Emma Frisch: In the Kitchen and on the Peaks

by Christine Perigen | January 16, 2013

Emma Frisch’s joy is contagious. Her big smile jumps through the phone and makes you think about her delicious cupcakes and the good work she’s doing through her organization, PEAKS. Just married and having just attended her twin sister’s wedding in the same year, Emma’s had a lot of reasons to smile, laugh, and celebrate.

Your wedding photos looked like they were straight out of Wedding Magazine – you couldn’t have had a more fun and gorgeous time. Tell us about the event.

I’m lucky to have married my partner of eight years, Bobby Frisch. We met while we were both at University of Pennsylvania. He is my fellow business partner and project dreamer. We’ve travelled all over the world together and created all sorts of cool things. He started a hotel that I helped him work on and that’s where I opened my first and only restaurant, to date. He’s now getting an MBA at Cornell, which is how we came to Ithaca. It’s a place we both love.

Did you know you’d be planning such a large wedding?

Absolutely not. I thought it would be small with an intimate group of people. It just didn’t turn out that way. We both come from enormous families that we love. We had 125 people attend and the majority were family members. We still managed to stay true to our values. We had the wedding at Millstone Farm, a place I worked at for several years and I’m really close with the owners and farmers. All the food was prepared by our friend who is a chef that partners with the farm and uses food grown from Millstone. All the guests were given a tour of the farm. The wedding tent was made out of used sail cloths. We were married in the horse field amongst horse jumps with a blue grass band playing. We celebrated until the morning with all the people we loved the most.

Your identical twin sister just got married in the same year?!?

Emma and identical twin, Dimity

Yes! This was a totally unexpected coincidence. Her husband, Nolan, was planning to propose the same day Bobby proposed to me but Bobby got to it first. So, Nolan pocketed the ring for another four months. Neither of us were expecting it so it was really special to share that process. She had the opposite wedding: a city wedding, half the size of mine, at the Brooklyn Winery. We enjoyed great food and drinks with a multi-cultural and eclectic, amazing group of people.

Twins: is it true that they are telepathic with one another?

It’s true that we are definitely connected. We think and feel the same way. When we share things, we are sharing the joy, burden or sadness. Our lives are uncannily in sync. An example of that was getting engaged and married at the same time. Similar things are always going on like that in our lives. We’re connected beyond being best friends. She is part of me. I feel that people don’t fully know me until they have met her.


You started an organization called PEAKS. How did it all start?

PEAKS started, quite literally, with the idea of reaching new heights and overcoming major obstacles. My colleagues and fellow mountain hikers, Steve and Chris, and myself saw a unique opportunity to raise money for EkoRural, a small non-profit in Ecuador working on climate change issues with indigenous mountain farmers. Thousands of adventure tourists were pouring into the Andes, with little awareness that the trails they hiked on were farmers’ footpaths. We found a way to bridge these two worlds by launching our first climb-a-thon.

At the summit of Volcano Cotopaxi, Ecuador 

In September of 2010, PEAKS was officially launched. I climbed to the summit of Volcano Cotopaxi, which is nearly 20,000 ft. Steve and two friends ran the “seven hills run” in the Netherlands. Another group of climbers in Colorado climbed a series of peaks. We shared our stories and pictures with family and friends through the PEAKS website, and collectively raised over $10,000 for EkoRural. For me, PEAKS was a way to combine two of my greatest passions: climbing and agriculture. After our launch, I took on the lead role for PEAKS development.

What have you learned from starting your own company?

The biggest lesson for me is this: you need to have a really committed and solid team working together to achieve success. I felt like I was flailing on my own alongside a full time job for quite some time; our volunteers and board members were incredible, but having salaried team members that you can depend on is critical for growth. The past six months of growth have proven this for me. But I am really appreciative of the people who have helped build PEAKS since the start. PEAK has been a team effort through and through.

What are the most successful campaigns on Peaks?

 Sustainable Neighborhoods Nicaragua, a student group that is part of Cornell University’s Sustainable Design Program, recently raised $25,000 to build an ecological housing community in Nicaragua. Eight days into their PEAKS Campaign they raised over $5,000, and hit their $25,000 goal in less than 45 days. We didn’t have a single customer support question from over 60 Champions and nearly 300 donors!

You have a side project that I love reading about: Cayuga St. Kitchen.

Food is my biggest passion. More so than rock climbing or anything outdoors.

Emma climbing

It’s my creative outlet where I can share food adventures I have with family and friends. I love cooking and I love eating even more. I’ve been involved in farming systems since I was 18 and in college. Cayuga St. Kitchen is a fun way to bring all that experience together and give myself an excuse to keep learning…and cook more food.

What has been the most fun dish you have created?

Gluten Free & Vegan Almond and Candied Orange Cupcakes

This past weekend we made vegan and gluten free cupcakes for a friend’s birthday. It was like learning how to cook for the first time. I had to use totally new ingredients. Gluten free cooking is a totally different pantry. I found myself cooking with potato starch and xanthan gum. I had to clear the whole food bank and start from scratch and use my own flavors. I was determined to not stick to the recipe. The frosting was supposed to be a vanilla frosting but I turned the frosting into almond cream. It was fun to light all of them with candles and eat them together and celebrate.

