Category: Life

The End of Winter

Kirkwood

As the snow melts away from a surprise April storm and the last of the Tahoe resorts close for the season, I can’t help but think about all the amazing days I had on the mountains this year. While locals look at me in disbelief when I say I had a fantastic season, I’m quite serious about what a great season this was for me. In the midst of Sierra’s worst snowpack since the 1970s, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.

Fresh air and crisp skies

As a first time season passholder, I honestly had no idea what life would be like having such easy access to the mountains. Would I get tired of the crowds and be a grumpy, picky local who only went for pure, fresh powder days? Would I know anyone to ski with? Would I get tired of skiing by myself? Would I get bored of the same runs? Would I be able to improve over the season?

Snowy trees at Sierra-at-Tahoe

Of those questions, the one I was most worried about was skiing by myself. At the start of the season I knew no one here, and my only reference for skiing solo was from a few years ago when I went to Heavenly during a business trip. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I hated riding the lifts all day by myself and not knowing anyone. But, turns out… I really enjoyed hitting the mountain myself. The beauty of having the pass really shined here. Once I was tired or had enough for the day, I could go home whenever I wanted without worrying about not getting my day’s value in. Ski for a few hours, have a beer, and call it a day.

Fresh powder day at Kirkwood

Not long into the season, I started meeting fellow skiers through a few Meetup groups. Spending the weekends with these friends on the mountain started turning into a weekly ritual, much like bike riding was in Dallas. We started planning our weekends on Monday and looking forward to the snow all week. Having friends of various ability to ride with helped me improve my skills, until by the end of the season I started noticing a significant improvement in my abilities. What a blast it was to share the season with so many new friends.

Throughout most of the season, I’d be getting up to the mountain by 9 or 10am… but the last few weekends at Heavenly, I discovered the bliss of the first chair and fresh groomed runs. Runs that I thought I knew were totally different and absolutely amazing. You should have seen the grin on my face after rushing down a perfectly clean groomed run!

Fresh corduroy, just for me!

The views from the tops of the runs of Lake Tahoe continue to take my breath away. I took hundreds of photos, yet none capture the beauty quite right. Every time I was on the mountain, I was so happy and excited. The rush of taking runs and the beauty all around is simply unbeatable.

The Heavenly Tram

 

For my last day on the mountain, I decided to attempt something I’d been hearing others do… three sports in one day. As I was coming down the Gondola from a fun couple of hours at Heavenly, I put plans into motion and pulled off mountain biking and kayaking all in the same day. What a great way to transition into a Tahoe summer!

 

All in all, this season was everything I’d hoped for when I moved here. It’s fitting that I’m publishing this a year after I announced I was leaving Dallas. The move has been rewarding in many ways, and I’m glad every day that I put in the effort to make it happen.

I’m already looking forward to next season.

First Snow Day

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Finally.

After weeks of anticipation and watching weather reports (and a Thanksgiving holiday blackout on my pass), I got my ski gear together and hit the slopes. While the mountains aren’t fully open yet (not enough snow & high temperatures), there was enough for me to decide it was time to go.

This is my first season to own a pair of skis and to have a pass. In the past I had not been really fond of skiing by myself, but this weekend I loved it. The combined freedom of living right next to the Heavenly gondola, having a pass, and being by myself was beautiful. On Saturday I was able to ski for a few hours before the crowds started showing up, and headed out just as the lift lines started to grow exponentially. The crowds were thinner on Sunday and I took my time to enjoy a few more runs.

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By pure chance, on one of my last lift rides of the day, “L” by Tycho came on my rdio. Suddenly the perfect soundtrack was playing  as I was watching the sun make shadows across the glittering snow.

 

Really looking forward to this season of snow and hanging out on the mountain. What a life change.

Speaking In

Mr Anderson

Mr. Anderson thinks that everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing…Well, I think you’re wrong. I think you have something inside of you that is worth a great deal.

The scene continues as Mr Keating, played by Robin Williams, pushes Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) out of his comfort zone and speaks encouragement and life into this young man.

Since Robin Williams death, I’ve been wanting to go back and watch some of his best work. This scene in Dead Poets Society in particular really struck me as I was rewatching this classic movie.

