Boy, Bye

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Age is not an injury, but recently the Thedirtmagnet might argue otherwise.  The most recent catalyst for this burgeoning tanty is a simple cocktail, wherein one mixes TDM’s favorite person (Pinky), a planned 3-week vacation to the deserts of the four-corners region[1] and (now for the active ingredient) a sudden back/nerve injury which leveled TDM on day 5, and then reduced him to nearly four consecutive weeks of intense pain.  Sure, there were still adventures to be had, but if choices were given, TDM would prefer that the fifteen foot traverse from his bed to the bathroom not constitute an expedition requiring ten minutes of intense emotional and procedural preparation. TDM had heard that someday this kind of thing might happen[2], but as it turns out, knowing about the future does not save us from it, now does it?

Uncalled for change is a prickly dish, and after building his life around action there are legions of reasons why being physically shanghaied might lead TDM to huck a pea or two in protest.  If TDM used his words in the place of flying food he might note that the pain, lack of sleep, and other fundamentally physical sufferings are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, as they are merely unpleasant, but in no way a threat to his being.  No, the real threat implied by his new sedentism is more spiritual (don’t freak out…stay on target), and  centered on the thus far unchallenged fear that TDM as a person is too crispy a chip to be happy without the constant soothing motion of physical distraction.  Indeed, this fear harried our hero in the early days of his ordeal, and as he lay tensed in his injury pod with every controller, book, beverage, snack and drawing tool inside the radius of his limited reach, he at times swore he could hear the existential riders of the identity apocalypse howling “if you are not moving, you are not you!”

But thankfully the movement, it turns out, has always been more mind than body, and as the sound of existential hooves faded out of range TDM has set to the business of enjoying and growing in other ways unfairly neglected  in such mobile environs.  And the result…much the same as the more kinetic version of TDM…tea left to cool in the microwave…projects half completed….schematics and maps spread about the place, only in a much smaller radius of influence and chaos.  In the end, Thedirtmagnet in both his real and imaginary incarnations appears to be more robust than feared to be, so he has that going for him…which is nice.

Having had a few thousand moments to consider the obvious ponderous questions, TheDirtMagnet could at this time easily hose-down the (nonexistent) reader with so much drivel about the meaning of life and other pointless tragedies of thought, but instead he will talk more about his feelings….just kidding…sort of[3].   A review of the experience has led to this mundane truth: It is true that his long-anticipated plan for vacation bliss was an almighty disaster, but strangely TDM would not trade the intended for the result.   Throughout the early days of the ordeal a thing was shared with Pinky whose scarcity is legendary…we were connected, present, and more than not laughing. Added to this has been the palpable sense that the navigation of events unknown  and spirited is the very soul of adventure, even if it takes place on I-80 as your loved one tries to get you home with the least amount of suffering possible.  In fact, this traversing of unknown boundaries sounds suspiciously similar to most of TDM’s treasured solo rides, only with the bonus of sharing memorable times with his best friend…gushy, but undeniably splendid, no?  Add to this the benefits of time soaked in neglected mental passions, and this spell of immobility can only be viewed through the eyes of the obliged…weird, huh?

If wishes were gratis, and TDM could choose his choices, he would at this very moment remove all hints of injury and ride strait from his house to the top of Mary’s Peak in celebration of his love of geography and wheels[4]…no doubt about it.  But wishes are not involved here, and in the end TDM is happy enough to be granted this thought;  if it is true that right now he is mildly paralyzed and unable to act, then he will take this inaction to be a sign that new ground  is broken merely by staying gracefully still, and in this case there is some solace in knowing that if even doing nothing is an adventure, then the TDM corps d’esprit remains intact, and his mischief is clearly being managed as per the master-plan.

… now hand him that controller, and get the F out of the way.

[1] …traversing various wild  canyons for Anasazi evidences, with occasional bikepacking episodes  as needed.

[2] …aging denial is no new trick for TDM…take his insistence that his GPS seems to be broken because strava says he is getting slower, even as he feels like things are happening faster.

[3] So much worse.

[4] …and sick descents…he has definitely missed sick descents.

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The Winter of our Discontent

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Where have you been all  of my (winter of 16-17) life?  Perfection on Grassy Mtn.

