Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ready, Set, Go.

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I spent some time this morning talking to my friend Jason about a trip we’ve been working for quite a while, a long while in fact. Needless to say it’s to a place that’s been high on our list or we wouldn’t have expended all this time and effort trying to make it work.

We could certainly throw a wad of cash at some well-known “adventure” company (which is essentially an oxymoron), but that’s not our style. We prefer to come up with an idea then figure out every aspect on our own, but without over-planning the hell out of it. That way, from start to finish, we own it. Like building a bike — if you build it from the ground up, every pedal stroke will have a personal investment in it because you own the entire experience.

In a nutshell, our trip outline started like this:

–          Turn up at the airport

–          Fly as far as we can

–          Take a bus

–          Walk the rest of the way

–          Experience

That plan was all fine and good but what we found was that airfare was insanely expensive to our destination of choice and wasn’t getting any cheaper. The airfare alone was close to the entire cost of our two months of travel in South Asia. Week after week I’ve been trying to connect the dots in different ways through different hubs here in the States, but the results were always the same, too expensive. It seriously got to the point where we had to start thinking that maybe the trip wouldn’t go off this year after all and we’d have to resort to Plan B. Sure, we could simply choke down the cost of the airfare and go anyhow, but we wanted to stay honest to our travel style and not just sell out to “easy”. By the way, Plan B was not all that bad!

Anyhow, our proposed departure date is coming up fast and we needed to make some serious decisions, pronto. That said, I recently started pondering my approach to our airfare search and realized that maybe I’d been walking too straight of a line with my thinking. Independent international travel requires us to think outside the box almost every minute of the day and when we do that, we can make things happen on the fly that probably we’d thought impossible before. Why we don’t think that way when we’re home is a mystery.

I can vividly remember me and  Jason having a conversation with a lady in Nepal who was traveling with a tour group (I think it was Backroads). She told us there was no way she could just pack up and come to Nepal and start “traveling” on her own. First of all, yes she could. To do so though, she’d have to be willing to be uncomfortable, to think outside the box (again, almost by the minute), be willing to “let go” of control and be willing to learn something about herself. Linear thinking and self imposed limiations are definitely not your friends when traveling solo.

I honestly think trying to find air transportation after being back in a comfortable, in-the-box routine sort of led me down the path of NOT truly thinking creatively. With the balance of the whole trip now teetering on how creative I could be, I basically just set the box on fire and get serious about it.

The result? I managed to save us almost $600 per roundtrip ticket is what! Yes, now we may have to spend a night or two in DF or BOG coming and going, but added mini adventures in non-planned foreign cities has never been a bad thing in our world.

Getting back outside the box, flexing that adaptive travel mentality and coming up with a viable travel solution definitely gets my travel adrenaline flowing again. Certainly doesn’t help my work motivation or focus, but it definitely gets me excited! It almost makes 30+ hours of air travel seem fun, well, at least tolerable.

Tickets, passports, backpacks, open minds…ready, set, go.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.

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Different Places, Different Paces

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I love autumn. LOVE. IT. And right now is arguably the best mountain biking of the year because the weather here in Colorado is about perfect. Not only that, it seems our entire state is blanketed in an ocean of gold leaves providing us a backdrop to trails that will take your very breath away. Because of that, the trails we’ve been riding all summer have suddenly taken on a different feel and it’s sometimes like we’re riding them for the first time instead of the 20th time. Even better, instead of dropping the hammer every time we clip into our pedals, our pace seems to slow and we tend to spend more time absorbing the views, our friendships and our good fortune of living in such an amazing place.

This week I’ve been making a point of riding after work just about every day simply because next weekend the time will change and our midweek afternoon rides will all but dry up with the lack of afternoon sun. Sure, we’ll still take a full afternoon off from to time to ride, but our staple afternoon routine of starting at 3:30 and riding until 5:30-6:00 (and many times later) won’t be so convenient as with the long daylight hours of summer. There is definitely some fun to be had night riding in the evenings, but again, not quite as relaxing as a summer ride if you have to wear a headlamp and bundle up against the cold.

As I mentioned above, I love the slower pace that seems to accompany this time of year. On Tuesday I rode with Adam and right from the start we set a nice leisurely pace, enjoyed the views, chatted aimlessly and caught up on life (like we don’t do that about every day) while riding familiar singletack we hadn’t been able to ride until recently because of the flooding. We’ve literally ridden hundreds and thousands of miles together since spring but I liked Tuesday;s ride as much as any other we’d done. We’ve definitely had epic days where we both were gasping for air on long climbs at high altitude and been gripped out of our minds on some pretty spicy descents, which aren’t really all that conducive to idle chit chat. That’s not to say we never talk when we ride, we do, but it always seems a little quicker pace of riding during the height of the season.

Same with my friend Carin, we’ve ridden hundreds of miles since spring and most of the time we’d just leave the trailhead and simply take care of business for mile after mile of singletrack. Yet, last night we left the trailhead to do one of our staple afternoon rides and right from the start, the pace was subdued. Unlike mid season, in a sixteen mile loop we probably stopped no less than half a dozen times to take in the view, talk about life, our future travel projects and take a few photos along the way.

