I was very honored to recently have a new poem titled, Considering Leaves: After John Trudell, published by the Dark Mountain Project. The response from the readership was incredibly overwhelming and since I don't feel much like I own the songs or the poems, but rather more that they are passing through me and it is my job to help them find their way into peoples lives, this poem been incredibly satisfying to share. You can read the poem in it's entirety here.
Ben Weaver on the trouble with lionizing artists' struggles, with a call for boldness in the face of want, solidarity with the land and each other, and seeking brave solutions at the edges, rather than swimming comfortably in the mainstream.
A stranger came to town. Down the frozen roads. Barely made it up the hill. She left early the next morning. Some say they planned it all along. It’s true, there are so many different kinds of dark. Everybody is wondering what will end up in the fire.
I had flown across the pond and was riding to shows in the Netherlands. Hadn't been over there for years, and not since making the choice to tour by bicycle.... Continue reading
2016 was full of many rides, incredible people, water, learning, challenges, grace, and partnership. I am humbled and grateful for it all. Here are some words collected in looking back.
Singing by the fire. The lake opens to the river, the river runs to the ocean. Glacial erratics. Bedrock at the surface. Now my bones are showing. Followed the watershed back to Homer. Green and black Mukluk. Bathing in waterfalls. Sleeping in a patch of woods next to the Sterling Highway. Starting a fire with the pizza box. The conversation was about how the shape of the stones resembled the shape of the boulders which resembled the shape of the mountain we sat gazing up at. Down on all fours filling our hats with blueberries. Congruence and sounds from the trail.
Singing by the lake. Snow blocking the sun. Nobby treads among fox tracks, squirrel, moose, deer, otter and a spotted woodpecker feather. At morning ravens circling the tent, staked out with driftwood, snow tumbling from red pine boughs. Hanging glaciers in the civil twilight. It all runs together. Water does not segregate. Woodsmoke. The year cannot be divided into highlights. The threads are woven together revealing only one continuous path forward. Alongside two oceans, under windmills, atop canals, beside moraines, sloughs, salmon boats, subsistence netters and at times within the river itself. The laughter of friends spreading across the surface of the water. Playing like dogs in the sun. Huddled like birds in the rain. Gravel and blue sky, stars in the night, like old nails in barn wood. Home is where you lite the fire.
Singing by the river. Mud in my teeth. Frog belly moon hurdling the constellations. Over Marrakesh. Amsterdam. Pedaling for the imagination, not the clock. Endless color. Gathering roots in the forest. My bowl facing open to the sky in gratitude. The harvest depends on what you plant. An athlete is an artist. Riding the edges of puddles. Perhaps the greatest risk is to postpone writing down your dream in the exact moment that it wakes you from sleep, hoping that it will return to you later in the day. Chances are pretty good it wont return. That said, go now. Already, another year has passed.
I was invited to perform at a celebration to welcome my friends Dave and Amy Freeman back from their year in the wilderness to protect the Boundary Waters from proposed sulfide copper mines in partnership with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. In order to get to Ely I planned an overland ride from Two Harbors, MN in which I rode less than 10 miles of paved road through the Superior National Forest. Read the ride story and see the route via the Salsa Cycles Black River page.
During the second weekend of August I traveled to Pope County, Minnesota, where I attended My Ocean, an outdoor, site-specific sound and performance installation at the Ordway Prairie Nature Preserve, co-created by performance artist Bethany Lacktorin and director / composer / musician James Everest. For each performance, Lacktorin and Everest led small groups of audience members on a 1.5 mile-long walk along a carefully composed pathway of sound, song, memoir, history, and ecologically diverse habitat. Continue reading......
New poem for my Walker Arts Center and MN Artsits Ramble Ramble Column; on fatherhood, art, biking, and being present in the moment for all the above while interrogating the world around us...... continue reading
Throughout the past couple of years, it’s become a tradition for me to play a show in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. I usually get down there early in the day and wander through the frozen backwaters, islands, and floodplain forests that lay between La Crosse and Winona, Minnesota. This year I was looking forward to exploring these winter landscapes on my Salsa Blackborow with instruments in tow..... continue reading.
On the last day of April, I led the concluding ride for 30 Days of Biking. In roughly 25 miles, our group of about 60 riders rambled up and then back down the river, making a handful of stops, most notably to participate in a river clean-up near the Columbia Park neighborhood, where St. Anthony Parkway meets the Mississippi. Then to Izzy’s ice cream to try a new flavor that owner Jeff Sommers made in collaboration with Bent Paddle Beer especially for us. The ride ended at Surly Brewery, where I gave a performance. What follows is a piece written from reflections I had as we rode that day and questions that have occurred to me before, during, and since the event. Continue Reading.....
