There I said it…I’ve had the pleasure of riding some of the most amazing bikes in the industry: carbon, ti, steel, full squish, rigid, you name it. Despite all the amazing technology out there, it never ceases to amazing me that the piece of the bike that helps move it forward is the one that is most exposed to the elements: dirt, water, grit, and grime. This would be the drivetrain of course. I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a totally enclosed drivetrain, i.e. – a driveshaft like on some motorcycles, but alas, we’re still here with chains.
When they work right, chain drive systems are amazing. Electronic shifting was a huge leap forward. Single chain ring drivetrains revolutionized the MTB world.
At the end of the day though, they all seem to be working with an inherently flawed system. Enter Gates carbon belt drives. With a nearly maintenance free system, that is almost totally silent, it offered some promise to help break the chains (man, that was a stupid pun!) of the chain drive world.
So why hasn’t the belt drive system gotten more traction? The challenge is that to run a belt drive system, you must have a compatible frame – meaning there has to be some sort of apparatus that can allow the one-piece belt to slide through the frame and into place. Luckily for us, our good friends over at Bronto Bikes got us dialed on some belt drive splitters when they were making our frames.
The first up on the belt-drive extreme makeover was the Bronto Willy singlespeed. After years of talking 32×18, 33×20, etc., it was a change to no longer talking gear ratios. Belt drives operate with a different set of gear ratios.
This is easily done, however, with a handy calculator located on Gates’ website. In the initial set-up, belt tension is a critical item. This can be measured in a couple ways, from an iPhone tension app to a specifically designed tensionmeter to squeeze testing it. The latter is least advisable, though often used.
Our initial test rides on the singlespeed revealed, well, not much. I say not much in a good way – silence. It just plain worked, no metal on metal grinding, no squeaks, just pure simplicity.
Though it was silent at first, I was advised to pick up a can of silicone lube at the hardware store to keep any dust and grit from leading to a noisier ride later.
Of course, the belt is a frequent talking point on the trail. From “How do you like that thing?”, to “Man, that is cool”, to “Stupid singlespeeder” are all phrases that are often heard…so get used to hearing some comments!
Though I spend most of my time on a singlespeed, we really wanted to dial in some killer, low-maintenance, geared bikepacking rigs. We don’t really like getting bitten by the upgrade bug later, so we went all in. S&S couplers, titanium, Thomson, Rohloff…and Gates Belt Drive of course!
Winter hit the mountain so we haven’t had much of a chance to pedal the Rohloff rigs yet…but there is no doubt they’ll prove to be just a reliable as the singlespeed version. The one challenge is that the sliding dropout on the Rohloff bikes does not have a tensioning bolt, which makes setting the proper belt tension almost impossible. Hopefully that won’t negatively affect the longevity of the belt.
We’ve definitely got some testing in mind for the belt set-ups coming up in 2015. Some desert training rides, 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Leadville 100, and some to-be-decided bike packing destinations all should put the belts to the test. Looking forward to putting some more time on the belts and to minimal maintenance in the process.
In the meantime, there is some snow in the hills, and some skin track to put down.
Copyright 2014 Roam Life, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Isabel Suppé is no dweller. She doesn’t dwell on the negative. She doesn’t dwell on the past. And she sure doesn’t dwell in one place too long. Optimistic, reflective, and full of hilarious stories, it’s no wonder Isabel has picked up motivational speaking. She can turn the most terrifying, difficult, and impossible situations into a comical and refreshing opportunity. If you don’t feel like getting off your ass and doing something amazing after hearing even one of Isabel’s “Oh, this is my average day” stories, I don’t know what else will.
While climbing in July 2010, Isabel fell 1,100 feet off Ala Izquierda del Condoriri´s southeast face in the Bolivian Andes. After spending the next two days crawling over the ice with a severely exposed fracture at 16,000 feet above sea level, Isabel was finally rescued. Soon after, she was told that she would never climb again. Three weeks later, she was climbing up a rock wall in a cast.
