Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Train Depot

A train sounds its horn.  It's desperately close and appropriately loud.  I'm at a cafe named "The Depot" alongside a multi-purpose trail within leaping distance and somehow failed to put two-and-two together that the train would soon be passing right in front of me in it's majestic march through downtown Fayetteville, AR.

A little girl is at the railing separating us from the passing conductor counting each car one-by-one.  She made it to sixty-five before it disappeared around a bend and a peaceful silence followed while the patrons of "The Depot" around me seemed to all just take a second to enjoy the moment.

It's just temperate enough outside that I can't decide whether to keep my sweatshirt on or show off a t-shirt I bought at a coffee shop in Redlands, CA a few weeks ago.  It has a man riding a utility bicycle carrying large bags labeled COFFEE.  I also want to give my tattoo an opportunity to be asked for an interpretation.  The waitress has already asked if I was here for a mustache convention.  I have her attention, and now I'm hoping a few more talking points will get her to smile and flirt with me.  Those silly things make being away for long periods of time bearable when you are feeling lonely.  Not that I am.  But she reminds me of home.

Another horn sounds.  Just a solo engine this time with the number 35 on it.  Maybe sixty-five cars was too much for the last train and it needed a little more power.  I grew up loving trains.  The history of trains, the power of trains, the logistics and opportunity provided by trains.  The fact that trains are all over the world.  You can take trains from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa.  Paul Theroux made this journey overland and wrote about it in "Dark Star Safari" and planted seeds of adventure for myself and the millions that have read it since.  It's actually a story that sparked an idea shortly after purchasing my first road bike at 22 years old.  Having visited Uganda and Kenya I felt totally qualified to plan a bike ride from Cairo to Cape Town.

I worked at a coffee shop back then because working a full-time job a block away wasn't enough.  Actually it was more than enough, but the coffee addiction I had formed visiting Murky Coffee three times a day to break up the monotony of my IT job, wasn't financially sustainable without picking up some hours.  Murky Coffee became a place where I'd dream and share dreams with like-minded dreamers.

Anywhere I travel I search for coffee shops because I feel like I can relax there.  Coffee shops for my generation are a "Third Space".  Basically a social place other than your home or workplace.  For me it's become my preference of the three.  Even when I'm at home I can't help but spend countless hours at the coffee shop downtown.  I can probably count on my hands the number of times I've made coffee for myself at home.  That sounds gratuitous but it's about much more than the coffee.

My waitress reminds me of an old friend from DC.  She has the same smile that seems to almost always stay put as a smirk with her cheeks strained tight enough that you couldn't confuse it as straight-faced. It has a flare of sarcasm with a hint of preparedness.  It's an almost frustrating expression because I feel like she's putting on a show to display how content she is, always.  But I can tell by our little conversations of why I'm in town and her clever retorts and small talk that she has the same sense of adventure my friend had just before she went and travelled the world.  Her smirk is a placeholder for the dreams she has outside of this cafe that she surely smiles about in secrecy.  Like she has an idea that she thinks no one else has figured out and she's nervous to tell anymore.  

Even right now despite knowing the proximity to my hotel and the exact location I'm at in downtown Fayetteville, I feel like I could be anywhere.  Anywhere in the world.  I can imagine being along the Silk Road in China sipping tea wondering about the connection of so many cultures made along that trade route that were exposed because of the train.  Or drinking from a dalla along the Nile River wondering what rare earth materials that train has carried and whose wars the railway was purposed for and when.  And how I never knew about the kind of atrocities that have plagued Africa as a result of Imperialism and Westernization.  I could be there.  Maybe one day I will be.  Timing is everything though, and realistically I'm just in a college town in Northwest Arkansas trying to unwind before a 4-day bike race.

That's the funny part of dreaming.  Or rather the confusing convoluted idea of what a dream is based on the beholder.  I was a new-to-cycling kid, six years ago, who had just purchased a South Africa Flag cycling jersey to motivate myself to save up and train to ride my bike across Africa.  With my background I was hoping it would be a way to spread awareness and make the world a little smaller for everyone I have known.  So that maybe they could understand why I am the way I am.  And maybe they would dream as big as I couldn't help but dream.

Of course I was hoping I would find myself too.  A reoccurring nightmare that is often used to dream more.  Fear of not knowing what's out there can really keep you from dreaming big.  And to believe that one adventure would be the end of your searching would certainly ruin the beauty of the search, which now I truly believe is never-ending and far more exciting than scary.

That idea of traveling across Africa was a dream.  And it's totally fine if it never happens.  Dreams are a vehicle for making sure I am never content with who I am or how the world is.  And I will always seek adventure first and comfort last.  I could never have dreamed that I'd be racing my bike all over the US rubbing elbows with some of the best cyclists in the world at times.  It was never a dream but is definitely a pathway to dreams I'm still imagining along the way.  Becoming the cyclist I am is something I have worked really hard at hoping it would one day take me all over the world.  Or at least to my next coffee shop.