My second Ramble Ramble installment for MN Artists is about my ride to visit and perform at the Art Shanties Project on White Bear Lake. Why art, and projects like the shanties are essential to nurturing our imaginations and envisioning creative solutions to the issues our communities face. Read the full article here.
March 15th 2016 I will head up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in support of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters to deliver a resupply to Explorers Dave and Amy Freeman of A Year in the Wilderness. Dave and Amy are living in the Boundary Waters for 12 months. Their aim is to raise awareness about the need to protect the Boundary Waters from the threat posed by proposed sulfide-ore copper mining operations, from Twin Metals and others, which will pollute the pristine waters and unspoiled forests of the Boundary Waters.
In order to live, we need food, water and shelter. Thus, these are the obvious items on the standard resupply list. We often talk about water and forests as resources, forgetting about the restorative and healing merits they possess. In the same way, we often only think about a resupply in terms of the food to fill our bellies and the various other technical supplies needed, frequently forgetting about the subtle things that risk running dry. We need the stories, songs, poems and conversation that provide greater context and meaning to our inward reflections.
For many of us the Boundary Waters is a place to go when we need to connect and replenish our inner selves with peace, quiet and refection. Dave and Amy are living in the Wilderness in order to protect the equal opportunity for everyone to have a place that fulfills this need, and ensure that it is there for generations to come.
I will ride from Ely, MN, to a BWCA entry point, where I will hike in with my banjo and guitar. My resupply will consist of songs, stories and poems that I hope will help bring them further joy and add meaning to their brave and beautiful statement of spending A Year in the Wilderness. I am honored to be joined by Bill DeVille of Minnesota Public Radio radio station The Current, who will be documenting my resupply and performance.
Additional Support for this trip has been provided by Granite Gear, Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Big Agnes, Salsa Cycles, Banjo Brothers, Swrve, Red Table Meat Co, and Angry Catfish Bicycle Shop.
I am writing a monthly installment for MNArtists. I wrote my first piece about the difference between wildness and wilderness and why it is not wilderness but wildness that we so fiercely need to protect, defend and preserve, in our land, art, and communities. I used my friend Sam Gould's new storefront experiment Beyond Repair, as an example. Read the full article here.
There are so many important organizations that continue to help cyclists see the World. Adventure Cycling Association is one of the most important. I recently did an interview with them about my past year of travel and performing. Read it here on the Adventure Cycling Blog
This past year has been a tremendously inspiring collection of riding. Most of the rides followed water. Spilling over with new friendships, wisdom, and plans for the future I am grateful. Water played an important role in connecting all the stories and tributes of these journeys to a common convergence point. I've learned from experience that stories are what keep us going as we travel. They are what we bring back when returning home. Stories allow us to connect and introduce the people and places we leave behind with the people and places we meet along the way. My brother made this short video about my last trip of 2015 following water on the Pacific Northwest Coast between Portland, OR and Bellingham, WA. Hope you enjoy it. To buy my music or books for holidays gifts please visit my store. Happy Holidays an New Year.
If two paths fork in the woods, the one I'm interested in is the one to the right of the one on the right, or the one to the left of the one on the left. I’m prone to rambling and prefer to make my own paths--literally, and as a metaphor for living.
I toured professionally as a folk musician/singer-songwriter for 13 years. I made eight studio albums, got to perform all over the world, and met lots of remarkable people. About 5 years ago though, I started to question what I was doing. It wasn't the art that brought on the conflict. It was the enterprise, the music business, and the lifestyle. I was always inside--disconnected from the world I loved and the things that inspired my art.
By way of several diversions, I realized what needed to change. I needed to travel to my shows by bicycle, and my shows needed to do more than just offer audiences entertainment. They needed to take place in connection with, and give something back to, the wilderness that always inspired me.
Since this moment of truth, I’ve been riding bikes around the country, preferring to do performances outdoors or in alternative spaces, using music and bikes to inspire people, and to offer new ideas for how we can live more fulfilled, satisfying lives with healthier connections to our land and ecosystems.
This past July, I circled Lake Superior on the new Salsa Marrakesh. I performed in conjunction with Provincial Parks, the Great Lakes Commons, and other environmental groups to raise awareness about fresh water and Lake Superior. The ride was approximately 1,400 miles. I made 13 stops to perform, closing the circle in 16 days.
If you compare my pack list to most traditional road cyclotourists, it doesn’t take long for the differences to jump out. I carry both my guitar and banjo with me on the bike. I also carry guitar chords, pedals, CDs, and other merchandise. From there the list finally starts looking more conventional: my tent, sleeping bag, stove, food, and clothing.