Isabel, when I first read your story, I thought, “Holy shit.” I was blown away by how resilient you are.
The fall while climbing was actually the easy part. Everyone hears the story and thinks, “Wow, so brave.” And, of course, I was really lucky because I could have just broken my neck and been done. I have to say, if you take such a fall and are lying on a glacier and you only have two options: either die or fight for your life, of course you do what you can to fight for your life. It starts getting hard when you are lying in a comfortable hospital bed. If you lay back and say, “Well, I’m not going to go to the gym because it’s hard to get there and I have to hold crutches and everyone stares at me;” that’s when it starts getting harder.
Why go back to climbing so quickly and against doctor’s orders?
In a way it was my anchor to life and to sanity. It was also a way of making the universe more graspable and understandable. I took such a fall and then was rescued and everything had suddenly changed. I was always used to having a tremendously healthy and well-trained body. To not be able to walk all of a sudden is a very severe change. If you can at least keep on doing things that are really important to you, for instance climbing, it helps you not to lose your mind.
How did you motivate yourself to begin again?
It wasn’t a choice. I have always felt that climbing is my identity. If I stopped climbing then I wouldn’t be myself anymore. If you lose your identity, then it’s almost as if you have died.
Your climbing partner’s injuries resulted in death. Just saying that is difficult.
There has always been a sense that the best tribute to a friend who didn’t make it off the mountain is to keep on climbing. I don’t want to dwell on his death. In the past, I lost a friend who took a 2,000-foot fall. That was very horrible and it was the first time I had any contact with anything serious happening on a mountain. I was very devastated. I started to get better when I went back to the mountain. I knew that I needed to do that this time, too. I had to spend several days and nights fighting for my life and I also had to deal with serious physical injury myself. Having to fight so much for your life, somehow you also start dealing with the other person’s death. Even today, it still does not seem real.
Back on rock, did you feel that you were risking it all to climb?
There is a story my first grade teacher told us. Two little worms were living under the earth and they knew that if they went outside to enjoy the sunshine it would be dangerous. One went and enjoyed the sun and got eaten by a bird and the other stayed underground. I always thought it would be better to go out and enjoy the sunshine than die underground.
Where does this spunk come from?
Spunk? What is spunk? I do not know this word. [insert short explanation]. Oh, I was just born that way. My grandfather taught me to climb but he was a different type of adventurer. My grandfather had two passionate loves. One was mountains and the other was my grandmother. When Germany was defeated, he was stationed near the Black Sea, near the front lines. He got the note that the German army was defeated. He thought, “Great! I can finally go home.” He left immediately and walked all the way from the Black Sea back to Germany [approximately 1,500 kilometres]. That was in 1945. No Gortex, no high end gear. He had to be careful so he was not caught. He had no food and had to hide in the woods so he would not become a Prisoner of War. I asked him, “How did you survive?” His response was, “Well, I wanted to see my rocks again!”
Over the years, he kept on climbing and was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease. They gave him one year of life. He kept on climbing and stayed alive for more than 25 years. The day he couldn’t put on his harness anymore is when he shut down and just died.
I say the germ for climbing I got from him and grandmother but really my life changed after I moved to Argentina. I had never even conceived it would be possible to go to the mountains without my grandparents. Living in Buenos Aires, I had extra vacation time and I had been saving money to buy a fridge. I didn’t have one in my apartment. Fall was coming so I decided I could just put my food on my balcony and use my money to go on a trip. So I bought a flight to Patagonia. I didn’t even have proper gear.
I went trekking around El Chaltén. It was fall so I was the only person around. It was snowing and really cold. I had on corduroy pants and had nothing that would be used for mountaineering but I thought, “Hey, this is what I want to do.” And I just kept doing it. And this is how it all started.
Your grandfather, Walter Lenk, was famous in East Germany’s climbing world.