If you survived Western Oregon during this winter of 2016-17, then fair-play would have already provided you a settlement for therapists fees incurred…we are a grumpy and soggy bunch.  True, this pattern of eternal rain and bluster has provided an unusually robust season for skiing and TV watching, but the number of viable laps of how to train your dragon is finite, and we are all way beyond that by now.  Add in a bout of injuries, a few random aging events and a weeklong vacation to MOAB that was no less soggy than a normal trip to the Oregon coast, and we have a cabin-fever inducing cocktail of truly extraordinary proportions.

Then, on a recent Friday, all consulted forecasts predicted 100% chance of not rain, and TDM pounced, telling his boss to count him out, and calling around  for partners in solar collection experimentation.  There were any number of possible options, with a long list of list-rides ready to be crossed off, and consultation with Yetiwheel resulted in an agreement to go try an alleged classic del LoggingRoadCyclist:  the Grass Mountain Loop.  The short version; TDM feels much better now, despite the current pattern of returned and utter wetness.  Indeed, TLRC tells no lies this time around…this is a sweet little adventure close to home, and TDM is saved…for now.

Exhibit 1:  The ride up involves some pretty solid climbing, spaced by pleasant sections of relatively low angel cruising, mostly through second growth timber as the road rolls along streams, past waterfalls, and eventually onto the fabulous Easter Ridge.  Several times the promise of vistas in the form of light pouring through the trees taunt, but the first real views come at the clearcut shown above.  Don’t worry…it gets better, as evidenced by…

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Views of Marys Peak and the more distant Cascades, with most of the rough climbing behind us.

The steep stuff hit about the time TDM began thinking to himself that this climb seems like it should have been a little harder, but that is so often the case, no?  Luckily the brutal parts don’t last long, and  scenery like that shown above distracts much of the way.  Sometimes a clearcut can be a best friend.  About this time some patches of snow began to appear, and then, quite suddenly, the road ended.  At first TDM was perplexed, but a scant trail was found.

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The doubts improve the adventure in the end, no?

After a short tussle with some salal and nobles the first meadow is found (see below and the photo at top of page as well).

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The Honzo appears to like this breed of April Day a bit more than most recent versions. Cool geology and views of the summit (and the ocean) don’t hurt.

Some scanning of maps and head scratching took place from the above vantage, but then a series of cool decommissioned roads was found, and two miles later, the top was made.

After a snack and some mucking about playing in the snow and investigating other summit mysteries, the final descent begins by charging free-ride style through a meadow, then picking up an old road that winds a short distance south to a waiting logging road in a clearcut.  Max speeds and a few loose turns took TDM past a few big trees, and then finally back to his waiting car near the town of Alsea.

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Trailish qualities with a freedom to stray off-line.  So damn novel!

More info on this route is available through the Logging Road Cyclist’s awesome website, with a map of his route here.  There are several ways to connect the dots, but the route he shows  seems to be a good place to start.  Enjoy!

To Whom it May Concern

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TDM and the W Pony contemplating Windy Lakes majesty on an overnight circuit…a rare  singletrack opportunity in this or any state of the union, and something now threatened.

There is a well-intended proposal for a new wilderness boundary with the Crater Lake Wilderness Proposal.  This current proposal may eliminate 233 miles of premium MTB single track in our back yard.  Most notably, the Lake Timpanogas area, Upper Middle Fork, Umpqua River Trail and the Rogue River Trail.   

The Trans-Cascadia  non-profit organization is acting as a vehicle to gather thoughts and opinions and get them to the right people, and TDM is 200% behind them on this.

If the loss of trails like the Umpqua Trail is something you would like to raise your voice about, TheDirtMagnet staff would like to salute you, and then provide these links to get involved.  Also helpful: post links on your social media and get word out there!

Please complete this  5 minute survey to help with this effort!

You might want to consult this list of trails and\or this map.  There are a bunch of classics on this list folks!

