Sea Otter 2019

Sea Otter 2019

The Sea Otter Classic is the biggest bike event of the year in all of ‘Merca, and it takes place at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, CA. Campers cover the surrounding grassy hills. Music and the smell of cooking meat emanate from the massive tent city that is the expo, where every bike company and bike-related product has a presence.

The Master Suite at Sunset

The Master Suite at Sunset

I go to promote the UNPavement trails project, show off the bike, meet cool people and just have a good time. This was my second year, and i didn’t feel so lost. Instead of wandering around in my wheelchair, pushing up huge hills, and trying to figure out where i needed to be, i just drove straight to the registration building and promptly set up camp.

Cooking setup is perfect. Marine-grade anti-rust stove/BBQ.

Cooking setup is perfect. Marine-grade anti-rust stove/BBQ.

Last year, I was very uncomfortable with my camping setup. My tent was low to the ground, making it difficult to get in and out with my rotator cuff injury and weakened triceps. I was also freezing cold during the nights, so this year, I decided to alleviate these issues by getting a tent i could roll right into, a blowup mattress i could transfer easily onto, and a super thick cozy sleeping bag. I even ran electricity into the tent with a long extension cord so i could charge my bike battery and be able to make coffee immediately upon waking. We called the set-up the “Master Suite.” An at-home pre-setup test proved that everything was good to go, but at camp, the mattress ended up losing air during the night and the first morning i woke up a taco, sinking deep into the middle. i just could not get myself to inflate it, disturbing everyone camping around me. The super cozy sleeping bag proved to be too short too. Even though i am just average height, i had to bend my legs in order to pull the bag up to my face.

Also, setting up a tent from a wheelchair is totally do-able, but at my age, it’s just way more than i prefer to do. All this to say that i am going to be on the road a lot, promoting the project and mapping trails, so i promised myself i’d get a camping trailer or van. Hopefully, setting up the project as a non-profit will help make this happen.

After setting up camp, I geared up and headed to practice. My first run was terrifying! After spending the whole day in the car, jumping onto the downhill course cold was an intense wake up. Next year, i will give myself time to pedal around and get all my muscles firing so that my body is ready. My second run was more on point, and after three practice runs the next day, i felt prepared and confident for the event.

I don’t touch my brakes at all on this berm

I don’t touch my brakes at all on this berm

Race day is a whole other mental game though. You gotta get all geared up and get over to the race course just to find out when your race time is. My race time was in a few hours, so i killed time by cruising the expo and kicking it back at the campsite. The riders have to make sure and get back to the race course early, before their race time, but when i arrived back early, they were about an hour behind schedule. So, by the time i was actually on the course ready to go, i had been sitting in the sun for over an hour—tired, thirsty, and definitely not in an ideal mind-space to do my best in front of a crowd.

Racing in front of a crowd is exhilarating.

Racing in front of a crowd is exhilarating.

The countdown timer still goes off, no matter how you are feeling, and I was rolling down the course through a cheering crowd and the fog in my head. I navigated all the features well enough, but not as fast as i did in practice the previous day. After a 3 1/2 foot log drop, a steep S-turn, a G-out section, and a table-top jump, there is a deceiving straight away where it feels like you can relax a little bit. This is where i made a dumb mistake. The section is slightly off-camber and curves gradually right, so you still need to be focused on a bike like mine.

In my brain fog, i thought, “Oh no! I forgot to turn the camera on!” On this straight away, i looked down at the camera for a split second, and that its all it took for me to lose control. The surrounding tall, soft grass felt like i was falling onto pillows, but absolutely no one was around. I yelled for help, answered only by silence and the sound of the racers zipping by. I had to eject from my bike to flip it over. Getting back in with the slope of the hill proved to pretty difficult. It took every ounce of strength i had, and about twenty minutes or so, to get back into a position to finish. But now there was another problem—no one had alerted the race directors that I’d crashed, so the race traffic was never stopped. I had to dart dangerously back onto the race course, immediately behind a passing racer, go the absolute fastest i could possibly go, and hope the next racer did not catch me. Ruining someone’s run would be terrible!