I can count on one hand the number of times anyone so intently and honestly told me they believed in me. Recently I’ve made it a point to stop to tell close friends that I really believe in them. Those are rare and important opportunities to be seized. A close friend or respected leader’s gentle push and insightful words of encouragement can mean the world.

I love you, Dallas

Goodnight, Dallas

Having never lived in any place that was considered a top-ten in anything desirable (unless you have a thing for traffic james, obesity, or pollution), I’ve not been one to dwell on the negatives of the place I call home. Far better to find–or create–the good and bring people along for the ride. Every city has good aspects…some cities just hide it a bit harder than others.

Kings of Adventure on the TRE

Kings of Adventure on the TRE

I moved to the Dallas area after graduating LeTourneau in 2004. I’ve lived in Plano, Richardson, Arlington, and, now, East Dallas. I love my area greatly, and I love the people here even more.  I love biking all over Dallas. Exploring the city by bike is sheer joy–especially late summer nights. I love the slowly growing coffee scene. I deeply love the church and community I’ve been involved in. I love seeing the quality of life getting better and better. I love how we’re not pretentious about where we live and just enjoy it as it is. I love summer sunsets at White Rock Lake. I love how there are people all over the city working hard to making their neighborhoods better. I love how Deep Ellum is coming back to life with great food and music. I love all the dog friendly patios.  I love how the craft beer scene has exploded over the past few years. I love bulk pick up! I love getting to know a city and bumping into people I know all over town.

Richardson Scavenger Hunt

Richardson Scavenger Hunt

But, our time together is ending.

I have a rare opportunity with the job I currently have to move anywhere in the Continental US, as long as there is decent Internet and a good airport. I’ve long dreamed of moving to Lake Tahoe, and now’s my chance. Tahoe is a gorgeous, magical place with mountains, sky, and a giant lake all coming together in one dramatic spot. In the summer, there’s mountain bike riding (real mountains!), hiking, camping, road cycling (anyone up for a 73 mile ride around the lake?) and water sports. In the winter, there’s too many ski resorts to count…with majestic views of the lake from the top of every ski lift.

Hiking in Lake Tahoe (2004)

Hiking in Lake Tahoe (2004)

I’m currently in the process of getting my house ready to sell. My goal is to get it on the market in mid-summer. The housing market in Dallas has been great lately, so hopefully it will sell quickly and I’ll make my way west. I’m using this as an opportunity to downsize my belongings and go as minimal as possible. I’m excited about this changing in seasons and what new opportunities are ahead. I’m seizing this moment to do something that few people have the chance to do–pick up and start fresh wherever I want.

 

Camping in Desolation Wilderness in 2004

Camping in Desolation Wilderness (2004)

By the way, feel free to come visit me in Tahoe! The guest futon is open anytime. Southwest & American fly to Reno, which is just a short drive up to Tahoe. I already have my season ski passes!

Skiing at Squaw Valley (2004)

Skiing at Squaw Valley (2004)

 

Never Trapped

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I use the words “freedom” and “empowerment” frequently to describe the profound impact that CyclingSavvy has had on my life.

But I don’t think most folks believe that I really mean it. One reason, among several, is that bicycling is not seen as a real transportation option. Using a bicycle in Dallas is, for most people, including myself, a recreational activity. If my bicycle was taken away today, I would be sad but my livelihood would not be taken away from me; I can still do my job, go to church, visit my friends, and enjoy life (quite a bit less fun, though!).

Some of you know and have followed Eli Damon’s story over the past few years. Even though we have only met in person twice, I am proud to call him a friend and cycling educator colleague. Last September I wrote about his police harassment and legal issues on the I Am Traffic site (Reality Check: The Hadley Harrassment Case).

Since I wrote that article, Eli has won a landmark case against the Hadley Police Department and is finally able to share his own story. I highly recommend reading his post on I Am Traffic: “Overcoming Ignorance and Fear“. If you’re more in the mood for listening, Eli also shared an overview on Diane Lees’ “Outspoken Cyclist” podcast, show #178.