Where do you find your ingredients?

 Food is so much about the story and where it comes from. It’s important to cook with quality ingredients; it makes a difference. The food I use always has story or is connected to people I know. I love going to The Piggery and I know Heather, the owner. She tells me about the meats and they raise these incredible pigs in environmentally and animal friendly way. I’m always asking where the best Brie is or where the best food comes from. I try to buy food from anywhere and everywhere: Asian market, Ithaca Farmer’s Market, I’m always looking to try something new. It’s an adventure every time.

What change do you want to bring to the world?

It’s hard to know if you are actually creating change. The change I want to create is helping people feel empowered to make change happen themselves. Giving people tools and space to feel confident in making their dream and mission come alive.

Reaching New Heights: Emma climbing in New Paltz

Through Peaks, it is those little encounters that happen now and then that make you realize you are making change happen. Sometimes there are weeks or months where I feel that this is a dream in my head and it’s not actually creating any change but then someone will write us a letter and let us know that they think it’s amazing and they met their goal and they’ll thank us. There are lots of moments that show it is the little things that matter and if you keep plugging forward with your dream then you can create change.

What is your travel essential when you are on the road?
My advice is to pack as light as possible and be open to any new experience. One thing I have to bring with me…[long pause]…I know!! My fanny pack. Dead serious. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. I have the coolest one. Everyone should have a classy little fanny pack to store all your valuables and what you need on hand. None of that stuff under your waistband.

When in Ecuador…do you Crumple or Fold?
I’m a crumpler. I wish I was a folder. I’d probably use less. I guess I could be an in between but I’m more of a crumpler.

Emma Frisch is the Director and Co-Founder of PEAKS, an organization that provides the platform and audience for your fundraising campaigns. She also manages her food blog, Cayuga St. Kitchen and continually is experimenting with ingredients to make new dishes. She lives in Ithaca with her husband, Bobby.

For more information on Emma, PEAKS, or Cayuga St. Kitchen, click on the links!

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La Vida La Cava: Pack it up and GO!

Paul LaCava | January 22, 2013

I’m shooting from the hip on this one…. New style… let me know what you think. Sometimes it’s gotta be about sharing the joy of just packing it all into a car and hitting the road, the style of travel that I know the best.

La Vida LaCava: Pack it up and just GO:

 Dec 19th, 2012: Last minute planning

Work is tapering down for the year. Holidays are approaching. Nervous energy is pulsing through my veins. Must. Leave. Soon. I don’t want to be stuck at home spending the holidays worrying about doing what normal people do during the holidays…like tossing back egg nog at some party with people you don’t know very well wearing a terrible sweater. Packing begins…

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Dec 20th: Will it all fit?

I’m trying to figure out how to pack three surfboards, two bikes, a hoard of warm and cold wet-weather gear into the back of a Subaru for a dubious mid-winter trip to California. I’m leaving from Portland, Oregon, in late December. Apparently, it’s actually winter in other warmer parts of the world. Arrrrrg. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Solution: pack more clothing. Er, maybe a sweater after all. Gas tank is filled. Lots of surfboard wax has been acquired. Minimal food is packed, it’ll sort itself out somewhere on the way. Chopping wood last minute for a fire… This trip is happening…

 Dec 21st: Last minute packing

Hmm, it seems to be raining heavily. Hoping it won’t be doing this 600 miles south! Departure. Whatever didn’t make it in the car is not needed. This is a road trip. Things will happen on the road that are not expected. It will not all go right. It is because of this that it will be perfect. At least I have good windshield wipers that work along the 12 hours of Interstate 5 that separate me from home and where I need to go: Santa Cruz.

Whatever didn’t make it in the car is not needed. This is a road trip.

 Dec 22nd: Departure

Fresh tunes on the iPod, iPhone, whatever it takes, heck even a CD or two. Sunglasses have been located. I haven’t needed those in a while. It’s time to hit the road. It’s a long haul, fully pinned, with only a slight detour at my favorite coffee joint in Ashland called Noble Coffee. About 8 degrees further south, on the parallel lines of the globe, I hit Santa Cruz in a dismal pissing, shit storm. I’m a seasoned Pacific Northwest life-long resident and have never seen rain like this! Oh well, stormy weather often means big swells… I find a local state park to rest for the evening.

 Dec 23rd: Sorting it out

It turns out that the new temporary tie down surf board rack straps that loop through the car leak water inside. It also rained about 2” last night in this full monsoon. Awesome. Things are wet. No biggie. Far better than doing taxes at home. It’s quite stormy all day, the surf is mess, but I’m by the ocean and sucking it all in. So fresh! Coffee. Beer. Relax. In any order possible. I join friends Abby and Ariel in town and watch the local river at critical flood stages and we count the tennis balls floating down the river. A couple couches float by, some tires, it’s a shit storm of crap. The waiting ensues…

It will not all go right. It is because of this that it will be perfect.