To give you an idea of our pace, we can normally complete this sixteen mile loop, even with the climbing and couple of technical sections, in about an hour, maybe a few minutes more. This week when I rode it with Adam and again with Carin yesterday, it took us closer to two hours. Carin even commented at one point that she couldn’t remember a time when we rode so slow.

Sometimes during the season we’d get back to the car after a big day out and we’d feel mentally and physically exhausted, though fulfilled, with pushing our respective envelopes, which is always fun. But in direct contrast to that, I’ve felt that our rides this week have been even more fulfilling because it was more about slowing down and simply spending time with each other while we do what we love.

Same thing when I ski. Yeah, there are days when it’s fun to come out of the parking lot with our guns a’ blazin’ and just rip up thousands of vertical feet in a matter of hours on the piste — and those days definitely have their place in the mix. But the days I love most are the early mornings when we get up (and I’m talking about 04:00 a.m.) and skin up a resort long before the crowds ever wake. Just me and a friend trudging up some steep trail to a ridge where we’ll sit, talk and wait until right before the lifts open to the crowds whereupon we strap on our skis and helmet and let it fly in complete solitude. Same with the backcountry. I love getting away from the crowds, setting a climbing pace where we can talk, catch up, philosophise and exactly like I said about about mountain biking, do the things I love with the people I love.

I’m so fortunate to have such amazing family and friends who truly appreciate the fortune of good health and the fact that we live in such an amazing place and can do the things we do. But I’m even more fortunate that these same people appreciate what livin’ the dream is truly all about — sharing the things we love with the people we love. That’s the only stuff that counts when it gets down to it.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.

When It’s Not Fun, Well, It’s Not Fun.

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I love taking photos, especially when I travel or sometimes when I’m out riding my mountain bike, skiing and out road tripping. I also love taking photos of my friends doing what they do, or taking them for their Christmas cards and other such things. And sometimes I love taking photos just because I want to experiment with some creativity. The only times I don’t like taking photos is when I have to sacrifice a moment of enjoyment, like stopping during some amazing powder turns, watching life unfold in a foreign city or when I’m ripping some epic singletrack or basically when taking photos starts to feel like a job.

I seldom feel creative when I feel like I’m sacrificing one thing for the other. I’d rather enjoy the moment than alter it with hopes the altered moment will be better. I get lots of ski days in a season and ride hundreds, if not thousands of miles on my mountain bike in a given year, but the reality is that few of those days are epic powder days or mind blowing singeltrack adventures. Sometimes I have to decide whether I want to enjoy the moment, or capture the moment.

While I fancy myself a fairly decent photographer (when I actually do more than just point and shoot for giggles), I certainly don’t categorize myself as a “pro” photographer. I have a nice DSLR, have some cool mid-level lenses and I love trying to capture photos that will hopefully help me relive places I’ve traveled and spark memories of things I’ve seen. This especially applies to travel photography. I’m also the first to admit that I seldom share a lot of my photos with others because sometimes I want to remember them the way I want to remember them — without judgment, bias or critique from the general public. That may sound weird, but it is what it is. I did however start a website and do that thing for a while and even sold a few photos, but I haven’t been good about keeping it updated of late. http://barryreesephotography.com/index2.php#/home/

Anyhow, in the last several months it seems that I’ve fallen into that “point and shoot for giggles” rut and really haven’t flexed my creativity with the camera all that much. Here and there I will, but not as regularly as in the past. My buddy Jason is currently in grad school studying illustrative arts and is blowing my mind with his work. My good friend Jesse is of course crushing it with his amazing sculptures http://roguestudios.biz/. Similarly, my good friend Eleanor Moseman was just featured in an article in Nikon USA http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Article/hjbkuyyd/going-solo-a-two-wheel-photo-journey-across-asia.html. (No, I don’t even consider myself close to her level of talent!) My long time friend Marc Hudson http://marchudsonartgallery.com/, is also creating amazing things down in Santa Fe. My friend CJ, uber talented http://lathamjrphotography.com/. While they all serve as motivation for me to jump out of the rut and start creating again, I think it was more important for me to rediscover the spark for creativity from within. I personally think the best work always comes from within the heart, regardless of what art medium is chosen.

I had a fantastic mountain biking season, right up until the flooding here in Colorado washed away much of the local trails I loved to ride. I think a lot of the reason this season was so great is that every time I went out to ride, I focused on the ride and living in that very moment. If it was raining, I tried to enjoy it. If it was a day for lung busting climbing, I tried to get into the rhythm and enjoy the process. Blistering fast descents, well, let the adrenaline flow uninterrupted for a few minutes. Because of this, I seldom if ever took my DSLR along and mostly only opted to carry my little point and shoot. Part of that is because it makes me nervous to carry an expensive camera given my propensity to crash and harshly find the ground from time to time. Still, I just wanted to ride for the sake of riding and enjoy the scenery with my eyes.

