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My view from my morning coffee. I could get used to this. Also, I want to go up there.

Catching you up…

If you had told me eight months ago if I would be in France for at least two months this year, I would have told you you were crazy. If you had told me I would be excited about it, I would have tried to have you institutionalized. I have a little catchup to do before I get to that though.

Last time I wrote, I was working my way into Springdale, Utah, the gateway to Zion National Park. It’s amazing, after not guiding there last year, how much I felt immediately at home. We were able to grab a hotel in the middle of town, across the street from my favorite bike shop, Zion Cycles. Everywhere I walked in, it was like seeing old friends –and in a few cases it actually was seeing old friends. By the end of the week I was getting the local discount just about everywhere I went. I love it. We had a fairly relaxed prep for the trip, and I got some mountain biking in and finally hiked up to Angel’s Landing, a hike I’ve been wanting to do for years. The trip itself was awesome. It was the first time the 4 day weekend version of our Zion trip has run, and it was an AWESOME trip. It features some really great riding, with opportunities for some great hiking and some time to relax as well. That trip has launched itself to near the top of my “favorite Trek Travel offerings” list. The only downside of my time in Utah was a little incident with a mountain bike, a rocky descent, and a little over the bars action, resulting in a fractured elbow. It was hardly the end of the world though, it was ten days in a soft cast/splint. The timing for having the splint removed couldn’t have been better, as it was the day before our Tour of California trip started.

I had an awesome time working the Tour of California. I got to work with some people I haven’t had the opportunity to work much with in the past, and had a great time with them, and got to work again with some people I haven’t worked with in a long time, and that was great as well. It was quite a show out there with 100 Trek dealers cut loose on Southern California, but excitement was high for everyone with the launch of the Speed Concept. Most of the group took on “The Climb” to our VIP viewing spot just meters past the finish line at Big Bear. The next day we transferred down to Los Angeles, where Trek pulled out all the stops for the Walt Disney Concert Hall presentation of the new Speed Concept, and we had a prime spot on the time trial course following the presentation. We rounded out the weekend with a great viewing spot on the climb of the last stage – cyclists took over famous motorcycle hangout The Rock Store and all day the only thing I could think of was the scene in Super Troopers – “Oh THAT kind of biker.” And of course, any time a ghost story becomes a defining moment in a trip, life is good.

After a month consumed by travel, a Zion Weekend trip, a fractured elbow, and the Tour of California, I could have used a little more time to rest. I basically got home, did some laundry, hit the reset button on a couple things, and got back on a plane. I would have been very happy to have a couple more hours to sleep, and there are people I didn’t see that I would have liked to, and people I saw but wish I could have spent more time with before hitting the road again.

Unfortunately that extra time wasn’t in the cards for my last trip home, and I flipped around and got on a flight to France. I knew there was potential for my travel day into France to be a bit of an adventure, as I connected through Iceland, and you never know when that little volcano might act up again. Not only that, but this is the first time I’ve flown into France without someone who speaks a little French along with me to make sure things go smoothly. Amsterdam solo? No problem, because I can count on a little more English floating around. Paris is a little different, though. Everything went super smoothly, though, flights went without delay, my luggage showed up, I made my train, all was good. Though when I sat down on the train, the thought went through my head, “Well, I’m on A train, I guess we’ll see in a few hours if it’s the RIGHT train.”

Since arriving in France, I’ve bounced around a bunch. I started with a day at the guidehouse in Provence, then it was off to the Pyrenees to start writing routes for our trips in July. The first couple nights I was in Oloron Ste Marie, aka, the town that smells like chocolate. There is a Lindt factory in town, and when the wind was coming from the right direction, all you could smell was chocolate. It was a nice change compared to some of the smells that wafted in if the wind was blowing from the right direction where I grew up. The best thing about that town, however, was not the chocolate. The best pizza I have ever had in France, hands down, was in Oloron Ste Marie, at a place called Pizza Nostra. AMAZING pizza. I would go out on a limb and say it’s the best pizza place in all of France.

After Oloron we moved up to Bordeaux for a couple more days of writing routes. Long days were spent in the van, and it rained intermittently for most of the time I was there, but we got out to the ocean for a minute, where the surf was rocking and surfers were definitely making the best of it. After a few days of cruising the wine region of Bordeaux, it was time to say “a bientot” to Bordeaux and move on to another wine region… Burgundy.

After what felt like a super long drive across France, we arrived in Beaune just in time to get out for a quick ride before it got dark. Rain threatened as we pumped up our tires, but we were optimistic that it would hold off. That optimism soon got rained on. Despite the rain, we went out for 50km that turned into probably the best ride I’ve done all year. It had the perfect mix of a couple climbs and a bunch of small towns for city limit sprints, and the scenery was incredible. This is one of the most beautiful wine regions I’ve been in with some of the best riding. Despite getting rained on, and despite breaking a spoke with 10km to go, that ride was one of my top two rides of the year so far.