Below are my thoughts on the issue…a bit less TDM persona than usual, but…important

To Whom it May Concern

I am an Oregon Native who has been raised with conservation and wild places in the forefront of my personal and family life.  After living abroad for many years I returned to Oregon because of my love for many places and activities found here.   Despite the many rewarding opportunities I have turned down to live here, I would make this choice again.   These interests permeate everything in my life…my career is in the conservation field, and then on weekends I hike, fish, kayak, hunt, surf, and bike in areas that rival the best in the country for each pursuit and interest.  I do this alone, and with friends and family.  Sometimes these activities are large scale adventures, while other times they involve tiny outings with kids, my elders, or friends for whom these types of activities are new.  To me, the strength of this state has always been found in the balance of things.  We have one of the highest ratios of wilderness per square mile in the union…a fact that I have celebrated, fought for and enjoyed for all of my 48 years.  But we also have areas which are backcountry and wild by nature, yet remain accessible to a wider variety of uses and users.  I value these lands in equal parts, and for different reasons.

In recent years I have increasingly become aware of the amazing resources Oregon has available for mountain biking, and exploring both new and familiar spaces on a bike has become a large part of my personal and family life.  While there are a  number of trails open to bikes in the state, it is the trails which have a backcountry and/or high cascades aesthetic which have the most appeal for myself and many of my friends.  These trails are in much higher abundance in the southern half of the Oregon Cascades than almost anywhere else in the country, and they are not only a state treasure, but a national and international jewel, as demonstrated by the many foreign friends I have met in these places.  While there may be more of these trails found in this area than in the majority of other places, they are still a rare commodity.  This is part of why these trails are known internationally, and picked by cyclists from around the globe (and region) as their next vacation destination or annual pilgrimage.

While I can relate strongly to the desire to conserve these wonderful areas as a part of a designation that might protect them from various future threats, to me I find a greater risk in losing the balance of different types of engagement in the Oregon I love.  We have so much to share in this state, but ruling out one of the fastest growing and most proactive user groups frequenting these areas strikes me as short-sighted.  If these trails were not so beloved and perfectly suited to bike use I would likely not bother to protest, but in this case, many of these trails are among the finest and most well-loved cycling trails in North America, offering long sections of rare beauty, adventure and all with relatively easy access.  In particular the Umpqua Trail, The Brown mtn. loop, the upper Middle Fork Willamette trail, and the trails in the area of Timpanogas and Windy Lakes are considered iconic sections of trail in the world of mountain biking, recognized on every continent as reasons in themselves for visiting Oregon.

On a more personal note, the loss of bike access to these trails would be a tremendous blow to myself and my family and friends.  The fact that these trails can be linked together to create a huge variety of bike-packing options is one type of loss (as this characteristic is extremely rare, even in Oregon), but also I would lose the chance to explore areas on a bike that I might not otherwise venture…as an example I would not bother to use or recommend use of the Umpqua trail to hikers, as there are other locations nearby offering traits better suited to backpacking or day hikes. But on a bike…there are few trails in the world that I could recommend more, and I return annualy because of that. As it is I hope to someday visit nearly every trail on this list on my bike someday, and that is many years’ worth of weekends away where I get to stay in-state.  If these trails were to be lost to bike use, I would likely visit only a handful of these, and my current interest and engagement in these areas would fade quickly, lost to other places (of much lower quality) that allow me to occasionally ride my bike.

In my perfect life there are places and times for backpacking, horsepacking, and venturing into declared wilderness. In this same perfect life there are places and times where I might ride my bike on wild trails as well.  These two dreams need not occupy the same space and time, but as it is right now, they coexist in my home state, and I and my friends and family would be crushed if it were otherwise.

Regards, TheDirtMagnet

The Secrets That You Keep

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Remote Sensing will reveal the location, or TDM and his kind could just blab about it.

If horizons mark the extent of our vision then our worlds are defined too by the edges of our maps; those places where the illuminated familiar meet the vagaries of the terrra obscura.  The compulsion to push into these geographic vacuums is not universal, but our neural systems are tuned to detect motion and edge, and certain types of curious souls cannot resist the tiny dark horizons still left to our imaginations.  Place TheDirtMagnet squarely in this classification, and then picture him searching a sea of maps with a cup of tea in one hand (very dignified), and a slow smile on his lips as he circles his latest area of interest with the other.

It is still true that maps do not describe every detail, but the amount of information available at a swipe is staggering, and adventure is increasingly an act of willful ignorance where the practitioner finds just enough data to hint a scheme[1], then ventures out on their own terms to verify their hunches[2].  The results of chasing these blank zones most typically lie in a mundane place between the horrific and the sublime…a surprisingly boring outcome for a bold vision.  Indeed, the occasional fiasco is in some ways a more desirable outcome, as the stories last longer than the pain, and there is little harm in sharing a chuckle at one’s self-declared idiocy with some friends over a beer.