This morning I was looking back at some of the snapshots I took while biking and stumbled upon a little project I did with my friend Bryan Kramer, who happens to race singlespeed mountain bikes all over the world. He’s a super cool guy who I always love hanging around with because he shares that live-in-the-moment attitude that I find so essential. I think being around him one evening back when I did this project sparked my desire to pick up the camera one morning and play around with some ideas. He fortunately humoured me and met me at sun up to take some photos and let me experiment a bit. Again, I am no “pro”, but it was a fun morning for learning a little about my camera — as well as how I could get my ass kicked by a guy with only one speed on his bike (I sport 30 gears by the way and sometimes would like another).

Looking back through these photos has gotten me back into thinking about formulating similar projects. Yes, I have some travels coming up soon and that is always my time to keep my camera at the ready and be creative, but right now I think I’m ready to narrow the focus and start learning some new things about photography and  some post shooting production methods. Who knows where I’ll take this line of thinking, but I think it’s safe to say I’ll be hitting up some of my friends to use as guinea pigs in the coming weeks. Now that I think about, there’s that living in the one of the most beautiful places on earth that could factor into photographic creativity as well.

Thanks Kramer for getting out on a cold morning back then.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.

Cha-Cha-Changes

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Had I taken the picture above two weeks ago, there would’ve been no whitish hue across the high peaks. However, every year about this time everyone here on the Front Range peeks up that way during their morning commute anticipating the first legitimate dusting of snow signaling the changing of the seasons. Yes, the leaves generally start changing colours a couple of weeks or so before the peaks get hit with white, but seeing the mountains change really opens the door for thoughts of the next season and all the powder days ahead.

Summer is always full of fun times filled with long days of hiking in the mountains amongst beautiful wildflowers, mountain biking along high ridges, strolling along Pearl Street with friends, music festivals, beer tastings and sitting outside at restaurants with friends long into the evenings. Then, invariably, come late August or early September, the wind will pick up one afternoon, it will smell different, maybe the rain comes and voila!, when you walk out the next morning to go to work, you feel that sharp bite in the air and you grab a jacket for the for the first time in three or four months.

When that scenario plays out, my little group of friends will typically kick into emergency mode and start getting all the season’s unfinished projects (mountain biking, climbing, etc) moved to front burner and completed before conditions dictate they be brought to a close. Just a few weeks ago we rode the Monarch Crest, a classic high altitude traverse down in Central Colorado, knowing that our window for dry trails (re:no snow) was closing fast due to the changing seasons. Sure enough, a week after we rode it, severe weather here across most Colorado pretty well closed out that opportunity for another year.

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Another way we “celebrate” the changes of the seasons is by sequestering ourselves into my garage for an evening to prep the coming season’s gear. For the change from summer to winter activities, we have come to affectionately call these little soirees our “Wednesday, Wax and Whiskey Sesh”. These are nights when we pop the top on a beer or sample a little whiskey while we wax and tune our skis. We also catch up on the latest doings in each other’s lives and in the case of this past Monday, start dreaming about all the powder turns we’ll make in the coming season. Of course during the actual ski season, these Wednesday evening sessions (about every 4-5 weeks) will convert over to reminiscing about all the powder turns we’ve made thus far and naturally, those still yet to come.

I feel bad for people who don’t get out each and every season and have things they love to do. If I didn’t ski, winter would seem way longer than it already is. If I only skied and didn’t mountain bike, trail run, climb, fly fish and camp when it’s warm, summer would just be a time when I had to mow twice a week until winter came back. Making the changes from season to season is easy when you fully throw yourself into life and just have fun with what Mother Nature gives us! Like the saying goes, “No such thing as bad weather, only improper gear and clothing”. Embrace the changes!

So, as you see, I’m usually not all that opposed to changes. In fact, I see changes as opportunities for new experiences, new views and new paths. However, sometimes changes can kick you right in the gut, like the loss of a friend or a family pet, both of which happened in my little household this past month. While the passing of life is painful for the people still living, it is one of the realities of existing we simply can’t escape. Sitting along the Bagmati River in Pashupatinath, Nepal a couple of years ago, watching pyre after pyre being built and seeing the steady stream of the deceased being cremated right before my eyes brought this reality home in very guileless and unnervingly graphic terms.

While adapting to changing seasons can be fun, changes like losing the people and things you love is certainly tougher to adapt to. When this does happen, my therapy is generally to get on my bike and go for long, long rides, maybe strap on my skis and go for a nice, long tour in the mountains or simply go camp by a river and just have time to think. The point for me is not to escape, but to experience ALL the emotions fully, without filters. My meditation is to fall into the arms of the places I love and simply let go. When I do this, I can honestly  learn to accept and more importantly, sincerely learn to heal.

Because of my spiritual and philosophical beliefs, I fully accept the reality of change and accept that there is nothing I can do that will ever stop it. What I can do though is live every day to the fullest, tell the people closest to me how much they mean to me, never let an opportunity for fun pass me by and sincerely live with no regrets. I’ll always miss my friends who have passed and definitely will miss the pets that I’ve loved, but I will always have the comfort going forward in knowing I’ve amassed an over-stuffed cache of good memories because I never let a day pass that I wasn’t up for a bit of fun.

Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live big.