11 Things I Loved in 2023 - Alicia Leggett

Dec 15, 2023 at 16:27
by Alicia Leggett  
Man, this year went in a lot of directions. Some high highs and low lows, starting the year in brain injury rehab, returning part-time to Pinkbike and the great crew here, experiencing some amazing outdoor adventures, and all sorts of things in between. Here's a scattered list of some of the things that made my 2023 a little brighter. Maybe they'll make you smile too.



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My town bike

Sorry Kaz, you don't get the only one with your commuter on your Things I Loved list, though yours looks sweet too.

I've always loved this SE Draft, but now more than ever. It's simple. It's trustworthy. Nothing about it is especially practical and I love it for that. The bars are a special kind of narrow. I first got it a few years ago, when some friends moved away from Missoula, MT, where I lived at the time, and were giving some things away. They happened to give a commuter to a buddy of mine, who then had two commuters, so then passed one on to me. It made sense: I'd recently cracked the frame of mine. Then, when I had this new one, I gave mine to the local bike co-op to use the good parts still hanging from it. It felt like a decent line of bike-giving.

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This year, the bike had to find its way back to me in Bellingham from a tiny town, far from bike shop anything, in rural Utah. A series of roughly four friends passed it along until it arrived back to me, safe and sound. I love it. Bellingham is mostly flat, so the singlespeed setup makes lots of sense. That wooden crate, I found behind Trader Joe's and updated just a bit before zip-tying it to the rack connecting it to the bike. Sometimes, since it was made (I assume) for short-term grocery store transit, I've had to replace the shitty staples holding it together with actual wood screws, but that's a small price to pay for a sweet basket.

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That's all a rambly way of saying that I really love this bike. Now, I ride my town bike more than ever before. I live right near the bike path and keep a pair of rain pants handy. What more could I need? I almost never drive, and I'm just fine with that.




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Rapha and Norrona.

Clothes on repeat

Before asking my housemate to take a few photos of me, I thought about just reusing photos that were already on Pinkbike of me wearing these clothes because I wear them so often that there are already plenty of photos of them. I've loved them for a long time. But hey, I figured I might as well take some new ones.

This Norrona jersey and these Rapha pants are the clothes I reach for the most frequently when I'm heading out for a ride. Both are lightweight, comfortable, breathable... The jersey is functional with sleeves all the way down or rolled up to the forearms or elbows. The pants have pockets of just the right size and shape in just the right places, so they don't interfere with pedaling or anything else.

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Velocio and Outdoor Research.

Although I'm a creature of habit through and through, the Velocio pants above also deserve an honorable mention. They're a newer addition to my clothing lineup so I don't have a ton to say about longevity, but I do believe in them. They're a little longer than the Raphas and otherwise similar - lightweight, maybe a tiny bit more robust, with the same closure and almost the same pockets. They're an easy pair to grab for riding but also when heading out for other activities, too.

I also appreciate the minimalist branding on the Rapha and Velocio pants. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know this complaint conflicts with how much I wrote that I love that Norrona top despite 'Norrona' across the chest, but really - I so wish brands could just let the function do the talking.

Moving on from pants and my petty complaints, there's that puffy jacket. I definitely don't wear it mountain biking, but it's the ideal getup for both paragliding and chill town riding. It's warm.

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When I'm home again, I go right to the slippers. The post-ride essentials.

More information: Norrona Fjord Equaliser Lightweight Long Sleeve, Rapha Women's Trail Pants, Velocio Women's Trail Access Pant





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Tools that live on my mountain bike, and also the bike they live on

I usually don't like to bring too much along with me when I ride. That's why I'm a recent convert to and huge fan of Topeak's Tubi Master X and BB Hide 'n' Tool. The Tubi Master X is a tire plug tool and carbon dioxide tool combined into a convenient package that lives on my bike. I haven't actually had to use it, but that's plenty to fix almost anything that would happen to my tires while out riding.