 Dec 24th: Life in motion

Ahhhh, the smell of the ocean. It invites energy into the soul like nothing I know of …I checked the surf. There’s a decent swell coming into town and it’s time to paddle out! I plan to get a good couple of hours in the water and then hole up in my favorite local coffee joint in Capitola: Verve Coffee. I think I’m supposed to be doing something or I’m late for an event, it’s Christmas Eve. I couldn’t care less. I’m starting to leave the worries of life behind.

It’s quite stormy all day, the surf is mess, but I’m by the ocean and sucking it all in.

 Dec 25th: Holidays are for riding

For the holiday, I have chosen to do something obvious: go mountain biking. It’s pretty dodgy weather again, but time to break in a new bike I just built up and it’s been a while since I hit the trails. Long drive out of town and into the back woods of Demonstration Forest, I avoid some minor landslides, what with all the moisture and obscenely wet un-hot California weather, I get to the trailhead. Headed out for a great ride, got super wet, cut some drifting corners in the sloppy muddy conditions, dodged a few trees, and I feel alive! Cruising around in the huge redwoods forests always makes a person smile! Makes you feel so small compared to those giants!

Cruising around in the huge redwoods forests always makes a person smile! Makes you feel so small compared to those giants!

Dec 26th: Now on to the good stuff

Ocean is booming with swell. Waves crashing. I scout out some localized reef breaks and hidden point breaks. Nervous sweats watching the sets roll in. Heavy water today. After much deliberation I take the leap and jump in, and it’s worth the effort. Slightly beaten down and taught a lesson or two by the Pacific, I get a few waves and sit back and relax in some mid 60 degree sun. Feels good when you’re used to 35 degree rainy days lately…I can handle this.

 Dec 27th: Time to get social

Mid-morning surf. Then drive to San Jose to pick up my girlfriend, Suzanne, from the airport. Very happy to see a familiar face! Head back to the beach for some awesome camping by the water, clear skies with a starry night, and a campfire. After five days of getting to know the inner thoughts that unravel in my head and spending time in all isolation, the company is nice!

Dec 28th: Surfs up! 

Wake up. Coffee. Eggs. Listen to the ocean. Jump in the water. Catch a few waves. Repeat as needed. Getting down to the basics here and really starting to settle into the mode. Not a care in the world except for wondering what is for dinner, and even that seems like a triviality not worth giving much thought to. Life ain’t bad!

After five days of getting to know the inner thoughts that unravel in my head and spending time in all isolation, the company is nice!

Big Sur Rainbow, Nepenthe Bar & Grill

Dec 29-30th: Big Sur

We checked out some wildlife at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s awesome how much life there is in the ocean that you just rarely see! Ideally, you aren’t seeing too much when paddling around in the ocean, especially those fascinating pre-historic great white sharks that take a rent check every so often from those who wander into dark water. Sue and I decide stay on a sailboat for a couple nights and head down to Big Sur, one of my favorite places on Earth!

We watch a beautiful sunset with a double rainbow while having drinks on the patio of the Nepenthe Bar and Grill. This place was hard to leave, but all places are temporary when on the road. Enjoy it while you can.

Dec 31st: The City

San Fran. Holy shit! This place has energy! We took a quick cruise up Hwy 101 to Sausalito and found a warm bed to stay in overlooking the bay. Wow. We headed out for an awesome ride in Fairfax in Marin, and joined good friends Mike and Will for a shred session in the hills. Afterwards, we headed down to the Mission in San Francisco to ring in the New Year with a bit of live music, drinks with friends, and getting lost in a city that I could call home if I had a few extra lives to live. Look! I got a great fortune from the evening’s Chinese food.

Jan 1st: New Year’s Day

I made a quick early trip to drop Suzanne off at the airport in Oakland. I was rushing to and from places while everyone was sleeping. The city was quiet, and seems like you could drop a pin and hear it. Oddly assuring. But after two days in the city it’s time to depart, quiet things down a bit. Quick surf check at one of the most notoriously sharky evil heavy water beach breaks on the planet, Ocean Beach, and it’s breaking double overhead 1/3 mile out in the ocean. No thanks. Cruise down to Pacifica for a quick session and had another stop at In-N-Out for some healthy road food, and then on to a 300 mile drive south to warmer pastures.

Jan 2– 4th: Santa Barbara!

I’m gonna need a vacation after this trip. Three early morning dawn patrol surfing in a row in and around Santa Barbara and Ventura, and I’m tired! 5am wakeup calls and 7-11 coffee because nothing else is open so early! I’ll put up with it for some famous surf breaks with names like Rincon and Silver Strand. Heavy water again. Some perfect waves, and some serious currents and I get caught inside on a few sets and it feels like a week of work in about 5 minutes. Ahhh, what would a good trip be without some hardship!

Although things are nice and pleasant in this paradise town, I’m feeling the urge to move om again.

I decide on a quick night stay with a good old friend, Nick, to recharge the batteries. I watch the Lakers lose again and remember what I am missing and thankful for it. Although things are nice and pleasant in this paradise town, I’m feeling the urge to move om again. Recipe: drive somewhere new. It’s time to head all the way down south: San Diego! I hear there is surf there, and in December, maybe 65 degree weather?

