moving out of harmony.  My heart thumps a faster rhythm than the rest of me want’s to, and it takes a while for the parts to find themselves and catch up, my brain however is still in thread counts and cotton. 

                Pockets of heat and depths of cold come and go in the hollers, every once in a while I’ll look for another light, but the better part of me knows I’m the only soul out here.  It’ll be nearly 3 hours till the sun comes up, I know my music will be interrupted with emails from corporate back east, I also know I’m both doing good and evil to my body.  Rocks kick up and splinter my chin, bringing me back to the realization I should pay attention and not on my finances, the sphere of life and makers mark.  I stop at the next trailhead and look at my garmin held to the bike by electrical tape, it broke in the last crash and Chase bank said I can’t have another one.  Coyotes and Javelinas are my only company, along with the bugs that sway in my headlight when I stop.  The bike glides over the harsh earth and fully suspends me in air sprung comfort, giving further thanks to the relationships I’ve established since moving south. 

                First loves and fairy tales left handed diamond bands and life rolls on.  I chuckle to myself, the cloud of breath hangs around my head like its waiting to be filled with quotations, instead I say fuck, where is the sun.  I rumble through a bit of isolated singletrack and reach the backside of the mountain, random things sparkle in the rocks and dirt.  Not all that shines like gold is golden, and not all efforts are even.  The towers atop South Mountain are my only company; they blink in succession and mark their territory.  I get to the top and turn back around and head toward San Juan and another random bit that doesn’t see much action, linking together sections of trail and asphalt, and then repeat the effort until finally the temperature dips a few degrees, then I know the sun is making its way to me.

                I turn of the artificial light and allow the morning to come to me, set in my bones so I can feel its complete warmth, I know soon enough I’ll be too damned hot but that’s the motion of what we do.  I sit on a cold rock on a good vantage point to watch the yellow orbs fingers of heat cover the valley, watch as they bend up the mountain and splash my face first then work its way down my body.  I rarely during the week get to ride in the daylight, and while trying to balance life, love, money, work, events, and everything else it seems I’m more nocturnal than most.  It’s a dance to ride in the dark, odd things stick out, your fall line changes in tunnel vision of light, your mind races of things you’ve think you saw.  I’ve ate shit a time or two making the adjustment, “when Jonny p crashes in the woods does it make a sound”  Yes, and usually the words are not sweet.  Luckily barely anything is exposed so I’m just bruised but no blood. 

                Someone asked me what determination looked like the other day, and leaving my house before 4 am and seeing the glow of lights between my blinds and knowing its warm and cozy I imagined that’s it a little, the ability to shove off into the unknown, be humbled, emphatic, lost, confused but knowing we’ll be alright, that’s a brief description I’d give.  Leaving something you know works for the betterment of us and our minds, friends and just plain ole exploration, chasing haunting fears and doubts.

                I believe I’m a reclamation cyclist.  Cobbled together things that were broken and forgot about, held together by glue I can’t describe and an unhealthy need to try everything.  I found it early by way of getting away from situations, to be healthy, explore and come back home torn open, tired, bleeding but damn happy from an adventure, seeing rare parts of the globe.  Your mind creates a wonder lust of what you saw and experienced, sometimes I’m a little wounded by seeing so many of these things alone, I’ve gathered many diamonds that have forever stuck with me.  We all have crutches, shoulders and personal ambition; it’s the balance between them all that allows us to be creative.  Life is for living, bikes suit anybody like a tailor fit, the further I got outside that knowledge my world came apart.  We meet people that become bridges, allowing us to see and experience a different part of life, get across our own fears; this band of peddlers is the most sporadic and genius bunch I’ve met. 

                I really never thought of a career, never graduated college and barely made it through high school.  A decades worth on the ocean, pounding nails, pouring concrete, skiing trees and riding bikes, that all sounded pretty rad to me, but understanding life doesn’t always have to be tough is a hard lesson for me to learn.  In dating women they always see what could be, I tell them this is actually quite the refinement compared to what I use to be and do. 

                It’s not just about speed, but when we get twisted we find the purity of the effort when we swing a leg over a bike, then instead it becomes a magic carpet and away we ride.  The older I get, the more happy I am to see the different scope of people on bikes, the endeavor is the same and I find a great deal of joy in that, sometimes I feel like I’m the vessel to go where they would like to, but can’t.  Finding a purpose, revealing gratitude, having friends and quieting that internal mystery between our shoulders and ears, that’s a lot of the reasons I do it, it’s the only life I’ve known.  Things could change in a year or ten, but the driving force will involve the machine itself, and the friends made along the way.

The Pettit~Files. Enough is enough, can’t we just ride bikes.

Enough is enough.  May we call a truce on the words used to describe rides, adventures, miss haps , road rides, all mountain rides, enduro rides, cross-country rides, fat bike, gravel rides, self-supported rides.  We are dividing ourselves by verbiage, already a narrow group against the motored crowd we are becoming our own worst enemy. 

                Fat, skinny, hairy legged, shaved legged, shaved head, fuzzy head and a beard, as far as I’m aware, we still have two legs, feet and arms.  5 milers-5,000 milers, we all forget we ride things with two wheels and some kind of driving force that we push to move it, that’s a bicycle.  The simple, glorious thing about a bicycle is its innate ability to inspire and give adventure, vast vistas, new friends, loves, passion and empathy.  The different the bike, the different the endeavor, but the soul of the effort is the same as the LA fixie hipster, to the brah downhiller and the 140 pound cross country cat. 

