Spring Shenanigans in Bend

Whoa, how did two months pass since I last posted? Whoops… For all you new subscribers, howdy! Don’t worry, there’s not usually this much radio silence.

Not that I’ve laid around in traction or anything! Far from it.

Climbing in the Marsupials above Smith Rock.

It’s merely that Bend is the ultimate distraction. Turns out that 1) the city and surrounding area are an outdoor playground with too many potential sports and 2) everyone visits if you move here. Since January, athletic fun and constant guests conspired to leave minimal time for blogging.

Hosting vegan cookbook club in Bend.

My friend Eric skins up Tumalo Mountain on a backcountry ski outing in the Cascades.

Rather than writing, my creative outlet shifted to shooting and editing videos for Instagram on my phone with the Cameo app. My rule: a limit of 15 minutes for editing, which helped me avoid perfectionist tendencies that find me editing for untold hours. During March, I cranked out 10 of them.

It was easy to find material for quick, fun cuts thanks to 30 days of skiing this year (for my first season, I almost don’t suck!), plus rock climbing and mountain biking. Throw in a Portland road trip and a few days in Palm Springs for a wedding and where DOES the time go?

South Sister through the looking glass on a bluebird day.

Check out our recent shenanigans! Here are my favorite Instagram videos (all less than 60 seconds) from the last couple months, all edited on my iPhone using Cameo. Pick a few that sound interesting and crank the sound up!

Gotta go up to go down…

Da Videos:

Powder skiing excellence (on March 30th!) at Mt Bachelor

-A great day volunteering at Harmony Farm Sanctuary near Bend. (Clearly I chose to shoot video instead of actually working…)

Antics in the Palm Springs sun for a friend’s wedding – pool and diving board exploits, trail running, biking around town on a clunker Airbnb loaner bike, and other festivities!

-Pretending I can backcountry ski (Tumalo Mountain west of Bend)

-Double-whammy #BendFit adventure day full of climbing and mountain biking

-A glimpse of Chelsea shredding some turns at Bachelor

-A pivot to other sports after weather shut down a backcountry ski up/down Mt. St. Helens

On top of Tumalo Mtn – hard work done, time for the fun!

Road Trippin’ With My Pa (Video)

To share the latest happenings, in the future I’ll occasionally start blog posts with italic notes like this. This week’s announcement is an interview we did with Bicycling Magazine. Check it out!

Father Son Road Trip

For years, my dad and I talked about doing a road trip. We made it happen this October, carving out 10 days to drive the Sprinter van through the mountains and plains of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

The journey was a mix of goofing around (as you’ll see), long talks about art, and exploring beautiful places by bike and on foot. The video is one of my favorites so far. Enjoy!

Exploring the east side of Glacier National Park.

Exploring the east side of Glacier National Park.

Lake McDonald on the west side of Glacier National Park.

Hiking on the Continental Divide on the east side of Glacier National Park.

Hiking on the Continental Divide on the east side of Glacier National Park.

Our route, clockwise starting and finishing in Moscow, Idaho.

Our route, clockwise starting and finishing in Moscow, Idaho. A solid 1,800 miles through some stunning landscapes.

How to Create Videos That Don’t Suck

Evening on the lake

Heads up that Chelsea and I are heading south to San Diego this week for a wedding. Afterward, we’ll drive up the California coast in December. If you’re in the area and want to hang out, shoot us an email!

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We all know good video when we see it. The creator’s process and methods are less obvious. Luckily, there are techniques we can all apply. 

Enter the excellent book How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck by Steve Stockman. (His blog is great too.) It’s Amazon’s top-rated book on cinematography and is written in a clear, engaging and fun style. This isn’t for people who went to film school – it’s for engineers like me who studied differential equations in college instead of filming raucous Mardi Gras parties “for class.”

From filming your kid’s birthday party to creating paid work, I think we can all benefit from thinking about how to structure our videos. I read the book and took notes about key points to help crystallize the concepts, which then morphed into this blog post.

As the author says, the opposite of a good video isn’t bad. It’s off. As in turned off, the viewer’s attention gone. I hope the below tips help you avoid someone clicking on the latest cat video instead of watching your hard-wrought efforts.

How to Make Your Video Instantly Better

    1. Think in shots – Treat a segment of video like a writer would a sentence. Subject + Action = Interesting. Instead of “dog,” try “dog chases tail.” Tell a story in each shot and think about why the shot matters and what it contributes to the overall theme.
    2. Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes. The Coen brothers can shoot sweeping landscapes for the big screen. Aiming for the same with a Youtube video turns mountains into pimples and beautiful lakes into puddles. People make stories interesting; shooting close-up catches their emotions.
    3. Keep your shots under 10 seconds long The human brain is wired to look around. “This view is nice…but watch for saber tooth tigers!” screams our subconscious. If you put your camera on a tripod and pan back and forth across a scene 1,726 times, don’t expect people to do anything except grab a sharp pencil to gouge out their eyes. Mix shots up. Keep them interesting with different angles.