San Diego Sea Lions

Jan 5-6th: The Good Life

Lots of wildlife roaming around these parts! The sun feels so good the sea lions are hanging around getting a dose of warmth. A ton of birds in the air. This place is paradise! I got the best wave of my life at Del Mar Reefs. Then I managed to earn the longest hold-down in the water I’ve seen at Black’s Beach while scratching like mad to make it to the outside of a huge set that rolled in. I got sent backwards over the falls and pinned to the ocean floor for what seemed like an eternity…Lessons learned the hard way.

In San Diego we cruise out to a local trailhead and get some great singletrack in the desert. Warm smiles and a few old friends on this day.

Then I stay with good friends, Elise and Jake, in San Diego for a couple nights and we cruise up to check out the cool Stone Brewery, en route to see the first Supercross racing weekend of the year in Anaheim!

It’s all surreal after spending most of two weeks cruising the quiet coastline of California out of the back of a Subaru.

Jan 7th: Time to Leave

Today when I wake up I feel the most alive I can recall. Without much of a plan in place before leaving, it’s been an incredible two weeks on the road travelling nearly 3,500 miles down the California coastline seeing friends, finding new surf breaks, stopping at a few good coffee shops and seeing a heck of a lot of amazing sunsets. I’ve now pieced together nearly every mile of Hwy 101 on this trip combined with a couple previous adventures, and I gotta say it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve seen on this planet. Nearly every mile of it. Every day and night on this trip provided me with something new and unexpected, with little expectation except for the hope of some good surf and a place to rest my head for the night.

A few extra warm showers and hospitality along the way really made it all too easy, almost, but it was great to see some friends, old and new, Life’s best when kept simple, I find, and these last two weeks reminded me that sometimes you just gotta pack it up and go, leave what you think you need behind, and worry about the rest later. Once back, I unpacked the bags and quickly found myself wondering when I would be able to hop in the car and check out the next place on the road…

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Swiftwick Pulse Zero Cycling Socks

By Christine Perigen

Swiftwick socks were put to the test by the Roam Life Team.

Swiftwick Pulse Zero Compression Socks (Photo: Swiftwick)

From the moment these Pulse Zero Compression socks snug around your feet, you’ll forget you have socks on. Light, stretchy, and comfortable, they breathe well as you spin on the trainer, hit the road, or hop logs in the woods. Don’t be fooled on durability and quality by their lightness: these socks are built strong and reliable. Compression level: 7, Weight: 19.2 g

Brand: Swiftwick       
Price: $13.99


La Vida La Cava: The Hardest Hour

Paul LaCava | December 14, 2012

Here you go! I thought I would do a story about the latest ‘cross race season and ramblings about what it means to race ‘cross and the sense of community and culture behind it. Next weekend I’ll head down to San Diego, Santa Cruz and SF for a two week coastal tour road trip!

La Vida LaCava: The Hardest Hour

Each fall, somewhere close to when the leaves begin to turn color, the itch grows. Thoughts of sweet summertime fun and sunny days part ways for the re-emergence of what has become a painful tradition. When the skies open up and winter temperament slowly develops, the act of racing road bikes around in the dirt and mud becomes a solitary focus. Another year of cyclocross racing is upon us! This is a story of this annual addiction…

Cyclocross is described as the hardest hour in cycling, but I would be inclined to call it the hardest hour in life that I can ever recall.

One to three times a week, between September and December in the Pacific Northwest, there is nothing better to do than join over a thousand of your closest friends by putting on a skinsuit and racing between the tape. The sport of cyclocross began as a sport meant to bridge the gap between the end and beginning of road racing season in northern Europe, a way to stay fit during the shadow of winter, and it’s now evolved to become a genre of cycling with a bittersweet identity. It’s known for loads of fun, and full of great anguish. ‘Cross, as they call it, is extremely popular in Oregon where I live, and we are blessed with a fantastic community of enthusiasts. A typical setting for a ‘cross race is seeing how much a person can endure for an hour in a rolling park with a mix of grass and dirt, off camber corners, and barriers that force one to jump off their bike and run up and over a stretch, looping around a 1-2 mile course many times over, with weather patterns that range from sunny to the worst rain, sleet, and snow.

…the intense clamor of hundreds of fans yelling the worst insults and odd words of encouragement imaginable to get one to just try that little bit harder.

Cyclocross is described as the hardest hour in cycling, but I would be inclined to call it the hardest hour in life that I can ever recall. Why we do it, I cannot fully say. Somewhere between turning your lungs inside out, plowing through inches of slow mud on the ground, elbow to elbow with your best friends and worst enemies, with rain likely falling from the sky, is where life lessons are learned out here.

…when you were slogging over a calf deep puddle of water and mud nearly freezing your digits off, you snap back into it. You pull it together and you do what it takes to stay in the race. This is all part of the fun. This is ‘cross.

When it’s all said and done, what happens on the course stays out there. If all goes right, you’ve left it all out there, on the ground, with nothing left! Some may celebrate with a beer or bacon hand-up during the race, if they can stomach it. You always celebrate with friends and a beer at the finish.  There is mad cheering, the ringing of cowbells, the intense clamor of hundreds of fans yelling the worst insults and odd words of encouragement imaginable to get one to just try that little bit harder. Sometimes you can’t even hear the words of anguish in your head over the white noise outside the course. When it’s over, you forget how bad it hurts, and instead remember that feeling of great accomplishment from a hard day’s work, the smile of competition, and the camaraderie you share with others suffering the same fate.