                We look at gladiators of decades ago in woolen kits, wrapped in spare tires and the efforts across their face, hard men we still connect to for reasons we don’t know, but reasons that have brought us together.  We didn’t call them roadies, fixies, no; we call them by their names and names others gave them, that are alive and vibrant to the lore that they are.   They weren’t ever categorized as a being in a group, but by establishing this same group we honor today.  There is so much terminology now that surrounds what a bunch of rebels cascaded down a mountain in California, escaping crowds, seeking adventures, and getting the hell away from problems both they created and those they live with.  Men who started multi-million dollar companies off of one ride, we burn at the cross when they step outside a line we created, instead of praising their endeavor nearly 40 years ago.  We all fuck up, we all sometimes continue to make mistakes, and we’re human and cyclist.

                The funny thing about legends is usually no one sets out to become one are a part of one.  They followed a path, single in its width, and a couple of friends who ventured out where the sidewalk ended.  At our current peak of technology, words are being created that diehards don’t understand, what happened to just being a cyclist?  What is wrong with the pure form of wanting to feel better about ourselves, become fitter in mind and body, and see sights that take effort to see and appreciate.      

                I started riding bikes that costs 10’s of dollars and like my age they have since gone up, but I get the same feeling as riding down that gravel road I grew up on aboard bikes that used non bike parts to get down the road.  Take your bicycle up mountains, down mountains, across mountains.  Take your bicycle over roads, chip seal, gravel, and potholes.  Take your bicycle to school, around the block, down to the tavern.  Just go downhill if you want, just ride it flat if you want.  The important thing is the damn machine makes you happy, no matter the discipline, you’re a cyclist.  We need to stick together, because if we lost one, we lose part of that oddness that sets us apart, an appendage we need. 

                We will always be individuals in this sport we love, it alone sets us apart.  While our passions may differ, our heart is the same, the stronger the grouping the louder the beat, and while I usually spend the majority of my time and rides alone, I’ve never lost the first home and group I’ve known.  I’m proud to call myself a cyclist and belong to this sect of odd folks.  Let’s take it easy on the menagerie of names and just ride our damn bikes. 

The Pettit~Files. The mad diary of a bike rep

Fresh oil and newer tranny fluid, four nearly new tires not one bought at the same time, over a half tank of gas and full cup of coffee.  A cargo minivan wrapped out in SRAM red lurches towards the freeway, loaded with toys, goodies and a weary driver, except my elves live in Indianapolis and Taiwan and I pay for all of my presents. 

                I press the far right pedal till I get to cruising speed, then a couple of clicks of buttons and my foot comes off the floor and I’m free to move about the cabin.   My body and mind know what’s ahead, five hours of windshield time in a barren area.  Time to get caught up on lost phone calls, deep thoughts, emails, and static over the airwaves.  I don’t have a usb cable fancy radio player, it does however play cd’s.  Instead though, I like to tune into whatever voices comes through the dense hills and humors me.  Stations switch and become fuzz, that’s when you know you’re leaving your neck of the woods.   Different lulls and highs mark out a different channel, and I scan the dial from Mexican tuba infused music to right wing all hail Jesus jobs. 

                This trip through the mesas to Vegas was marked with wind, gust of 30 mph plus, the two lane roadway cluttered with semi’s, RV’s, and wagons of all sorts headed north by northwest.  Sort of an Oregon trail for reps who cover this territory.  We cross lanes and buzz like fat bugs in a heavy breeze, we’ll either collide with each other or reach our destinations, at times, seems like either outcome is available.  The cab whirls between gears in the symphonic noise of the 3.5 liter 212 cubic inch engine rolls down the highway with 240 galloping horses nearing 80 miles an hour.

                The hours somehow seemed small, maybe due to my only two stops or the constant buzz of my phone from work emails, and all the things I’ve got to handle while in Las Vegas.   After hours of staring at the brown tinted green desert you roll into the outskirts of Nevada, just above the damned lake.  Walk in to drain your bladder and your eyes have to focus on the lights bursting everywhere like the fourth of July fireworks lighting up a midnight sky.  Brightly shooting neon is everywhere and overbearing, and already I await my exit past this same casino hotel and back to the hills and the areas around my home.

                I’ve been sleeping heavy lately, maybe because of the miles or just the energy needed for this time of year.  After I roll into a king size bed I’ll flip through pages of Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my favorites.  Simplicity, you fool; is the answer to all of our ailments.   And while I favor the purism of men like him and Norman Mclane, I sometimes delve into Hemmingway behavior however without the talent, nor the cash.  I’ll nod off with the help of miles and scars oozing blood on my body, and the aid of a melatonin chewable and after some reading my mind wanders to an age of no sky scrapers, unobstructed views, honest people doing viable work to keep a style and comfort of living to keep them fed and warm.  You see; simplicity. 

                I’ve come to believe the notion I’ve been broke so long I don’t know what feels right any longer.   Different pains, growths, limps and rubs haunt me; but I love it.   I screwed up my ankle and while conferring with another local endurance juggernaut I decided we should ride mountain bikes, then hike to more trails, then hike more and ride down.  With a patch quilt ankle I bobbled a rock section tried to unclip and put weight on a right ankle that didn’t want any then promptly tumbled down a 10 foot chunky rock garden.  You know you have good friends that know you’re not morbidly wounded and whip out their phone to capture your carnage and misfortune.  But I did jab a rock with a rib bone off my back and after breaking a lot of them in my life, I’m moving and breathing like I have yet another one. 

                Fortunes favor the bold, and idiocy wins the tolerance award, I put out some long days right after and soon scooped up over 200 hundred of them by the time Monday morning rolled around.  I like the thinking when your body is worked but knows there is more to do, and you shake like an addict for calories, you don’t want to slow the tempo to food but your mind and body aren’t on the same page.  The cadence marches out a death roll that I force my body to keep or I’ll crumple to a 185 pound heap on side of the road. 