He was a locally famous climber. He definitely was not world-renowned. I was six years old when my grandparents took me rock climbing for the first time. I was going on easy treks ever since I was born. My parents and grandparents took me on picnics before I could walk. They took me to rocks in Southern Germany and then after the Berlin wall fell they took me to Eastern Germany. My grandparents are from Eastern Germany but they fled when the Russians built the Berlin Wall. When I was 11, they took me back there.
When I was 19, I graduated from high school in Germany and moved to New Jersey on a scholarship for my undergraduate studies and finished in two and a half years. When I was about to finish, Bush was elected president and I said, “Okay, that’s it! I am leaving this country!” I wanted to see more of the world. I had taught myself Spanish so I thought, “Where shall I go for graduate studies?” I had been to Spain so I wanted to see something else. I saw the name Argentina and all I knew was that the capital was named Buenos Aires, it was in South America and there were some writers I liked from there. That’s how I got to Buenos Aires. I started to do longer expeditions after I moved to Argentina.
Living in Buenos Aires, you are surrounded by millions of people and are not close to mountains. Are you a city person at heart?
Living in Mahwah, New Jersey, I was going into the city every Saturday and to the art museums all the time but the problem was there were no mountains. Mountains are perfect if you are only into outdoors stuff. The city is perfect if you are only into culture and having a cultural life. But if you need to have some of both worlds then your life is complicated. I was about to sign up to do a PhD in Argentina and in the end I wrote the research project and everything. To be honest, my life is not supposed to be trapped in the library. I need to learn and have contact to cultured people but I need the mountains. I knew I wouldn’t dedicate myself to research the way I would need to. I moved to Mendoza and survived by translating menus for restaurants and doing mountain guiding. Living in Mendoza, I always missed something. It was contact to culture and to people who can talk about artists like Van Gogh. I still haven’t found the perfect place but I do miss Argentina a lot.
Where do you consider home?
Nowadays, since I have had to be away from Argentina because of medical conditions, I have been traveling and living in my tent. Right now, I am visiting my dad in Munich (he doesn’t make me stay in a tent here!) but my permanent address is my tent.
When doctors told you that you would never climb again, did you think, “Heck yes, I will!”
I actually did not believe it for one second. I just couldn’t. When I was on the glacier, it took me more than 12 hours to realize I was losing a lot of blood. I kept thinking it looked like a lot but it couldn’t be that bad because I would be dead by now. I had to be careful and wanted to avoid frostbite so I didn’t take my shoe off. I accepted the loss of blood. I needed my foot. I didn’t get frostbite at all. Nowadays, I know even if I had lost my foot, I would still go climbing. I don’t know how the surgeries are going to turn out but I know that if I can’t climb the way I want, then amputating might be an option because it is true that sometimes you can be better off amputating a limb and using a prosthetic than keeping a limb. I have a friend who had to make this decision. He said, “Well, better to be an amputee than a cripple,” and chopped off his foot. He goes rock climbing and ice climbing. I am not saying that’s an easy decision. I’d much rather not have to make that decision but I know should I have to, I will take it.
How many surgeries have you had since your fall in 2010?
After the accident, I spent six months unable to walk. Then I learned how to walk. Then they had to operate again. That was a one-month recovery. Then I walked again. After that, I had three more surgeries in Spain. January 25th was surgery fourteen. This surgery will have a three month recovery and then I have to learn how to walk again. That also takes time.
As the first woman to solo climb Nevado the Cachi, you became one of the “firsts.” Is this important to you as a woman?
Actually, no. It was important to me not because I was the first woman. Not because it was solo. That climb wasn’t technically difficult. It was just high and isolated. Climbing Nevado the Cachi was important to me because I was standing up there on my two feet and on my crutches after the doctor told me I wasn’t going to be able to go back to the mountain, especially at high altitude. That was the important thing. If you look at the important climbs, this was a very easy mountain. It’s true that it is very isolated so if anything happens, forget about it. No one will find you for a long time after you are dead. It takes several days of walking to return to civilization. The wind is very, very extreme and temperatures are extreme but it is not a vertical climb. I guess no woman has ever done it on her own because of fear or the loneliness. It requires a lot of exposure.