But what happens in those rare cases when the practitioner finds their unicorn?  Do they drool like Gollum or babble to themselves in the manner of certain animated gulls?  Do they hide it away to all but a few chosen ones, and there-in maintain the feeling that they are the keepers of some great beauty, and others are not so worthy as them to know of it?  Or do they post it on Instagram with links to KOM’s or whatever, and thus declare the former secret in their name?

Many options exist, and TDM has lived them all at one time or another. For the finder, the battle of the blab is a nuanced thing, and the decision to talk may bend less around images of grandeur than it does visions of monsters…overcrowding, loss of ownership, damage to the resource, or in the case of bikes a very real concern about access loss due to the complaints/abuses of other users of trails. These are real things, and are reason enough for any aspiring Vasco De Gamma to pause and consider.

But there is a second class of discovery that is actually pretty common when chasing rainbows in the Oregon land of MTB; that of the near miss, the almost perfect, the if only.  These are trails, marked on maps and accessible to all, but lacking in some class of fate, luck and design, and therefore sustained as a question rather than an answer.  Occasionally one of these is underserving of this status, having nothing more offensive than the habit of a few downed trees as a primary dooming feature.

For TheDirtMagnet and a few other souls there is currently an example of this exact scenario, where within the Old Cascades trail system (the Pyramids)  the finest singletrack dreams have been lying in wait since well before folks first rode bikes on the soils of the Cascades. When TDM first began rolling about the old cascades trails he was left (relatively) speechless at the promise they exude, but each season showed adequate trail maintenance in these parts to be a rare bird indeed.  At first he tried to contact the USFS to divine chopping schedules, but quickly it became apparent that there was no solution, the local district being overwhelmed by 500+ miles of singletrack, and only a few hands to wield saws. As a result, TDM and a few others sampled what portions they could for the few weeks in October they were clear each year, and the other 10.5 months of the year dreamed of chainsaws and able bodies.  After several cycles of waiting and wishing and dreaming, TDM (among others) put up what flags he has.  After all, the pyramids are not secrets to keep, but trails marked on maps, with posted signs and ample parking.  With so many other secrets still out there, there seemed little reason to deny us all a treat in the name of a Gollum’s desire.

And then this:  the other day TDM received via email a few hints of bodily harm for his part in releasing the cat from its bag. Such strong reactions can only come from a feeling of fear for what can be lost, and though the vehemence of the delivery mystifies most casual observers, sympathy can easily be found for this overexcited individual’s concerns and the strong feelings they precipitate.  In this case it is easy to see that, like recent political trends, the urge to lash out may come from a place of deep fear that should be honored to a degree, even though in reality there nothing here that the perpetrator should fear to loose.

Other than love, what do we as people want more than that space to be ourselves which secret places provide us?  Aided in our freedom by the wheels beneath us, those in the know have found the Pyramids to offer ample opportunities in this regard, and for some of us this is truly a secret garden.  With that truth being evident, TheDirtMagnet has much room for the fears of change and loss. Though many gems lie in remote areas, this solitude is no longer available in places like the nearby McKenzie trail, which on a prime summer day can have a hundred bikers and untold others buzzing around its 25 miles of stunning line, so it can be excused if the thought of loosing yet another zona zucreto makes someone like TDM (who have done their homework and found these private zones on their own accord) break out in hives or a fit of violence at the thought of loosing it to the  hordes from Portland, Bend and beyond arriving unbidden and unearning.  Indeed, there are areas which TDM will never expose for these sorts of reasons, but here is the thing in this case: The Pyramids will never be the Mckenzie.  There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the physical difficulty and backcountry nature of riding here.  An excellent example could be drawn to the O’Leary Loop, which is now enjoying global fame as one of the best rides in Oregon.  Despite massive amounts of trail improvements, and much hype in print and web, it remains, by in large, a lonely place.  In three rides there this summer (all on prime weekend days) TDM saw a grand total of six people, all of whom were shuttling the final 4 mile descent, which is a ride that has been on the Oregon A-list for years.  Sure, tire tracks are now observable, and the trail rolls a little better from use, but it still feels, and is, remote and socially unobtrusive.  The Pyramids are similar in nature, but physically even harder…it may or may not be exactly secret, but the garden will still be ours to enjoy in solitude on any given day. Only now, we can simply pick a summer day and ride without having to consult a saw-sensitive genie to give you the green light. Fear not, pick your day, and go love it.

