Why Gary Johnson Should Not Be Welcomed on Tour Divide

Well, it seems a post I had earlier on a different venue than here caused quite the stir. Such a stir that the editorial team decided to pull the essay. There were definitely some things that were unclear and there’s some things I’d like to clarify, but before I even do that I’m just going to post the whole essay as it originally appeared. So here it goes:

Last week, Bicycling magazine posted an article in regards to Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s intention to race Tour Divide next year. As bikepackers we should not allow Gary Johnson to lineup in Banff next summer. Gary Johnson’s policies are an attempt to close public land forever from American hands.

Johnson has been a longtime member of the Libertarian Party, a party which values private property, private industry, and the free market above all government interference. This insistence on privatization risks putting public lands into private hands. While Johnson believes in protecting National Forests and National Parks, he has shown intent “…to give control of those BLM [Bureau of Land Management] lands to the state and sell that land to the private landowners, and actually put that on private property tax rolls, that makes a lot of sense.”1 This is where Gary Johnson’s desire to race Tour Divide is problematic.
The Bureau of Land Management has seen it’s fair share of headlines lately after an armed militia in Central Oregon occupied an unmanned Widlife Sanctuary building in protest against the BLM. Originally a combination of the Grazing Service and the General Land Office, the original intent of the agency was to fulfill the tasks of these two former agencies, redistributing federal land and to lease land for grazing rights. In it’s 70 years the Bureau of Land Management has extended it’s duties to a multitude of land use policies, generally their mission is stated “[t]o sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”2 The BLM saw over 61 million visits for recreational use over their 250 million plus acres in 2015. 3

I’d like to point out that in BLM’s direct mission statement they state the enjoyment of public lands. This is what mountain biking is; an enjoyment of our public lands. BLM land is used for mountain biking across the West, such as Bend Oregon’s Horse Ridge Trail or Moab’s Brand trail. In 2015, the BLM saw over 6 million visits for “non-motorized travel” under which mountain biking falls. The agency’s commitment to mountain biking can be seen through their partnership with the International Mountain Bicycling Association and MTB Project to post detailed mountain bike maps on their website.

While Tour Divide mostly runs along National Forest land, there is one big exception, The Great Divide Basin in Wyoming. For any of you that have completed Tour Divide, you know how special this place is to the route. While sometimes described as one of the most brutal sections with harsh headwinds, it can also be the most beautiful, where the night gets so dark people have seen Aurora Borealis sitings this far south. This section of the route from Pinedale to Wamsutter is all Bureau of Land Management land. If Gary Johnson and the Libertarian’s got their way, this land would be chopped off and sold to the highest bidder, which would mean no more access for Mountain Bikes, let alone the other various users. It would be land forever closed to public access.

Tour Divide would not be the only race to be affected if Gary Johnson got to see his version of America. The Comstock Epic is a 500 mile race across Nevada, a state which is 68 percent BLM land, as just another example of how detrimental to the sport a Libertarian rise to power would be.

While Gary Johnson will most likely not be in the White House this time next year, and his policies will not actually see the light of day, we as a community need to send a message, that this dangerous rhetoric of giving away our land is unacceptable. This public land is the land where we bikepack; the land where we camp; the land where we race; the land where we train. In defense of public lands that are mine, yours, and every Americans, we should not allow Gary Johnson to toe that line in June in Banff.

3 http://www.blm.gov/public_land_statistics/pls15/pls2015.pdf

For some reason, this got a whole lotta sorts of people all twisted up. Within an hour the Facebook comments had gotten out of hand, with some especially good ones;

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All joking aside, comments seemed to fall into three general categories.

  1. “This is a free unsanctioned race you can’t ban anyone!”
  2. “Maybe we should let him do it so he can see the beauty of public land and change course.”
  3. “Keep politics out of bikepacking!”

 

OK, so going down the list, number one. Definitely. There are no race organizers, no one can necessarily ban Gary Johnson from racing, but that wasn’t quite what I was aiming at. I definitely failed as a writer on that one, that one I take full responsibility for. This was not me saying with my full authority, that I, and I alone should ban Gary Johnson (or anyone with that kind of authority). More so, my argument was that it would behoove the bikepacking community as a whole to come together and tell the Libertarian candidate to stay at home because we do not invite him based on his desire to privatize our public land we recreate on.