One of your best known climbs is the new route you created on your birthday, after the accident.
I felt that it was much more important to open the new route in Bolivia with Robert on the anniversary of the accident. It was included in the American Alpine Journal as one of the world’s greatest climbs. That was one of my greatest accomplishments. After a year of hospital and rehab, I hadn’t meant to do anything that difficult. I wanted to do something but not the classic climbs because I had done almost all of them and they are too crowded. He said, “Oh yea! I know what we can do. I have not been to this climb. Let’s go there!” He is a really crazy guy. He knew what I was getting into. He had climbed on crutches before, too. I am sure he thought, “She climbs on crutches. I like that, so I will take her.” What I liked about him is that he is the only one mad enough to trust a climbing partner on crutches.
Do you see yourself as a “female climber” or a climber?
Just as a climber. I don’t think it’s necessary to separate that out. If you really want to change something or feel that more women should be represented, it’s better to set an example than it is to blame. In most athletic disciplines, women compete among women because, of course, there are biological differences. We have different bodies and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that but for everything else – there are parts of the world where it is still important for women to fight for their rights but in the United States or Europe it is less the case. I’m, of course, against patriarchy, but I don’t want a matriarchy either.
When I was about to get into my PhD program, my director wanted me to get into gender studies and I said no way. It’s not my cup of tea. Cycling across the US, I thought about this a lot. It’s really true that it’s all linked – human rights. It’s not women’s rights. It’s human rights. Mental issues, gay rights, environmental issues – those things are linked because whenever there are rights that are abused, everyone suffers.
What do you have to say to those people who are just dreamin’ to quit it all and go?
Dream. Ask yourself what do you want and how do you go about making that dream come true? What is really important? Sometimes, if you take a close look, it’s not really all that important to worry about a broken dishwasher. Sometimes, if you look at it closely, you can live pretty well without a dishwasher. You can say, “Screw the dishwasher! I can hand wash my plate for a while or buy a new one but this weekend I want to have a good time.” You can go anywhere.
Tell us about Rocinante.
Rocinante is the name I gave my bicycle. [Rocinante was Don Quijote’s horse] It is actually my German grandmother´s old bicycle. I was at the German-Swiss border to Spain. I needed to get to Spain and thought the air flight was expensive. The doctor said I should cycle a lot to help in rehabilitating so I thought I could just cycle there. It is just tremendously depressing after you have been through so many surgeries to be told that you have a non-reversible condition and it can only get worse. So, you need to do something positive. I thought, “Hey, I am going to cycle there and try a new method of treatment.”
After Spain, I needed to get to an airport with a really cheap flight back to Germany. On my way, I found a sign that said ferry to Africa. I thought that was really cool and thought it would be great to cycle there. I called my brother and they had cheap flights to the southern tip of Spain. I asked my brother if he would like cycling through Morocco together. We started in Morocco and then cycled from Marrakesh to the Sahara Desert. After I finished that, we returned to Germany and I went to Spain to present my book and then left for the US and finally cycled across the US. On September 29, 2012, I finished.
What was it like riding across the US and coming across other cyclists?
I really didn’t meet any cyclists. I met this one guy who had no weight on his bike and his wife was driving behind him handing him soft drinks and booking his hotels for him. I thought that was funny. I cycled across Nevada on a really lonely road. I went through Tonopah and took the Extraterrestrial (ET) Highway and ended up in St. George, Utah. Then, I did a presentation in Boulder, Colorado and went through Nebraska and traveled as far north as Niagara Falls and then headed towards New York City.