If you lose this focus, which happens often- what with the myriad of factors that can force one to come unraveled- then it’s back to survival.

So the next week you line up at the start line, same time, different day, different place, but same goal. You race like there is no tomorrow. You forget the worries of life, the laundry you forgot to do at home (don’t worry, there will be more to do after this mud bath), and you forget the trivial hurdles of one’s career or the daily commute. There is no time for any of this. It’s just pure focus; a brutal simplicity that rarely seems to happen outside of nature. If you lose this focus, which happens often- what with the myriad of factors that can force one to come unraveled- then it’s back to survival. The mud got you. Your legs didn’t feel good. You rolled a tire off your wheel. You slid head first into the course tape that is now coming apart at the seams even faster than your mind is falling to pieces…Somewhere between this and when you were slogging over a calf deep puddle of water and mud nearly freezing your digits off, you snap back into it. You pull it together and you do what it takes to stay in the race. This is all part of the fun. This is ‘cross.

The middle of the week is spent doing brutal sets of intervals, fall rides in the transition period with leaves on the ground, gluing on new tires, checking pressure, cleaning and washing until the drain in front of the garage gets clogged with the remnants of what happened on Sunday. You kind of dread what is ahead, but also look forward to the next race with a sudden urgency, to get back out there and try to put together the perfect day. The day when everything goes right, you make no mistakes, you feel good, and it all comes together.

This season all came together for me on the second day on the seventh lap of a nine lap race.

Last weekend we wrapped up the Oregon ‘cross season with a fantastic day at the US Grand Prix of ‘Cross in Bend, Oregon. Two days of back to back racing with the nation’s top racers, some of whom are among the world’s best athletes. Bend is a beer drinking town with a major bike problem, and they have an even bigger ‘cross problem! The crowds were awesome, the heckling daunting. And the pace was fast. This season all came together for me on the second day on the seventh lap of a nine lap race. Go too slow and the fastest racers will catch you and you are pulled from the course. On my third day of racing in the Elite class with all of the heavy hitters, I found an extra gear and rode like it was my last day to ride a bike in my life. Lap seven came and went and I was still racing. Lap eight was even worse. And then we passed onto lap nine and at that point I found myself on the lead lap, finishing with all of the top racers, admittedly a few minutes back, but still up there! A great feeling!

It’s December and time to hang up another set of race #s. They are tattered and a bit worse for wear. The damage is done. Only the warmth of the holidays and a long winter can heal the mind and soul from the effort over the last few months, but I’m already looking forward to next year. The sense of excitement and passion that cyclocross brings to me and the rest of the scene leaves a tear in my eye every time the year is done. But there is always next year.

Paul LaCava is an avid cyclist who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He will ride virtually any type of bicycle, preferably on dirt, and often. Paul enjoys most forms of substance abuse: air, water, dirt, ocean, mountains, rock. He believes the best experience is the one you haven’t done yet. Each day on this planet, get out there and find a way to get younger and have more fun!


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La Vida LaCava

Paul LaCava | November 16, 2012

La Vida LaCava: Beginnings

 Hello! My name is Paul LaCava. This entry starts, like so many things, somewhere in the middle. It seems like life is full of beginnings and endings, all connected by an odd assortment of ways to get there. And it’s rarely at the start or the finish. The main point is to just leave, start the journey, and then figure out how to get where you are going at some point along the way. This is a perfect introduction to my next journey in life.

A year ago I embarked on a rather large undertaking. I am a cyclist and a general fool for getting into trouble of many sorts. I have a short attention span, so am always looking for new ways to find adventure. I’d like to be able to say I’ve gotten the true feel of many things in life when I die, but definitely a master of none. Within the world of cycling there are many distractions. Between huge mountain bike rides deep in the forest and across mountain ranges, in the middle of the air somewhere between the lip and landing of a jump, or between the tape of a race course travelling at high speed, there are many ways I feel alive on two wheels. But last November I decided to try an entirely different thing…

There is a bicycle race, -er, more of an event, held on an endless supply of rural gravel roads in the vast farmlands of southern Iowa that has happened for eight consecutive years each April. It is called Trans-Iowa. I stumbled upon this race somewhere over a beer and the rumblings from a friend who is from the area nearly two years ago. I quickly dismissed this idea as a horseshit idea worthy of nothing, dumb as anything I’d heard of. And boring, too! Gravel roads? Iowa? You’ve got to be kidding me! My home is the Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon and we are surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes, and an expansive coastline.

The Midwest hadn’t exactly been a target destination before. But then somewhere last fall I crossed paths with this idea again and the curiosity started to form. There were so many things foreign to me about the idea that it lured me in fast. The excitement of the unknown was immense, and the legends about how hard this event is kept popping up. I was committed.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’d sent in my entry to gain acceptance into this “free” event. This required sending in a postcard in the mail, yes, US Postal mail, with nothing much aside from one’s name and such. About six months later I’d done more riding and work than I’d care to admit in preparation over a long winter, gone on my first trip to the Midwest, started the race and failed miserably. There were lessons learned, admissions of fault, excuses, and pain. Lots of pain. I won’t go into the details of the past. That was then and this is now. Even with how hard the event was, I knew right afterwards that I’d attempt this again, and soon.