“BUT WE SHOULDN’T HAVE A LITMUS POLITICAL TEST TO LINEUP TO RACE”

Absolutely not, but why would we embrace someone who has so coldly stated that they want to destroy our sport? That they want to limit access which limits where we ride and closes out our sport turning our once thriving public land into private land. Think of anyone who has ridden from Argentina to Prudoe Bay only to find Chevron won’t let you touch the water. Now let’s imagine that you now reached Pinedale, WY and all there was was a gate and a highway you now have to ride to the border. Everyone already complains about Gary Johnson’s home state of New Mexico and it’s irritating endless highways.Why are we trying to close ourselves out? Yes, there are definitely some bikepackers who I disagree with politically, but none are running a presidential candidacy whose entire end goal is to close off access to public land. This is not a reach. This is pretty straightforward reasoning on why Gary Johnson is a symbol  of the privatization of the West and how we need to boycott him to send a message that we will not allow our public lands to be wrested from us.

2) “Maybe we should let him do it so he can see the beauty of public land and change course.”

Yes! I would love Gary Johnson to hit Wyoming, shed a tear like a racist Native American caricature in an anti-pollution commercial and say “I shall aim to destroy the West, No More Forever”. But let’s get real. This is not GJ’s first rodeo. He’s competed in triathalons and is already an avid mountain biker and road cyclist (sure he probably is more so one of those annoying fitness type racers, the kind that tells you more about their power meter than anywhere cool they ever went, but I digress). The point of the matter is that he has already been in contact with active outdoor scenes and none of these people have influenced his overtly private property politics at all. This rhetoric feels very pie in the sky and I don’t necessarily buy it.

And of course my favorite. The elections over, let’s forget politics. No. Sorry, but you can’t decide when to turn politics on and off. You can choose to ignore it, but you cannot tell people when to. This is about access and advocacy. This is about closing off our public lands. If a developer were in your hometown saying they want to tear down your local trail network you would be active, you would be telling them to leave your community. You would be protecting what’s rightfully yours, something you cherish, something you fight for. That’s what we should be doing here. This is not some “I don’t like his politics so I don’t want to hear him”. No. This is “his politics are a direct attack on our sport and I want him to hear US“. Those saying that this is divisive nonsense are not seeing the real dangerous divisiveness; turning our public trails into private property. So, no, Gary Johnson, unless he makes a radical shift in his politics, he is a hypocrite on the trail and we do NOT need to invite him. We can tell him to stay home, and we should.

North American Handmade Bike Show

North American Handmade Bike Show

I already posted about the best part about NAHBS weekend, but there was an actual bike show. The best part about the show wasn’t the bikes or the eye-candy, but seeing all my buds. Good thing I’m still terrible about taking picture of friends, so here’s some pictures and thoughts about them pictures.

North American Handmade Bike Show
There were so many bikepacking bikes at the show. I almost bought me a Breadwinner B-Road way back when (then I remembered I can’t afford a custom bike yet)
North American Handmade Bike Show
I liked seeing the new components and accessories on display. This was a cool new Portland Design Works rigid dry bag system.
North American Handmade Bike Show
I’ve always dreamed of this setup, especially the more I get into racing (and as Stevil at All Hail the Black Market always says, bike racing sure involves a lot of driving). Maybe someday soon.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Ritchey is releasing some cool new bikes this year, I don’t think this is any production bike, but it looks like a modern update on the old school camo Commander.
North American Handmade Bike Show
I’m always late to whatever’s hip, but I’m looking into getting a rack for the touring/commuter bike. Pass and Stow had their own booth along with a bunch of their racks in other booths.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Peacock Groove had by far the best booth. No fad bikes here; well, unless you consider fat bikes a fad, which I don’t, or cargo bikes a fad (what are you high?)
North American Handmade Bike Show
Devil’s in the details on this fat mini-velo. 20″ fat wheels! Sweet!
North American Handmade Bike Show
Well decorated booth with some robutts. Thanks robutts.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Well, this win’s for second best motorcycle at the show (next to the Breadwinner Yamaha). Electric cargo bikes make sense to me.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Custom rack flair.
North American Handmade Bike Show
More component bling.
North American Handmade Bike Show
I’ve heard nothing but good things about these bottom brackets. I wanted to throw one in my Carver, then I exploded it right before Tour Divide and had to put in an “Emergency Phil Wood” which probably doesn’t need to be upgraded.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Cal Poly fabricated nearly this entire bike. I don’t remember what they DIDN’T fabricate, but there wasn’t a whole lot (it was easier to say what wasn’t than what was).
North American Handmade Bike Show
Disc bling.

