Pedaling the Planet: A Story from Kapp to Cape

Reza Pakravan - Header by Christine Fonner | November 6, 2014

Reza Pakravan finished the Kapp to Cape cycling adventure in November 2013. Currently working on a book to tell the adventure, I caught up with Reza to ask him about what it is like to ride the length of the planet. Literally.

With his partner, Steven Pawley, Reza cycled over 11,000 miles in 102 days to raise money for schools in Madagascar and attempt to set a new Guinness World Record. Fighting Malaria, food poisoning and intense road conditions, they made it to the finish line in Cape Town, South Africa.

You finished Kapp to Cape about a year ago. Did you initially encounter culture shock on your return?

My partner, Steven, went back to work straight away. I wanted to make the adventure part of my life and make a living out of adventure. For him, it was very difficult but for me, I took a couple of months off. I had time in California to finalize my book and was also looking for a production company to partner with me to turn Kapp to Cape into a documentary. Since August, I have been in Rome and production on the film will be finished in two weeks. 

Was it difficult managing the filming for a cycling adventure that you were deep into?

We had a cameraman at the beginning, middle, and end of the race. All the rest of the footage was self-shot between Steven and myself. It is not the easiest thing in the world when you are passing through some of the most unforgiving climates and roads in the world.

I realized the most challenging part after the expedition was coming back to normal life.

The terrain could be difficult and the environment desolate during the Kapp to Cape journey.

We struggled with time and food, basic requirements and add filming in was quite a difficult task to do. Steven wasn’t into the idea of filming but I really wanted a documentary. Sometimes you really want to be in that moment and you are in the middle of Africa and you experience something fascinating and you come out of an experience of life and death or see the hospitality of a stranger and you want to live that moment but you have to take the camera out and film.

Being in the moment (and capturing it!) riding through the countryside.
Being in the moment (and capturing it!) riding through the countryside.

What was your biggest mental challenge in Kapp to Cape?

To keep pushing and motivating myself to pedal ahead. There were times that I got really ill and times that I got knocked down by heat stroke, food poisoning, and Malaria but to just wake up and pull yourself together and carry on that was the most difficult challenge.

The physical struggles of the trip are a different story but the personal journey…that is the toughest moment, after the expedition.

Reza in the hospital with heat stroke, food poisining and Malaria.
Reza in the hospital with heat stroke, food poisining and Malaria.

To be honest, the expedition was a journey and it’s finished but the personal journey started when the expedition finished. I realized the most challenging part after the expedition was coming back to normal life. I decided to change my life and do what I love to do. I received calls from headhunters asking me to return to the corporate world with a good salary. I didn’t know when my next paycheck was coming and I was struggling with my finances but I had to tell them no. Turning those calls down and telling them I was not interested is actually something that hits me in my personal journey every day. It is a very tough moment to get through. The physical struggles of the trip are a different story but the personal journey…that is the toughest moment, after the expedition.

Reza and Steven capturing their time in Egypt.
Reza and Steven capturing their time in Egypt.

The Kapp to Cape takes you from the tip of Norway to the tip of South Africa. What was the starkest contrast between the two points?

Temperature! Then, obviously, wealth is the second contrast. And diversity. In Norway and Finland almost everyone is basically the same. The races are limited. In South Africa, it’s a very multi-racial society.

Have you found a commonality among people in your travels?

It’s fascinating because when you travel the world at the speed of bike and you see the world in that level of detail, the needs are so basic – eating, sleeping, water food – you are actually looking for similarities – you do not look for differences. Even if you want to go as fast as you can, you are still going so slow!

My dreams since I was a kid were inspired by explorers and adventurers who went way beyond their boundaries and achieved and made the impossible possible. 

All you see are similarities, not differences. You see the hospitality of people everywhere. You see that most of the people in the world are the same. We may speak different languages, but pretty much we are made from the same wood.

Meeting the locals!
Meeting the locals!

Has it been difficult for you to find the words to tell your story?

It took a while for me to reflect. We had some really extreme experiences. I also asked Steven and he had the same feeling. I look at adventure as my job. When you are making a living out of telling your story, then you have to do it with some sacrifice. You can’t have everything. The whole thing about adventure is that if you want to make a living out of it, you have to be able to share it with other people. I miss that good old fashion adventure. No phone, no nothing…you just go with it.

Riding through 13 countries isn't for the faint of heart.
Riding through 13 countries isn’t for the faint of heart.

You were an international pro basketball player back in Iran in your younger days. Did you get the chance to play ball with any of the kids during your journey?

Not really. We were just cycling non-stop. It was a race!

During the Kapp to Cape, you worked to raise money to build schools in Madagascar. Why did you choose schools in Africa?

In 2009, I went to Africa to do volunteer work with an NGO in Madagascar, which is one of the most impoverished places in the world. I carefully studied the financials of this grassroots NGO and went and worked as a volunteer for a month. This was a real trigger point for me.

If every person takes one step towards their own bit, collectively we could make this a better place.

What I experienced and what I saw people doing out there was fascinating and good. For all the good things I had in my life, I was able to give something back. Since then, I decided to raise money for them. In five years we have raised $120,000 dollars for them.

Reza getting to know the local children!
Reza getting to know the local children!

It was also important to feel the energy of people behind you. If you are doing something at that scale, why not raise money for a good cause? I combined my expedition with fundraising and it was a win-win situation for everyone and inspiring for others to do the same.

Have these adventures and endeavors for fundraising made you think about wealth, poverty, and income differently?

Not so much this trip but my previously travels did make me think a lot. I traveled in Africa a lot so I knew that there is poverty that exists in the world. It wasn’t anything new to me. In fact, I have been to fairly removed places in the world even poorer than the places I traveled this time. It’s fascinating that it’s such a cliché but the poorer the country the more hospitality they have. They invite you into their places and share more experiences with you.

What would you say would help bring the biggest positive change to our world collectively?

We all have and want different changes. The guys living in Gaza Strip need a different change than people like you and me living in democracy or someone living in Africa in poverty. The requirements are different. If every person takes one step towards their own bit, collectively we could make this a better place.

Reza and Steven enjoy local cuisine and a few moments off the bike.
Reza and Steven enjoy local cuisine and a few moments off the bike.

Environment, political, human rights or activists or whatever they do there are lots of people out there campaigning and standing up for other peoples’ rights to make the world a better place.

If you really want to get out of your comfort zone and experience what you want to experience you have to draw the line and do it.

A lot of people just succumb to the daily world and are completely detached. If we all did something we could all move mountains and make it a much better place.

What do you want people to gain from your story?

I have been a financial analyst for 10 years of my life. My dreams since I was a kid were inspired by explorers and adventurers who went way beyond their boundaries and achieved and made the impossible possible. I wanted to have a big adventure of my own. The comforts of my life stifled that dream. Basically, comfort killed ambition.

Get out of your comfort zone and amongst the challenges, you'll have amazing experiences.
Get out of your comfort zone and amongst the challenges, you’ll have amazing experiences.