So recently I just sent in a new postcard. It’s always amazing how a simple little act can turn into something of epic proportions.

I don’t care much to think about what has happened so much as what will happen. And like many of us, I have a vision on what I want to try and accomplish, seek out, and make happen. And in April 2013 I plan to find a way to finish this race in the cold wind-struck hills of Iowa in the tail end of winter when the gravel is painfully soft and slow, the corn fields bleak, the skies gray, and the mind clear. Oh, and the race? It’s a 325 mile brutal self-navigated slog across the  endless rolling farmlands near Grinnell, Iowa, with nothing to aid oneself but the power in one’s legs, the spirit, and what goods you can carry with you or find in a convenience store from the many small towns in the middle of this journey. A person has 34 hours to finish this event and of the very few that find their way from start to end each year, it’s rare that it takes much less time than this.

It’s going to be a long road ahead.

Tune in later for the stories that lead up to this day…stories of the adventure into the unknown. Because if I knew what it took to accomplish this feat, I’d have done this and moved onto the next idea already…


SSWC 2012: A South African…what?!?


by Josh Fonner | October 26, 2012

This was 2 years in the making, so the event had some serious build up (at least in my mind).  After first visiting South Africa in 2010, I was looking for any excuse I could get to go back.

World Cup, South Africa, 2010

Sure enough, when Singlespeed World Champs went down in New Zealand in 2010 – I was cheering loudest for Grant Usher and his South African crew.  Alas, the hosting honor went to Ireland for 2011 after many rounds of intense battles.

SSWC 2011 Ireland Crew

Having lost in 2010, Grant and the crew were bound and determined to bring home SSWC at the hosting competition a year later in Ireland.  Luckily, the hosting competition level was lightened when the Icelandic/Moroccan ROAM LIFE team got waylayed by an ill-timed ferry from Wales due to Mike ‘boozy-the-clown” Yarnall having a freakish love affair with old buildings and shit in Wales.

Getting bored at the Caernarfon Castle (and missing our ferry)

Alas, I digress, as that is a story for another time.  Anyways, South Africa won the intense bidding war (justifiably).

South Africa “winning it!” in Ireland (photo courtesy of SSWC 2012)

So I would be heading back to S.A. for a third time, after a particularly memorable trip down for Cape Epic earlier in 2012.

Josh and Jackie crossing the finish at Cape Epic (800 kilometers, 8 days)

Before I get into the story of the trip, I should really try to get ya’ll to understand SS culture.  See the thing is, most people just don’t get it.  Most people have gears on their bikes.  They are content with encountering an obstacle, pushing a button, and taking the easy way out (a metaphor for most people’s lives maybe?).  What’s more than not understanding singlespeeds – people tend to be confused by a race that is not a race – it’s more of a “ride”.  Well there are multiple reasons for Singlespeed Worlds to exist – so let’s make a list!

1)     To explore new parts of the world

2)     To expose ourselves to others (literally with certain costume wear & expose SS culture)

3)     To sample, often in excess, adult beverages from around the globe

4)     To get the singlespeed family together

5)     To take the piss out of other types of two wheeled racing

6)     To remember why the hell we do this sport in the first place – to have a shitload of fun!

7)     And least importantly – to determine the fastest guy/girl on one gear.

While there are plenty of other reasons for SSWC, those are just a few that come to mind on the 17 hour plane trip home.  Speak of, let’s talk a little about the trip itself.

With a busy work schedule, lots of trip, and the fact that Fun Size couldn’t come along, I needed to make this into a short 6 day trip.  Turns out that a flight in the right price range ended up working out so that I could actually come.   Fast forward from the flight booking to the actual trip, and I start by getting a ride to the train station, take a train to JFK, the fly from JFK to London, London to Johannesburg, and finally get picked up by my need friend Matt Karan for our 375km journey down to Winterdon.  Now that really makes for a long day of travel.

Getting picked up in style at the airport

The SSWC organizers had put together a buddy list to arrange for transport for the 40 or so international attendees.  I’d be making my way to Winterdon with Matthew Karan, and would be accompanied by the entertainment of Boozy the Clown(aka:  Mike Yarnall from PA).  Upon arrival into S.A., Matt and Mike were waiting for me at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Jo-burg.  We’d also be picking up another guy from Zimbabwe and then we’d be on our way.  I have to say that it was solely out of the goodness of his heart that Matt was picking us up.  One thing I am continually amazed with is the hospitality of so many good people in South Africa.  It is what keeps me coming back.

After our mate from Zimbabwe arrives on his flight from Harare, we make our way out to Matt rig to get loaded out.  Only issue was that his rig was too long to actually get out of the airport parking area gate.  So after unhooking the trailer with the help of some amused airport security guards, we were finally able to hook back up and get rolling.  On the way out of the airport, we noticed some guards blocking off some exits.  Turns out that shortly after we rolled out of the airport, there was an airport worker strike that closed down the airport.  Arrived just in the nick of time!