Another train sounds a horn.  A cyclist is fixing a flat on the side of the multi-purpose trail.  I think that's a sign that it's about time I paid my tab and got back to laying around.  My waitress is beautiful and I hope her dreams come true, for the world's sake.  She even flirted with me, I think.

I ate a crepe stuffed with capers and tilapia with coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.  I get to finish my work-day remotely tonight as the lead engineer of a major data-center transformation project.  I get to race a bike this weekend in one of the premier stage races in the country.  I get to make a lot of choices. I could be anywhere in the world, but I am very happy with where I am today.  Some might even say I'm living the dream.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Two Weeks Down.

Ut oh... You caught Dan and I training.

Tim and Dan's Excellent Adventure:
Two Weeks Down.

Morale is high for Dan Wolf and I at camp Tucson in our last 24 hours here before we head to San Diego, CA tomorrow.  We've had a blast making sure when we weren't riding or racing to see what Tucson is all about with David and Hannah this past week.  We've hit dance clubs, dive bars, and even saw Macaulay Culkin and his odd band, Pizza Underground.  We've ridden Mount Lemmon, Gates Pass, raced mountain bikes in the desert of Estrella, and I found the stubborness to race a 30mph criterium with a broken thumb the same day.  Dan and I both found ourselves on the podium for the mountain bike race in the Cross Country and Marathon race respectively after overcoming the worst ever circumstances for race preparation and race recovery.  We are stronger for that.
Dan crashed on his road bike in a recovery ride blinded by the sunset, so we are both a little beat-up heading on to California.

With promise of a bike-ride to Mexico tomorrow with Daniel Botticelli.  A rad dude I celebrated my 21st birthday with drinking beers on a curb in San Diego seven years ago outside the Invisible Children/Invisible Children Alumni Association roadie house.  And time on Venice Beach with David Lewis for an all-out recovery day.  I couldn't be more excited to get to San Dimas this weekend and continue pushing forward on our trip.

I am a little bummed that I will not be able to race this weekend coming up at Bonelli Park due to my recent injury, but I'll make the most of that weekend doing recon for the time trial of the San Dimas Stage Race and getting in some big hours training.  If I haven't been clear, that race is my main objective for this trip.  I've been jerked around left and right from teams with the uncertainty about guest riding for Redlands Bicycle Classic the weekend following that race and I'm back to square 1.  If I get a result at SDSR, I'll get a ride.  If I don't, I won't.  And that's fine because if I can't get a result at SDSR I don't want to waste anyone's time at Redlands.

All that said, I can't risk racing the mountain bike race this weekend and making things worst.  Dan is still going to take the line Saturday and Sunday so make sure you catch the live feed that we'll make sure to post later.  We're only a quarter way through this adventure, but having been through the highs and low of success, failure, disaster, and overcoming the odds, we have been able to handle the close proximity life-style required to travel because we've kept the focus on having fun and being awesome. That continues and will continue to be what it's about.  We don't have to do this, we get to. #lifestyleracers


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cowboy Country

The desert is as beautiful as it is intimidating.

Yesterday I did my own version of the dirty double with the Hedgehog Hustle Marathon MTB race in the morning and the Old Pueblo Grand Prix in the evening.

I can't type much because I think my thumb is broken, which I'm going to check out after this update:

The marathon race was in the middle of the desert, hot and slippery as hell. Marathon format is 3.5 hours + finish the lap you're on. This was a 9.4 mile loop that averaged 42-44 minutes each loop... So the fastest guys ended up doing 5 loops, 47 miles in about 3:45. 

I crashed on the first lap's mountain descent after a small jump sent me straight into a boulder laying me and my bike out on a bed of rocks ripping up my knee, elbow, shin, and jamming my thumb hard. Pretty bummed I haven't got my Full Suspension carbon MTB yet, but really fortunate I've been able to put my metal hardtail to the test, and it has passed always looking better off than myself at the finish line. 

I would have known about this danger had I seen it while pre-riding the course during twilight the day before. But, I got lost in the desert after I sliced my rear tire on a rock and had to hike 6 miles in the dark going off course to try and make it back to camp before I got bit by a rattlesnake or ate by a bobcat or mountain lion. 

Rule number 1: Don't ever leave the trail. 
Rule number 2: Don't ride alone in the dark. Especially without lights. If it can get dark, it probably will.
Rule number 3: always pack enough gear to fix a disaster if you ignore rule Number 2. 