One day you look back and realize you will never ever get any younger. If you really want to get out of your comfort zone and experience what you want to experience you have to draw the line and do it. I resigned from my job and started training to travel via bicycle.

One of the tougher moments...
One of the tougher moments…

I feel that I can do whatever I put my mind to now. That is what I really wanted to get out of it and I got there. Now, I changed my life completely. My documentary is going to come out shortly and I am already signed for making a new one. I am very happy with my choice.

If you are really passionate about something, sooner or later you will be good at it.

It was quite a big risk to come out of the comfort zone and leave my hefty salary to hit the road. Coming out of my safety net where everything was safe in my life, I left everything to go to the unknown. Fortunately, everything turned to be good!

The finish line in Cape Town, South Africa. There are no words to describe the feat…the smiles do a great job!

Do you think this was a required way to go – to just up and quit corporate?

The reason I did such an extreme thing – working corporate I lost confidence to be able to change my life. I needed to do something so big and way beyond me. I needed to know that I had to work so hard for it with 100% effort. I needed the validation for my ability and to go to that extreme to say, “If I really get to Cape Town I can do anything in my life.”

If I learned one thing in the entire expedition it was that in order to achieve any dream or make any dream come true, the most important thing is to take that first step.

Once I got there I just realized I managed to go from office desk to this level and battle through the most horrible terrain in the world with all sorts of weather conditions, malaria, heat stroke, whatever obstacle came in front of me…I could do anything. I can change my life. I needed validation to my ability and I got that validation. There is always the element of self-doubt but I think that is part of an adult’s life.

Why do people do what makes them safe vs. what they desire?

There is a struggle that every human in modern times faces. I have been in an environment where everyone hates what he or she does but they do it because it gives them a comfortable life. I can talk about my personal experience. When I came out of university I had student debt, I wanted comfort, and to pay back debt and have comfortable life. That is the way that society is structured. If you are really passionate about something, sooner or later you will be good at it.

Passion for something allows you to eventually become good at it.
Passion for something allows you to eventually become good at it.

If you want certain things in your life, rather than make a five-year plan, you might make a ten-year plan instead but at least you are doing what you want to do. I think the financial thing, absorbing corporate life; they pay you lots of money. It’s easy to get into it and get comfortable so that makes it very difficult to get out of it.

Is it possible to merge comfort with adventure living?

Yes, there are ways that people can combine their passion with a bit of commercial giveaway. What I did was drastic but there is always a possibility. I personally couldn’t do it because I wanted to do something completely different but I know people that have corporate lives but follow their passion at the same time. Obviously, it’s not as good as someone who is living the life they want all the time. It’s always a compromise, isn’t it?

People have different priorities – family vs. a single guy like myself. It really depends on the situation. My life allows me to be an adventurer but I am not sure a guy with three children couldn’t take the same risk so easily. If I learned one thing in the entire expedition it was that in order to achieve any dream or make any dream come true, the most important thing is to take that first step. Sometimes you have to ignore conventional wisdom and just go with it. There are so many different ways to live your life. The easiest thing is to give way to the corporate.

Only 1,045 kilometers to the finish!
Only 1,045 kilometers to the finish!

What’s your next adventure?

Adventures are addictive. I have three adventures planned that I am working on parallel. I want to cycle the Trans-Amazonian Highway. I am working on a documentary of a trip from Mumbai to London via solar panel rickshaw. Another project is focusing on my discovery of Malagasy music. I will be traveling in Madascar with a human powered mobile recording studio to capture the music. I would like to do all three in 2015 but at least two…definitely.

TP Question: Crumple or fold?

I fold. I normally take my toilet paper with me while biking. I usually use wet wipes which are obviously crumpled and I don’t fold it. I don’t use a toilet roll. I use the pocket tissue. I fold and put them away. It really depends on the situation. I never thought of that but yea, I definitely fold!


profile miniReza is an ex-corporate financial analyst that took the big plunge into full-time cyclist and extreme sport junkie. Reza has poured his energy into scheming big dreams into reality. He has conquered the summit of Mount Sabalan (4,811m), cycled the entire Annapurna Circuit in the Nepalese Himalayas and set the world record for fastest crossing of the Sahara Desert by bicycle, clocking an impressive time of 13.5 days. Adding Kapp to Cape to his impressive portfolio, he is already on to the next adventure. Oh, and did we mention he used to be a professional international basketball player??

To learn more about Reza, visit

Can’t get enough of the story? Visit Reza and Steven’s YouTube channel.

Would you like to donate to building schools? Click here to donate now!

Gates Carbon Drive did an awesome interview on the entire Kapp to Cape adventure. Read it here!

Copyright 2015 Roam Life, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Swiftwick Wins South Africa

Christine Fonner | June 21, 2014


My Love for Swiftwick Runs Deep

About a year ago, I started exclusively only wearing Swiftwick socks. It wasn’t a conscious decision – they were just more comfortable so when I would look in the sock bin and eye all the sock options, I inevitably would pick up a pair of Swiftwick until, one day, there were just no other socks except for Swiftwick.

So, it’s with no great surprise that when I was packing my carry-on bag for a nine-day stage race in South Africa, that, without hesitation, I piled in all the Swiftwick socks a girl could need and then decided to also throw in my Swiftwick Arm Sleeves as well.

You Don’t Know About Swiftwick Arm Sleeves??

Ah, the arm sleeves. Not arm warmers. These nifty little sleeves do much more than keep your arms warm. If it was cold out, I would throw them on and marvel at their stretchiness. They kept my arms warm. If it got hot out, I would forget I even had them on until I was properly sweating up hill. They kept my arms cool. They breathed really well. They protect from sun burn. They never seem to smell and are incredibly comfortable. I was in love.

The Swiftwick Arm Sleeve was carefully designed to be effective as a wind break, offers great UV protection and its an easily removable base layer protecting against the cold.
The Swiftwick Arm Sleeve was carefully designed to be effective as a wind break, offers great UV protection and its an easily removable base layer protecting against the cold.

I had learned to use the arm sleeves often. All the time. On all my rides. My Swiftwick arm sleeves (seen or unseen) have been part of many amazing friendship driven adventures and life moments (my wedding engagement, bottom left!). I’ve become emotionally attached!


I knew they breathed well, were stretchy, and you could wear them for a long time and not feel hot when the sun was beating down on you. But I can’t begin to tell you how much MORE grateful I was that I brought these little arm sleeves to South Africa for the JoBerg2c Mountain Bike stage race, especially after wearing them for 9 days straight.

South Africa’s JoBerg2c – 9 Days, 900 kilometers

South Africa’s JoBerg2c 9-Day Mountain Bike stage race is no joke. It takes you from Johannesburg, South Africa all the way to Scottburgh, at the ocean. 900 kilometers over 9 days with many of those days climbing you up and over the mountains of the Free State. 99.5% of the route is off-road. Over the course of the race, only 10 kilometers is on actual paved road. It isn’t until Day 6 that you finally get to see some proper descending. The race is an amazing way to see a very diverse (and big!) country.

