By Joe Parkin
Photo by Kevin Lange
The sudden sensation of gloom and despair hit hard enough for me to understand why people drive their cars into trees. We were well into the waning hours of a birthday that I wasn’t really all that stoked to be celebrating, I was driving a muted-silver metallic-ish Lincoln Town Car—really slowly—and my wife decided it would be a great idea to tune A Prairie Home Companion into the radio.
No disrespect intended toward Garrison Keillor, it’s just that I’ve never developed an urge to listen to people talking on the radio. And, despite growing up in a Midwestern family and spending nearly half of my life in Minnesota, the thought of such praise for the great white north’s extreme seasons is painful, nigh debilitating, to me.
Anyway, there we were, driving slowly along while our radio host skillfully described some old lady in a fictitious Minnesota town who lulled herself to sleep for an afternoon nap—the highlight of her day—by envisioning a frozen lake blanketed with a thick layer of snow. I immediately asked if we might be able to turn off the radio—or at least change the station.
Yes, I know that snow makes possible the sports of skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Frozen lakes provide for some pretty cool recreation activities, too. But in the context of the radio play I had just abandoned, snow and cold were not about going, but rather about stopping. The story had nothing to do with a bunch of happy-go-lucky bike riders hooting and hollering and trying to stay upright on a huge sheet of frozen water, but rather quiet solitude and sleep—sun-still-in-the-sky, afternoon sleep, for that matter. I don’t want to
sleep. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to stop. I want to go.
Two years ago I got a chance to tag along with a group of industry friends on a short mountain-bike trip to Châtel, France. Though I’d brought the wrong bike for the job and clearly lacked the skills necessary to ride with the locals, the two days of riding mountain bikes in the Portes du Soleil renewed my passion for the sport.
There, with some of the world’s most beautiful scenery as a backdrop, the local mountain-bike scene was full-throttle thriving. Riders were going hard, riding the living hell out of their bikes, and yet doing so with all the nonchalance of an old Frenchman sipping a glass of wine with lunch. They laughed as their numbers assembled at the bottom of the hill and prepared for another lap. Despite torn clothing, scuffed elbows and broken bicycle bits, this group wasn’t visualizing a warm blanket of sleep, but rather another hot-lap. They weren’t
about to stop. They wanted to go.
We’ve got a story in this issue about Châtel and another one about the emerging mountain-bike culture in Nepal. We think you’ll like them. But if neither makes you want to pack up and go, then I can only suggest imagining a snow-covered frozen lake—and a nap.