                Back to work and Vegas bound.  With all the hotels booked up, a little gem came to my mind as Yeah Yeah Mcmaster and I tried to find a room for the night.  Bonnie Springs is off the beaten path as they say, complete with a petting zoo, miniature train, gun fights and other oddities.  It backs directly into the red rocks, the food is decent the atmosphere perfect and the bourbon poured neat and nice.  You can hop on whatever bike you brought and go for a cruise, it’s very un Vegas and only a handful of miles away, all you can really see is the beam of light from the Luxor, other than that you’d think you were nowhere near Las Vegas.  The beds where shitty, and a small scorpion greeted me in the shower, but laced with enough drink it was perfect and we passed out early.

                It was a cold morning and peacocks clucked at each other as I opened the slider to our patio, I built up a new Rockshox charger dampner as puffs of cold air floated around my face as I drank nasty coffee.  The mountain are beautiful and full of color their named for, much of me didn’t want to move, certainly not towards vegas.  I would prefer to ride and explore the hills, sit by the fire and drink booker’s bourbon, write and think, but I’m a bike rep, not Anthony Bourdain. 

                Shops where busy, a good sign, lots of stops and getting caught up, more miles, more windshield time spent meeting new people and completing the rounds, sushi and sake for dinner and more views of Vegas.  In the morning I tried to finish the rounds, it took force not to push home on the gps, but got everything wrapped up.   Soon enough though, the wagon was cruising back to Chandler after two and a half days in Vegas.   I stopped once for fuel and McMaster somehow was behind in the city I just left, two reps and better friends criss- crossing the territory.  Less wind down the hill and again made decent time.

                Friday was spent at home getting caught up on orders, laundry, bills, returning emails and conferring my future schedule, no riding Saturday more work, Sunday was spent With Hub Events and the Open water swim series that I donated swag for.  Great event, better people and definitely on the calendar to both attend and participate.  Afterwards I went up to Yeah yeahs house, met Melley at a gun range and spent the later afternoon clicking off rounds from 50-100 yards out on some targets, pretty fun actually.  It’s crazy the schedules, cross races, swims, mtb events, triathlons, and rides.  Sometimes it feels like I can’t catch my breath and I feel too spread out, most of me loves it, while the recluse goes a little stir crazy.  Another 1,000 miles driven in a weeks’ time but it leads to my future and allows me the life I got, all worth it.

                John Hammond burst through the speakers with songs written by Tom Waits, a blues guitar and harmonica in the key of G sets the mood and I get caught up on garage duty and a couple personal things.  So much of our daily frame of mind is being forced by high paid execs and marketing folks.  Beautiful people in mocked up glossy magazines, couture faces melded with some superficial expression, and bent in a way that nobody stands in or poses for that matter.  Exes and storylines somehow we learn it’s not about us, we are the seconds that tick, compared to the hands of a clock.  Words and sentiments, ideas and pre conceived notions, but we’re responsible for sharpening our own pencils to write our story.  If we don’t others will for us and our own message will get lost in translations and versions others remember. 

                Routines and glass slippers, each needs something to fill them, each give us guidance a dream and hope.  I think we all lose that everything is a memoir, everything lends us a form, it’s up to us to follow and see its guidance.  Reform, shape shifters and second acts that’s how I see this dance.  I’m not who I once was, nor are my friends and family.  Decades and days we are mildly the same, mine are better with a bike, a slice of silence in a beautiful place, efforts spent and something to think back and on about. 

The Pettit~Files. New bikes, soul rides and friends.

There are people in your life that you know are good for any adventure, good, bad or ugly.  In the midst of a storm or complete pounding of UV rays, lost and contemplating mileage, refuel and safety, there is always a joke and a knowing that all will be alright, but your skin, muscles and mind will however never be the same.  These days fall under the “soul” ride category, days where you have mini epiphanies and tragedies, hunger knocks, thirst pains, great vistas and places rarely seen and touched by man.  Those who are down for such events are rare, unique, odd, oddly amazing and perfect company. 

                Robert LaRoche is such an individual, and in my four years south by southwest we’ve had many adventures.  Usually twinged with remorse that we put ourselves in such situations, but after the first beer is cracked it no longer matters, but out on some rocky, unridable stretch with the sun and elements bearing down trying to break us we see the pure effort and endeavor of what we are trying to do, no matter the mental anguish and physical and psychological hell we’re in. 

                On this ride however it was meant to be an easy day, reconnect, be some of  the first to ride Black Canyon Trail north a ways.  Figure out the new Lapierre bike and get a firm understanding of the design, and build of the bike.  The relationship between man and machine is critical to a man like me; I spend my life, hours and days planted and clipped in, I recon it to breaking a horse, that feeling when you are connected through movement and the instinctual happens.  My foot finally healing up a little, or I should say enough for me to just say screw it, I’m doing this anyway, I got a brand new full suspension bike, my body will heal along the way.  Papa Roche isn’t too fit either just yet so we were heading off in search of knowledge to see what kind of shape the trail is, ride something different and spend some quality bromance time together. 

                The first section is pretty, initial climbing lends to some curvy switchback descents and a forging of the Agua Fria, which, to our surprise is deeper than we both thought.  Now with wet shoes and soggy socks we begin the climb out of the valley.  The sun was out but not overbearing, the loose trail gave way to rocks and a lot of them, boulder fields that not long ago housed a flood and took our good soil away.  When we chatted we both said the trail is a “little rougher” than usual, he’s been farther north than I have, and I asked what was ahead.  I’ve learned a couple P Roche ism’s from our years together.  The idea of miles and feet of climbed elevations are never too accurate, so taking that into full consideration, I adjusted my attitude accordingly.  I was surprised I wasn’t hurting too bad; I’ve managed a couple of long days with the traveling and tried to keep a steady ride time going.

