Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Looking Back on 2011

One of my favorite traditions in the last few years is to look back at the last 365 days.  Most of the time it is an inner reflection, but this year I thought I would try something different. I would post it for the world to see.  So grab a cup of coffee or an ice cold one and enjoy.

Death Valley National Park

Early last year, I found myself in Las Vegas, not under the best circumstances.  Fortunately though I was able to escape for an overnight.   I drove the rental car across the desert to one of the most amazing places on earth, Death Valley.  There you can go from the lowest point in the lower 48 to the highest point.  You can play in sand dunes or rest under joshua trees.  You can even see coyotes or hang out in a castle. 

Zabriskie Point at Sunrise

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

The Outer Banks

For most of the world, this name means nothing.   However if you are an east coaster, this is the place to go in summer.  Fortunately, it was not summer so we headed east.   The crowds were nonexistent, leaving the place to the locals and ourselves.  There were huge stretches of grass lined sand dunes, shore birds galore, a handful of old lighthouses and communities of seaside homes.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Seaside Rodanthe

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Quality Bicycle Products - My Work

This past year, I was blessed with great challenges and great successes.   This all helped me grow tremendously.  I took on a whole new team of employees who led with great success, learned to delegate and not do it all, put the finishing touches on managing the project to bring back the assembly of bicycles to America, and continued to work with our key oversea suppliers.   None of this was easy, but it all pushed me and helped me to grow.  One of the greatest joys I have had is to travel to Taiwan to work with one of my co-workers and help develop our suppliers.  

Creating the fork at CWI

Arc-Welding Aluminum Frames

Forming Racks at Rubis

Putting the finishing touches on Salsa's Fargo Bike at Axeman.

Bike Touring Southern and Eastern Taiwan

At the end of our two weeks of work, I was fortunate enough to have our partner take us on a 4 day, three night bicycle tour of southern Taiwan.  When one thinks of Taiwan, most can only envision rice fields and factories, but there is so much more.   The center is lined with towering mounts, rich lakes, gorges and rivers.   While the south and east is a beautiful coastline that constantly takes your breath away.   

Robot Art at the start of our tour.

Farm fields in southeastern Taiwan

Dinner Taiwanese Style - Sashimi

Fishing at Taiwan's Southern Most Point

Grasslands overlooking the eastern cliffs

Confucius Says....

Quintessential beach view on the eastern seaboard

Putting the finishing touches on the tour in Taroko Gorge

The Boundary Waters

For all but one of the last ten years, I have made sure to to pack up a bag with food and gear and head north.   You can travel the world over in search of many great natural sites.  Then travel to northern Minnesota and you will find there is one right here in my backyard.  The best part is, unlike backpacking, a canoe caries all your gear.  My good friend Chad and I have been making our way across every region of the boundary waters.  To some, they may all look the same, to us, each has its own character.

Chad Stone on a rare sandy Beach

Falls on the Little Indian Sioux River

The Great Canadian Family Vacation

Crazy as it may seem, I decided that I wanted to go on a family road trip.  I loaded up my 11 month old son, my 4 year old daughter, my wife and headed to eastern Canada.   I had always gone west and had to challenge my instinct.  This time I found a land of deep woods, plenty of misquotes, and a lot of history.   

Presque Isles River in Porcupine Mountains National Park

Lake Superior Provincial Park Beach Campground in Ontario

Our Final Destination, Quebec City

A Clipper Ship in Lake Michigan

Challenging the Status Quo

Late this year, a good friend of mine began a quest of conquering the useless.  We generated a list of things we have never done or would not generally consider doing.  On an occasional basis, we would get out of our box and try them.  

Greg and his escorts - 
First on the list was Irish Dancing at Irish Fest.  Irish Dancing involved dancing in lines with a variety of people on the dance floor.  The was a list of key steps that varied for each dance.   When done right, Riverdance came alive, when done poorly, well you can imagine.

Fat Biking - 
While many of you probably have not heard of it, you should.   Imagine a mountain bike, with big fat tires.  They roll over everything from snow, rocks or deep sand.  This makes expedition travel by bike all the more appealing.   Early this fall, I checked out one of these bikes from work and rolled out on the beach like river bottoms.   It was awesome, one of the best times I have ever had on a bike.  

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

After eleven years of marriage, Cindy and I had to get away.   We decided to head to the southeast to Smoky Mountains.  There are the rolling hills, the elk, the lush forests and cool streams all nestled in and amongst east coast civilization.  Stay out of kitschy Gatlinburg and stay on the trails and you won't be disappointed.  

Fall Colors

Sunset on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Years Challenge

Just about every year, I need to "Conquer the Useless," to quote Yvon Chouinard.  This time, I flew to California with my good friend Kurt to run the North Face 50 mile Championship.   In the headlands just across from San Francisco, we ran up and down over 11,600 ft gazing at either the pacific ocean or peering upwards through towering redwoods.   We felt good; we felt delusional; and we felt miserable.  In the end we persevered to conquer the trail.    

The Golden Gate Bridge

On route to completing my third 50 mile race.

My Family

With all the excitement and fun above, still the most important part of my life has been my family.   They are growing up and changing all for the better.  

My son Cadel turned one this year.   As he is growing up, I had to wonder what it would be liked if we all changed as much as he did in one year.  He has gone from just sitting up to crawling to walking to running, speaking and laughing.  Things they are a changing.

  My daughter Anatalya turned four.   She has officially entered preschool, is learning her numbers and letters and found her imagination.  Being a princess doesn't mean only girly things, camping is still cool and getting dirty is still fun.  

Cindy in a moment of solitude.
Miscellaneous - My Favorites of the Year

Best Books:  Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, A River Runs Through it by Norman MacClean, Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux

Best Movies:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 180 Degrees South, 127 Hours, Restrepo, Unbreakable: Western States 100

Best Podcast:  Patagonia's Dirtbag Diaries

Best Concerts:  U2, Dawes and Blitzen Trapper, Ben Folds

Best Albums: Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More, Avett Brother - I and Love and You, Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska, Pearl Jam - VS, Blitzen Trapper - Furr

Useless Goals: Running 365 Days Straight, Hiking 7 more trails on my quest to hike all published trails in MN, 1 more area on the way to reaching the goal of paddling every area of the Boundary Waters