Cheers from the staff at TheDirtMagnet

 

[1] TheDirtMagnet  has perfected the spilling of  foodstuffs across maps as one method of data avoidance.  Gazpacho and/ various chowders work well, but a beet-based slurry is most effective.

[2]…perhaps further handicapping the self by riding naked into the semi-unknown on a rigid single speed tricycle…tassels not optional.

The Year that was: 2016

Here we have a new year, with the old one already largely forgotten and thrown aside.  Still, TDM feels some pressure to reflect from (the) two individuals who frequently frequent this site and leave TDM crumbs of their approval and needs.  So, for them I will now proceed with the (now) annual Magnet awards for the year that was; 2016.  Selfishness will also surface, and some mention of future plans will be mentioned in the below.  You may now commence with the yawning and droopy eyes.

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Low snowpack meant riding in places TDM often skiis for the second winter in a row.  If one comes equipped with toys, all eventualities are covered.

The broad summary is this: TDM rode less often, and failed to grab as many list rides as he might have preferred, but dude more than made up for that by the quality of the times had…a few lovable disasters helped as well, as did his 2nd new hardtale of the year (obtained after breaking the Dark Horse only 30 days into ownership).  Dark clouds, then bright sun, then clouds again…repeat.  Life in a nutshell, eh?

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Grasshopper delivers, but is better ridden after the saws have done their work.

2016 in Review:

TDM’s 2016 rating: B+, with signs of brilliance.

Best ride nominations: 1) Grasshopper day with the crew ( Finally put it together, and we did a lot of hooting on the final descent)  2) O’Leary w Gnat-Man and Big-Papi (Great to get the boys out on this one), 3) Ollallie via the back door (Big solo day, and saw zero people) 4) Pyramids via Soda w the crew (Great crew, and got to show off the whole pyramids deal….EB off the couch was impressive)  5) Pyramid Day with Tricky( getting to know a rad guy a bit better, snapping some piccies, and laughing and hooting most of the time)  6) Alsea Falls w the Meilo & the schreddy kids(Last time I rode w these kids they were solid.  Now they shred, and we rode tight and pretty fast)  7) Prairie Peak-Alsea Falls linkup w Gnat-M  (A novel linkup of a classic TLRC ride w a good buddy.  The look on an enduro dude’s face as we descended to the top of the normal Alsea singletrack…priceless.) [Shit that’s a lot of stiff competition]

 

Winner is…a Tie!  O’Leary w Gnat and Papi, or Pyramids W TrickyMeans…, two of the better riding days o TDM’s little life.

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A boy and his bike…Trick and his new Honzo atop Crescent Mtn.

Best Descent nominations: South Pyramid Trail, A secret Location in the Cascades, The Twinns,  Marys Peak, Crescent Mountain, The GBC (Grasshopper through Box Canyon), The Mining road off the top of Canal Ridge.

                Winner is…The GBC…but S Pyramid takes 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

                Honorable mentions: South Pyramid and a Secret Loc in the cascades,

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The White Pony getting ready to drop the GBC to end a session on Grasshopper.

And now for TDM’s favorite annual award:

Spectacular failure nominations:  1) Bad Bridge- braking my brand new hardtale (and nearly myself) in the middle of nowhere on a cold, snowy day in the cascades.  Thanks for nothing slimy bridge. 2)  Failure to loop due to a cliffband on Canal ridge…I’m coming back, and bringing a rope.  3) Hopper Fail 1 -Trying to do Grasshopper the week before the Cascade Enduro crowd cut it out (lots of trees down, and had to retreat…glad I was alone for this caper).  4) The unmentionable fiasco at a secret location in the cascades…one of the best descents in Oregon, yet I won’t return again….Am I an idiot because I loved it?

Spectacular failure award: Bad Bridge…though I like my new Honzo even more than my departed Dark HorseJ.