                We crossed a pavement section of road with a gallon of water nearly gone from a plastic jug and he locks up the brakes and circles back.  I know what’s next, the smell test then the shoulder shrug and dumps it into his bottles, I also know some story about his months in the grand canyon drinking earth purified water is also coming.  I however still had enough to sustain.  By this time already our initial plans changed.  Instead of 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours now since we were “already” heading towards Cordes station we should just go there, bypass a little single track and take a couple miles of road then some technical, slow single track up towards the town. 

                I remember him and Melley, along with Yeah Yeah McMaster did this ride a while ago and all of them hurt for some time after.  The cat claw was out and grabbed at anything the hellish plant could get ahold of.  The trail was crossed with dancing lizards, snakes and tarantulas, I tried to avoid everyone I could, but some, by virtue got ran over,  I considered this an even trade as now my body dripped blood down my knuckles, arms and shins so we marked each other closely being all gods creature and we abided by the eye for an eye clause. 

                The flowy goodness of trail gave way near a crossing of a large saguaro giving a brief moment of shade while I collected my thoughts and waited to hear the sound of Laroche coming across the trail.  We again converged on mileage, time and just what Cordes Station may have.  We rode washed board dirt roads up to and past Bumble Bee a small town with nothing in it, cars past and left a plume of dust for two souls to ride through.  A right hand turn near a big water tank begins the single track, loose, loamy kitty litter earth, again covered in cat claw and slow going.  I was enjoying life upon a full suspension, while my minimalistic mind and stubborn self don’t like any movement I knew the ride was noticeably much easier.  The climbing was fairly tough and slow and I marked my water supply and fuel closely, knowing we’d be 60 or so miles, having a come to Jesus moment wasn’t on my list this Saturday.  We finally topped out on another dirt road and began the splendor down towards town.  It’s always a haunting feeling knowing, shortly, you’ll be going back up it, but still there is excitement heading towards life. 

                The celebration in town came in the form of Cordes Stations 130 years of township.  Cowboy poetry and a slow rolling history of the city came from a man standing on a rusted old weigh scale.  Heavy patina cars sat out in the fields marked with age and colored perfectly.  The man whose family formed the town finished his drawn out dissertation of the history, then a cowboy poet came up.  Laroche searched his seat bag for remnants of cash and came up empty.  I had 26 bucks and knew we’d need all of it. 

                A lunch token was five bones, and everything eatable in the rustic gathering of oddities inside the “store” was an even buck.  The first wave brought us Dr. Peppers, waters and Gatorade.  The second outing took us out to the outdoor seating and the hickory smoked bbq in the half drum of a former 55 gallon bucket.  Two grown men metaling about in spandex while others pool around a gold panning expo, others drinking warm natural lights, surprisingly nobody gave us grief, maybe it was the raised welts spewing blood that caused hesitation.   A fine burger with cheese a bag of Doritos then we made our way to the condiment area.  Two large jars of pickles, mustard, and ketchup.  The pickles however are a delicacy to any salty endurance fool, so we properly gouged on them.  Round three took us to the end of my paper monies as the lady said “wow, we like you guys”   Leaving me to wonder if nobody else spent more than 20 bucks often.  She turned the handle to an old brass National cash register and put away her cash. 

                Calories replaced rehydrated and heading back up the hill, the town left a soft spot with me.  The funkiness was loud, ever present and comfortable within itself and I dug it.  The sun was out, our blood was dry and we had a decent amount of downhill to attend to.  You know that feeling when your body is crusted and irritated and doesn’t want to be bothered any longer?  Well the best lines are through the cat claw, oneside a miserable line, sometimes a big drop off and the other the best “A” line but inevitably bloody.  Your mind and the machine know what direction they should go, but your body cringes knowing at speeds the mini razor blood sucking vultures will indeed tear you apart, being scarred bikers we take the best line over our outer appearance.  The skin winces in pain and the process extracts blood from our bodies but we are alive in the movement and presently unaware of wounds.

                Life aboard the Lapierre xr was a rolling train of ecstasy, the miles came easy, the harsh Arizona landscape became tolerable and my mind was somewhere thinking of greater adventure s aboard the new machine.  Laroche trailed a bit and I tried to block the wind for him, doing my deed for the elder statesmen and showing my respect.  We took the washboard road all the way back to town.  The chunky gravel broke to asphalt and we cruised through black canyon city, thinking of times we nursed ourselves at the first store on rides that took too much out of us.   Back to the car and Travis Mcmaster left a note on the rig further proof that today was indeed great.  The doors opened, we changed out of sweaty, and bloody clothes, loaded up the bikes and turned on some tunes and collected ourselves.  As the songs came through the airwaves Laroche would laugh and say “damn JP, you were still  in diapers when this came out”  then came the conversation about when you aren’t in diapers any longer, neither of us having kids nor around them much.

                Soft sunlight filled the air, we were the only car left in the parking lot.  Laroche packed four ice cold coors original beers and with the mountains still blue we listened to the music, talked amongst ourselves and each other.  I doubt that you could find two guys that understand more the need for adventure, measurable pain and the need to find and see parts rarely seen by others.   I’m lucky to have met and continue meeting people, towns and experience that shape me.  Directions that define me and movements that create history and a telling enjoyable past.  Bikes are a gateway for me, and always will, the paths they show, the introspective gained from reaching a point or view under our own power give a greater understanding of what was created before us.  It’s humbling to know that others saw the greatness and settled down to build a life, that we stop and take a breath and be allowed to have our breath taken away by life, the beautiful landscapes, friends and loves. 

                Whatever your journey, however long the ride, whatever skill level you’re at, we all try to achieve the same feeling.  That internal peace that bikes lend us, that friends give us, and this life allows us.  A connection from within to everything we experience, that’s why I ride.    


The Pettit-Files. Taxi’s, shuttles, sales meetings and Riding bikes.