The 9-Day JoBerg2c route

For my partner and I, race was a term we used loosely. For us, it was about finishing every day and enjoying the experience of crossing half a country by bicycle. Over the nine days on a bicycle, we were averaging 7-9 hours on the saddle each day. We become a well-oiled machine and learned what works and what doesn’t work. Part of my essential gear were comfortable, breathable socks that could keep the toes warm in the morning and let them breathe once the sun warmed us up and would help in preventing blisters, sores, etc on my much used feet.

I climbed (and sometimes walked) many hills.

Or climbing and climbing...until your legs give out.
Climbing and climbing…until your legs give out.

It was also essential to have socks (and arm sleeves!) that could get wet and dry quickly. In addition to crossing on top of water, we had to sometimes cross through water. Once, it was up to my stomach!

I crossed floating bridges

Floating pallet bridge on Day 2
Floating pallet bridge on Day 2

And sometimes had to cross non-existent bridges!

The Invisible Bridge - Day 6
The Invisible Bridge – Day 6

I experienced amazing descents (70 km an hour!) and looked out across amazing vistas.

Looking out across the mighty Umko Valley
Looking out across the mighty Umko Valley

I froze in the morning and felt scorched in the afternoon.

The temps varied widely from morning to afternoon.
The temps varied widely from morning to afternoon.

The days were long and challenging…but the singletrack made you holler for more…

day 4 - 2

and the people made the experience unforgettable.

The "Back of the Pack" Crew at the finish line!
The “Back of the Pack” Crew at the finish line!

When I came home, I found I was at a loss for words on how to describe such an intimate, challenging, long, and unique experience. How do you explain what 77 miles riding your bicycle feels like? How do I describe the hot wind scorching my lungs as sugar cane leaves smack my face down double track? How do you describe the endless miles of cattle trail and how absolutely uncomfortable single track can be when it’s that bumpy?

You can’t. Not really. A person has to experience that for themselves. I can tell you that it made me closer to the Earth, to people, and to my bicycle. It made me really grateful for good gear and comfortable clothes. And, most importantly, after all was said and done…it made me look forward to my next adventure on my bicycle.

Do what moves you.

– Christine


A Long Road to the Start!

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Paul LaCava | April 16, 2013

Hey there! It’s been a while. Sort of fell off the deep end and got lost somewhere along the way, but the last two months have been a handful! Definitely one of life’s biggest balancing acts. Isn’t is always this way? The last two months have been a long hard road, one that is nearly complete, but really hasn’t even started yet.


See a thousand yards, die a thousand deaths...
See a thousand yards, die a thousand deaths…

In ten days time I’ll find myself a couple thousand miles away in the other side of the country, -er, more like the middle, for a, shall we say,” little” bike race. My mind is already there. Spirit also. But the bags aren’t packed yet, though most of the planning is all sorted out. Seems like a long haul to go just to ride your bike around, and it is. But the journey once there will be far greater that just getting there, and nearly as long as the preparation itself.

Photo 2

Last fall I committed to “toeing the line” at the 9th annual Trans-Iowa 323 mile unsupported continuous gravel bike race, the longest of it’s type on the planet. For some early details, refer to my first post on the affair. The long and short of it, is that this will be the second year of joining about 100 fellow nut jobs on the start line of what I persoanlly feel to be the biggest challenge I may ever undertake in this lifetime. The goal is quite simple: race one’s bike for 323 miles across the gravel roads surrounding the town of Grinnel, Iowa, and finish in less than 34 hours.

2:45am departure. Foggy sunrise at the Bridge of the Gods at mile 47.
2:45am departure. Foggy sunrise at the Bridge of the Gods at mile 47.

You have no support.

Newberg sunrise!
Newberg sunrise!

You have nothing but directional cue sheets and a route planned by the promoter, a nice fellow named Guitar Ted.

You can get pretty lost on the back roads with these ingredients!
You can get pretty lost on the back roads with these ingredients!

The race is free to enter, though virtually nobody signs up.

Mile 57...
Mile 57…

You only know the first 52 miles of the course when you depart, the rest you figure out at checkpoints along the way, assuming you get there in time. You have nothing but what you can carry on your person or buy or request from a local convenience store, farmer, or fellow racer. Items may include a bicycle, clothing to survive up to 34 continuous hours in the bleak windstruck thundershower prone rolling farmlands and the sub-freezing temperatures these can deliver, food, water, lights, a map, emergency supplies, probably something to keep you alive if you’re 24 hours in and mentally collapse in a ditch, and ideally a huge sense of willpower and spirit! All you have to do is average 10 miles per hour, for nearly a day and a half. It doesn’t seem so bad, until you factor in the wind, endless hills, the unkonwns, and the percieved limitations in one’s mind.

Hwy 14 on the way to the Dalles. When low on traffic, it's pretty scenic and nice!
Hwy 14 on the way to the Dalles. When low on traffic, it’s pretty scenic and nice!

By my quick account, there are likely tens of thousands of miles of rolling gravel roads in the state of Iowa. The race will pick an odd assortment of them to create a fantastic journey through them, while the mind and bodybecoming victims of the whole affair.  This will be my second year of lining up at the start, and barring a tornado, a few too many viscious farm dogs, errant tractor, or a ground lighting shower, I plan to finish this race! Last year I did not. Gear and sleep related issues, and heck, I don’t think I was tough enough. But that was then… Trans-Iowas is not a race you “win”, although there is a winner. I see it as a task so immense the thought of doing it all quickly overwhelms you, and the only way you’ll start it is if you pay less attention to the end result, and focus on the process. And this is what the last two months have been about.

Dalles Mtn Road. Mile 100 for me, mile 10 on the 60 mile loop.
Dalles Mtn Road. Mile 100 for me, mile 10 on the 60 mile loop.

Since January and the hibernation that inevitably comes after a long fun year of riding and racing bicycles, when the days are nearly the shortest of the year, when the weather is cold, the rain incessant, it’s time to kick start training for Iowa. My local habitat of Oregon delivers a pretty awesome assortment of the type of shit one is looking for to prepare for the unknowns of racing gravel roads in the remanants of the last ice age. So it starts with an off the couch century or two, just to shock the system and maybe scare myself off. That didn’t work. Sweet. But man, those hurt! The miles quickly build. The routes get longer. Feeling tougher. A typical week would involve doing a handful of rides in the middle of the week, many at night, and then a long slog usually going from near daybreak to when the sun goes down on a cold dreary weekend. Sometime I can con a few friends into a good ride, most times not. Noboby else wants to do this, not generally, and definitely not in february.

The pieces start falling into place.

Maryhill Road. As good as it looks.
Maryhill Road. As good as it looks.