I was traveling and doing these presentations. In Nebraska, I found myself speaking to local farmers in a barn. I had to give the speech in my cycling outfit because my clothes had been shipped ahead and I was just passing through. I spent two hours answering questions. Along the way, I spent some nights camping in a ditch or a bathroom and other nights in a millionaire’s mansion. Everything is relative.
In Boulder, I had met a climbing partner and he said he would climb in Devil’s Lake but I would have to skip some of the Midwest because of climbing. I said, “Okay! Let’s go for climbing!” I crossed all of Michigan and Ontario and re-entered the US at Niagara Falls and then dropped into New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. I finished the ride in front of Van Gogh’s, Starry Night at the MoMa. [Starry Night is the name of Isabel’s book about her climbing accident and recovery]
Why travel around the world? Why visit all of those places?
I haven’t traveled around the world. I’ve just traveled a lot. To me, it is about living the way you want to live. It’s sometimes good that more people are not like me because no one would work in the office or …well you wouldn’t be able to visit your friends anymore. They would all be traveling and you would have nowhere to stay! I love that I’m a nomad and I always know where to find my friends. It’s so hard to get left behind.
TP: Crumple or Fold?
I have never stopped to think about it. It seems too trivial! I bet I am not an orderly person. I bet I would crumple it.
Isabel Suppé is a high-altitude climber, writer, and motivational speaker. Her book, Starry Night, is being released in English in April 2013. She is a true survivor and nomad who follows her love of climbing all over the world.
For more information on Isabel and her adventurous life, visit her website.
Isabel will begin her US TOUR in June, 2013. Stay tuned for notifications on events in your area.
To read the full story, order a copy of Isabel’s book, Starry Night. Click the Buy Now below.
The Roam Life Team recently went on a cycling adventure in Taiwan. While searching for rental bicycles, the ChicoBag Sling rePETe Tourmaline came in really handy.
I am a very light packer. I never carry a purse or wallet or bag or…well anything but my passport and credit card while traveling. I threw this little satchel into my backpack last minute thinking it might come in handy. Boy, was I RIGHT! The ChicoBag Sling rePETe Tourmaline is perfectfor adventure traveling. We threw two sets of pedals, two helmets, two cell phones, and a water bottle in the bag and it sat comfortably against my side as we hiked the streets of Taichung.
The bag is light. Given the materials it is made out of, it is also surprisingly durable. The bag is 99% recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate, aka, plastic bottles) and the carabiner is 97% recycled aluminum. This bag became an extension of me for the rest of the trip. When it wasn’t in use, I scrunched it back up into it’s travel bag and when I needed to go out on the town, I whipped it out and had it over my shoulder in no time.
For a self-proclaimed “Bagless Chick,” the Sling rePETe was just too practical to say no to.
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?!?
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.
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!
Food is my biggest passion. More so than rock climbing or anything outdoors.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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?
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…
Copyright 2013. Roam Life, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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…
Meet Noel Knecht, a 10-year cancer survivor, fashion merchandiser, marathon runner, soon to be Half Ironman finisher, and the only woman and only cancer survivor to ride every year in Tour de Pink since it’s inception in 2004. Noel has cycled and explored destinations all over the world and is one of the most humble and understated people I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. The more Noel talks, the more you want to listen. And listen I did.
A woman who met you at Tour de Pink recommended you for our Amazing Women series because you are considered, well, amazing.
I never considered myself special. I consider myself ordinary but I’ll take it.
I was diagnosed [with cancer] on January 15th, ten years ago. Basically, I look back at that year and I have to laugh because it was just one of those pretty crazy years.
July of that year I broke up with my boyfriend of ten years. Then a couple weeks after that, I lost my job and then, I actually enjoyed my summer. It was a transition time and then September 11th happened and I lived right in New Jersey right across the river and experienced and lived that whole event.
After all that, I met someone who I really liked. At the same time, I started going through some tests. My gynecologist had found a lump. I always hated my OBGYN so I kept going to a different one and a different one. I always felt guilty talking to them – they were these old guys…and so I found a woman and she found a lump. I said, “Oh it’s just fibrous. I’m young and athletic.” She said, “No, I want you to go check it out.”
