Down the Rabbit Hole

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Sometimes my otherwise completely normal and healthy lifestyle of cycling, camping, and coffee intersects with Mrs. Pondero’s bizarre world of dog agility. I enjoy those outings with her. It is an opportunity to spend time with her, to learn a little more about her interests, and to support her. Finally, and most importantly, it is an opportunity to establish (refresh?) conclusively which of our loving twosome has the strongest hold on sanity.

Dog agility people have their own bizarre culture. They have special clothes, vocabulary, and buy all manner of obscure gear for their dog-related activities. It seems they make up any kind of excuse to get together and do things with their dogs. Some of these activities include running through complicated courses, and they have a wide variety of intricate rules for doing so. They talk endlessly about things that happened at their last gathering, and where they plan to take their dogs next. Although I get the idea that some of them are “unusually focused” on this activity, it is fascinating to watch these wonderfully warm people enjoy their rituals.

But I always bring a bicycle along. It is a security beacon that helps keep me on firm footing. It is a lifeline that helps me return back to a sane world.

“Sure, I’ll be happy to provide logistics support for your agility trial…but first coffee.”

Hope Like a River

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Sometimes…several consecutive attempts to get away for refreshment can be thwarted. My attitude is bruised, and life looks dark. With a few defeats, the value of the reward fades, and the energy to try again evades me.

Then, according to His good time, an opportunity arises. I can again soak in the glory of what He has made.

So, by force of will, I go. And when I return, hope surges through me, steady and strong like a river.

Time Machine

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I hinted way back in THIS POST that this bike reconnected me back to a vision I had of the perfect bicycle in the 1970s. I went riding and had a sort of flashback. Now that I’ve been riding it for a couple of months, I am finding this re-connection with my younger days wasn’t a one time thing. It is a mysterious and persistent characteristic of this bike. You might have noticed I also mentioned this another way in my LAST POST.

I sold a truly nice riding TREK a few years ago. It was a delightful bike that reminded me of my fitter/faster days. Unfortunately, it also reminded me of my older/slower current days. It pointed out that I was the side of the pedaling partnership that wasn’t up to delivering us to our potential. My inadequacies and flaws were exposed. So even with all the greatness of the bike itself, there was a nagging shadow…a reminder of a physical decline.

The Bantam does the opposite. It simply says, “Come on, let’s play!”. In that way, it is like the humbler bikes I had as a kid. There are no demands or expectations…except to escape, explore, and have fun.

Arkansas, the Sequel

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Another good friend, and another trip to Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas. This time Steve Butcher (@graveldoc) and I teamed up with our knobby tire bikes and camping gear for 4 nights and 3 days of riding.

Now that I’ve completed two of these bikepacking trips, I can say that riding bikes off paved roads, and camping, must be what I was made to do (well, at least the way I’ve done it so far). We didn’t cover a lot of miles, but it was a few days of two buddies playing outside with bikes, camp gear, and coffee toys.

My Bantam AdventureBike is a time machine. I was 10 years old again. And when I returned to being a grandfather, I brought my 10 year old optimism back with me.

Here is a 5-6 minute video to illustrate.

 

April Fools Arkansas Adventure

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Tim and I finally got together for a 4-day bikepacking trip in Arkansas. The trip involved a loop around Lake Ouachita on forest roads and trails. It was just the kind of trip that I had in mind when I ordered the Bantam AdventureBike. We started on April 1, fully aware that there was an almost certain chance we’d experience thunderstorms somewhere along the way. So the working title of this spring’s adventure sort of wrote itself. I’d encourage you to check his blog write-up. He did a better job than I did of telling the story. This post will include mainly a few of my favorite photos and a link to a pretty rough amateur video for which I must (unfortunately) take responsibility.

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The thing about photos is that they never fully convey the magnitude, depth, scale, and feel of reality. The vistas were more dramatic. The climbs were steeper, rougher, and longer. And I was certainly more handsome. The photo above, for example, doesn’t communicate how far we are above a river directly below. We are on a ridge, and at least a hundred feet directly above the river. Standing so close to the edge gave me a sort of adrenaline turbo charge.

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I’m still learning how to use the used GoPro camera I recently bought. Sometimes the wide angle lens gives me fits and doesn’t capture the image I had in my mind when I pulled the trigger. At other times, like at our breakfast scene above, it turns out better than I expected. The camera is easy to carry, waterproof, and has lots of capacity. So I’ll probably continue to play with it for awhile.

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My photo highlights include three images from the Moonshine Shelter. Not only was it visually interesting to me because of the foggy, forest look I don’t get back home on the prairie, it also is memorable due to the weather and travel challenge that proceeded our arrival. Words can’t express how wonderful dry clothes and a hot meal felt. Sleeping in our hammocks out of the rain that night was sublime. This place produced a kind of gratitude that don’t think I’ll ever forget.

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What a contrast the next day’s camp would be! Instead of on a chilly, stormy ridgetop, we’d be on a sunny lakeshore. It seemed we were continually fortunate. What we needed (in this case a chance to dry our wet things), always seemed to come along in due time.

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One of the things that came along in due time was breakfast on the last day. We broke camp before dawn because we wanted to have our breakfast at a cafe about 7 miles into our route. When we arrived, we learned the chosen cafe doesn’t open until lunch time. Fortunately, Tim (the navigation wizard) spotted this place. Inside was (crazy) hot coffee, and a delicious bisquit/egg/cheese/sausage sandwich that fueled us physically and mentally for several miles.

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So if you’ve made it this far, have another 10 minutes, and you want to see more images sprinkled here and there with some video go HERE.

Many thanks to my good friend, Tim! I, most definitely, want to do more of this kind of bicycling.

AdventureBike

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I have many things to say about this bike. Most of them aren’t build details or first impressions. Instead they are deeply personal, and primarily relate to a “vision” of the perfect bicycle I had back in the early 1970s. The vision was most clear in my mind as I was traveling to Big Bend National Park with my parents. I might post more about that here, or perhaps to certain individuals, in a face-to-face setting, who specifically ask to hear the story.