The GPS guidance was a little funky, but we ended up finding the Winterdon Country Club. This is where the whole debacle would take place.  Turns out, as we learned from Matt, that one of the organizers for this event (Craig Wapnick) also organizes a 9 day MTB stage race in S.A. called the Joburg2C.  His experience, amazing amount of gear, and know-how to be able to put on a top notch event showed – including the stage race classic – tent city.

Tent City, SSWC

With our spots sorted out in tent city, Boozy the Clown and I were pretty keen on finding some riding to help shake the airplane out of our legs.  With our kits on and bikes built, we rolled in the direction of the alleged trails.  But, of course, right as we began to roll, black clouds and thunder also decided to roll.  Not being a fan of being burnt to a crisp, we opted to drink beer instead.  Never a bad option.  Turns out the rain, thunder and lightning never actually came – but the beer sure did.  And it kept flowing too…

Photo courtesy of SSWC 2012

The Winterdon Country Club were some pretty killer hosts for SSWC.  The most key ingredient, as with any SSWC, is the beer.  From Black Label to a bright green cane drink called a “John Deere,” to Klipdrift (also know as “karate juice” – because when you drink it, it makes you want to fight), the booze was cheap and strong.

We met up with some good blokes from S.A., Colin and Richard and the rest of their crew, as well as Mandy, Dejay , Chris, Jake, and Janet from the States.   Boozy was tying one on pretty hard, so it was up to the rest of us to make some decisions for tomorrow.  Our new friend, Max Cluer, who does the announcing for the UCI World Cup and this event as well, suggested to take a spin down to Spioenkop Game Reserve in the AM to check out some game, and then go pre-ride the course in the afternoon.  Sounds choice!

After another amazing breakfast provided by the organizers, I roused Mike from a drunken slumber and Chris, Mandy, Janet, Mike and I were off to check out the Spioenkop Game Reserve in the undersized Honda Jazz.  Ideal for this trip.

Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve, KwaZulu Natal

Impala, wildebeest, giraffe, and white rhino were all on the menu today (figuratively anyways).  It was pretty unbelievable.

Taking in the beauty of S. Africa

To think that these game were an everyday fact of light for South African citizens was amazing.  I suppose, like anything though, you spend a certain amount of time in a particular environment and just about anything begins to seem normal.

After some power slides through rhino poop in the Jazz (which, it turns out, might have done some tire damage to the old car) we made our way back to camp to get kitted up for the afternoon ride on the course.

SSWC Pre-Ride with Boozy

The course was actually about 20km from the camp, so a shuttle, or long pedal, was necessary.  While there was an alleged shuttle headed out there in the afternoon, we couldn’t get anyone to confirm it was actually coming.  Turns out this was OK, as our friend Graham was able to give us a ride to the trailhead.  Once again, though, the black clouds were chasing us to the trail.  These ones looked decidedly more serious than the ones yesterday.  Screw it – we were in Africa, and it was time to ride.

Josh’s Kudu (species of antelope in S. Africa)

We were only about 2km into the ride when the thunder started, 3km in when the rain started, and 4km in when the lightning started.  Luckily we rode under a bridge about 1km back, so we opted to double back and wait out the storm there.

Getting ready to wait out the storm.

We weren’t the only ones with that idea, as we met a husband and wife team from Jo-burg hiding out under the bridge as well.  After about 20 minutes of shivering and dodging raindrops, we ventured back out into what was now sunshine.

Waiting for the coast to be clear!

The track, however, was sopping wet, and was nothing like it would be the next day.  About 8km into the ride, the inky, black clouds returned, as did the rain, thunder, and wind.  We were trying to make it to the turn off to head up the Spioenkop climb, but we got turned around by some emergency service personnel who said them were 110km/h winds up top, and we couldn’t go up.  All fine by us, so we chatted for a few before the bloke sent us off into the killer bee infested tunnel (allegedly – we made it through fine).

I’ll tell you what didn’t make it through fine though – the river trail on the way back to camp.  Downed trees and branches everywhere!  Mike, Janet, and I did our trail work duty though, and removed about 75% of the downed trees and branches on our way back to camp.  It was the least we could do to pay our admission onto these rad trails.

Photo courtesy of Mountain Flyer Magazine

Just like we had no shuttle to the trails, there was no shuttle back either.  Damn – 20km of pavement was on tap.  Luckily we got picked up by Nikki, the wife of the Farmer Gary, whose land we were riding on about 12km into the ride.  The night ahead was full of Zulu dancers and beer.

South African Zulu Dancers

Not too much beer – as there was some ‘serious’ racing happening the next day.  Luckily Gary was able to give us a race briefing before the night was over, so we would know exactly what was happening  – if only the race briefing wasn’t in Zulu, we might have understood it.   I think we got the gist though – up, up, up – then, beer!