When I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor said, “You are going to fight it, you are going to beat it, and you are going to live a long life.”
I had gone alone because I thought it was just a routine test. My breast surgeon sat me down and said, “Well, you have cancer.” I looked at her with disbelief. The first thought was, “I’m going to die.” I didn’t cry or anything but then she said, “You need to call someone. I am not letting you drive home.” I called my mom and I couldn’t even tell her. I started crying. It was a big change.
I remember going into surgery and all the nurses called me while I was on the table and said, “You know, we’re thinking about you.”
How has this experience changed you?
It’s amazing how many people you meet that have been touched by cancer. I think in my whole circle of friends everyone knows someone close to them that has been affected by it. You naturally find your support group. It just kind of happens. It’s the one lucky thing that happened.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor said, “You are going to fight it, you are going to beat it, and you are going to live a long life.”
I ended up having over two centimeters of tumor on the left side. On my right side, it was like a Christmas tree lit up. I was infested with calcifications. I had a double mastectomy and then had a positive result on a lymph node which led me to the oncologist who gave me the same diagnosis. She said that the best doctor to help was the one I had been seeing in Hackensack so I stayed with Dr. Capko. Dr. Capko and Dr. Alter, my oncologist, are both amazing people. I look forward to seeing Dr. Alter every year for my check ups.
I became friends with the nurses and I remember going into surgery and all the nurses called me while I was on the table and said, “You know, we’re thinking about you.” It was a great feeling. I was 32 and my diagnosis meant a more aggressive form of treatment for chemotherapy. I did chemotherapy for 6 months. At the same time I was going through expansions for breast reconstruction and getting those filled up. I think the hardest part was losing the hair. I didn’t care about my breasts; it was more about the hair. I don’t know why, I think it was just more visible.
I ended up having over two centimeters of tumor on the left side. On my right side, it was like a Christmas tree lit up.
Everything you read says that day 14 is when you lose your hair. I was on a date with a guy I had been seeing and he went over to kiss and caress me and he put his hand through my hair and a clump came out. I was horrified. He was great. He had dated someone before who had cancer. This was also why he ended up breaking up with me. He just couldn’t handle going through it again. It was good for me because it was almost a soul searching time for me. I was always with someone and I learned a lot about myself and gained a lot of independence through it.
When I die, I don’t want to be known for working 80 hours a week. I want to know that I lived my life to the fullest.
That’s where I started to thrive as a person. It changed my outlook a little bit. I think I ran every day up until my last two weeks of chemo. I was so tired. I stopped running. I stopped running for a couple of years. I just let it get away from me.
When you lost the ability to run, what did you find to replace it?
The new thing I did was started traveling alone. I always have to have something on the calendar. My life is empty without it! I can be very shy at times and I have a lot of friends that were shocked that I just would go and do it. It’s like my own little challenge to myself that I can do it. I can go to a foreign country where no one speaks English and survive and see new things and meet new people. That’s how I’m living life now. I live to travel. I don’t over work myself anymore. I think that’s the other thing I learned. I have my job and I like my job but it’s not my end all be all. When I die, I don’t want to be known for working 80 hours a week. I want to know that I lived my life to the fullest.
What made you move from trying to become healthy to wanting to complete a Half Ironman?
I’m training for my first half triathlon. I have a new found respect for people who are doing these things because it is HARD. It’s such a commitment. I hired a coach [shout out to Shawn and Aly!] and everything. It takes a lot of time and it’s exhausting. I just want to finish it and that’s it. I’m doing that on September 23rd in California. I figured if I am going to do a triathlon then I want to have a nice view and enjoy the scenery.
I also ran my first marathon in January. I am probably going to do another one – this is the corny piece of me. There was one here in Oklahoma [the Route 66 Marathon] and I really liked the medal they have so I really want to do it. It’s really corny but at least it motivates me.