      Even peeling paint can be interesting with the right perspective. (Ghost town of Bannack.)

      Even peeling paint can be interesting with the right perspective. (Ghost town of Bannack.)

    4. Zoom with your feet – Don’t use the zoom on your lens. It’s going to be shaky, shitty and stuttered. Instead, walk up to what you want to film (grizzly bears in Yellowstone excluded) and shoot it wide-frame and steady.
    5. Stand still, stop fidgeting, and no zooming during shots – Sounds easy, but I find it to be exactly the opposite. This requires setting intent for shots and feeling confident enough to let the shot unfold without excess camera manipulation.
    6. Keep the light behind you – Cameras can’t handle multiple exposures (i.e. bright light outside and dim inside), so they default to the brightest light. Interviewing your sweet, gentle grandma in front of a back lit window makes her look like a shadowy serial killer. Keep the light behind you!
    7. Turn off the camera’s digital effects – Shoot clean and natural video. You can always add effects later if it makes sense.
    8. Focus on what really interests you – If you’re shooting something that bores you, it’s going to show the same way writing “stamp collecting” just made me yawn. Pick a topic that intrigues you and dive in.
    9. Use an external microphone – The mike built into cameras picks up and amplifies all ambient noise, be it your interviewee’s voice, wind or the sound of trucks downshifting. A $25 clip-on microphone will do wonders for the audio quality.
    10. Don’t use amateurish titles – If titles are needed, keep them short. No fancy motion. Just words that stay on the screen slightly longer than it takes to read them out loud. Then get back to making a video.
    11. Keep your video short – Think about the way feature films can distill an entire lifetime into two hours. The author’s advice: Estimate how long you want the movie to last, then cut two-thirds of it. Then review again and remove your least favorite shots. Like good writing, good video conveys information and emotion clearly and concisely.

My biggest takeaway from Stockman’s book? Shoot with intent. Don’t just point the camera and wait for magic results. Plan ahead and make a shot list of scenes you want to capture. Whether it’s for a wedding, sports event, or interview, the final result will be better.

Here’s to upping the game and creating some inspiring, moving, fun, informational and badass videos!

Cycling Going-to-the-Sun Road in the Fall (Video)

Going to the sun road cycling

One of the finest routes I’ve ever cycled is Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. The winding, beautiful trip over Logan Pass starts by a rushing river and climbs (and climbs) for 11 miles as views of the valley below open like a magical picture book. During a recent road trip through western Montana, my dad and I were lucky to catch a nice fall day to pedal to the sun.

I rode through Glacier last year in July – one of our favorite days of our U.S. bike tour – and this time of year revealed another brilliant facet of the park. Fall colors were firing and, an added bonus, the road was closed for the season to vehicle traffic. During the summer, the park requires cyclists to be off the road by 11 a.m. This time around, we dawdled, pedaled in the middle of the road, and soaked in this gem of the Rockies.

A few miles from the top of Logan Pass.

A few miles from the top of Logan Pass.

Pictures can’t capture the experience. Instead, here’s a short video of our ride. Kudos to my dad for cranking up the steep grade for miles and miles!

More to come from our Montana adventures…

Going-to-the-Sun Road valley view fall colors

Paying It Forward, Van Style (Video)

Road Angel Keys to Freeze

Kindness from strangers is a side to travel that frequently surprises and humbles me. From help with directions to an unexpected offer of a place to stay, I’ve received gracious treatment dozens of time. Having the opportunity to pass along the goodwill is just as much fun.

I missed the publication of this short video called Road Angel while we were biking in Europe, so I wanted to share it now. It’s a snippet with me in front of the camera instead of behind it (for a change). I love that a meetup at a Colorado bagel shop turned into a chance to give back, not to mention created some enduring friendships.

The back story: I met the Keys to Freeze crew this April in Durango during their 8,500 mile cycling trip from Key West, Florida to Deadhorse, Alaska. Over the next month, we crossed paths in Utah’s national parks, Yosemite, the coastal redwoods, and Portland. They pedaled as I road tripped in the van, our trips diverging for days or weeks at a time, then re-intersecting as we all explored the famous sites in the southwest and California.

Here’s to new friends and paying forward road trip karma!

New friends! Snow on the motel roof and flurries signal the start of Keys to Freeze heading from Dove Creek, CO to Moab, UT.

Hanging with Keys to Freeze on a sub-freezing morning near Moab.

Creativity and Fear, My Road Trip Companions

Kite boarding in Resia, Italy

The winds over the Cascade Mountains in Washington always punch airplanes around. As I sat in a 20-seat propeller aircraft during a recent trip, the metal creaked, the engines roared, and the pilot fought winds so strong the flight attendants stayed seated the entire time. (Never a good sign.) Luckily, I happened to be reading a book chapter about fear.