The body feels stronger, day by day. What used to seem like a long ride at 5 hours in January is merely a warmup for a good 12 hour adventure a month later! Rule of thumb is to make sure the halfway point is the furthest away from home, necessitating full commitment, no bailouts here! Most rides are road rides that mix in some uncivilized terrain, rural gravel roads and some logging roads in the coast range of the Willamette Valley. The biggest challenge to riding becomes not doing the miles, but figuring out where to go! Leave the house with $20 for whatever kind of gas-station burritos you can find in a remote rural town far from home to help get you back! New routes emerge, and this is really what has driven me to enjoy this whole process. Planning on racing an event that is so far from home has forced me to see places I never knew existed right in front of me. All you have to do is go seek them out.

You can see cool things by bike!
You can see cool things by bike!

Two rides, and much of what you see in these photos stand out and have really prepared me for what lies ahead. Nearly 6 weeks ago I managed to put together a 170 mile loop from Portland and out the Columbia River Gorge all the way out to the Dalles and a beautiful surrounging loop back to Hood River. Places not normally connected in one ride, yet alone in one day. That one was after no sleep at all the night before. …Nervous energy. The beers tasted good after that one! About a week ago, I managed a final shakedown of the bike and gear exactly as I will put to the test in my race, a custom steel adventure bike by local friend and framebuilder Tony Batchellor from Tonic Fabrications called the Crusher!

Custom Serial # on the Tonic Fab. Purpose built.
Custom Serial # on the Tonic Fab. Purpose built.

I packed up all the bags and clothing, somewhere close to 15 lbs of weight on the bike, and headed out at 4am for a rather harsh 12 hours and 155 miles of some of the worst rain I can imagine. That one felt good when it was over, and was pretty fun while it lasted, but took some effort. The thousand yard stare was in effect that day. And yet this is perhaps only half of what I am preparing for…..

Houston, we have landed.
Houston, we have landed.

Somewhere along the 2,000 miles of riding in some of the worst weather I’ve ever faced in the last two months, lessons have been learned. There has been an uncomfortable amount of hours to think to oneself: why? I don’t yet know why. Challenge, yes. Stupidity, likely. But why? I hope to answer that question sometime during the wee hours of the morning past mile 250 or 300 on the 28th of April, after starting to ride my bike about 20 hours prior, and then figure out what will take me to the finish. Until then, stay tuned…

Noel Knecht Shares Survival and Adventures

 September 20, 2012

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.

Only special kids play with Winnebegos and dream of traveling…

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.”

I went to Hackensack University Medical Center, which I feel blessed that I went there because it was just so amazing. I went through all these crazy tests.

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.

West Coast Tour de Pink 2011, Noel with her lovely friends pedaling for a cause.

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.”

Noel and friend, Diana, who is also a Breast Cancer Survivor. Having met through the Young Survival Coalition and Tour de Pink, both share the passion of travel and headed across the pond to cycle southern Ireland together.

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.

Cycling Morocco. A stop to pose with a shepard and his son. Notice the goats in the tree!

When you lost the ability to run, what did you find to replace it?

From Noel’s trip: Women of a Women’s Argan Oil collective in Morocco. They work and manage their own business. Talk about inspiration.

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.

Route 66 Medal – Corny or rad??

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.

Noel just doing 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.

2011 West Coast Tour de Pink completion in Santa Barbara, CA.

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.

Photo courtesy of YSC Tour de Pink

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.

How did you become affiliated with the Young Survival Coalition?

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.

Noel after completing her first marathon celebrating her 10 year anniversary of being diagnosed.

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.

Follow your dreams: Mad Dog Cafe

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.

You meet the most wonderful people….this man didn’t know his age. He was such a happy, content man.

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.

Letting the adventurous side through to the other side of the Atlantic – Noel in Valencia

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:

September 23: Orange Man Triathlon, Dana Point, CA

September 28-30: YSC East Coast Tour de Pink, Philadelphia to DC

October 12-14: YSC West Coast Tour de Pink, Foothill Ranch to Oakley, CA

November 18: Route 66 Marathon, Tulsa, OK

To fight cancer and be a part of the YSC Tour de Pink this year, donate to Noel’s fundraising page . All proceeds go to the Young Survival Coalition and helps young women fight and f*ck cancer up.

To learn more about Dustin’s story (Noel’s dude) and about more ways to help the fight,  visit

Roam Life: Roam Your Soul’s Amazing Women Series began with one small story about one amazing woman. Since then, we’ve interviewed many every day women doing amazing things and have shared all of our stories here. To learn more about Roam Your Soul, visit

copyright 2012 * Roam Life, Inc.

The Two Village Idiots: This Sh*t Just Got Real


So why am I doing this trip? It is a question I often get asked. The real question, though, is why do any trip? I mean, most of us are content with going throughout our days in the creature comforts we have become accustomed to. We get to know the people that have come and gone in our lives, but rarely seek out new people and new experiences that put us out of our comfort zone. Well, I’m not like most people. I recognized that being out of your comfort zone is where real human development happens, and I am constantly seeking new people and experiences to help facilitate adventure and personal development. That’s why I created Roam Life – because we don’t want you to be like most people either. We want you to be the BEST you.

But I guess I should answer the real question, why am I riding my bike from Pittsburgh to DC?

Good question.

Let’s make a list:

  1. It sounds like a bad/dumb idea to nearly everyone we talk to – automatically I’m interested.
  2. It’s close by to my buddy Rich and I – we want to show that you really can have an authentic, legit adventure just out your door. You don’t have to fly to outer Mongolia to have an adventure.
  3. This canal/rail trail is one of the most heavily ridden and most popular bike routes in the country and I have never ridden it. As a bike industry person, this is just a travesty.
  4. I’ve never heard of anyone riding this trail, 325 miles, straight through from end to end without stopping. So we could set a record! A dumb record, but a record none-the-less.
  5. 325 miles is no joke. I’ve ridden an 8 day, 500 mile MTB stage race, the Leadville 100 Mile MTB Trail Race, and a super rocky 50 mile MTB race in Pennsylvania this year. But 325 miles without stopping to sleep, rest, etc., is something different. It was possible to not finish any of these races, but it is very possible that we might not be able to finish this thing. This will be a real test of our equipment, our minds, and our bodies.
  6. Because of this extreme test, it will make for a perfect Roam Life video. We’ll really be able to show how we can expand ourselves through “trying” new experiences.
  7. I want to be part of, and help, my buddy Rich reach his goal of visiting his dad in Arlington. This is a powerful end goal for us, and will help us get through those tough hours on the bike.
  8. By leaving ourselves open to a variety of experiences – we’ll be able to generate future experiences and continue Roam’ing Life.

There are a lot of reasons for me to do this trip. The biggest reason is to change myself, and that change can’t be realized until you are finally on the bike.

– Josh

I was one who smiled much more back then.

I knew my purpose for as long as I could was to show people how amazing life is and could be behind the bars of a bicycle. I could do this, travel, explore, roam places, so many places without worry because my Dad was on point, the man who all looked to for support, the idea, the shoulder all who were in contact or in touch with should anything go wrong or just plain worry about seem removed and far far away. Plain and simple Dad was the rock, and yes my hero.