Damn, I hate flying.  The herding of people, pre-booked seating that leaves me wedged in the middle seat even after I double check that I got the emergency isle, now my knees are firmly planted in the back of the cheap aluminum and plastic of the poor soul in front of me.  Maybe I’ve had too much coffee and too little sleep.  But, I think the fact that I got a flashy new bike sitting in the garage and I’m stuck on a winged coffin as my extremities swell with the pressure spiking my patience thin.

Originally I was going to drive to this sales meeting/clinic in Colorado Springs but the new machine arrived late and caused me to change plans.  I was going to hit my north shops, ride some changing color trails, be the captain of my own destiny, but now aboard a Boeing 737 I await the drink cart to roll my direction.  Over bearing couples kiss and spill their affection for each other and talk in couple baby code, skin folded over their cotton clothing they begin to sweat after takeoff, but I’ll give it to the guy he landed a girl out of his league now where is that damn cart papa got a new debit card let’s see if it works.  I need something to take the edge off and quite the crying baby before I pull the emergency door and go all DB Cooper in this bitch.

Off to Colorado Springs and the heavenly arches of Rockshox for some training and of course riding.  I’m stoked; I genuinely love our crew of reps, inside guys, even corporate, hell I dig the polo shirts.  But get me with the tech boys and girls who design and ride the hell out of this stuff and multiply my happiness by 10 and add a hint of makers mark, pbr and a heavy dose of single track.  Lapierre pulled through with the first of two bikes, the XR 729, my first official cross country full suspension bike, next up is the zesty a near 6 inch travel monster I’ll outfit with our new pike, reverb stealth, xx1 and our new 27.5 line up of goodness.  News Flash, everyone remain calm, I just ordered up a lunchbox-beer with oj, everything is looking up.

I have discovered halfway into my 30’s that we get set in what we like/love/need want and have to haves.  Our bending to others needs seem to take a bit more effort.  I have come to understand I have zero tolerance for the bullshit, give me the truth, honest, ugly, beyond beautiful but most importantly, real.  I don’t run from fakeness of falseness but it no longer even registeres on my radar, not to say the empathy is gone, but it now belongs to people who are and will be part of my years.  I want to get dirty in a good life, not be marred by shit that doesn’t matter.  Don’t stroke egos experience all we can, that’s part of the dna of this band of bikers.  We hunt and gather what quiets us, images, places, smiles, and toughness.  We have become a righteous people, since the decades and centuries of our forefathers, we loath in remission of our former selves.  We amble and gawk at celebrities and athletes covered in armor dispelling any disbelief that we are in the same realm as them.  80,000 people sit in a stadium and watch grown indidvuals play a game for millions seasonally.  The lights click on Thursday and stay lit all the way through Monday night as a nation is held hostage to radio stations, tv’s, fantasy whatever’s, and all the other gluttony that tags along for the ride.  The gelatinous of America bulges over waistbands, sky rockets blood pressure and diabetes.  Flick off the lights and let their glow diminish into the darkness, turn off the TV and hear what is all around you.

Our people are a sporadic bunch, cast upon wheels of varying lengths and widths, chains and belts to gears to nothing.  We go about our business in the company of life long fellow minded friends or like me, more often than not, alone.  I get tuned to the compression of my chest to the cadence of my breathing matched to the churning of my legs and the thumping of my heart.  Paintings unfold before me, some unrecognizable because of their beauty, others vastly difficult marked with a little tragedy and loneliness, my mind then wonders to those in my life that hold pieces of me, my love and appreciation for them gains and swells until I just want to see them again.

We are wicked people to love, as complicated as we are, we are just as easily understood.  My audacity and verbiage get caught up in the insecurities of others and I know that with a couple forms of communication I could sooth those edges, but yet I usually don’t.  I like to get introverted as much as I like to be outwardly.  I never dug team sports, I like being the engine, solo endeavors give a greater appreciation and share those with others, I know my role amongst my friends and have found a tailor fit.  Self-reliance appeals to me, I love living alone, I like to love and be loved, but there is a serenade for self-reliance.  Bikes, bikes have forever understood me.  From the single wide on a gravel road, 20 dollar machines took me to rivers and lakes that shaped me, got me away from the tin house and allowed me to experience the vast greatness that was around me.  Bikes showed me love; simple love, being and element in the elements, letting images soak through to your core and forever leave that picture.  Ironing out frustrations, help me understand and give lift off to adventures.  The bikes improved along with my endurance and now my garage is filled with bikes and equipment, gear, and something for nearly every occasion.

My buddy Matt and his wife Jenny recently spent a couple of days at my house.  They left Seattle on the fourth of July and pedaled down a meandering route in chaco sandals and long haul truckers.  I’ve always liked and respected him, he knew something about me before I did, our ideas of simple living, necessities, and love for the outdoors have bonded us, and we get this life is for living not just a paycheck.  We overhauled bikes, relaxed, cooked good dinners and of course being Snohomish boys got a little carried away with beers and stories one night.  I was a little sad to see them leave, riding away with bob trailers, an American flag and safety vest, onto the next the town, vistas, food and campsites, I wanted to go.  I went back inside and thought about this life, our needs, and our wants and loved shared.  My greatest friends have come from the two wheeled chain driven contraptions.  I now make my living reping a great brand, riding bikes and sharing my passion for it.  We don’t discriminate, a rider is a rider.  I respect the commuter as much as the pro, the steel enthusiast and the carbon freak, it’s a common thread, a common need and a complete love for where and how they take us to places, the rubber lay down on either asphalt or dirt, but it still propels us to what we need and seek.

One beer down and a pit stop in Salt Lake City, a little hops helps the words un tumble from my psychosis and form paragraphs.  To help pass the time I practice an old trick of one of my greatest mentors, look around and visualize everyone topless, it helps with the imagination but also kills time, hey, don’t judge I guarantee you’ll give it a go.  Steel grey skies and a bumpy ride greet me in the Mormon state; I spilled a little drink on my pants so now I’ll have it with me till Wednesday.  Next stop Colorado and then my shuttle south.