But I’m not talking about that kind of fear.

I’m talking about creative fear. The kind that stops you in your tracks and makes you say no, to shelve an idea, curb a project and stay safe. As Aristotle said, “to avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

Liz Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, describes how she pictures any creative endeavor as a road trip with twins named Creativity and Fear. They’re always there, but she sets ground rules before the trip: Fear gets no radio station control, and definitely doesn’t get to drive.

Creativity, meanwhile, rides shotgun and picks the music, points out restaurants, and picks fun side diversions along the way, loving the ride. Yet through it all, Fear sits in the backseat with arms crossed and points out how stupid it was to take the road trip, that everything is going wrong, and whines about taking a pee break.

Lounging by a lake in Italy

Lounging by a lake in Italy

I fight fear every time I hit publish on a blog post or video. Blogging is easier these days since I’ve published 120 of them (how did that happen?!) without anyone shipping me off to the gulag for dissent. However, I’m a neophyte with video, so each completed work is a large percentage of my lifetime efforts. It’s a new arena where I’m equipped with a fork and spoon as I wish for a trident and lion-emblazoned shield.

Luckily, there are no other gladiators, and my life isn’t at stake. Just my self-confidence.

But hey! Learning with no expectations is good for me; video taps a different part of my brain versus writing or photography. Chelsea loses me for hours as I disappear into editing or drift off thinking about a fun angle for a shot. I know a well-done video when I see one – I think we all do – so efforts at this new endeavor frustrate me sometimes. But while these little video compilations don’t meet my vision for desired quality, they’re training, a method to figuring things out.

Ira Glass from This American Life said it well: “For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good… A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this…And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.”

Every time I “finish” a creative project, a part of me still cringes because I know it’s not perfect. Making something feels like physical effort akin to scaling a castle wall, and publishing is tossing the work off a turret into the commons for all to see. Yet there, open and exposed, is where a project teaches me something. Readers email with support or (hopefully constructive) feedback, and I also ask for input from people whose skills I respect. (Brady, you wily film maker, you’re right – moving text and cross-fades are lame.)

If I don’t do that, there’s no improvement – I’d send text shooting across the screen and execute bad transitions forever. Instead, progress. Or at least it feels that way.

Wandering the castle grounds in Prague.

Wandering the castle grounds in Prague.

Just like this blog, which has expanded beyond what I expected when I started tapping keys two years ago, I have no idea how video will add to my life. Maybe it’s just a fun side project, a good outlet for my curiosity. Or maybe I can leverage those skills, our travel experiences, and my writing to tell stories about issues that needs attention. I felt too awkward to film the Syrian refugee situation when we were in Salzburg, but that is a perfect example of a story that needs to be shared.

Footage from our cycling trip in Europe is my current video medium. I’m parsing my way through it to learn new skills like decoupling video and audio for voiceovers, layering audio tracks, plus discovering free creative commons music sources. And while Fear sullenly plays Solitaire and Creativity babbles on about all the adventures around the bend, I’m enjoying the heck out of this road trip.

Check out my latest video – it’s a quick 1:20 and, I dare say, my cleanest one yet. Please let me know what you think!

I Like Big Tires and I Cannot Lie (An MTB Video)

Downhill mountain biking Petzen Austria

Two months ago, my friend Michael told me about the Petzen downhill mountain bike area in SE Austria. Since it is hunkered in the Carpathian Mountains near Slovenia and 1,500 miles from where we were in England, I figured that would never happen. Nevertheless, I added it to Evernote just in case.

Sometimes, these things work out. As we pedaled through Slovenia, I mapped out a route to Petzen. As luck would have it, we found a vegan hotel/restaurant on Lake Klopein, the perfect location for a few days off after our tour through Hungary. Petzen happened to be just a few pedal strokes (ok, 15 miles) away. A perfect day trip.

The warm-up ride to the park was worth it: the stellar downhill and views of the valley make Petzen was the best flow trail I’ve ever ridden. It was so flowy that my first six-mile run through the berms actually made me slightly motion sick! The trail, which won IMBA’s 2014 Flow Trail of the Year award, is fantastic.

Enough said. Other than visiting it, the best way to experience Petzen is through a video. Here it is.

Cycle Touring in a Hungarian Heat Wave

Pedaling Lake Balaton

The situation was dire. “They don’t have chocolate-covered rice cakes!” Chelsea reported, walking out of our favorite European grocery store, Spar. “And no ajvar either.” We were scarcely 100 pedal strokes over Hungary’s border and already were forced to continue sans our favorite snack and red pepper spread. Whatever – we hadn’t made it this far to only to crumble so easily.