North American Handmade Bike Show

North American Handmade Bike Show
For a straight forward road bike, this was probably my favorite. Biwakoguma Bicycles from Japan built this lovely classic looking road build with an absolutely stunning paint finish.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Triple triangle beauty.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Galaxy. Appropriately named.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Even the matching hat was stunning.

 

North American Handmade Bike Show
“So, I’ll be taking this, since it has my name on it.”
*Stares back with bewildered look*
“How many morons have made that joke today?”
“Actually you’re the first”
I truly am king moron at times.
North American Handmade Bike Show
WTF Bike #1
North American Handmade Bike Show
Dominic picking up WTF Bike #2; sub 10lb stainless steel “I’m Going to Break On You” race machine, from English Cycles. We laughed, but in retrospect, this bike is dumb in the least fun way.
North American Handmade Bike Show
Squid! There were quite a few Squid bikes at the show. I love their wild paint jobs. Living in the Bay Area it’s always fun to see a few Squid’s out on the CX course every fall.
North American Handmade Bike Show
More component excitement! This is probably what I’m most excited for, a modern outboard bearing White Industries Eno crank!

That’s all she wrote. I probably didn’t even see the whole floor. There are people who posted more timely better looking photographs, but hey, I already have a job. Check out more on my Flickr.

North American Handmade Bike Show

The Slow Road to NAHBS

Bikepath Walnut Creek, CA

The week leading up to the North American Handmade Bike Show in Sacramento, many of my friends were posting Facebook plans on how they were getting to the Sac Convention Center. Some planned an early start so they could spend more time in Sacramento (not sure what for), some planned a reasonable 9 AM start to finish before nightfall, some just drove, some took the train. I was waiting til the last minute to make my decision, then my buddy Morgan messaged me asking if I wanted to ride with him at noon and camp out somewhere along the way. Wanting to stop at what is probably my favorite bar in California on the way, I thought this was perfect.

We were supposed to meet at noon, but going to a hockey game the night before, getting breakfast with the girlfriend, and not packing til the very last minute, meant that we hit the road closer to 1 30. That’s kind of the pace I was going for anyway; zero hustle.

 

Cross Check Bathroom Leaning

I stopped to use this bathroom on the bike path in Walnut Creek. Someone had been clearly smoking right before I got in there. Damn teenagers. The smoke made a cool effect that the camera didn’t pick up, at least the weird yellowing lighting was interesting.

We meandered our way through the extensive bike path network of the East Bay suburbs. We survived the few interactions with traffic, and Morgan’s Garmin’s brilliant routing to make it to the Antioch bridge just as the sun was hitting the horizon. We switched on our lights and began the journey into the Delta.

 

Diablo from the Delta

I love that every direction you go you can see Diablo. It’s not that close to home, but it makes me think I’m never that far.

This was about the only part of the night that sucked. It was about 16 miles from the bridge to Rio Vista where we planned to get dinner. I’m not sure if we didn’t eat enough, didn’t drink enough, or it was just the headlamp daze from staring at the light in front of our wheels.  I turned my head off and ignored the growing gap between me and Morgan.

Morgan knew of an Italian restaurant in Rio Vista, where we stopped for dinner. It felt like one of those places that Gordon Ramsey tries to fix (but never actually does) on Kitchen Nightmares, with kitchsy shit all over the wall and a giant menu. My pasta was great because it was food, but canned or frozen vegetables wouldn’t have wowed, pretty much any other time. How do you have a restaurant near where almost all American produce is made and have canned and frozen stuff? But, touring vegan for many a year, I don’t expect much when out on the road. Call it my snobbish city-folk tendency.