Dad has since passed. I no longer have that smile I once had. I realize it, I still have much anger. It wasn’t his time.

From the time of Dad’s passing to present, things have changed: ideas, paths, locations, Hell, even responsibility. One of my many “in awe” memories of Dad was how he could connect with so many people; people from one extreme to another. He brought a connection with him people adored, no matter where he was! The stories, the people, amazing people, places he’s been along with Mamasita together. I aspire. The places they’ve visited along their way; Thailand, Philippines, Canada, Colombia, so many places. It finally hit me……..

Three weeks before Dad passed, he said to me that he was very proud of me for doing what I loved. He said I showed so much pride for what I did. I quit. I left, took care of the farm, loose ends, had my family take care of me. Within that time I realized how much I missed this [bicycle] industry, connecting with people through a simple ride on a trail, any trail, anywhere, any adventure-crazy trail.

I could do do this! I can share the story. I can video my experiences with anyone who wants to hit an adventure, meet up at a trail, or convo over pizza and bourbon.

End of the day – there are so many people and places and experiences –

Fitting that the birth of my first ride, Pittsburgh, be the start of an amazing journey to visit my Dad at Arlington National Cemetery to say…well I’m not sure what will be said. No better way to embark on this journey than with my buddy Josh with Roam Life. We have very similar journeys, goals, hopes…

News at 11…………….that means more later yo!!!

– Rich

Expedition Date: October 13 – 14

Expedition Location: The Great Allegheny Trail and the C&O Canal

Expedition Start: Allegheny Trail, Pittsburgh, PA

Destination: Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC

To follow Josh and Rich, join our community at or Facebook.

Roam Your Soul Workshop

Roam Your Soul was an amazing experience for me. It was incredibly heartwarming to share such personal explorations with such sincere and insightful women. I was greatly encouraged to challenge myself and push my boundaries, and the rewards were immediately tangible. As a group, I felt that we all connected emotionally, expanded mentally, and grew spiritually. I am truly grateful for the experience, and I will definitely carry it with me forever on my journey. Thank you!! – Mariya

Like Mariya, I hope you join me for a life-changing and exciting adventure experience.

Roam Your Soul’s Online Adventure Workshop is an 8-week e-course for women that want to explore their daily lives with new eyes, experience adventure, and roam their inner soul. We will guide you through opportunities to expand your comfort zone, discover new aspects of yourself, and connect to other adventurers.


Our next workshop registration will open in February 2013.

We’ve teamed up with Peaks Over Poverty, Against the Grind, and more to make each adventure meaningful, adventurous, and fun.

“There are no rules in creating your own adventures – the possibilities are endless.”

For more information, visit the registration page. For more information about Roam Life and our Amazing Women series, click on the links!

The adventures I created for us all actually allowed me to find time for myself and reflect on what I needed in order to feel excited about life. Learning through other women’s stories and finding inspiration in their courage allowed me to break through barriers and find new adventures for myself.  – Founder, Christine


Dirt Rag’s DirtFest 2012 (or, how I broke my foot riding my bike)

By Christine Perigen

At 30 years old, I thought my days of being piggy-backed as a mode of transportation were over. Turns out, I was wrong.

In the last hour of the last day at Dirt Rag’s DirtFest, I found myself hanging on to the back of Richie Rich while he sprinted down the trail on foot. Jarring up and down and trying to keep my mind off the pain shooting up my foot at every step, our team of 4 used laughter to avoid thinking about the 6 miles we still had to go until we hit a main road.

Turns out, running down a dirt trail with 100 pounds of me on your back is an awesome cross-training tool. It also makes you sound bad ass – “What did you do to train today? Oh yea? Well, I ran 3 miles in the woods with a sack of potatoes strapped to my back. NBD.”

yea, the two village idiots…again.

We were riding bikes on some of the funnest trails in the Allegripis system in Rayestown, PA. Everyone had packed up and hauled out and we stuck around for a final ride with a few friends from Giant, Stan’s NoTubes, Niner, and Felt.

Happier times at beer school

The dudes took off fast and I smashed pedals trying to keep up. When you get a bunch of dudes together on  bikes (even more specifically INDUSTRY DUDES on bikes), it’s bound to be a testosterone fest (even if that wasn’t the intention).  It also doesn’t help that I’m slow on climbs so I tried to make up speed on the downs (which I’m not so bad at – or so I thought).

After heading out on Doe and looping around to Ray’s Revenge, we finally got to the fun section. I don’t know if it was 3 days of riding, the new shoes, or trying too hard to keep up (probably a combination of all three), but I felt uneasy from the start of the rhythm section and started to slow down. After hitting a patch of gravel on the edge of the trail, my back tire skidded off the side of the hill with my foot stuck in the pedal.

Gripped with pain, I clenched a bunch of dirt in my hands while trying to find air. After pushing my bike off me, I had to shove my foot out of the pedal, which was excruciating.

I ended up hobbling along for a half mile, Josh found me on the trail with Rich and Brian in tow. It was clear I shouldn’t be walking so I hopped onto the seat of Josh’s bike while he attempted to pedal us down the trail without bucking me face-down back into the dirt. Bad idea.

So, what to do? And this is how I ended up on Rich’s back while he sprinted down the trail. Switching from one sweaty back to another, Josh and Rich took turns while Brian took care of my bike.

Back at DirtFest base camp, the guys set me up in the Sprinter van with a rapidly swelling ankle and some ice.

And then I ended up with this:

I spent the next 4 weeks traveling around to all the races and events I had signed up for…as a spectator. Cast off, boot on, I started back on the bike again and went to a lot of concerts where I got premium seating! :o)

A 2014 Olympic Hopeful: Kimber Gabryszak

Amazing Women
Doing Amazing Things:


Kimber is an athlete that has a natural yet friendly determination to be the best. Whether it’s mountain biking, skeleton racing, or her newest hobby, curling (yes, curling!), Kimber quickly becomes competitive.  What I found interesting about Kimber is that she has tried all of these sports based on chance, invitation, and word of mouth. Kimber’s adventurous spirit and fun-loving personality make it easy for you to invite her along on your journey as well. The Roam Life team was able to catch up with Kimber right after her return from her Cabo wedding.

You just got married! Your husband seems to be a big support for you in your career. Who’s the lucky dude and how did the two of you meet?

Kimber & Brad

Brad [Stewart] and I met on in the fall of 2004 and we have been together ever since. He’s a huge support and I try to be one for him. We do skeleton together and we try to keep it balanced so that when we’re both competing we try to stay out of each other’s way but if one person is competing the other is their hugest fan.

Kimber & Brad sporting 2009 Regional Championship belts with pride.

What’s it like to be dating a fellow Skeleton racer?

We’ve been together for over 7 ½ years. Brad does a lot of new ventures and tries new things all the time. We like to travel together and scuba dive.

We went to a couple weddings last summer and realized that weddings kind of suck.

One thing that is really cute is that we adopted a dog when we were together about a year and I’ll come home from work and find Brad in his office with Jean Luc (a 60 pound dog) in his lap in an office chair. Our dog is totally not spoiled (wink).