The country’s history is a tough one. Smack-dab in the middle of Central Europe, Hungary was once a wealthy empire ranging from coastal Croatia east to the Black Sea. It was an industrialized nation and Budapest rang with discourse, music and art. Then the ramifications of two world wars carved up the illustrious empire and resulted in half of ethnic Hungarians living outside the new borders and 70% of its previous land holdings stripped away and handed over (or returned) to other countries. This split the beating heart of industry from the lifeblood of raw materials necessary to feed it, crushing the economy.

Sign of the times? Progress rooted in the old.

Sign of the times? Progress rooted in the old.

Though many Hungarian leaders pushed for neutrality during WWII, geography forced it to join the Axis powers. One book I read said, “they could either be broiled by the Germans or boiled by the Russians.” When Hungary tried to negotiate a surrender to the Allies, the German forces stomped in to occupy the country. Then the Russian troops invaded and pillaged. They also extracted onerous war reparations that undermined the Hungarian economy, weakened the previous government and paved the way for 50 years of Communism.

President Harry Truman, a die-hard Midwesterner, once told a Hungarian diplomat that he’d like to visit to learn about their agriculture system. He never made it before the Iron Curtain slammed shut, but if I had a few lines to report back my superficial findings based on my 10 days touring there, I’d say:

“Dear Prez Truman – fields of corn, wheat, rye and sugar beets cover the majority of the countryside. It feels like a Soviet-influenced version of Illinois. Uniform boxy homes cluster together in empty villages, the eerie silence broken occasionally by a tractor gnashing up the street. Elderly people creak by on bikes so rusty it’s a miracle the frames hold together. The cheery flowers in window boxes, so often seen in Western Europe, are gone.”

And then I’d tell Harry to watch the video I put together from our time in Hungary; it’s at the bottom of this post.

Hills of Hungary

Frankly, cycling through Hungary felt more like survival than fun, and we had a hard time enjoying it. The agricultural terrain felt monotonous and the heat hung on our backs like a scorching blanket of coals. We struggled to connect with the place in our usual way, though everyone we interacted with was incredibly cordial and friendly. One memorable evening was a nice Warmshowers stay with a lovely family in the countryside. They told us of the difficulties of starting a business or homeschooling children in a country that is still shaking off old Communist conformity.

Rising in the dark to beat the heat, Chelsea and I were pedaling each day by the time sunrise tinged corn stalks with a crimson hue. One memorable bonus was the roadside stands with delectable, juicy watermelons from southern Hungary. I ate mounds of the delicious fruit every day, spooning it directly out of the rind until my belly swelled, round and taut as the melons themselves.

Sunrise start!

Sunrise start!

Our route was a 400-mile loop out of Slovenia. The destination: Lake Balaton, a blue oval in the midst of Central Europe’s Great Plains that attracts tourists from all over the area. We put the lake in our sights after reading about the excellent bike paths circumventing its shores. Parts of the lake are so shallow that it’s possible to wade out hundreds of feet and still only be up to your waist; people stand around chatting like they’re hanging out in a park.

Wading in Lake Balaton

Balaton felt like two different worlds depending which side we pedaled. The flatter south shore featured rental houses and resorts that spawned hundreds of people and their inflatable beach equipment. Bike paths were often crowded with tourists (takes one to know one) who wandered about like bowling balls between bumpers.

The north was less developed, hillier, and more scenic, and we wound our way through grape vines as we gazed out over the crystalline blue lake from excellent vantage points. Our favorite stop was a rest day in the town of Balatongyörök, where we gulped delicious homemade strawberry lemonade on a restaurant terrace overlooking lake and enjoyed a couple hours of respite before retreating to the comfort of air conditioning. Unless squeaky beach toys and crowds are your idea of a fun bike tour, my recommendation would be to stick to the northern side of Lake Balaton.

North side of Lake Balaton

The silver lining to difficult days on the bike is that they make the rest of life easier in comparison. Cranking on pedals through blinding heat and boring scenery steels me to other tasks that might seem tough, but really aren’t too bad. Plus, hard days of cycling usually (but not always) beat a day in my old engineering office or dealing with a plumbing leak at home. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.

Our last day in Hungary was a good one, and years from now I’ll probably recall our entire trip there in a positive light. We were on the road by six a.m. and rode through winding country roads lined by corn. Tractors chugged past and we cruised with scarcely a break. Five hours and forty miles later, we’d crossed into Slovenia and were sitting by the pool at an odd Soviet-era pool complex. We then cooled off and ambled over to Spar to pick up some chocolate rice cakes. It’s the small things that keep us going some days.

Here’s that little 2-minute video I put together for Mr. Truman documenting our experience in Hungary. Enjoy.

Chelsea rolls along a bike path on the south side of Balaton.

Chelsea rolls along a bike path on the south side of Balaton.

Sharing the Road – Cycle Touring with Friends (Plus a Video!)

Team Awesome

“What’s the limit on the number of cinnamon rolls?” I asked. “I’ve had three!” confessed Dave. “After three, let’s go get gelato,” Jen chimed in.