You have a tremendous commitment to ride every year in the TdP. What makes you come back every year?
I think it’s the people. When I did the first year, it was more about the challenge and kicking cancer’s butt. Saying, you know, you aren’t going to stop me. The first year there were only five of us. We went from Boston to NY (Original YSC story). It was really grass roots because we stayed at peoples’ homes. I’d ridden a bike before but never really cycled seriously before. I don’t think I even really trained for it. I just did it.
There is a unique attitude for women that are going out and riding bikes for the first time. They are so proud to just be riding.
You know, each year it grows and grows but each year you meet these amazing people that have these amazing stories. I think when you are a survivor you can think you have it the worst and you meet others and you hear their stories and they handle them differently and they are all so important and amazing and inspiring. I think that’s the part that keeps you going.
There are a lot of cancer organizations and events. Why did you choose to bike?
There is a unique attitude for women that are going out and riding bikes for the first time. They are so proud to just be riding. Every year, it feels like a family reunion. You won’t talk to someone all year but then you see them for Tour de Pink and it’s like you saw them yesterday. They are family.
You are riding through these towns and people are asking you what you are doing and we tell them we are riding for the Young Survival Coalition focused on young women with breast cancer and they tell you their stories.
They ask for information and we pass it on; we get donations while we are on the bikes. It keeps me focused and healthy as a survivor. Meeting new survivors that come and do the ride I’m able to work with them and inspire them to keep moving on.
It’s incredible how many men do the ride. I think because it is a cycling event it attracts men and they have stories as well that their wives or sisters or someone they know has been affected. For them to hear each other or meet other women that are survivors gives them hope and an extra kick. It’s pretty amazing.
I feel like I owe the YSC a lot because it’s the first organization I found when I started looking for support when I was diagnosed. It’s difficult enough to go online and research cancer – you have to be careful what you find – it can be depressing. Besides the American Cancer Society, YSC is the only other organization I found. I partnered with them and I remember seeing the request for Tour de Pink and they were planning to do this whole ride. I thought, “Okay, let’s do it.” I made some really amazing friends and connected to really great resources through them. Now, I share it with everyone else. It can be scary when you are young.
Cancer can be the best thing that ever happened to me. If I never had cancer I never would have met all these people that are in my life. It sucks that we had cancer but we got to be in each others’ lives. My boyfriend, Dustin, I met at a Tour de Pink event. His ex-fiance (cyclist and friend to many in the industry, Michelle Weiser), passed from cancer. We talk a lot about her to keep her memory alive. It’s interesting how all these things interconnect.
As a traveling adventurer, do you have another trip ahead of you?
I’m planning to go away in December. It’s a trip that Dustin and I are looking at – Thailand. We just did a trip to the British Virgin Islands. We went to a different island every day and explored. For me, I have to see something new every day and explore. I can’t just sit in a hotel. We went to Virgin Gorda and there is this small café on top of this mountain. I swear, it was something out of a little post card. It was this little white shack.
A woman from the US opened it and she just makes sandwiches and serves the best piña colada ever. Some of the locals would go there with their dogs and hang out. Sitting and talking to this woman was amazing. She had just decided to come to the island with her husband and there she was. I was almost envious because she was so happy. I just remember the breeze and perfect blue sky and the sun and the view was stellar and amazing.
When I travel, I love architecture and buildings but really it’s just the people. The people are amazing.
What is a good morsel of travel advice?
People don’t travel enough. They need to get out and meet these people to get over these pre-dispositions for what these people are. Some of the best experiences I have had were in Muslim countries. You need to travel because it will totally change what you think. The people you meet are amazing and you’ll be surprised by how they open up their homes and meals to you.
I did a back roads trip in Morocco and Portugal on a bicycle and I got to see so much. I spent a couple of days in Marrakesh by myself. I had one issue with one gentleman not letting me in because I was a woman but everyone else was so friendly and wonderful.