Tell us about your Cabo wedding.

It was awesome. It was perfect. We had originally planned a wedding here in Park City, Utah. When we started planning the wedding it was kind of a blessing and a curse to know a bazillion people all over the world. People we knew from work, skeleton, and family, really every aspect of our lives started merging into this huge wedding. We were trying to cut down a list of over 300 people to something manageable – like 150. We were having the hardest time ever cutting people out and scratching them off the list.

Kimber, a beautiful and sporty bride

We went to a couple weddings last summer and realized that weddings kind of suck. They are great in some ways and in others they just suck. Not to mention that you don’t really get to see the bride and groom so we just pulled the plug on the whole thing and booked an all inclusive resort in Cabo and didn’t invite anyone except our parents. It was nice to have the parents there but we didn’t invite any siblings or friends or husbands or any of the other people that we didn’t even know that well. We kind of said, “You are all not invited. All of your feelings can be hurt equally.”

When I was growing up, my home was 40 miles from the nearest road in Alaska. We had an outhouse and a hand pump well…

How was it to have the parents at your wedding and on your honeymoon?

My parents never have really had a real vacation so to see them relax and have fun was awesome and we all enjoyed the beach together. The two sets of parents were able to get to know each other. Three hours before the wedding we were all sitting by the pool relaxing together. It was the perfect wedding.

Speaking of your parents, you had a pretty unique childhood living in the mountains of Alaska. What was it like to grow up at the Station House?

When I was growing up, my home was 40 miles from the nearest road in Alaska. We had an outhouse and a hand pump well and solar panels for electricity. Before electricity, we had ice house and ice blocks – it was very 1800’s-esque. I was home schooled and didn’t really have any access to sports. I didn’t discover sports until my early 20’s. I was always pushing myself hard academically and I think that transferred over, along with a lifestyle of hard labor (shoveling snow, cutting firewood) into athletics.

You somehow went from living in the wild forest of Alaska to joining civilization. How did that happen?

When I started college in Alaska, I was technically a high school drop out because I didn’t finish home schooling. I went to community college and then the University of Anchorage. A friend and I were on a fundraising walk for a non-profit and we were rounding the bend of a major road and we were talking about where our next trip would be and decided it would be China. So the next semester I registered for a Chinese class. Fast forward a few years later and I got my Associates in Chinese and obtained an internship on a cruise ship in China!

You were a pretty rad pro mountain biker. Tell us about how you got involved in mountain biking?

Kimber, 2008

A lot of our friends mountain biked so a good friend of ours convinced me to register for a downhill race at Deer Valley on my cross country bike. It turns out I was the only beginner so won by default but my time was better than some of the sport girls so I got hooked. I got my first “squooshy” bike after that. The bike had seven inches of travel and a few of us girls went around to a bunch of races and we kept moving up in ranking and moving up again. In women’s downhill mountain biking, there was a lot of camaraderie. We supported each other and really encouraged each other. It’s not the same in skeleton.

In women’s downhill mountain biking, there was a lot of camaraderie. We supported each other and really encouraged each other.

Kimber, riding for Velo Bella, 2008

From heading downhill on a mountain bike, you ended up going head first into skeleton. At what point did your (then boyfriend) Brad convince you that pummeling head first down an icy shoot was a great idea?

Kimber, doing her thing

Brad and I had been dating for about 6 months and he worked at the Olympic Park part time. He came back from work one day and said, “I think I want to take this skeleton class.” I didn’t even know what skeleton was and said, “Yeah! That sounds fun.” He couldn’t talk me into it then so he took the intro class himself, which was four days of sliding. He was so excited and grinning ear to ear that he finally managed to talk me into trying it.

I was thinking, “What the hell did I just fall into?”

Skeleton racing looks intimidating, but it’s more like flying.

The following November I took my first run down and I was thinking, “What the hell did I just fall into?” It was the scariest thing I had done in my life. The instructor gives you a little push and you start pummeling down at 55 mph. For me, that was all she wrote. I was hooked. I joined a local club and we slid for fun and then we were getting better and better and started competing. Then, we were all of a sudden going to US national races. We thought about quitting here and there because it’s really difficult to make money at skeleton and it can be expensive to compete but instead we’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices to keep at it.

It is so fun to skeleton and as a competitor you are an ambassador for your country. When you are at a race you are surrounded by people from all around the world. When else do you get so many different nations in a room? When you make friends and are joking around together…you really are an ambassador. The potential to go to the Olympics is phenomenal. 

When did you realize that you were an Olympic hopeful? 

Once you do well enough at regionals (Western or Eastern), you qualify for team trials and then work up the ranks from there. The top 2 or 3 people at team trials go to the Olympics. You start thinking, “It’s a possibility.” If you manage to make that leap into the top loop then you know you have a chance.  One thing we encounter a lot with skeleton is that people think it is easy and that if you keep sliding and sliding you’ll get better. You will, but there is also a physical component you have to have and you have to cultivate an athletic talent to make it. If you don’t push yourself and train then you won’t make it from the C or B group up to the A group.

I do it because I love skeleton. It’s the closest thing to flying you’ll ever get to.

We made the choice to really train for it. The results have shown themselves. Last year I struggled on tour because I had some hamstring issues but I was 1/10 of a second off from the puck (head pusher) which showed I had potential. I worked out 3 hours today – before work and after work. It’s a huge time and energy commitment. I do it because I love skeleton. It’s the closest thing to flying you’ll ever get to.

Where’s the most unique place you’ve competed?

Without hesitation, Switzerland. Every year the Saint Moritz build a track from scratch. Usually a skeleton track is concrete with a layer of ice over it and a refrigeration system keeps it all together. In Switzerland, they take ice from the river and make the track from scratch every year, purely of ice.  You slide at 85-90 mph but it feels like you aren’t going that fast at all because it’s so quiet and your runners feel like they aren’t touching anything…you feel weightless.

 We made the choice to really train for it. The results have shown themselves.

Is it easy to get into skeleton racing?

Most people don’t know what skeleton is. We, as competitors, have to first overcome the question of “What is skeleton?” in order to gain support. I started taking skeleton seriously in 2006. You pay a fee into a club for the year and you can use a rental sled. I bought my first sled at the end of 2006 and bought a new sled this last year. Thanks to help from a couple of local people and fundraising, I was able to cover half the cost of a new sled. I was also grateful to have won a grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation for a portion of the sled. A sled can cost between $7,500 and $10,000.

What makes skeleton racing unique?

The fact that it is unique. You can only do it on certain tracks in the world. The rush, the speed, how challenging it is are all unique to the sport. If you turn your head one way or flex your quad and something happens, the sled moves direction while your careening down a track at 80 mph. I ski and snowboard and do all the other winter sports but skeleton is unique in and of itself. Not a lot of people get to do it.

 You travel a lot to compete. Any must know travel tips?