That was just Wednesday. Days cycling in Croatia and Slovenia with our friends sped by fueled with gelato and Jen’s badass vegan cooking skills. Long swims in the warm Adriatic Sea cut the scathing summer heat; we spent evenings sitting at outdoor cafes listening to the mix of Italian and Croatian bubbling around us. Cycle touring with our buddies was a fabulous few weeks of our bike tour, yet the rendezvous almost didn’t happen.

We started our trip in June from London, whereas Dave and Jen began in Norway in early May. The plan was to meet up, but soon they were in southern Austria and we were in Belgium, with 25 hours on a train in between. Close, but not close enough, we concluded with disappointment during a Skype conversation.

So understandably, Jen was surprised two weeks later when Chelsea shoulder-checked her on the cobblestone streets of Rovinj, Croatia. “Hey, it’s Chelsea!” Blank stare from Jen. “From Portland…” Jen’s confusion lifted and big hugs followed. Dave, the inside conspirator, finally came clean on our surprise arrival, which he and I coordinated using stealth language like “the eagle is coming in for landing.”

A perfect night in Rovinj.

A perfect night in Rovinj.

Woodrow Wilson once said, “Friendship is the only cement that will hold the world together,” a statement I wholeheartedly agree with. Making our friends the priority despite the obstacles, I set aside my must-pedal-every-mile ego and skipped plans to cycle through Switzerland. Instead, we took a train south through the Alps from Basel to Milan, the most graffiti-stricken city I’ve ever seen.

We chugged across northern Italy to Venice, a city as beautiful as all the hype. For two days, we embraced the cliched magic and walked hand in hand along canals, gondolas sliding by. No cars are allowed in the city, which makes it a pedestrian paradise. And (surprise!) we also learned upon arriving that bicycling is not allowed.

A peaceful moment in Venice.

A peaceful moment in Venice as a gondola slides by a bustling restaurant.

Venice is a network of 118 islands built upon sunken pillars – an upside down forest, I heard one tour guide say. And those paved islands are divided by canals and connected by steep bridges with steps. On our arrival and departure days, we slogged through triple-digit weather that melted gelato faster than Donald Trump can piss off John McCain. Lugging our bikes up steps, past selfie stick-hawking vendors, and between tourists downing pizza slices, it felt so ridiculous that I could only laugh at the irony of two cycle tourists carrying our bikes through possibly the only city in the world that forbids cycling. CrossFit Venice.

Fireworks over the canals of Venice. We happened to be in town for a yearly festival.

Fireworks over the canals of Venice. We happened to be in town for a yearly festival.

All the effort was worth it: traveling with Jen, Dave and Sora was fantastic. The mix of four cheery personalities, plus a cute dog licking faces and chasing sheep in her dreams, created laughter galore. Chelsea got into touring through riding with girlfriends, but this was my first time doing an extended bike trip with anyone else. I would absolutely do it again.

As we spent time with  Dave and Jen, a few lessons-learned cropped up. If you’re considering doing a tour with buddies (and you should!), hopefully these items help set guideposts to make sure everyone stays happy and has a great experience. Cycle touring can be a time that unites you for life.

  • Set expectations up front. Run through the nuts and bolts together so everyone is on the same page and no one thinks Dakota is a total a-hole for seizing control of navigation. (Sorry Dave, it’s a control freak thing.) The four of us discussed preferred mileage per day, budget for places to stay/camp, start times each morning, and other basics. This simple conversation set the tone early and let us focus on cycling and enjoying one another’s company. Well, I enjoyed their company at least. (Jen, sorry I ate all the watermelon.)
  • Everyone needs a Road Name. Dave “The Veganator” and Jen “Muscles/MoSo/CinnaMon” quickly realized I never stop eating and dubbed me “The Woodchipper” – picture stuffing food into a hopper followed by a buzzsaw sound. MWARRRR. “Feed it to The Woodchipper” became the mantra when there were leftovers. Chelsea is “The Hammer” for crushing hills as if they were pieces of bubble wrap. Sora is “Borba,” though she really just wants to eat baguettes all day so Bread Hund (<–German for dog) would be more fitting.
  • Accept that more people equals slower pace. Even if you all ride at the same speed, everyone has different needs for rest/picture/food/bathroom breaks. Respect each person’s needs and just reeeelax. (I’m talking to you, Dakota.)Team LongHaul and Traipsing
  • Embrace your sense of humor. This applies to most things in life, and more so in cycle touring. As hungry and tired cyclists navigating a foreign land in summer heat, communication could have quickly devolved into Alien vs. Predator. A well-timed joke, or just a goofy grin, instead turned potential friction into laughter. Dave’s sing-song rendition of Sora the Bread-Loving Hund’s voice never failed to crack me up.
  • Divide and conquer. Split up tasks. Dave and I took on route planning, navigation, and bike maintenance; Chelsea handled lodging and food shopping; Jen the Pro Chef also shopped and whipped up incredible meals like panzanella and desserts like cinnamon rolls. We all developed a keen eye for finding the panacea to hot temperatures, gelato.
    Jen's delicious panzanella.