I didn't give up but lost considerable time to that crash but really struggled to shift for the remainder because my thumb likely has a fracture with it being twice as big as the other opposable this morning. I put in a hot lap on the final lap sitting in 4th place when everyone else was starting to fade (which I only saw after the race on the lap splits) and managed to get in striking distance of 3rd place at the top of the fire road climb only a mile from the finish. I recorded my fastest descent back into the valley fueled mostly by the desert delirium of riding in 4th place alone for 3 hours almost crashing multiple times to stay within a few meters of 3rd and entering the final sprint shute way too fast.

The final sprint comes in gated with 50 meters straightaway into a hard 100 degree washy turn into a 50 meter sprint. I almost crashed in this segment using the full degree of the turn hitting the legs of the fencing every lap prior. I had higher pressure tires than normal to try and avoid flatting in the desert and this put me at a disadvantage. But as we hit the apex of the turn to set up the sprint the 3rd place rider washed out in front of me as I coasted on his inside in for 3rd place in a very exciting close margin finish for a podium spot in my first Marathon MTB race!

Only 1st gets to put up both hands!

Now the short story, hopefully... 

After waiting 2 hours in the desert for the awards ceremony Dan and I hightailed it from Phoenix to Tucson for the Old Pueblo Grand Prix. This was a 75 minute Pro/1 criterium race on the road bike. I'm a stubborn dude wanting to prove I could handle the tall task of the dirty double arriving to the race 20 minutes until staging bandaged up and nursing my thumb. 

I got in a solid hour of "motor-pacing" and sprint backs in the race as I could not corner well enough to consider moving up in the field risking myself and others with limited handling of my bike and yo-yo'd myself from the field until I pulled the plug with 15 minutes remaining. It was a hard workout, but I'm glad I got to take some parade laps and have people cheer for "Mustache(-io)" when they didn't know my real name. 

The mustache can be a burden when people root for you just for the distinguishing characteristic of a hairy upper lip, in an otherwise undistinguishable flash of color and spandex, when you know you can't give them a show. I promise to not take the line without the ability to take a flyer or finish ever again! 

It was still worth it to me as I got a lot of love from fellow racers and others that knew what I had went through that day. Hell, I woke up in a Wal-Mart parking lot earlier that morning with only McDonald's as a breakfast option, Chick-fil-a as a post MTB race food option, and a ton of other things working against me from the night before (Waffle House) and the day of. But it was a pretty amazing day and although I might be sidelined for a week or two from racing with a splint, I'll still get to train and keep working towards my big goals in California at the end of the month.

Wheel bag privacy for cowboy camping at Wal-Mart.

It's been a wild ride so far and I'm really happy with where I'm at right now.

Enjoy the ride and ride safe,

Sunday, March 2, 2014

So, about blogging...

Just follow me on Facebook.  It's so much easier to tag and flow there!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Goal Is To Be Awesome

The Rugg Diaries

Day 1: Harrisonburg, VA -> Nashville, TN

The first leg of the journey across the country for Dan and I had us targeted for Nashville, TN.  I woke up at 7:00AM to pack for two months of life on the road.  If the idea of the trip hadn't have been so spontaneous and immediate, the stress of not being ready would've kept me at home until Spring. Thank God for being stubborn and a bit, okay quite a bit, crazy because I live for this.  I am a lifestyle racer and Dan has joined the club. 

The week leading up to our departure I had been hosting repurposed, neo/returning, mad scientist, pro road racer Cameron Cogburn of Team Smartstop / Mountain Khakis.  I got the inside look of what being a dialed in, focused pro looked like on and off the bike as he worked with his coach for the week to tune up for some early season form.  He got to see how crazy my schedule was trying to balance my job, training, racing, and my social life looked like.  Let's just say Cameron got in twice the training and sleep but I'm going to have twice as much fun racing this year because the pressure is off.  I don't have to race my bike.  I get to race my bike.  That's the idea behind being a lifestyle racer.  

Dan and I hit the road just before 11:00AM after a few packing hiccups and a breakfast for champions style self-made send-off.  This was good because until we arrived in Nashville nine hours later we only had crackers and coffee.  We didn't get the ride in we had hoped for along the way, but we shared the travel load offering time to work remotely in my mobile office, and offer up shared DJ duties.  We also stumbled upon a boutique coffee shop offering Intelligentsia Coffee in Knoxville, TN breaking up the trip nicely.

It's hard to share life on the road experience because the simplest of things can make your day.  Singing along to classic rock radio stations had me nostalgic of time in the car with my dad while growing up.  The first day of the trip gave us plenty of opportunity to share what we were hoping out of this trip.  Simply put by Dan, "I just want to be awesome".  It's not as surfer bum-like as it sounds.  Both of us just want to go on an adventure with good intentions and leave the expectations by the wayside.  As Arthur Ashe put it, "The success is in the journey".  I just want to go on an adventure that ends up never ending.  That would be awesome. 