I take for granted the ability and freedom to move around my city. Rarely do I feel trapped or unable to go where I want, whenever I want. Eli, however, had been trapped for the majority of his life…until he found true freedom and empowerment through driving his bicycle.

I continued to exploit my newfound freedom and expand my sense of possibility, cycling on a wide variety of roads under a wide variety of conditions, even making a couple of three-day, two-hundred-mile journeys. I made these trips because there were opportunities at the end that I wanted to take. I could never have made those trips or taken those opportunities before my transformation. It would have been overwhelmingly difficult, stressful, and scary.

The “transformation” that he refers to is his understanding and practice of the techniques that CyclingSavvy teaches.

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One of the reasons that Eli’s story excites me is that, for Eli, bicycling isn’t a fad or a lifestyle. It is now critical to his livelihood. And society didn’t just hand it to him. He had to work at it, practice at it, and persevere through overwhelming circumstances.

How many more people like Eli are out there that can find such personal freedom through cycling?

Avoiding Mindlessness

For awhile now I have struggled to find a balance between the usefulness and wastefulness of social media. Like many aspects of life, I’ve found that the best “spot” on the spectrum must be constantly evaluated and adjusted. Unfortunately, as many of us have come to realize, social media, in particular, Facebook, has an addictive side that pulls hard toward the wastefulness side of the spectrum. Mindlessness is easy to fall into; mindfulness is difficult to maintain.

The usefulness side of social media is indeed valuable. I’m very grateful for the real-life connections and opportunities I’ve had from the internet over the past 14 years or so. There’s no doubt that my life has been more interesting and better by the online connections I’ve made through various forums, chat rooms, and now social media.

New Singapore Friends

New friends met in Singapore over beer and Internet.

One of the books I finished this week was Enough by Patrick Rhone. One chapter in particular struck a chord for me. In the chapter “On Sabbatical”, Patrick mentions some of the benefits he has seen in taking periodic sabbaticals:

I can tell you from my personal experience that I always seem to return with clearer intentions, with better ways to approach technology, and a renewed charge to value the world around me. I use that solitary time to find a deeper understanding of myself and what really is important to me. I also find that there are some things I miss in my time away. With that knowledge, I can now make sure to apply my time and attention wisely.

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Last week I had the opportunity to unplug and relax on the beach with friends and family. I checked in on Facebook and Instagram occasionally, but kept the phone off or in the condo most of the time. When I checked in, I didn’t seen much that I really missed. When I return to every day life this week, I’ll be faced with the challenge to push more towards the usefulness side of social media. A lot of hard work is required for the things that I am passionate about; when I distract myself from that hard work by wasting time on social media, I let valuable hours slip away and those dreams slip further away from reality.

In the past, I’ve tried time-based limits to reduce wastefulness and increase usefulness. Yet that hasn’t seemed to work well. At various times I’ve removed easy access from my phone, but that doesn’t last long either. I haven’t seen any simple answers, but that’s probably because it’s a hard problem. I’ve watched friends “solve” the problem by simply deleting or ignoring their accounts. I don’t think that’s an acceptable answer for me at this time; there’s still a lot of real-world value for me participating in social media.

Social Biking

Friends in Florida I would have never met without blogs.

On The Road

Folks who don’t travel often for work have the mistaken idea that being on the road is glamorous and interesting. While there definitely are some interesting moments, most of the time on the road is full of decidedly un-glamorous hours, days, and weeks.

EVAC

EVAC

Travel for vacation is simply not even close to the same thing. Travel for vacation is about choices… the people you’re with, the places you’ll visit, the food you’ll eat, and the activities you’ll do. Travel for work, on the other hand, is about none of those things. At best, when traveling for work you can choose a decent place to eat and which hotel chain to stay.

Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

Still, I try my best to take advantage of work travel as much as possible. For the first few years of my career, I worked on projects in Seattle, Lake Tahoe, and Amsterdam. Recently I’ve been able to visit Singapore. If I can manage to put some bumper days around the trip, I’ll venture off and explore a local site, find the best coffee shop in town, or go for a bike ride.

In between those amazing opportunities, though, are day after day in tiny towns in the middle of Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, Connecticut, Texas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Illinois. Fly, drive, work, eat, sleep. Visit the same chain restaurant for a week in a row; desperately wishing for a simple bowl of cheerios.