    Jen’s delicious panzanella.

  • Figure out the money stuff. During past travels, I’ve tracked every transaction in a little book. This time around, I’m challenging my obsessive compulsive data side and only keeping track of lodging. While hanging with Dave and Jen, we split places to stay and both purchased groceries. Traveling as a group allowed us to rent awesome apartments and split the cost, which saved us all a ton of cash, which we dutifully reinvested in gelato.
    Gelato
  • Keep talking to people. It’s easy to only hang out with one another. We did this some days, but also made an effort to hang with locals. An Airbnb host joined us twice for dinner and showed us how to make Istrian soup, a delicious wine-soaked bread drink. We enjoyed another evening with a cheery Croatian family and their homemade wine (are you catching a theme?) as we discussed Communism in former Yugoslavia (the older generation consistently seems to miss the good old days prior to the wall coming down).
  • Time apart is smart. Just like any relationship, make sure there is downtime where everyone isn’t hanging out. Even if this is just everyone blue-facing on their phones or computers, time to just relax and chill is important. Then you can get back to brilliant jokes and high-brow discussions regarding divesting oil holdings (Dave, I concede).
    Time "apart"

Have an awesome time. Remember how lucky you are to travel with great people. Now that we’re in our 30s and many friends are involved in careers or raising children, it is difficult to find amigos with whom we can head out for an extended trip. Traveling with Jen and Dave bonded us all and was a grand adventure. Even the ups and down of tough days cycle touring couldn’t overshadow how much fun we had together.

Suns out, guns out

We bid adieu to our buddies in a green valley in Slovenia. They headed south into the Balkans as we pedaled east toward Hungary, memories of our time together lodged in my memory. It was time for The Woodchipper and The Hammer to ride some extra miles to burn off all the cinnamon rolls and gelato.

I’ll leave you with a fun video compilation of our time together, or click to watch below. Ciao!

 

NYC’s Pulse and Beat – A Time Lapse Video

A still photo misses the pulse of New York City. It singles out a tender moment or shows the scale of skyscrapers, but the heartbeat and energy flow too fast for a static shot.

Nine million people live in NYC, and sometimes it feels as if all of them are in one subway car or crosswalk with you. Time lapse photograph takes scenes and encapsulates them nicely into a few seconds. Packaged together, those brief moments are a quick glimpse into what makes the city so fun, intimidating and full of life.

This video is a compilation of scenes from our five weeks exploring the city. Central Park, Times Square and other iconic areas appear, along with random moments from our wandering about. I’d never played around with time lapses before – it’s quite fun! I parked my SLR camera the entire visit and shot everything (photos and time lapses) on my iPhone 5.

Without further ado, enjoy! Here’s the link to the short video on YouTube, or just click play below in the embedded version.

On to the next adventure,

Dakota

Smashing Fall Colors in New England – Bike Touring Video, Part 4

Welcome to the final installment (part 4 of 4) of the video series covering our 4,000 mile bike tour in the summer of 2014. If you missed previous episodes, here are parts one, two and three. This video details our travels from upstate New York to the Atlantic Ocean in Portland, Maine.Adirondack fall colors

Everyone has an opinion about the timing for prime fall color viewing. “This coming weekend, for sure.” “Oh, you just missed them by six minutes. Bummer.” It seems like the changing leaves are a German train sticking to a tight timetable, not a process unfolding slowly in the woods. All aboard the Peak Foliage Express!

From the beginning, our bike tour goal was to hit New England in time to 1) avoid cycling in snow (Abominable Snowmen hate cyclists) and 2) smash into the explosion of colors for which the area is so famous. Somehow, it all worked out.

A perfect day along a river in the Adirondacks.

A perfect day along a river in the Adirondacks.

This was our favorite part of the tour. Crisp, cool weather coupled with scenic views that left our jaws hanging like a teenager at a strip club. It really is as good as they say. (Fall colors, people – stick with me here.)

We lucked out in other ways too. Warm Showers hosts graced us with their hospitality and we added a half dozen new friends to our lives. A guy in a coffee shop invited us back for lunch at his “camp”, which turned into a boat and plane adventure. A new buddy in Burlington is Chelsea’s new soul sister. A couple in Montpelier and their incredible adventures bike touring all over the world (four years total!) inspired us to push our limits.

New England was the perfect conclusion to a trip we’ll remember forever. The journey brought us closer together as a couple, further seared a love of adventure into our souls and inspired us for another bike tour sooner than later. Even if the fall colors are only 36 hours (pffft, we saw them into late October) and the locals can’t understand what all the fuss is about, we can’t wait to get back. I can’t recommend this area of the U.S. highly enough.