To fix all the other things, I now keep a tool hidden in my bottom bracket. The BB Hide 'n' Tool includes a chain tool and a folding six-part multi-wrench. Magnets help keep it all in place. Mine has never rattled, fallen out, or done anything else weird. It's great.

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In its home and peeking out.

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Decreasingly assembled.

Shoutout too to the bike these tools live on. I talked up the Propain Hugene in my last Things I Loved article two years ago so I don't need to keep shouting about it, but it's still worth a mention. The last several months have been a pretty strange time period of starting to relearn how to mountain bike. I've taken intermittent monthslong breaks because the balance and vision pieces are sometimes just pretty hard, but I always come back to eventually. Remembering how much I love riding that bike is just another piece that keeps pulling me back in. Y'all are stuck with me for a while Smile

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More information: Topeak Tubi Master X, Topeak BB Hide 'n' Tool, Propain Hugene



Running

I run now way more than ever before, and I love it. During my whole brain injury recovery, running is the activity that's been the most consistently doable, no matter where I am or how I'm feeling. Nowadays, I only sometimes feel up for riding a bike and running way more often feels attainable. I gradually increased the distance I was running each day until I felt good about my route, and now I run exactly the same route almost every day. I live right near a bike path, so I take the path to a park, loop around a little pond, and take the path back home. The routine of it is great.

I used to always wish I liked running more than I really did. Sports like mountain biking just seemed a lot more enjoyable. But now, I get it, I get the running thing. I love the simplicity, that I just need to put on my shoes and go. Mountain biking involves problem-solving and sadness about the ability I've lost and trouble riding basic sections and fear, as much as I hate to admit it. Running doesn't have any of that; I start moving and then stop a while later. I can listen to a cool audiobook or music or a podcast. Sometimes, post-injury, I completely lose track of where I am in space and time, almost like an accidental shortcut to what some people get from meditation. Right here, right now. My running route is straightforward so it's not like there's any real risk to me not knowing where I am or how long I've been running. I think it's helped me run farther than I've run in the past, a strange new experience. I've recently started night running sometimes since daylight is so short right now, so I've now experienced running when I couldn't see anything but the blackness in all directions, didn't know where I was, and had no concept of how far or how long I'd been running. Trippy.

Mountain biking is amazing and I am so lucky that's such a big part of my life, but sometimes I need something different. Putting more of my energy into running has been exactly what I need.




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Going for a long walk by yourself is a good way to slow down.

Slowing way down

I've slowed way down this year, and I highly recommend it. Mine started by accident - I was badly brain-injured and couldn't do much for a while, and now that I'm past the coma phase and trying to somewhat return to my life, the process is slow and involves being intentional about what I do and don't want to add back in.

For me, that's involved taking the pressure off that I put on myself around relearning mountain biking, riding my commuter pretty much everywhere I go, going to yoga classes several days a week, and not over-scheduling. I've unsubscribed from an embarrassingly sky-high number of email lists. My email inbox is clean AF now, but it didn't start out that way. I have habits now that help me be more intentional, too: Each morning, I spend a good block of time planning out my day in a Panda Planner, which I would absolutely have internally scoffed at pre-injury but is now the type of habit that makes my life better, then drawing a detailed chart breaking down, essentially, how I'm feeling and what I have the bandwidth for that day. The chart involves colored pencils and all, and it makes me spend time thinking about colors and shading each morning. The process is way more than I'd have ever made part of my daily routine pre-injury, but now that's what I do before I go downstairs. I think things like that have been really good for me.

In short, consider canceling the plans you feel overwhelmed by. Turn down the volume. Go home, close the curtains, close your eyes. I've finally been learning how and it's been great.




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Hanging with my packraft, all packed up for my bike-hike-fly-raft-bike day. In this photo, my paraglider is stored inside the raft body, conveniently fitting into a waterproof storage compartment. Everything else is in those bags.

Kokopelli Rogue Lite packraft

I've already praised the packraft in my last injury update, but here it is again. I got a packraft in part because I'm not going to hit my head using it and in part because rafting seems like a great way to add another elemental dimension to multisport days. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but that's how I think of it: I can travel on foot on land, by bike on land, by paraglider in air, and now by raft on water. My favorite days involve new combinations of those.