Darius and Rodrigo

Darius and Rodrigo

It all worked out okay. I got down safely, and no one caught up to me. I felt really alone though. No one talked to me afterwards. No one knew i was out there struggling. Everyone else seemed to be surrounded by friends and have their crew with them. I left the course, climbed back up the road, and headed back to camp.

Despite being in a weird mood and not feeling up to riding more, I texted a guy named Darius from the Monterey Off-Road Cycling Association (MORCA) that Brent Hillier from TrailForks had put me into contact with to show me some surrounding trails. Despite my mood, I felt a deep sense of responsibility to take advantage of being there by documenting at least something in the area. To my surprise, Darius answered and agreed to take me on a tour.

The Fort Ord area is not known to be spectacular riding, but it is breathtakingly scenic and stunningly bright green this time of year. I was blown away. This ride changed everything. Darius’ pal Rodrigo, who is a knowledgeable park ranger, came along and provided interesting information about the area and plenty of laughs. It was nice to be riding with some really cool guys. They took me down the two trails that are part of the enduro course, and i had a blast! This ride turned out to be the highlight of my trip, and i can’t wait to go back. Hopefully, i will be sleeping in a nice comfy camper and the Taco-Mattress-Tent-Master-Suite is a thing of the past.

Watch my latest UNP video about the experience.

First Since Freedom

First Since Freedom

Swimming at Red’s Lake, our favorite spot

Swimming at Red’s Lake, our favorite spot

Four years ago today, I lost the best dog that ever lived. Freedom was much more than a dog. He saved me from self-destruction. When i did not want to live or get out of bed, i got up to take care of him. He gave me purpose, direction and companionship on the lonely island of learning to live with a disability. He was the smartest, yet laziest dog you could ever meet. He wanted to sleep til noon and would look at me despairingly at the concept of running, but could get beers out of the fridge, differentiate between my driver’s license, keys and phone amongst a pile of treats and just seemed to understand complex concepts that he was not even trained for.

Always down to carry a basket of bunnies

Always down to carry a basket of bunnies

The best instance of this happened on a windy evening when we lived in Mammoth. I had just gotten my first adaptive mountain bike and after our first ride with it, i fell backwards while loading it into the back of my 4-Runner, my chair rolling about 25 yards away. No one was around. Just the wind whispered. Scooting all the way to it, my boney pelvis scraping along the jagged asphalt, would have meant sure injury. Now, the previous evening, while sitting on the floor assembling the bike, i worked with Freedom on pulling my wheelchair. He knew the commands Get and Tug and we spent about ten minutes getting and tugging my chair. That was it. Just ten minutes!

I sat on the ground in defeat. Freedom stood next to me, seemingly wanting to help. In a last ditch effort of desperation, i pointed at my chair and said, “Get Buddy! Get!” He looked at me and then the chair. “Ya ya! Go get it, Buddy! Get!” pointing. He walked over slowly, sniffed it and looked back. “Get, Buddy! Get it!” Remember, our work the previous evening was the first time we had ever done anything like this, it was for only a few minutes AND was in close proximity. I was right next to him, able to touch the chair and encourage him. This was from across the parking lot, about 25 yards away!

He gingerly nibbled at the ankle strap. “Oh yeah, Buddy! Get it! Tug! Get! Tug!” His floppy ears sort of waved in the wind and he just seemed to know what to do. With seeming intention, he decisively grabbed ankle strap and started pulling. Just like that. Tears welled up. "Oh my god, Buddy! Yeah! Tug! Tug it!” and he pulled that thing all the way to me. I broke down crying right there, sitting on the ground. I hugged him, letting my face nuzzle into his soft black fur. This is just one incredible story of many. He was an angel sent to rescue me and when his job was finally done, he left us with beauty and grace. The cover photo for this blog is him running to me, into the sunset, while I am coming in from surfing. Freedom forever!

Gizmo at the dog park.

Gizmo at the dog park.