Here’s the link to the final video from our tour or just click play below. Turns out that video editing is a lot of work (I’d never done it before) and I’m glad to wrap this up. A few more photos below the video too. Enjoy, and onward!

Dakota

Ducks preen and watch a kayaker on Blue Mountain Lake.

Ducks preen and watch a kayaker on Blue Mountain Lake.

I found this funny - a short bus hiding out in the Tug Hill Wilderness in the middle of nowhere New York.

I found this funny – a short bus hiding out in the Tug Hill Wilderness in the middle of nowhere New York.

A lovely evening in Burlington, VT.

A lovely evening in Burlington, VT.

 

Cyborgs on Bikes – Bike Touring Video (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of 4 of the video series documenting our 101 day trip cycling across the the U.S. in the summer of 2014. If you missed Part 2, click here to check it out. This section covers from Indiana to the middle of upstate New York.

A gorgeous night on Fletcher Lake in Indiana. Jumped in for a swim and then we watched lightning on the horizon before camping out under a giant maple tree and listening to the rain on the tent.

A gorgeous night on Fletcher Lake in Indiana. Jumped in for a swim and then we watched lightning on the horizon before camping out under a giant maple tree and listening to the rain on the tent.

Three thousand miles into the tour, we are like cyborgs on bikes. With day-to-day routines nailed (except for my elusive rain jacket, which hides in the bottom of a pannier during storms) and legs forged from steely dragon’s teeth, we zip east. Most days, we don’t even break a sweat (<–dirty lie, even cyborgs sweat in 90% humidity).

At this point, we’re both starting to think about Maine, a far-distant mirage in our minds for the first 2/3 of the trip. The realization that we might actually complete the tour without our bodies breaking down feels great. But first, we finish out Indiana, head up toward Cleveland and then skirt along the southern edge of Lake Erie all the way to Niagara Falls before heading east into upstate New York. The magnitude of the effort to get this far sank in as the fall colors of New York beckoned from afar and the days cooled off, a welcome change.

A little metal barn in the middle of nowhere on a back country road in Indiana.

A little metal barn in the middle of nowhere on a back country road in Indiana. Sad news: C’s rainbow socks wore out by the end of the trip. 🙁

You’ll notice I’m goofier in this series. Believe me, all videos are off-the-cuff and I (obviously) don’t employ a joke writer. I think you’ll get a couple chuckles at our random antics as we roll from nowhere Indiana all the way into the NE. If nothing else, it’s a good picture of what the terrain looks like!

Here’s the movie link for email subscribers, or click play below on the embedded video if you visit the site directly. Enjoy.

Dakota

P.S. There are a few more photos below the movie if you want to check those out first.

Between the motorcycle rallies and car shows, we learned quite a bit about vehicles. (Not.)

Between all the motorcycle rallies and car shows we biked through, we learned quite a bit about vehicles. Ok, not really.

A family fishes off a bridge in Ohio.

The thing to do (apparently) in Grand Rapids, Ohio is to go fishing at sunset off a small dam in town.

Cold beans by the side of the road. Accessed with an old-school can opener, no less.

Cold beans by the side of the road (on a hot day at least). Accessed with an old-school can opener, no less.

Always fun to find covered bridges!

Always fun to find covered bridges! This one is in Roann, Indiana.

Punching Through the Midwest – Bike Touring Video (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of 4 of the video series documenting our 101 day trip cycling across the the U.S. in the summer of 2014. If you missed Part 1, click here to check it out. This section covers from Spearfish, South Dakota all the way to the Indiana border. Straight through the heart of the Midwest in summer like true masochists. 

Corn crop

We didn’t plan to bike through the Midwest in August. It just worked out that way. Our timing, framed around hitting New England during peak fall colors, meant we had to spend some time in the sweltering summer. To echo Vonnegut, so it goes… Trade-offs are part of living.

After clearing Montana, we headed south through the Black Hills of South Dakota. Instead of highways, we spent a few days on the Mickelson Trail, which is a 110-mile gravel trail that cuts right through the heart of the area near Mt. Rushmore. Timing it perfectly (not), we managed to hit the area just as 500,000 motorcycles descended like loud, buzzing bees for the Sturgis Rally. I think I heard, “Put an engine on that thing!” almost as much as “I could never do what you’re doing.”

Foggy morning in Nebraska in the corn fields.

Foggy morning in Nebraska in the corn fields.

I asked a bartender in Cody, NE (pop 154) if they knew anyone who might take us in for the night since a big storm was rolling in. Isla helped us out and her cheery granddaughter made us laugh and laugh.

I asked a bartender in Cody, NE (pop 154) if they knew anyone who might take us in for the night since a big storm was rolling in. Isla helped us out and her cheery granddaughter made us laugh and laugh.