As we were sopping up the last of our meal I pulled out my phone to see how far we were to Locke. Google Maps showed two different routes, a faster one that was 16 miles and a slower one that was 15 miles. That didn’t make any sense to me so I pulled up the turn-by-turn. It was pretty straight forward, go north on CA-84, take the Real McCoy ferry, ride 220 East, then take the J-Mack ferry to East 220, continue to River Road, etc. Morgan’s eyes widen up, “We have to take the ferry”. Mind you it’s 9 PM at night. I confirm, the ferry is 24 hours. This is the dumb idea we needed to close out the night.

Going north on CA-84, we got some of the local flavor. Every half mile was a big crew cab pickup on the side of the road, country folks sitting around a fire drinking beers. What better way to spend a Saturday night on the Delta? We hit our first ferry, the Real McCoy, we shared it with a pair of cars. As we pushed off we pulled out some more whiskey for the brief river crossing. Once we hit the opposite side the first car rolled off the ferry, Morgan stepped on his pedal before the second car got out and the CalTrans employee starts yelling “STOP! STOP! STOP!” Morgan obliges, “You’re gonna get yourself runover,” we laughed. “No, I’m serious, this island is filled with nothing but druggies and drunks.” We break out in laughter and follow the second car onto Ryer Island.

 

After Dark River Crossings

All the best decisions were made that night.

We didn’t see any cars on Ryer Island. Most cars continued north on 84 it seemed, while we continued over toward Locke. With full bellies and good laughs the headlamp daze was gone. We hopped on the J-Mack where we were the only people on the ferry, crossed over toward Ryde. From Ryde it’s a short ride to Locke, we hit town, turned right onto the derelict Main St, saw the lights on at the only business open this late in this one block town, Al the Wop’s.

No Singles Sold Here

Let’s get some camp beers! Oh, wait, they only sell beer in big ‘ol ‘I’m goin’ fishin” packs. Oh well.

The first time I was at Al the Wop’s was a similar circumstance. A friend and I rode out to camp the Delta in the summertime. That was when I fell in love with this establishment. We of course were sore thumbs in the local bar. Even for being a Saturday night the place was pretty quite with about a half dozen or so people lining the bar. “You just missed the ghost special!” Johnny O, the lively bartender hollered at us in his raspy voice as we rolled our bikes in the front door. Apparently there had been a ghost hunters show on about the opera house across the street from the bar. Locke, CA was built in 1861 for Chinese workers who were draining the delta swamps to make it the levied system it was today. The town’s population swelled and saloons and brothels popped up for the workers. Story goes that the opera house was one of these brothels and that if any of the women talked out of line they would be dumped into the river. People claim they can hear this girl yelling in the opera house from time to time. The locals didn’t buy it. I would have if I watched the show, because why watch those shows if you’re not going to believe them?

Al the Wop's

The Wops. Seriously, best bar in California.

The thing that is great about these small town bars is that everyone is up for a conversation. Especially if you’re from out of town. We chatted it up with the locals, as Morgan put down his first empty glass Johnny O offered another and Morgan promised, “you’ll have to keep ’em coming til you throw us out.” We made good on that promise. Even as we were the last two in the bar for most of the night.

Drink Specials

This was the drink special that Johnny O concocted for the ghost program. He had just enough to make two more for us, up front it tasted like booze, with an after taste of booze and a slight hint of booze.

“Hey, you seen a black guy running through here?” that was our alarm in the morning. I look up the embankment from where we camped and see a police officer, he noticed us and yelled down “Oh, hey! Sorry for waking you guys up!” Morgan and I were both perplexed as we looked at each other. Then as we looked up the embankment with our back to the water we heard a child’s voice “Look dad, bikes!” in surprise we turn around and it’s a father with his toddler daughter. They had apparently gone canoe camping out on the Delta somewhere. What a bizarre way to start the day. We packed up, still drunk, and headed up the road toward Sac.