Today meant more route writing, but we were able to wrap up in time for another quick ride before dark. We got back just in time to watch the second half of the USA v England game and order some Indian food. That Indian food really hit the spot; we rode past the place on our way into town tonight, and I was pretty pumped when it was still open for dinner by the time we got back there.

Tomorrow we have one more route to write in Burgundy before rolling down to the Alps. I always love getting back to the mountains, so I’m excited to get there!

ABQ to Springdale… almost.

After what may have been the smoothest air travel day of my entire life flying into Albuquerque, I got to chill out a little bit, go for a mountain bike ride, and have a couple beers with some great friends. Then it was a couple days of prepping bikes and getting things ready to roll out for the start of the season. The highlight of my two days in Albuquerque though was catching up with an old friend from college who I hadn’t seen in six years. I hopped on Dan’s Trek Belleville (which, by the way, might be the greatest bike Trek has ever made), and rode the four miles down to the Range Cafe for an I-25 omelette and an hour of catching up with a very cool girl.

Today Kat and I departed Albuquerque for the 9 hour drive to Springdale. Due to the wonders of living in the future, I sat in on a Skype conference call for the Tour of California on my Blackberry while looking at race information and our guest packet on my laptop with a USB broadband card. The only hitch came when the freeway curved a little too close to a cliff and I dropped the signal on the conference call.

We arrived at the east gate of Zion National Park at about 7:45 only to be turned away by the ranger. Apparently there was some kind of “incident” and they weren’t letting any oversized vehicles through. Even though he admitted that we measured UNDER the limits for oversized he called us “marginally oversized but not actually oversized” and that was enough to turn us back. 11 miles from our destination and he was ready to send us 100 miles around the park. After 9 hours in the van and thinking we were only a few minutes away, another 100 miles was not on either of our radar screens. We grabbed a hotel room in East Zion and hopefully the “incident” will be cleared by morning so we can get through.

Starting off a new season!

Walking down the jetway to board my flight to Albuquerque this morning, messenger bag slung over my shoulder, water bottle in hand, it occurred to me once again just how lucky I am. My blue and silver Timbuk2 bag has been all over the US, Canada, Europe, Central America, Australia and New Zealand. It is adorned with a pin from Italy, a mud stain from New Zealand, and a blood stain from Costa Rica. A year ago I was working in a bike shop, rehabbing from a wicked separated shoulder, uncertain if I’d ever be able to go back on the road for Trek Travel. Six months ago I was searching for a new job, thinking that after five years, “living the dream” was about to end.

After five years on the road, I wasn’t super excited about the job anymore. I had a feeling of “been there, done that” about the job. I missed having a place to call my own, a shelf to put my books, a wall to hang my pictures, and a place that felt like home. I started the job search, but I never really quit Trek Travel. No one ever really quits Trek Travel. I did some projects here and there for various companies. I worked from home a bit. I interviewed for a few jobs. As I worked my way through the interview process, was passed on for a couple jobs, offered a couple others, I kept thinking to myself – “This doesn’t sound better than what I’m already doing.” I went to multiple networking and social events in Minneapolis every month, and every time I told someone what I do for a living I got the same response. “That sounds like the best job ever!”

You know what? Every one of those people were right. Working for Trek Travel is the best job ever. Obviously it’s not perfect, nothing is. Even with people, the road can be a lonely place. I miss having a home. It’s hard to have a girlfriend. But at the end of the day, if you have to have a job (and I do, I haven’t hit the Powerball jackpot yet), you couldn’t do much better than guiding for Trek Travel.

Going into the 2010 season, I’m more excited about my job than I’ve been since I boarded a plane bound for Amsterdam to go guide my first ever trip at the Tour de France in 2005. I spent last week in Madison. We started with Return Guide Training, polishing my guide instinct, learning some new and ways to do things, and seeing a lot of the great friends I’ve made over the years working for Trek Travel. Then we brought in a new group of guides for training, and I’m super excited to get a chance to work with a few of them! I’m stoked for the excitement and new ideas they’ll bring to the table. I’ve got a great schedule, starting with trips to Zion National Park and the Tour of California, both trips I’ve guided before and love, and there are guests on both trips that I know and am excited to see. After those trips I’ll get a quick trip home to Minneapolis to see some friends and take my family to a Twins game before getting back on a plane bound for Europe for the Tour de France.

It’s going to be a fun year. I’m glad to be back to living the dream.

Hello world!

Back story. I started a blog when I started for Trek Travel.

It was here:

Then I decided to move it to here:

Now it’s here. Game on.