Hunting for Work

Hunting for Work

What I have the hardest time with, though, is disconnection. When I’m gone from home, life continues for my friends and family. Parties are had, new friends are made, and new jokes are going around. But for me, it’s like time has stopped for a few weeks. I’ve learned to be extra out going when I return… invite myself to things, create events, and call up lots of folks. But still, there’s a tinge of feeling that everyone has gone on without me.

This all sounds like I’m complaining. I’m not. I just don’t want people to think that work travel is glamorous and cool. I post a few pictures on Facebook or Instagram of unique things I see, but most of my time is spent in a server room in the middle of a factory with my hair net on. Definitely not Instagram-able.

Where'd I park my car?

Where’d I park my car?

The interesting parts are far outweighed by the bland hotel, the lame continental breakfast, and the hours in the airport waiting for the connection.

Most of all, though, I really miss all the time I could have spent with friends and family.

Always There

HPIM1862

Dad is a man of few words, but his integrity speaks throughout his life. His work life is above reproach and his financial skills are trusted by many leading men in his industry. His work ethic is astounding; I could never imagine him taking the easy path when the project requires otherwise. When remodeling the house, he always fits everything correctly and uses the proper tool for the job. If it will take more time, so be it–it has to be done right.

One summer, a college friend and I spent a few days helping Dad rebuild the back fence. Dad was very careful to guide us in building the fence properly–using screws instead of nails, lining up the posts precisely, and using foot boards to make the fence last longer. We could have built the fence cheaper or more quickly, but Dad’s deep commitment to quality and craftsmanship overruled.

Finished Fence

Dad’s main priority, for as long as I can remember, has been to secure the future for his children. He’s enabled each of us to pursue high quality education and careers fitting to our personalities, skills, and interests. He’s worked many long hours to make sure that, as long as we were under his care, we would not have to worry about food or shelter. Our home was always safe and comfortable.

In college, I was certainly not a model student and my grades rarely met up with anyone’s expectations. But, I still graduated and had a career lined up for after college. At the end of the commencement ceremony, I vividly remember his words: “I’m proud of you.”

Graduation

As an adult, we’ve had various success at connecting on a personal level. When I got into bicycling, that was a great shared experience that we both tremendously enjoyed. Battling against heat, wind, and even torrential rain helped us bond in new ways.

Wild Ride

Whether it be job seeking, car shopping, house buying, financial planning, home repairs, career decisions, or any number of other topics, Dad has counseled me with advice and suggestions.  Before and after every job interview I’ve ever had, I’ve called Dad for clarity and wisdom on how to proceed. He has always been just a phone call away.

Thinking about it now, I have never had the slightest doubt that Dad wouldn’t be there when I need help or advice. It’s almost an unspoken guarantee that he’ll do whatever it takes to help when any of our family is in need.

Happy New Rear Ride

Dad’s influence in my character has been subtle, but significant: he has incrementally shaped who I am. I strive for the same integrity and work ethic that he has exemplified. And someday I hope that I can always be there for my kids like Dad has been for me.

Dad

I love you, Dad.

Pruning

Freshly Pruned

The past few months have been very hectic and stressful for me. I’ve been traveling a lot for work and juggling too many commitments at home.

When I’m out of town for an extended period, I enjoy the forced opportunity to disconnect from the normal stream of life. Sometimes when I come back I’m ready to jump right back into it all. Other times, though, I see that I’ve drifted away from the bigger picture.

I’ve recently picked up Enough by Patrick Rhone, and I’m feeling–to use the Christian cliché–convicted to do some serious pruning in my life.

(photo via the Enough website…a Kindle edition is less photogenic)

I come home to find my days and weeks too fractured, my house full of clutter I don’t actually need, and my money soaring off in a million directions.

Pairs well with coffee

Pairs well with coffee

This weekend as I sat on a porch in Carmel Valley, soaking in the beautiful weather and scenery, and sipping on a fresh cup of coffee, I finally recognized that my life just has too much and I need to do something about it. I’ve let myself drift over the past few years, and have to reel things back closer to the elusive enough line. It’ll probably hurt.

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