Chill

The little girl on the canoe was freaking adorable. “We went camping on Scout Boy Island!” “Boy Scout Island,” her father corrected.

The adventure was over when we left the Delta. Twin Cities Highway left us from the magically strange place that is the Sacramento River Delta into the flatlands around Sac. By the time we hit town, we agreed we could go home and call it a good enough trip. But we did actually make it to the bike show, which would turn out to be the worst part of the trip. Which is that surprising? I’d rather ride a $400 bike than look at a $10,000 one.
The Flat Farmlands to Sac

Carver Gnarvester on Tour Divide

Most bike reviews are reviewed on loans. Reviewed over a week, or at best a month. But what better way to give a frame a true rundown, than running it down the whole length of the Continental Divide?

So, first off, why the Carver Gnarvester? Well, I got all caught up in the fat bike craze when it started, but I always thought they looked sluggish and maybe not as much fun, then 29 Plus came out and it made a whole lot of sense. It’s still arguably in it’s infancy (and may be phased out by B+ sizing, but that’s for another day), so there weren’t many frames (still aren’t), besides the Krampus and a few custom frames. I spent a good deal looking for something to clear massive tires. I hunted the internet for a long time and couldn’t find much out there. Then I came across the Gnarvester, which was not only 29+, not only had sliding dropouts, not only had 142 thru axle spacing, not only titanium, not only a standard 73mm BB but frankly had some fun trail looking geometries, as the frame is based off the titanium 420, Carver’s “rowdy” hardtail.

The Gnarvester did me well in the little bit of mud we had.
The Gnarvester did me well in the little bit of mud we had.

I had two major concerns about this frame when I was looking at it, the lack of a front derailleur capability and how it would handle with smaller lighter tires.

Either way, I went in and got this frame. The versatility of the sliding dropouts and the durability of the titanium had me thinking I could hang on to this frame for a while. I built it up to start with 3″ tires, which were fun, but I think the Vee Rubber tires are rather unimpressive (I actually like my current Ikon 2.35s better). The bike handled the trail riding I do in the Bay very well with the 3″ tires fully rigid. I hit Cinderella Trail, one of the few technical downhill trails in the Oakland hills a couple of times and I could throw the bike around pretty well and to get to the top I could climb the bike real well. After setting it up for the first time I PRed one of the popular XC loops in the Oakland hills, Redwood Loop, by a long shot.

Carver Gnarvester in Montana

But how did it fair on a 2700 mile mountain bike ride? Fantastically. There were some fit things I didn’t really have dialed (skinny bars and a long stem didn’t work, as much as I liked it on short rides). But the frame was very comfortable, the titanium absorbing the rough stuff, even with 2.2 tires. The 1×10 setup was plenty to get up and down, I did find myself spinning out on some descents, but it was so rare that I don’t feel the lack of front derailleur held me back. The bottom bracket height felt low to me, but only because I had been used to the height with 3″ tires. I might benefit from shorter cranks in the future, because the lower bottom bracket had me pedal striking on chunk (I like to pedal through stuff). My only complaint, is that the sloping top tube makes fitting a larger frame bag difficult, but it just meant I had to carry less and be inventive.

If I went back to Tour Divide I would not hesitate to bring this bike, but I don’t know if I’m going back to Tour Divide soon, instead I might throw more stuff on the bike and take a two week bikepacking trip and I am very confident this bike could handle it. And that’s what I like most. Starting from a Surly Cross Check, the Swiss Army Knife of bikes, I wanted something just as versatile and the Carver is a very versatile bike. My stable won’t need another hardtail for years to come.

Carver Gnarvester in Montana

Veganism on Tour Divide

SF2Fresno

Those who have seen the documentary Ride the Divide are probably familiar with Adrian’s vegan diet on the Tour Divide. I distinctly remember watching a bleary eyed Adrian aimlessly wandering the aisles of one of the tiny convenience stores along the route trying to find something animal free to eat.

Fast forward to Tour Divide 2015, Lima, MT. The town, if you can call it that, is not much more than a truck stop on I-15 in the Montana Basin. It’s early morning towards the beginning of the race. The gas station opens at 7 AM. I am waiting eagerly with my lycra’d kin, waiting for the door to unlock to resupply for the day, as there wouldn’t be much on route til Flagg Ranch near Yellowstone. I knew my options, mostly high fructose corn syrup garbage, or hydrogenated oily chips. Not many healthy options, Cliff Bars and bananas would be about the best I could get.