One reason packrafting appeals to me is the potential for paraglide-upriver-raft-back-downriver days, so I've played around a little bit with that, and there's seemingly endless potential for more. My favorite packraft day so far (also mentioned in that injury update) was in my old home of Missoula, MT, when I biked from where I was housesitting to a trailhead, hiked up, launched from the peak of Mt Sentinel, flew and landed near the Clark Fork River in East Missoula, packed up, rafted back to near my bike, and pedaled back to where I was staying.

Now, my goal is to start doing that on a larger scale and include raft segments in some bigger cross-country flying adventures. There's so much to look forward to, and that keeps me moving forward.



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My bookshelf: an admittedly bizarre look into my mind.

Books & Music

Here are a few of the books that I enjoyed this year:

Maybe my favorite book I read this year was Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney. It's hard to explain why. It's an odd, offbeat book about four friends growing up in our weird precarious world. Interspersed with the third-person story are letters among the friends with often fascinating thoughts. I actually started reading it as an electronic library book on my Kindle then found so much of it interesting that I ordered a physical copy so that I could read the paper version with a highlighter. Actually, this particular book is a sappy, emotional, nuanced look at people's personal lives, so it feels actually kind of insane that I'm including it in a list on a mountain biking website, but here we are. I liked this book.

Another book I read somewhat recently and enjoyed is Projections: A Story of Human Emotions by Karl Deisseroth. Actually, I'm cheating a little with this one because I read it right at the end of 2022, when I was just starting to read again in the hospital. The book was kind of dense sometimes and reading it was a challenge, trying not to get lost on the pages. But it's well-written and interesting, a fascinating look through a brain doctor's eyes at several of his patients, and written more artistically than you might expect from a neuroscientist.

I just finished a book called Hello, Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, and it's an interesting, kind portrait of the complicated relationship dynamics between four sisters, their parents, and a man who marries into the family.

My final recommendation is one I listened to in audiobook form read by the author: I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jenette McCurdy is a sometimes shockingly intimate look at the former iCarly child star's early life, her complicated relationship with her mother, her eating disorder, her relationship with alcohol, and more. It was a fascinating listen with some really vulnerable, insightful thoughts, and the fact that the audiobook was read by the author gave it maybe even just a little bit more of the intended meaning.

And while I'm giving out audio recommendations, here's my favorite NPR Tiny Desk Concert I've checked out recently. Those of you who listen to the podcast, sorry for the repeat recommendation. I just really like it.


And then here's one that I really enjoy and think really captures my mood lately:


And then here's a song that I just enjoy right now:




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My slackline

I set up a slackline in my yard and it's great. It gets me out all the time to practice my balance, something that's really been limited post-injury. The slackline feels like it's right in the overlap between fun and productive. I also hung a helper line above, which isn't especially sturdy but can add a little bit of support. Shoutout too to the worm bin in the background.



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Google Keep has a handy Android phone widget. And I'm all in favor of becoming more organized and having tools for things.

Google Keep

I recently learned about an app that is essentially a notes app that does everything right. It's linked to my Google account (like everything, which I kind of hate but also which makes things so incredibly convenient). It's also accessible at keep.google.com and of course updates live so notes are accessible, usable, and editable on my phone or a laptop. There are options, too, for drawing, recording voice notes, adding images, and formatting as an extremely functional checklist. And it's just a basic free Google product. I'm a little mindblown that I only just learned about this. Oh, and there's a useful widget for Android phones, so my notepad is two swipes away from my home screen. Who knew?

In a more general way, this Things I Loved point might just be about becoming more organized. I now write grocery lists and to-do lists and actually a kind of absurd number of lists, and it's great. If I want to check my to-read list, I can check my Google Keep note. What was that bold outdoor mission I was brainstorming how to make realistic? There are lots of details about it in the Future Adventures note. And what products was I going to include in my next Pinkbike Check Out article? Obviously I have a note for that in my the Keep account linked to my work Google profile.