It didn’t take me all the way to my hotel, so I bribed the shuttle driver with a crisp Lincoln and I was checked in.  Tired and hungry but not much was open.  I settled for a beer and a bag of chips and salsa from a gas station.  Up early the next day for some shitty hotel coffee and a paltry breakfast.  We caught a shuttle and began to assemble in rooms.  Puffy down SRAM jackets, hats, gloves, scarfs and beanies dotted the cars, rooms and town.  I entered closed doors and tried to see new products and swipe some goodies.  Good classes and great new products where all around us, that’s about as far as I can say do to the non-disclosure form I signed.  Rebuilt some forks, learned some new stuff and mingle with half of our rep force.

Monday night and out to dinner with the crew, some corporate guys, and a slew of rockshox folk from the springs.  The drinks were plenty, the laughs where loud and we spilled it over into a karaoke bar.  Home late but not too bad.  The next day was riding new products, trying different settings and forks.  The cold Colorado air left your bits exposed and chilly, snow flurries carried along in the breeze and your exhales, they dotted the sky and held down the earth.

Back to the shop for a little Q and A, lunch then discuss new programs and ideas.  A select group went back outside, this time however no fidgeting with the equipment, open it up and launch.  Different skill levels dotted the trails and I was happy to pedal out into the snow with the cold on my face after a long hot summer in Arizona.  Back to the hotel, quick shower, short nap, couple phone calls then another company dinner.  Grabbed a quick beer with my bosses and received some swag from the Kona ironman world championships, a brightly decorated zoot kit, that everyone said I should be able to pull off.

Up before 4 comes early when you finally get to bed around midnight.  Pack, guzzle burnt hotel coffee, wait for cab then hop on the shuttle back to Denver international airport.  Once again got the shaft middle seat and had to check my bag, but I was heading home.  Pick up the wagon from airport parking hawk and point it towards home.

Thinking about the effort of getting somewhere by bike, or at least your own power has always resonated with me the strongest.  The effort to get somewhere and enjoy it, the purity that’s what I love.  I’ll forever be a wonderer, a recluse, loud and quite, I will always seek to find the truth of myself in these days, and hopefully if the last year has been any guidance I’m firmly in my direction.  Truth and consequences, burnt ends, gratitude pools and a fear and loathing converge like the big two headed river.  Taking with us all we have and what we think we need and can’t live without, those attached through the good and bad are lifelong and become family.  At 34,000 feet in the middle seat 6 rows back looking over the mesas, clouded earth, rivers and valleys below, we are small and all mighty, what thumps and drives, what separates and divides and what ties us together.  Roads seem to head to nowhere down below, but they too have a direction and a destination.

Hunting for moments, efforts and time we peruse the carrousel we deem to be worth the ride.  My eyes drawn heavy, I could sprawl out finally in the car, coffee, work, shower and laundry.  Before the sun set I forced myself to ride.  An early moon crests from the southeast as I rode towards the setting sun out west.  My body and mind coasted over sharp edged rocks soothed by the fully suspended rig, I became happy and comfortable.  I laid down on the side of the trail, looking up towards the disappearing blue sky and the full hanging moon in the warm fall night until a rider with a light rolled up and asked if I was alright.

“yeah man, never better”

Dirt, Love and Aspens.

Death and taxes, single track and aspens, blend me with a mix of frustrations and passions.   I was burnt on love, more than once when it came from another.  In the silent beauty that was created long before us, rejuvenates and nourishes back to a whole.  Idle hands do the devils work, tips of fingers connect freckles that do pleasures work.  These clocks have no hands as hours turn to days when you lay your head on my chest and expel the words trapped in that pretty head.

We are all held by expandable ideals, our past, present, and future.  These sidewalks lead towards unpaved areas, and that is where I do my best work. The world is big and round, some however still believe that at the city limit sign it dives towards infinity, and I believe nothing should have a limit.  We are all currents moving to what drives and separates us.  A couple weeks ago I took friends to a slice of trail that I may love more than anything.  I never cover the miles at speed; I covet my time in the tinted perfumed air and listen to aspen leaves rustle in a cooling breeze.  It has all things I love and worship about riding a mountain bike, personal freedom, amazement about beauty, effort, and bermed trails where your weighted body flows over perfect earth.

It would be inaccurate to say these days are the same as last month, last year or yesterday.  The hours are shattered by the thought and idea of someone new, something healthy and a positive in the depth that stirs below my gut and behind my ribs.  Life is for living and people are for loving, bikes are for riding and hours are for exploring.  To each their own, and own identity, we blend in the pot as big as we wish to meld.  Wrought iron rust, we’re caged and we must, become more than what we’ve been.  Experiences define us, people come and go into our lives and it’s up to us to allow just how we accept it.

I have always felt comfortable in any situation.  I’m as happy waking up along a trail completely alone with just my surroundings or being dropped into a room of college tuned intellectuals, mine was earned by time, effort and experience.  They tell tales of what they’ve read and what they would like to do.  My collar unbuttoned and free to move about, there’s a credence of precedents, doesn’t matter the situation, a knowing is a knowing.  Character isn’t defined by what you talk about or what you speak about, rather what you’ve done and where you’re going.  We are all molded by the past and future ideals, but every mold should be broken, and every idea and action should spawn from a thought, those with character turn all those into adventures, leave behind still photos and a wanting to share with those they love.