People don’t travel enough. They need to get out and meet these people to get over these pre-dispositions for what these people are.
When I was in Turkey I got to celebrate Ramadan. These people I met said I needed to come and celebrate. I was nervous because I didn’t know what it meant but for them to open their homes and share this with me was so cool.
Your story is incredibly inspiring to people. Many people say, “I wish I could do what you are doing.” What advice would you give to those wanting to make their life more meaningful?
You can do it. It’s all about finding who you are and being brave. It might be starting small and doing small things every day first. If I think about how I formed and did a lot of these independent things it started small like, going to the movies alone. Or going to eat dinner alone. And going to a restaurant and sitting. I think it’s also starting to love yourself and really taking care of yourself. I was always putting everyone ahead of me and it probably hurt me. I think it’s going deep within and saying, “Yeah, I can do it.”
Talking to your friends about it and say, “Hey, I did this today.” That’s what kept me going. The first vacation I did by myself, I was nervous. The first Tour de Pink I did, I was nervous. When it came down to it, it didn’t matter. It was about going there and meeting people and having that support because you naturally find that support where you least expect it.
It’s amazing where and how people want to help other people and they are there and no one is judging you. I think people need that extra push and someone to say, “You know, you are going to be okay.” I was nervous and am still nervous but it’s not going to stop me. I think once you start telling people your stories they get it. I even think about this whole triathlon thing and the training. It was so hard to start and to find the time and someone else told me, “You’ll find the time.” I dedicated time to it and I get tired and would rather stay in bed sometimes but I have found the time.
A few on the road questions: What’s the best meal you’ve made on the road?
I make this crazy salad. I call it my “antioxidant omega three salad.” I love cherry tomatoes. I like to take those and cut them up and get English cucumbers and chop them up with avocado and dark meat tuna. Then I add anchovies. I like them, I don’t know why. And then I add some peppers, olive oil, and red wine vinegar with sunflower seeds. It’s easy, refreshing and super healthy with protein. It always makes me feel energized.
TP Question: Crumple or fold?
I’m a crumpler. I thought you were going to ask me if I was over or under. I am probably not very sustainable in my tp needs. I don’t know what a lot is when it comes to tp because to be sustainable does anyone really use one sheet? Honestly, but I live alone and I go through a lot of tp. Maybe I just don’t keep track. I might not be doing the environment very well.
Noel Knecht is an adventurer, cyclist, cancer-survivor, and amazing woman. She is currently training for her first half triathlon and the Route 66 Marathon. Preparing for the 2012 Tour de Pink (both East AND West), Noel continues to bring people together and awareness to cancer.
To follow Noel (or better yet hit the side lines and cheer her on), here are some upcoming events:
How do you start planning those big adventure dreams so they become a reality?? Whether you are planning a ’round-the-world trip on your bicycle or looking for a new adventure on a wilderness trail, we all start planning at the same place: the beginning.
Creating a plan of action for an adventure goal can be a daunting task in the beginning. Join others looking to begin their next adventure for discussion, brainstorming, and the initial phases of planning.
Big Adventure Planning is to help YOU start planning that big adventure. Whether it means you want to start hiking more, travel to a new country, take a year off of work, or learn something new, it takes planning and prioritizing to make it happen.
What’s your long-term adventure goal?
Whether it’s a new hike in the Adirondacks or a bicycle trip around the world, one person’sadventure goal can seem incomprehensible to others. The key to turning what others may deem “that crazy dream of yours” into reality is breaking the preparation and adventure itself into manageable steps.
Write down a clear goal: what, where, when, duration, and budget
Where do you begin?
To bicycle around the world, you have to start somewhere!
Find that pinpoint in your adventure – that starting point where it all begins.
Create small adventures to lead up to your big adventure goal.
Presented by Christine Perigen and Josh Fonner of Roam Life, Inc. 2012.