I carry my guitar on one side of the rear rack, and my banjo rides on the other in a custom waterproof pannier that Banjo Brothers made for me. I pack clothes around the instruments. My sleeping bag, camp clothes, and food go in a Revelate Viscacha seat bag. Since the Marrakesh is made for hauling and distance, it has every braze-on and hole drilled in it I’d ever need, and this allows me to run the Anything Cages on the fork that carry my tent, sleeping pad, and other miscellaneous items. Up front, I carry a fixed bag or handlebar roll. For a long time, I thought carrying things up front would be cumbersome and clunky, but on the Marrakesh the weight enhances the balanced load that enables me to ride at the pace I want and need to keep.
When I am riding I am usually working on a timeline. My tours consist of long distances overall, which make for big day-to-day mileages. In many cases, I am riding 100-plus miles in a day, then playing a show. In order to arrive on time, which includes time to rest before I perform, I need to ride my loaded bike between 15 and 20 mph, and I need to maintain that pace for up to 150 miles in one day, day after day. This means that the bike I ride, the way I pack it, and what I bring or leave behind can make all the difference in the world.
Since July, I have ridden the Marrakesh nearly 3,000 miles, including the ride around Lake Superior, regional rides, and a trip in the Pacific Northwest. In all these miles, I have covered incredibly diverse terrain. Salsa calls the Marrakesh an “all world” touring bike. Granted, Canada aside, I have yet to ride it out of this country (that plan is in the works), but I feel the Marrakesh confidently lives up to this declaration. I have ridden it on about every surface one might encounter (short of boulder fields or beaches, which I don't think many people are attempting to conquer on traditional touring set ups). But mixes of gravel, single track, dirt, pump tracks, and straight-up bushwhacking through the woods have all been gracefully conquered.
Spending as much time on the Marrakesh as I have in a relatively short period of time has afforded me the opportunity to understand how and where it wants to go, then tailor my packing and set up accordingly. As with all things that are about the process, the time spent dialing in the fit and making fine-tuned packing adjustments has rendered me in love with this bike. It is at the top of my list and the preferred rig for my current touring.
I have to be completely honest: Even though I am a rambler, and I take pride in my love of maps, I brought the Marrakesh home and had to look up its namesake on the Internet to find its exact location. The more I’ve thought about it, that action seems quite fitting--a good bike should make you ask questions.
Here are some specific things I love about the Marrakesh, with reasons why I’d tell anyone contemplating purchasing one for their next adventure to do so without hesitation:
Fitments: I mentioned above that the Marrakesh is loaded with them. They make for endless mounting options, and variations for how and what you carry. There are no limitations here.
Alternator Dropouts: I have encountered derailleur hanger breakage and bent hangers on previous bikes that I will never have to deal with on this current set up.
Wheelbase Adjustment: There is the ability to adjust the wheelbase. Not only does this change the handling of the bike relevant to terrain or load variances one might encounter throughout a tour, but it can also help with things like tire clearance.
Rack: The Alternator 135 Low Deck rear rack that comes stock on the Marrakesh runs in close behind the seat and has a narrow platform that keeps the weight closer to my overall center of gravity, not way out over the sides and rear wheel.
Easy Repair: All of the hardware, Alternator dropouts, bar-end shifters, and the spoke holder on the chainstay speak to a well thought out, easy-if-anything-arises-mid-tour design. With the exception of overhauling hubs or pulling out the bottom bracket, you can fix just about anything with a hex set and quick links.
Go Anywhere: There is certainly terrain out there that you will be challenged to ride unless you have 4- or 5-inch tires, but the ability to ride a 700x50mm tire on the Marrakesh means that you should be able to go just about anywhere you would go on a mountain bike. That opens the doors pretty wide. I have tried. It works.
Stability/Maneuvering Under Load: In my opinion what sets the Marrakesh apart from any other touring bike is this: It has a remarkable ability to carry heavy loads without compromising stability or sacrificing steering and maneuverability. Most heavily loaded bikes I have ridden feel whippy in the back, steering becomes sloppy and sketchy, and maintaining a line in adverse weather or road conditions is a struggle. I rode the Marrakesh across the Trans Canada highway with semis constantly barreling past, and climbed and descended with wind coming from every direction, and I was never blown or shaken off course. No matter what I faced, the Marrakesh went where I steered it like a biscuit through gravy. In my world, finding a bike that can offer this kind of stability and maneuverability under load without compromising the soul of the ride or feel of the terrain is equivalent to striking gold.
I finally made T-Shirts! The drawing is of my loaded Salsa Marrakesh from the Surrounding Water Tour. The text is a line from my Ragged Ass Joy Poem. There are a limited number of these shirts available. Place your order here.