Other Notable moments:

  • Amazing partnerships with the USFS, COTA, SATA, and others in working to improve the Old Cascades area trails.  The Pyramids are getting the attention they deserve.
  • One particular moment watching tricky loam-strafe some ferns w detritus on S Pyramid Trail, only to experience the same sensation and sounds myself seconds later….a moment forever frozen in my mind.

Biggest Regrets: Not one bikepacking effort, failed to treat himself to Round-Lookout Mtn AGAIN this year….sigh.  One of my favorite rides in the world, and yet…blew it for the second year in a row.

2016 themes to come

  • Riding with people more frequently…so revolutionary, this social interaction thing.
  • Helping with trail work at the Pyramids, Alsea Falls, and the Mac…get out there!
  • Big 1 day loops linking trails and cool logging road routes, a la Bohemian Crayfish…I’ve got some epics in mind, and at least one grudge with the Canal Creek Traverse and a certain cliffband that keeps fucking up masterful plans.
  • Bigger loops involving bikepacking.
  • A continued ticking away of various list rides and untested areas…TDM has several promising ones already marked on the maps and ready for trial..

Thanks for (not) checking in, and talk with you all soon – TheDirtMagnet.

Party of One

With a long life of following his obsessions alone due to the outright obscurity of those endeavors, TDM has been raised to proceed Han Solo style, with the various Millennium Falcons of his life carrying him alone along the lines his maps point out.   We are told it is a bad idea to engage in backcountry pursuits alone, but the D-Magnet’s imagination begs action, and for the last 40 years, with or without your company he has loaded up and headed out.  Do you blame him?  The maps that spill across his little study hole contain many clues worth pursuing, and some of the best moments of his life have occurred without fanfare, away from the eye of strava, photographers or other vouchers and proofs.  This solo-mission ethic has evolved from its early incarnations, which were born of simple necessity; with no peers available to play with the boats, rods and bikes of his earliest adventures, he simply hauled off alone each time a bad idea seemed worth pursuing.  Later, as (boating) ambitions increased, TDM assessed that slipping away undetected in the cover of early morning light might just be the safer option for all concerned.  Over time these practical solutions became habit, and eventually the lonely road was assumed to be the only path available, and TDM simply stopped asking others for the pleasure of their company on whatever maneuvers he was dreaming up. While admittedly a bit desolate, the proof has been in the pudding for our hero…up to now this has been a good life, and adventures of all scales have been achieved…most of them as a party of one.

But recently something different has been going down, and an assumed preference for solo has at last given way to a trend of companionship and camaraderie.  It began with some shared gravel grinding with Gnat-man in the coastrange, but then friends and fans alike began to notice some of the obscure choices that make up the TDM weekend ride logs, and suddenly there were partners begging to go along. Coinciding with the interest of others was a rising fear in TDM that he was fast becoming one of those mossy curmudgeons lost in the hills and drinking black and heated beverages while muttering strings of unsociable commentary under his steaming breath.   In a turn of personal habit, The DMagnet has chucked his lonesome ways into the shrubs and started calling folks up whenever a list ride presents itself.  To his surprise, a cast of characters have eagerly agreed to join, even after a few of these dreams panned closer to nightmares than originally advertised.

And what lessons have been learned here?  First, there is no doubt that solo missions are a fine breed of spice, and in TheDirtMagnet’s opinion certain levels of achievement, pride, and presence are best achieved via unsure and  unsupported travel through the world.  But a spice is not necessarily nourishing, and the recent sharing of humble adventures points to a richer reason for following lines on maps than the habitual need to find a reassuring discomfort among the hills of a home state. It is in the simple act of sharing a day with friends doing whatever comes to mind that TDM currently finds his highest rewards, and this sharing is a thing that he had forgotten many years ago he’d the right to claim for himself.

Balance this

The choice is yours

The choice is yours

Obsession left to its own devices will end in tears every time, and thedirtmagnate has done some crying in his time.  Bikes and rides are no less threatening to the afflicted than other forms of addiction, and the struggle to not beat a dying horse is a constant among those who do love it all a bit too much. This year I endeavor to make choices, and will try to steer this ship only into ports of apparent plenty, and even then, only when I really want to make land.  I will also work on speaking only in metaphor…a good start.

In this spirit* the dirt magnate suggests that you check out this brief reminder of how TDM came to fly his most meaningful contribution to humanity strait into the F%#@ing ground: The Blue Box Effect

* which is not quite the spirit of enduro