We don’t get to do a lot of sightseeing for the most part. We’ll drive to a race site and then have one day to settle in and train and then three days of official training and then we race and drive to the next location. Some of the coolest experiences have been in Germany and Austria during pre-Christmas time. They have crazy customs where they dress up in hand-made monster masks and run around the streets. There are parades where they bless people who have been punished. The Christmas markets are amazing. Germany and Austria around Christmas are phenomenal.

Through your travels, who have you met that has been most inspiring?

There are a lot of really inspiring people in the sport and around it. A conglomeration of small acts of kindness and helpfulness from a lot of people all over has been inspiring. Martins Dukurs is the top man in the world and is pretty much unbeatable but he’ll still do things like hurry to get his sled on the truck because you have to change your runners at the top. He’ll inconvenience himself a little to help you out a little and it’s impressive that he’ll do that. You’ll see things like that all the time.

Martins Dukurs, Olympic Medalist

Any travel snack indulgences you tend to hide away in your pack while on the road?

There are a couple of things. One thing I travel with is Werther’s originals. I love caramel. I love chocolate too but if it’s chocolate with caramel I’m hosed. I also pack a little tea kettle and herbal tea. Once in a while I get a hankering for a box of Corn Chex. I love Corn Chex.

TP question: Folder or crumpler?

I’m actually both. I start off folding and I end up crumpling. I am one of those that tries to start off organized and then it just falls apart at the end.

Kimber Gabryszak is a member of the US National Skeleton Team and is a 2014 Winter Olympic hopeful. She lives in Park City, Utah with her husband, Brad and her dog, Jean Luc.



The Two Village Idiots & One Small Adventure

Meet Rich.

This is Rich.

He likes doing dumb things.  Like 100 mile mountain bike races.  And modeling  his goatee-like facial hair while starring in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Rich starring as Jack Sparrow.

Ok, well the first one is true.  The second one might be too. I mean, I saw it on the internet.  But I digress…

What Rich really digs is suffering…with a little sprinkle of adventure thrown in.  See, this is the proper usage of the word sprinkle.  Many people try to use the word sprinkle to describe those thin chocolate or rainbow colored pieces of confectionary goodness that you put on ice cream.  However, those are actually called jimmies.  Don’t argue it.  If you are from New England, you know what I mean.  And don’t argue with New Englanders; we are always right.

Jimmies, people. They’re jimmies.

Sprinkles can be used to describe all other shapes of ice cream paraphenalia, and also how Rich likes his adventure.  Oh yeah, right, Rich…

So, as I mentioned, Rich likes to do what some people would call “idiotic” things.  These idiotic things aren’t at all idiotic to Rich, he enjoys them and enjoys the little bit of suffering that comes along with them.  Unfortunately, Rich can’t do idiotic things all day long; he has a day job, like the rest of us.  So, Rich has to get his idiotic jollies on the weekends or on his vacation, just like everyone else.

He’s more than just a weekend warrior.

Meet Josh.

Ready to conquer the world of adventure.

Josh is dancing around the room flailing his long lanky arms yelling, “Yes! We gotta get the bags. We gotta get the bags. We’re PAAAACKING!!!!” Yes, Josh loves adventure. No, it’s not a special day. It’s any given day for us.

Packing time

Just like Rich, as it turns out, Josh likes doing dumb things too.  Like multi-day mountain bike stage races.  Or 100 mile mountain bike races on a single speed bicycle. Or bushwhacking through the woods when trails end…you get the idea.

Taking a…er….break…on the trail

So one day, six or so years ago, the two idiots meet.  It was like bowling balls colliding. The two idiots worked similar 9-5 jobs at Giant Bicycles, but on different coasts.  Josh on the west coast, Rich on the east.  They’d see each other at company events every few months, and inevitably, some pedals would be pushed, and some pints would be drained.

What? You expect us to provide evidence??

Fast forward several years and Rich has moved on to work at Stan’s NoTubes, slinging the finest wheels on the planet, while Josh has moved back east and is plotting East coast domination for Giant Bicycles.  These two rekindled their, er, idiocy, when Josh and his teammate Jackie were looking for some support for the gnarly, 8 day, 800 km, mountain bike shred fest known as the Cape Epic in South Africa.

Cape Epic, in which Josh, Jackie, their Giant bikes and Stan’s NoTubes wheels all performed flawlessly, happened to spark the idiot trigger somewhere in the back of Rich’s brain.  Upon Josh’s return from the Realm of Radness known as South Africa, Rich called Josh to say “Hey, so I think I have an idea that might align with where you’re headed with Roam Life”.


“You see”, Rich said, “we both like to do these long mountain bike events and we both are kind of idiots about it. What if we started to film our suffering and making a TV show or something?”

“Suffer fest? I’m in.”

“You had me at suffering,” Josh said, “I’m in.”

So let’s recap: 2 idiots (Josh and Rich).  A couple of bikes, adventure, and dumb things.  They like doing long rides and races.  So where do we go from here?  Wait, let’s look up at the title again, what does it say? “The Two Village Idiots & One Small Adventure.”  Oh right, the small adventure part.

Adventure calls. The idiots respond.

Ok, well the two idiots started bantering about various dumb trips to get lost on.  An 8-10 day epic slog deep into the wilds of Northeastern Canada came up.  How about 5 days at the Pisgah Stage Race in North Carolina?  What about a mixed moto/mtb session?  While these were all very valient ideas and are trips they will very likely do in the future, the two idiots made a smart decision (wait, that CAN’T be right) by agreeing to walk before they run and figure out if they know how to run a camera on a 2 day trip prior to venturing off into unknown lands only to F everything up.  What can go wrong in 2 days?

– Josh

Life, Lemons, & Laughter with C.J. Feehan

Amazing Women
Doing Amazing Things:


I met C.J. in a ski mountain lodge with decent food and great beer. She came in loud with big hugs, which is how C.J. operates pretty much every day. She has an endless supply of in-your-face stories and always has something exciting, interesting, or weird going on. Last year, C.J. decided to quit the daily 9-5 and try her hand at independent, out-of-the-box work and has, so far, survived while adding a multitude of new and quirky stories to her repertoire. With her new book officially funded, we wanted to get a chance to hear more about the book, the experience, and how C.J. has been developing as a professional athlete and writer.

You have a new book that did pretty well on Kickstarter.


Yea, it was an exercise where I learned about people, marketing, and leveraging relationships and social networking. I learned it all in one month and I was self-taught. I sought publication through a traditional route for about a year and everyone wrote back and said you have a great voice in your writing and we were really entertained but it seems like a niche market.  These publishing companies would tell me that it appeals to outdoor adventurers or people that would read Jon Krakauer. All these traditional publishing houses were like, “We don’t even know what to do with that. It’d be great if you were already famous.” That’s sweet. One day, you’ll be eating your words.

With a lot of encouragement with the editor that I will be working with I decided to go the self-publishing route. I could have easily just gone the e-book route but as an educator, I always felt it was critical to actually have an idea in physical form.