Long before the fall flickers and fades to winter, the decisions we’ve made, hang and linger on what we think should’ve been.  I’ve been jailed, housed on a boat, held by people I love, and caressed by the paths that help define me.  I wish to touch you in the early moon light, before the sun is awoken to the east and the effervescent hangs to the west, we are in the middle.  You kiss me new in this decade of three plus, lines replaced the perfectness of youth, grays dot my pours, my hair thinned and faded from atop my head.  Stronger, defiant, soft and comfortable in the knowledge of where I’m going and all I’ve done. I don’t hang to a sliver of what I was once but think of the tree I’ve become, my arms hold my friends turned to family as pages roll from upsets to triumphs, past failures and goose bumps.  With roots and time we grow stable, some fall to fables and others to tales, me; I’ve always loved a true story.

A blended mix of durometered rubber grips the earth under me, connecting me to nature, myself, all these thoughts and flooded grey matter.  All that I see and feel is breathing, the sights downloading from my eyes, the clicking of shifters, and the slowing of brakes.  The tall grass moving around my body as I slalom between trees and move around stones, it’s the purest effort I’ve felt, and the longest love I’ve known.  Everything smells alive and living, you’re in natures living room as a guest and the more prepared you are, the longer the visit, some of us pack better than others.  Like your grandparents telling stories of decades past, I curl up and listen to all it has to say with the boyish amazement and wonder that is still housed in me.

Gatlin guns and trampolines, we all jump and shoot and try to live outside our means.  I won’t be washed in the disbelief, facades or ambience.  Brick and mortar, labors of love and lessons learned, I’ve become harden and skin torn and wrinkled but in the trees and holding on to the ideals of you I become youthful again.  The cool air whistles and calms my exuberance and mellows back to me, the soil under my hands like the seeds sown, harvesting thoughts and growing the fragility of what was once broken back to being stronger and wholesome.

Running on faith and the caveat of mortality, we continue these days and efforts and are joined by others.  All who wonder are indeed not lost, all whom are broken are surely repairable, we absorb and deflect, move and react until our bodies can no longer match the brains ask, and that is the rhythm of riding that I seek, and also the balance with those who surround me.

A trip home, Bicycles, Beauty, and a fallen 19

     I went home for the first time in four years, since I left south by southwest.  A ragged mix of emotion and raw whatever you want to call it.  I was only a refined worker and knew how to use my body but really nothing else.  I had always known I wanted more, but sometimes the first step is the largest and leaving all you’ve known takes brass balls, but to continue down that path you need larger ones that aren’t afraid to be busted a time or two. 

            I have never felt comfortable at home; however I praise my parents for where they decided to put roots, an area so full of lust, effort and beauty that it taught me more than I ever could’ve known.  The walls that housed us where full of love, but not always a connection, and being an angst kid wanting to venture around didn’t lend for quality time you could say.  But down that gravel road and along the arms of the cascades and banks of rivers I found adventure, and myself. 

            The water and rivers back home are cloaked in the arms of maples, and evergreen trees that house them.  Their branches hide it from the outside world, trying to keep the beauty and noise all to themselves and allow the effort of people to enjoy them.  Enshrined in life, wrapped in toxins, they embellish all they told.  “Neath the canopy the elixir sways the soul, the sound gives us the music we attain, it soothes and cures any ailment or quandary I’ve ever had.  It’s a hidden world I sought time after time.  Hidden from everything but myself, it was the first place I was comfortable being me. 

            A bike took me to such places, and if my parents knew then how far I traveled to find such things there would’ve been a revocation of some kind.  Once car bound it was on to much further locals.  My brother always seemed to be in some sort of trouble, my sister was the youngest girl and as the fable goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, she was well lubed.  I never complained too much, not my nature, I was usually left to my own vices, a good kid, not in too much trouble, so my birth was wide and I discovered that with the distractions of the other two, the middle child was free to roam. 

            Sometimes driving old back roads with my dad he’d say, “that road there goes up to the top of the mountain, a dirt road all the way to Sultan”  I’d smile and say “I know” he’d look at me funny, like I wasn’t being honest.  So I would say, “Well you have to pass the old boy scout camp first, beyond the spot where people shoot, there’s a cool small water fall with railroad tracks on top after a long series of switch backs, then a long fire road climb till it turns to forest again, then it flattens out and descends towards highway 2, hop a large gate then head west to Sultan.  He responded by “maybe we should get you a better bike” 

            I would find old relics of logging and mining towns and equipment.  I would sit-down stare and listen to what it all said.  I could begin to hear voices of those that where here before me, the effort, toll and hope it took to create all they did, I felt then as I still do now that I was one of them.  It took a certain kind of grain to go where they did a hundred years before I stepped foot there.  Rotten iron descending into the earth, the sheer magnitude of those who didn’t know any limits, I would return home completely destroyed from my day, the miles and toll it took to allow my imagination to leave me alone for a while.  Running on complete fumes I could barely turn the pedals but looking around at what allowed me to grow up I knew it would give me safe passage to get home.  Spending 12-16 hours a day by myself wasn’t uncommon when I was young.  My dad would sometimes call me lazy when I got home, and I’d smile because I knew something he didn’t.  

            It felt like I had a secret, I had a key to time and places so spectacular that I almost didn’t want to share.  I felt a connection, my first, it was to the inanimate, not a person, not my mother, or grandparents.  I’d lie on my back and watch the clouds and the gorgeous noise of a river.  My father on our road trip home said you always knew how to side step the shit and drama of people and families, and it was because I understand beauty, the silent perfect beauty of what happens when we stop fucking with it and allow it to be authentic.  I had no language for love; we weren’t a hugging type family.   It was a dust yourself off, is anything broken?  If not let’s get back to work.   Soft words spoken followed with a soft touch was something I’ve always wanted, but as a youth didn’t get, I had to develop into what I wanted to be on my own.  I understood and knew beauty but didn’t know how to speak of it, I knew that life’s hard enough to try and make it what we think it should be.  Take off the filters, go beyond where you think you should, and go deeper within yourself, all these things, a bicycle gave me.  Be authentically you; trust me you’ll find it.  I get a deep pleasure now allowing those the same opportunity this contraption gave to me. 