Boozy and Disco Diva heading out to “race”

7am came early.  Bikes were prepped.  Shuttles boarded at 9am.  Scantily clad people were freezing by 9:10.  Luckily I was dressed much better than I was in Ireland.  Phew.   Clear skies, and a hot sun meant it was going to heat up pretty quickly.  Pre race pictures were had, a bottle of J.D. was passed around, bikes were scattered as we went out for the Lemans start run up, and Boozy decided his underwear were too covering and opted to streak the start.  Wise choice Mike, wise choice.  My Disco Diva outfit was not comfortable in the slightest while standing up.  The leaning forward position on the bike was crucial to make that outfit work.

The start signal was given, and the scramble was on!  My bike was about 50 meters away from where I left it, not that it made a difference, as we were then corralled into a riding circle to neutralize the field (not that it actually matters).  Once the field was finally released, it was a super fun track, and was different than the soupy mess we had ridden in the day before.  We also were able to ride the Spioenkop climb today (once was enough), and we needed to make our way to the top to climb our rider’s medal, and not suffer ridicule for not having it at the finish.

Spioenkop climb (Photo courtesy of SSWC 2012)

The only two spots I walked were on that climb.  Luckily they were the same two spots that everyone else walked too.  The first beers stop was halfway up the climb, and I caught up to Boozy there.  I couldn’t believe I actually beat him in the beer chugging competition.  This was a first for me.

After climbing some more to collect my rider’s medal, I made my way onto a super rad descent in which I caught and passed several people that were ruining my roost.  The only unfortunate piece of the descent was that I dinged the hell out of my rim on a shadow hidden rock.  Lame sauce.  Fortunately for me, though, I was running the ever reliable Stan’s NoTubes Crest wheelset, which held air and got me through to the finish.  Two more beer stops and the finish line was upon me.  40km never went by so quick.

What a race!

Burry Stander and Amy Beth McDougal claimed the tattoos.  Bunny chow was had.  And sunburns were left untreated.  Now the real competition would start though – the post race party.  Red Bull came out to DJ,  the varying kinds of booze were flowing, and the dance party was on!  Straw was flying in the air, and at every turn, Mike was getting deeper and deeper into the drunken pain cave.  Ultimately, Mike was put to sleep in his tent, covered in glitter, after having many, many pictures posted on the internet.  You would think he might finally learn one day.

Boozy and Josh – before the glitter

The next morning came far too early for everyone, Mike in particular.  With no memory of the night before, he had to rely on the stories and laughter of others to fill in the blanks.  With a long 375km drive back to Joburg, Mike opted to crash in the back seat of Matt’s car.  Good call.  While on the way back, Matt brought us to his family’s cattle feed lot.  With 130K head of cattle, and a full game reserve, we were truly astounded at how big this place was.  What an unbelievable operation.  We were so grateful to Matt for taking the time to show us the place.

Matt dropped us at the hotel, and we said our goodbyes.  We couldn’t thank him enough for how much he had hooked us up.  He wasn’t through yet though.  While Mike was off to a safari, I was chillin’ in Joburg for the majority of Monday.  Matt sent over a driver to take me around to Giant Bicycle retailers in Johannesburg and ultimately to the airport.  All at no cost.  It was unbelievable.  I was super grateful, and I really value his friendship.  As I said in the beginning, I am always astounded by the generosity and nature of South African people.   It is the main thing that keeps me so excited about always coming back to this country.  Hopefully I can do it again for the JoBurg2C.

Note: SSWC 2013 will be hosted by Italy. 

From PITT to DC – Press Release



October 5, 2012

Contact: Christine Perigen                       

Tel: 914.584.8760

Alt. Tel: 707.815.2178

Email: christine@roamlife.com

Website: www.roamlife.com


A Non-Stop, 325 Mile Off-Road Ride

Josh Fonner and Rich O’Neill take on the entirety of the Great Allegheny Passage and will continue on to the C&O Canal Trail to ride 325 off-road miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, D.C. in a non-stop attempt to reach Arlington National Cemetery. Rich’s father, a war veteran and best friend to Rich, passed away and rests at Arlington National Cemetery. Rich’s dad always taught him to live his life to the fullest. Rich is going to do just that and end this challenge with a personal thank you straight to his dad at his gravesite.


In trying to decide on a trip to pay homage to the amazing and adventurous spirit of Rich’s dad while working within the time constraints of having full time jobs, Josh and Rich decided on a route that Josh has never put tire down on: the Allegheny trail system. As an avid cyclist, he felt this was an absolute travesty to never have ridden these historical trails which are some of the most ridden in the country. This sealed the deal on the how and when of the trip.


The founders of Roam Life are continuing to develop a community of adventurers around the world, starting with people they meet along their adventurous paths. Highlighting the stories of strangers and encouraging action, they work to support individuals in meeting life goals…through adventure. Roam Life is an exciting and inspiring bunch of every day people looking to roam while helping you to do the same.


Set to pedal off on Saturday, October 13th and arrive at Arlington National Cemetery late Sunday, October 14th, Rich and Josh are sure to encounter absolute adventure. Filming of the expedition will be done in partnership with GeoCore Films who will also be experiencing the adventure as these two travel through wilderness, small American towns, and the unknown.


Sponsors: Stan’s NoTubes, Giant Bicycles, POC

For more on the adventure or to learn how you can support the launch, contact Christine at Roam Life: tele.914.584.8760 / email. christine@roamlife.com