That’s sweet. One day, you’ll be eating your words.

I decided to give Kickstarter a shot. Everyone told me, “$12k, you’ll raise that no problem.” I put the video and Kickstarter page together and launched it. It went nowhere. The first three weeks I was very discouraged. And then I hit this point where, they say after 60% is funded the rest comes in. I wasn’t 60% funded until I had 4 days left and it was during the 4th of July week. I really screwed up the timing. No one uses computers on weekends and the holidays would be a scratch. At the end I was raising about $2,000 a day but I was freaking out. I didn’t sleep for, like, four nights.

Now that the book is funded, when does it go into publishing?

The book is 75% finished. I have 25% to go. I like writing for long amounts of time over short periods of time. I once wrote a thesis in 10 days. The last part of the book will go fast. It’s been 2 years in the making.

I really screwed up the timing. No one uses computers on weekends and the holidays would be a scratch.

Give us the elevator speech of why you wanted to write this book.

I have had a pretty adventurous life. I don’t live within the confines of a box. When people ask me what I do for a living…it’s hard to explain. I don’t have a one sentence answer that is what I do. I am a teacher, a coach, I take classes myself, and I ski and I bike and I paddle…it goes on and on.

I came to the discovery that when I would tell people stories about my life they found it really funny because it was misery to me. I was entertaining telling these stories and I thought it would be interesting to run a blog and then convert it to a book. I always had a book in the back of my mind.

 I am dancing around yelling, “I got the ballerina!”

Nora Ephron was a great influencer in my writing the book. She died in the middle of my Kickstarter campaign. I was really devastated by that. It took some spiritual motivation and I thought, “Maybe it’s a sign.” She has a quote in one of her books, “My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.” So I started to frame my life into funny stories to share so I wouldn’t feel so bad anymore.

The epitome of that was a story that is in the book. I went to a five-mile charity race in Island Pond, Vermont with staff members from Burke Mountain. The town is dominated by a cult. They own stores and businesses in town so the vibe is strange but the town is nice. So at this charity race they are giving out prizes. I look at the prize table and see a picture with a ballerina. I wonder, “Do you win the frame or the picture?” It looked like one of those pictures in the frames you pick up at the store. Like it was just a stock photo they threw into a frame. The prizes were pretty hokey. Is it a frame or a painting?

I have had a pretty adventurous life. I don’t live within the confines of a box.

They call my number and I picked up the picture frame and I am dancing around yelling, “I got the ballerina!” I gave it to my friend, Jodi, and this woman taps me and asks to trade her the picture for her maple syrup. I really wanted the syrup but wanted to play up the joke about winning the ballerina. Then she told me it was actually a picture of the woman that the race memorialized that had died. I destroyed the sanctity of the whole event. We ran away completely feeling terrible. The only way I can make it right in this world is to write about it so people can laugh at my humiliation.

How did you come up with the title, “Life Gives Me Lemons?”

I didn’t think about it for that long. I called my brother and told him I wanted to write a book about being an idiot in all my outdoor adventures. I told him it had to be something about how life gives you lemons and you have to make it into lemonade. I wanted to make other people laugh about it.

It was a decision to me that took risk and sacrifice. You have to want it so bad that this is what you do.

Who do you want to read your book?

Anyone who has an interest in an outdoor or active lifestyle. The stories would resonate with them. Even the weekend warrior or the couch person who just pages through Outdoor Magazine. Anyone who has an interest in camping, hiking, paddling, skiing, the stories would resonate with them. The book is written somewhat like Chelsea Handler’s books: short, first person non-fiction stories. There is an edge to them with romance and heartbreak.  I think they can relate to stories about being an idiot.  I want to be like everyone man or every woman. Anyone can do this. Someone said to me, “You have the most amazing life ever.” It was a decision to me that took risk and sacrifice. You have to want it so bad that this is what you do. I am a vagabond to be able to do so – it can be drawback where I feel isolated. I travel all the time. There’s no way to keep a relationship for more than six months.

What do you want to tell your audience through your book?

It’s a two-fold message: I’ve had great adventures but anyone can do that. And second, if something really bad happens in your life you can re-frame it into a funny or entertaining story. When you do that, it is a liberating perspective to have on life.  You can learn from your experience and share it.

What does it mean to have a liberated life?

Sometimes I say to myself, “I hope something bad happens to you today.” It’s how I find my stories to write and also how I learn in life. When I lived in Killington, I skied and coached. People would say, “You are so lucky!” and I would say, “Yea, they have a lottery. They choose one person every year to move here and I got the ticket,” (insert heavy sarcasm).

Everyone gets too comfortable in what they do and we don’t have a lot of control over what happens in our lives. I have very little control over disasters in my life – I would have avoided them if I had control. I think too many people are living pretty sedate lives and they can read my book and feel like they live vicariously through me but I hope it’s inspiration to try something out of their comfort zone.

Roam Life is all about that. How do you get someone motivated to move?

A lot of people say they want to go to South Africa to race. (Editor’s Note: Josh completed the Cape Epic with partner, Jackie Baker this last April) But how many actually want to do it? How many people really want to pack the bike in the box, pack the clothes, be that in shape, and travel all the way there to race? Most people don’t want it as much as they say they do. To live more extreme you have to want it really badly.

I think too many people are living pretty sedate lives…

I took a huge risk in leaving my job and thinking I could float myself on a year in freelance writing. If it doesn’t work out I can go back to education. People said, “You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” Nothing is guaranteed. To me, that’s a risk.

When you travel is there anything essential that you travel with?

I definitely don’t have any superstitions or things I have to travel with. If I can find a good latte wherever I am, I’m a happy person. Anywhere in the world. I don’t’ go to super exotic destinations. The most exotic place I’ve been was Morocco but I couldn’t get a latte there.

Where was the best latte had?

Oh, wow. Tough call. I had a pretty good one in Les Deux Alpes in France. The best latte I have had so far. But I’m still in constant search of a better one.

TP time: are you a folder or a crumpler?

 I guess I’m a crumpler. I’d say I’m a crumpler of everything. I’m not really tied to physical things. I don’t feel like they have to be folded.

E-Mail Update from CJ: Here’s a good TP photo for you. My dad jokes that I’ll never run out. I just figure if I actually get to use a toilet, I better be well supplied.

C.J.’s stockpile of TP.

CJ, we have the same first name which, I would argue is the best. So why the CJ?

My name is Christine but I write as CJ because there is a famous vampire romance novelist with my name. It’s a college nickname and once I wrote as that name people started calling me it, too. I always sign e-mails Christine. So people don’t know what to call me. People are thrown. I have so many other nicknames, no one really calls me Christine, anyway.

Christine J. Feehan is a freelance writer and media professional who currently resides in Vermont.  Her non-fiction work primarily focuses on outdoor pursuits, and she is a contributing writer at Ski Racing Magazine and as well as a media specialist for the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association. She’s also a professional alpine ski coach and a competitive cyclist who races for Team Elevate Cycles.

To order C.J.’s book: [email protected]