            When you’re old enough to learn about beauty, simple true beauty, it fills us with a noise that humbles and harmonizes us.  The soft love of nature may have been the first I ever felt, or at least let myself feel.  There is no misunderstanding, or frustrating beginning or ending.  The same deciduous that nearly cover the cool waters from bank to bank wrapped me as well.  I never felt alone when standing between great trees in knee deep glacier run off, completely singular and void of human contact. 

            Maybe that’s my biggest connection with it; open veins of water ways don’t hit me the same ways as an enveloped river.  To see the beauty you have to dig a little, the vaunted obvious texture allure us all, but go beyond where most roam and you’ll be rewarded beyond belief.  Most get stuck on the immediate beauty of what they first see, me however, I’ve never worked on such cues.  I’m not a smart guy, my test will show this.  My brain works in a different manner, and that too brought childhood frustrations with my parents.  But by listening and being intuitive something clicked and wondering how it works instead of why it works allows us to be humbled by our own failures and success, it’s not just for us to enjoy what we do. 

            Maybe its nostalgia that brought me this piece, or the aging of my parents.  Driving the car around old roads everything had changed a little.  The streets where cast by large trees and weeds that where small when I left, the town looked the same, some old shops and restaurants, had moved or closed.  There is a light that peers through the clouds that filters the colors, making the green, greener and the trees spectacular.   Something in me though was different, it wasn’t my home any longer, and the idea at first took a long time to soak in.  I rode on all those roads that raised me, this time a man and the miles where easy especially on the new machines.  I had grown strong, wiser, fuck-I even matured.  Don’t get me too wrong, I still found my old usual haunts and boardwalks but even those too where different and no longer fit like they use too.

            The trip was to see a union, my second in June.  A great person saying I do in the back ground of Mt. Si, but I had been meaning to go home for a while.  Through past relationships, old plans and a dull pain of the unattainable, I still made the journey.  I met up with people I had been meaning to for years, rode my favorite slices of asphalt in hick mining towns and drank bottles of Rainier and looked under the cap to find my fortune. 

            Spent time with the Fisherman Captain, a couple old friends, my parents, my old hound Chubbs, nephews, and gravel.  Drove by old houses and wondered who lived in them now, the same people still?  I didn’t knock, time was short.  I never made it east of the mountains, a place I would escape often.  I picked through old papers and boxes of books and found the scripts that speak to me the loudest, tucked them away in a bag and prepared to head back to my desert home.  I get centered on Norman Mclean, the man picks my nerves and ties me with rhythms about truths and life and through his shorts stories and the master piece of a river runs through it, I found  “young men and fire”  the story of the Mann Gulch fire where 12 smoke jumpers died in 1949. 

            The next day I had heard of the deaths of 19 fighting the Yarnell fire outside of Prescott, I looked across from my laptop at the book next to me, the cover of a crew posing near the tail section of their plane where they would jump out and try to save the natural abundance we all enjoy so much.  After high school I spent time in Winthrop Washington at a smoke jumper camp, learning the ropes and equipment.  I was living in the back of my truck, riding bikes in the beautiful hills, trying to entice the ladies, and sneaking beers from the local brewery.   I had heard of the Smoke Jumper academy in Missoula Montana.  Unsure of where my life would weave, I looked into joining the school.  Jumping out of planes and into a forest trying to save the trees and earth I love so much resonated with me, dropping into an inferno and emerging heroic, the idea of being a normal fire fighter never occurred  to me, there, you have to deal with people, here, you deal with beauty. 

            If you want to understand the thoughts, the truth, description, and poetic ideals of those that protect our lands.   Buy the book and allow yourself to spread over the pages written only a way a master can.  I awoke my father at four in the morning and we began our trip south towards the flying crafts.  I had enjoyed our time immensely, the most consecutive amount we’ve had together since I was 17 years old.  Boarded the plane and read paragraphs of all the books I grabbed.  I had an hour layover in Salt Lake City; the captain said we would be flying over the Grand Canyon, then Flagstaff and towards Prescott before descending down into Phoenix where the temperature was already a 108 at 10 am. 

            The sky was clear off in the distance, then became heavy with cumulous, smoke and darkened by the choking of sunlight.  The air felt heavy and I was pulled away and back to the window.  I thought of the last gasp of those 19, where the land they protected had turned on them and took them forever.  They gave all they had, protected us, attempted to save acreage they loved and loved being men in.  I had met most of them in Crown King, a small town a ways off a gravel road.  On a “secret” training session I was camped out and just riding and reading, putting pieces together after a break up.  Outside the saloon where most ate and the general store, their worn out green suits picked up my bike as they bought some goods and sharpened saws. 

            We swapped a couple quick stories, I was off to ride to Prescott and back, told them once, before I became a little grey and bald I was nearly one of them.  Broad smiles and backs, I would’ve loved to be amongst them, even on their last effort.   The plane cut through the smoke and I thought of their souls rising up to the heavens over a land they protected and always will.  It’s not for the money, but for the effort of beauty, at least that’s what I’ll tell myself, Young men and fire Mclean wrote but it’s a truth of life.  If we don’t put ourselves out there we’ll never feel the heat and exuberance of life, being afraid to get burned will lead to dormant days, we never know which will be our last.

            A couple days later I played host to a fourth of July party.  Great casual friends mellowed about my house, hammock and pool.  I looked around at them and was gracious for the efforts that allowed me to become a portion of who I am meant to be.  I thought of the 19 whom no doubt had plans on our independence day, but would’ve jumped at a moment’s notice when they were called to duty.  The measure of people should always remain open ended, their efforts always calculated, effervescent, and alive, the way they always will be. 

            Take nothing for granted.  Ever.