The doors opened, the crowd of cyclists pours in. Everyone else’s options were just as slim in this four aisle store. I see them grab for jerky, creme filled pastries, and of course all the stuff you never realized wasn’t vegan (dry roasted Planters peanuts have gelatin, why?). I have to move much slower than that, I go for Lays’ Classics to start, get my salt, move over to the candy, find some picked over Cliff Bars, but some. It’s still not enough calories for a full day. I start grabbing little candy and bar things I’ve never seen before flip them over and start reading ingredients lists. This is what it is. After a while you start to become pretty good to scan for words like “casein”, “lard”, “animal shortening” or whatever it may be. I find a few more things, but still don’t have enough calories. I start going for the heavy calorie hitters, Keebler Vanilla Wafers, Apple Pie snacks, more chemical than food, but energy is energy on the Tour Divide. I reach the counter with my haul and begin packing up and out.

Sugar is easy to find on the Tour Divide, too easy. By the time I hit Pinedale, WY my mouth was sore from all the sugars eating away at my mouth, but that’s the Divide on a vegan diet. There are some shining moments of good vegan food; the Breckenridge Whole Foods, the hippy cafe in Del Norte, and even the gas station in Abiqui had some great vegan treats, but for the most part, it’s gas station junk food for miles on end. Compared to the Trans Am, which I also completed vegan, this race was much tougher, mostly because the resupplies are fewer and farther in between, but it’s possible. I promised when I gave up animal products that I would never let it keep me from doing things I wanted to do, now with two big trips putting me out in the back country living on gas station food, I made it work.

Bikepacking the Capitol State Forest

I promised this time would be more about bikes than the last few. Gabriella went to school in Olympia and still has some good friends in town, so I decided to do an overnighter in the Capitol State Forest (where I’d been before) to let her have some time with her friends.

08_19_15_OlympicNFBikepack

08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack-4
The cool thing about Capitol Forest is that you can link single track all the way across the forest. Sure there’s a decent amount of horses, but if you come in the water, horses aren’t allowed on single track. There’s actually three different ways to cross via singlet rack with endless fire roads.
08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack-8
The Carver doing what I intended it for. Only wish I had 3″ tires.

08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack-7

08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack
The view I woke up to at my campsite. I had to settle on a more DIY site as horse trailers occupied every site. Some people were friendly and inviting, others, not so much; someone’s gotta keep the hate alive.
08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack-6
This was one of the rare flat sections of trail. The single track was a lot of tight climbing and descending, The climbs were real tough and the descents were over far too soon. I only made it about half way of how far I wanted to go.
08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack-2
Rain forests of the Pacific North West are a great place for macro photography. I’d love to come explore with a macro lens someday.

08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack-5

08_19_15_CapitolSFBikepack-3
Open patches like this remind you that this is just as much a conservation effort as one of commerce.

08_19_15_OlympicNFBikepack-1

The American Road Trip: Montana

Raft Guide (Spencer), MT
Gabriella’s friend Spencer was our host in Missoula and after showing us around the local bar scene (which is a happening one), he took us out on his raft the following day.

I-90 Overpass, Clark Fork, MT

Clark Fork, MT
We floated down the Clark Fork west of Missoula. Even for a weekday there were quite a few other rafters out.
Spencer and Gabriella Soaking, MT
It wasn’t Arizona hot, but the sun was shining hard that day. About halfway through we grounded the boat on a beach and took a dip in the cool waters.
Rafting Clark Fork, MT
This was our vessel. It’s fun to kind of try out these other sports besides cycling. One of these rafts costs about what a good quality mountain bike costs nowadays.

Gabriella, Clark Fork, MT

Clark Fork Beach, MT

50,000 Silver Dollar Bar, MT
On our way towards Idaho we stopped at the 50,000 Silver Dollar bar, which you guessed it, their bar is full of silver dollars.