The past four years without him have been painful and I have not wanted another dog. What dog could live up to that! I am changed for life. Fast forward to Christina and I living together and our new upstairs neighbors moving in. Their roommate: a 20lb, stinky, noisy, so ugly he’s cute, French Bulldog named Gizmo moved in with them. Christina fell in love with him immediately, a dog lover because she a lost a Freedom-type Buddy Face earlier in life too. I had never seen her laugh so much then when taking Gizmo to the dog park. He is just so full of character and looks and sounds so funny! Everyone at the dog park loves him too. This turned into scrolling Instagram for Frenchies and laughs. If you don’t follow @walterjoffery, you MUST! Absolutely hysterical! This lead to a fascination with ugly but cute and full of personality Frenchies and culminated with me arriving home one day with a 3.4 lb fuzzy surprise for Christina’s birthday, his little head poking out of the cardboard box the first time she laid eyes on him.

Just over 3lbs

Just over 3lbs

Enter Rigden Wiggle Bottoms, my first dog since Freedom and Christina’s first dog since losing her guy. He is smart, seemingly preprogrammed with Sit and Wait, but he’s a feisty little Frenchie with fearless attitude and nothing like the gentle intelligence of a 85lb Black Lab. It is a different experince to say the least, but there is certainly no shortage of laughs in our home now. He just wants to be close all the time and is so damn loving and cute. Life with a dog is better and I am grateful for having taken the plunge into the next journey. If you are curious, i introduced Rigden in the latest UNPavement episode. See him for yourself!

A Wedding, A Birthday, Four Rides & 2600 Miles

A Wedding, A Birthday, Four Rides & 2600 Miles

When our really good friends, Syd and Macky Franklin, invited us to their wedding in New Mexico, we figured, “Might as well make it a bike trip!” They were, understandably, very busy before the big day, but agreed to show us some trails a couple days after. We settled on an itinerary that included Sedona on our way out, a night in Flagstaff with friends, a place called Ghost Ranch for the Wedding, Las Cruces to see my brother for his birthday, and two days of riding in Santa Fe with Syd, Macky and my good buddy Xavier. Here’s a little photo essay of the trip.

The Route. Lots of driving. Over 2600 miles!

The Route. Lots of driving. Over 2600 miles!

Working on my bike about 2mins into the ride in Sedona. Ride #1.

Working on my bike about 2mins into the ride in Sedona. Ride #1.

The wedding was in place called Ghost Ranch. Beautiful.

The wedding was in place called Ghost Ranch. Beautiful.

We were here

We were here

Macky and Me. Sounds like the name of a children’s book.

Macky and Me. Sounds like the name of a children’s book.

Isn’t she gorgeous? Such good beer. Oh ya Christina too!

Isn’t she gorgeous? Such good beer. Oh ya Christina too!

Hangin with the newly weds

Hangin with the newly weds

Christina takes cool photos

Christina takes cool photos

Someone used to sit here and soak in the view

Someone used to sit here and soak in the view

Christina makin magic

Christina makin magic

Little McGhee loves his truck!

Little McGhee loves his girlie drinks. Happy Birthday Lil Bro!

Little McGhee loves his girlie drinks. Happy Birthday Lil Bro!

Xina and me with Xavier

Xina and me with Xavier

The Crew. Ride #2

The Crew. Ride #2

The lookout at the top of Lookout Trail

The lookout at the top of Lookout Trail

Poser

Poser

Aren’t we cute?

Aren’t we cute?

Aftermath of Christina’s awkward dismount. Wish we had it on film.

Aftermath of Christina’s awkward dismount. Wish we had it on film.

Tailgating! Ride #3.

Tailgating! Ride #3.

Friends who wheelie together, stay together.

Friends who wheelie together, stay together.

Meow Wolf art exhibit in Santa Fe is weird, interactive and crazy cool. Dod i mention its weird?

Meow Wolf art exhibit in Santa Fe is weird, interactive and crazy cool. Dod i mention its weird?

Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf

Taos is crazy beautiful

Taos is crazy beautiful

Afternoon walk in Toas

Afternoon walk in Toas

View from outside Taos hotel room

View from outside Taos hotel room

Road Trail 18 in Taos with Syd and Macky. There was a little bit of mud. Ride #4.

Road Trail 18 in Taos with Syd and Macky. There was a little bit of mud. Ride #4.

Macky in his happy place: Burrito Land

Macky in his happy place: Burrito Land

Watch the latest UNP video about riding Glorieta with Syd and Macky