We finished the day with take-out Jamaican food, an epsiode of 24, some more remote work for me, and a much needed beer from our hosts in Nashville.  Half-way to Texas we took to our air mattress and couch and called it a fine day.  

Day 2: Nashville, TN -> Dallas, TX

This is the day I fell in love with mountain biking.  We woke up to breakfast and a care package of deer jerky, cookies, fruit and homemade bread from our hosts Troy and Amy before starting the second half of the trek to Texas.  More sing-a-longs, pictures, and dreaming about doing what we are already doing was the theme for the day.  We had to ride today no matter what though, or we were going to be worthless for the Mellow Johnny's classic in Austin, TX this weekend.

I took the exit for Hot Springs, AR because of a sign indicating a National Park, meaning we'd find good roads to ride.  Destiny and a google search of the area directed us to a mountain bike paradise that would elevate my appreciation for off-road riding to a whole new level.

I felt like a kid riding over logs and obstacles through singletrack paths in the woods at Cedarglades Park in Hot Springs, AR today.  I went over my first teeter totter which is a lot like a see-saw that you ride over.  Dan coached me on some technical skills and we managed to get in and out of the park in under two hours despite wishing we had a whole day to play around.

We are getting close to Dallas now.  We're tired, hungry, and it's getting late.  Luckily a fellow racer that understands what it's like traveling to bike races is putting us up tonight.  We are going to get to Dallas in about a half hour and crash immediately.  Tomorrow Dan and I go to Austin, TX to pick-up our number plates for our first ProXCT (Cross Country) Mountain Bike race.  

Planning for this trip has been more of a leap of faith that everything will just work out, and so far everything is falling into place perfectly.  Let's do this!

Pictures on Instagram: @timothyrugg @danzigwolf
Follow Tim and Dan's Excellent Adventure: #lifestyleracers

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tim and Dan's Excellent Adventure

Dan kind of looks like Keanu.
I moved to Harrisonburg, VA last August hoping to prepare myself to land a pro contract for road racing this year.  Dan Wolf moved here just this month with the motivation to make it pro as a mountain biker.  We come from two backgrounds of racing and we both decided that this little town in the Shenandoah Valley was the best place for us to train and where we would call home.  In ten days we're leaving for a month and a half.  We're headed West and doing what we both know we need to do if we're ever going to call our profession, "Bike Racer".

The idea was brought up spontaneously out of nowhere one night when discussing our goals for this year.  We laughed about it for about a minute and then decided it was the only option we had.  We had planned out a trip that would take us all the way out to San Dimas, CA, hence the Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure reference, for what will be known henceforth as Tim and Dan's Excellent Adventure.  We'll pack up my car and hit the road February 27th with our first race three days later. 

The schedule so far looks like this:
  • March 1st/2nd - Austin, TX for the Mellow Johnny's Classic ProXCT #1. 
  • March 3rd-13th - Tucson, AZ for some solid training and we'll find a race!
  • March 15th/16th - San Dimas, CA for the Bonelli Park ProXCT #2.
  • March 22nd/23rd - Fontana, CA for the Fontana City National ProXCT #3.
  • March 28th-30th - San Dimas, CA for the San Dimas Stage Race.
  • April 3rd-6th - Redlands, CA for the Redlands Bicycle Classic NRC.
We have an ambitious schedule of mountain bike and road racing.  With our respective experience in each discipline we'll be able to help each other succeed in both.  At least I hope so.  I've never been in a mountain bike race, but hopefully with the experience riding Massanutten Mountain with Jeremiah Bishop (2nd overall in ProXCT standing for 2013), and the Monster Cross race this weekend close to home, I'll adapt quickly.

Yesterday we blasted the idea out on social media and within 24 hours we had enough support to cover about half the cost of the trip!  This is mostly through connections made through the community here in Harrisonburg, which is a bit humbling.  The bike shops and local businesses, Pro Tested Gear, Rocktown Bicycles, and SBC (Shenandoah Bicycle Company) have been so welcoming and supportive since I've come here.  The community of friends I've made here have been encouraging and it'll be bitter sweet not seeing them for the time we're on the road.  If you want to donate Dan and I a virtual tank of gas, bag of rice, trail mix via PayPal, we'd be incredibly thankful.  Shoot it over to my account - timothyrugg@gmail.com.  You can also use that email to stay in touch while I'm on the road if you aren't already deeply connected in the social swarm of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or this blog... which I promise to keep regularly updated like my trip to Oregon and back last year.

Tomorrow we're putting together a short video with Tom Inskeep (This guys on IMDb) and Scott Wooten of Adventure Seen.  This trip is going to be awesome and we hope you'll share in Tim and Dan's Excellent Adventure!

A final connection to make the connection of Keanu Reaves and Cycling.  This was one of his first acting gigs.  We all have to start somewhere.  Enjoy.