The Midwest gets a bad rap sometimes, and part of it is a bit undeserved. Take Nebraska, for instance. I think most people picture horribly flat, ugly terrain stretching for miles. Flat? On the highways, yes. Country roads were rolling and nice. Ugly? Not in the NW part of the state in the pretty, rolling Sand Hills region. We lucked out and fog was more prevalent than crushing sun for the first half of Nebraska. Clear, hot skies came as we neared Omaha, as did gnarly traffic. My advice is to avoid big cities whenever possible if you go touring because navigating them on bicycle is often difficult or just plain nerve-wracking.

Iowa’s surprise was constant rolling steep hills, not flat corn country. We toiled up them through temperatures soaring into the high 90’s in humidity so thick we could have backstroked in it. Locals were kind, generous and excited to talk to us. A new idea (to us) was Casey’s, a gas station chain also featuring pizza ovens. We ate no-cheese, veggie pizza ($12.74 with tax) and scored ice cubes for our water bottles frequently to survive. That convenience was unfortunately offset by the stink of factory farms and the doomed animals inside them that permeated the air in many stretches of the state. An up-close, visceral look at the underbelly of our food system.

Up close and personal with a soy bean field.

Up close and personal with a soy bean field.

In eastern Iowa, road shoulders were 10 feet wide to accommodate the large Amish population and their buggies, which whisk along behind quickly trotting horses. We stopped at Stringtown Grocery, an Amish establishment featuring re-bagged bulk goods branded under the store’s name. And then we hit a big milestone – The Mississippi River! I stared at the flat brown flowing waters and thought of the Louisiana Purchase. To think that a huge chunk of land west of this grand body of water at one point wasn’t even part of the United States before France sold it to us. 2,300 miles on our bikes to get here and we were barely half way to Maine.

Scenery past the Mississippi was the cliche Midwest fare. Rather non-descript days pedaling through the corn and soy fields of Illinois blend together into podcasts and audiobooks that curbed the monotony a bit. Long days in the sun melded into one big mass of states starting with I as we left Iowa for Illinois and Indiana.

Corn fields and a rusty silo to hold the bounty.

Corn fields and a rusty silo to hold the bounty.

Our ability to forget difficult trials is powerful. This portion of our tour is scarcely three months ago and yet feels so long ago. The events of August in the Midwest are already softer in my mind. Memories of days where we had to linger in a gas station to let our internal temperatures cool down are slipping away. The sun’s fangs are blunted and the sauna of the humidity diminishes. Even the sameness of the landscape – corn, soy, repeat – looks better in the pictures.

What remains etched in stone is a mental confidence that we persevered as a team, pushing through conditions we normally would choose to avoid at all costs. The crucible of the Midwest forged our relationship into a stronger bond. For that reason alone, this tough section of the tour was worth it.

Enough chit chat. How about that video?! Email subscribers: click here for Part 2 of 4. Visitors to the website, just click play below in the embedded video. Enjoy…and see you shortly in Part 3!

Cheers,

Dakota

 

Cranking Through the Rockies – Bike Touring Video (Part 1 of 4)

Waterton National Park, Alberta

I rarely look back. Forward, onward, tally ho! Always new adventures on the horizon, people to visit, places to see, as they say. Perhaps you’ve picked up on that?

Maybe that’s the reason I so enjoyed digging into the videos from our bike tour between hikes in Acadia National Park while we “kicked back” in Maine. Photos are fun to flip through, but they don’t pick up the wind, the rumble of a motorcycle, a joke or stupid song (there were lots) or the patter of raindrops. And even though the experiences are fresh, taking the journey anew through the videos was a fabulous time. I loved combining them into one continuous film voyage to bring you along for the ride and hopefully inspire you to take your own tour. Or maybe convince you that touring is the dumbest thing ever and you’d rather get on a plane to Cabo instead. (I had those thoughts…see Day 23 in the video.)

It was interesting watching my tone change as the trip progressed. You can literally see me relax and get into a flow where I was less stressed or worried. Lots more joking as my goofy side took charge and my business side (which isn’t the real me anyway) slid into the background. It was still there taking care of logistics, but the rest of the time I was more carefree and open to whatever came our way. I think you’ll notice too.

When we were deciding if extended touring was for us, I would have loved to see a video like this with commentary from the rider rather than just music. From a couple hours of clips, I cut it way down to pass along the ups and downs of touring plus scenery from many parts of the country that most people never visit. I think you’ll dig it!

This is part 1 of 4 and covers 32 days from our start in Viola, Idaho to Spearfish, SD over 1,346 miles. (Here’s part 2.) Come along for the ride! It winds through the Rocky Mountains with some amazing scenery in Glacier and Waterton National Parks. Then we hit the plains and roll across Montana in a diagonal line to Spearfish, South Dakota.

Email subscribers, click here to view the video. Others, just click play below to watch the embedded version. A note that all videos were taken with an iPhone and were impromptu, unrehearsed and occasionally ridiculous. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cheerio,

Dakota

P.S. In case you haven’t seen it, check out the stats summary with all the numbers from our bike tour.