Before I accidentally became severely brain-damaged, I almost never wrote things down. I rarely put things into my calendar, rarely took notes, rarely relied on things like reminders. Now, I've been working on a whole new set of life habits, with lots of help from the people around me.

I'm learning to be organized and I'm learning that having systems and being thorough makes life so much easier. What a world.



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The people in my life

I should probably end on something sappier than f*cking Google Keep, right?

This has been a year of realizing how much I love the people around me and realizing how much they make a difference. That ranges from my family and friends who were able to show up for me and take care of me when I was injured to supportive strangers on the internet who have been kind in ways that make me believe a little more in humanity. Thanks for being there and being part of this odd year. We've just about made it through, and we have lots of look forward to up ahead.



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Addendum: Cooking things

I'd already essentially finished writing this article and was chatting about it with my housemate when he called me out, saying I'd be lying to the people if I didn't include my air fryer in my Things I Loved list. My other housemate chimed in that I should probably also include my cast iron pan. So here we are.

My two most-used cooking tools are pictured above. The air fryer is ridiculously easy to cook all kinds of things in. Stir fry? Totally, though you don't technically need to even do much stirring or even frying. Perfect meat? Yep, easy, quick. Chop up some vegetables and toss them in. Done perfectly, and so soon, with such easy cleanup. The possibilities have been kind of ridiculous.

And then there's that pan next to it. I don't know what to say about it other than that it's a pan. I got it at Goodwill and use it more than any other cooking item. I try to treat it well and it seems to return the favor.




Author Info:
alicialeggett avatar

Member since Jun 19, 2015
738 articles

70 Comments
  • 139 5
 Big fan of all of this and going deeper than just riding...
  • 12 121
flag speedy-toast (Dec 27, 2023 at 23:57) (Below Threshold)
 This site is supposed to be all about riding. That’s why most of us are here.
  • 8 102
flag speedy-toast (Dec 28, 2023 at 0:43) (Below Threshold)
 It’s seriously strange this comment would get downvoted.
  • 11 114
flag speedy-toast (Dec 28, 2023 at 0:47) (Below Threshold)
 And by this comment, I mean my first comment. People seem to be more interested in a cast iron pan than they do bikes. This site is supposed to be about biking. If you want to read about cooking stuff and other non bike related topics that is seriously awesome but there is plenty of sites dedicated to that kind of stuff. There are no other sites like pink bike has been that has been totally dedicated to biking. That is why I am here. And if I am so wrong for thinking that then downvote away.
  • 47 7
 @speedy-toast: dude this is also a community of sorts - don't like that? Fine, but those of us that do really appreciate the extras here vs other places.
  • 21 4
 @speedy-toast: and amazingly enough, thanks to marvelous advances in technology, you are free to read ONLY the bike related content! Wild stuff, isn't it!
  • 8 5
 @speedy-toast: Then you should go start your own site, to suit your needs.
  • 4 12
flag speedy-toast (Dec 28, 2023 at 8:24) (Below Threshold)
 I’m not going to stoke the fire. I have my opinion and you all have yours. The majority opinion wins. Have a good day y’all.
  • 63 4
 A good seasoned cast iron pan is a must! Nice work!
  • 10 3
 Absolutely, I've been using an 100 year old set for years that was passed down from m grandparents. I cook everything from eggs to steaks.
  • 17 8
 i clean mine with dawn
  • 9 2
 Steel cookware is so nice too, no need to baby it. Cook high AF on it, scrub it with metal scrubs, do anything, and you can return it to good as new
  • 1 2
 @rickybobby19: no you don’t
  • 4 0
 @badbie: I do too. I used to subscribe to the salt scrub but the fact is our soaps don't have lye in them anymore and dish soap won't mess anything up. But it stays out of the dish washer for sure.
  • 4 3
 @vapidoscar: Dawn cuts grease... ie - removes your seasoning. Just get the pan hot and run it under some plain hot water if you really need to. Any food will lift off, and your food wont taste like Dawn. Watch Cowboy Kent Rollins video - www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRZMXZfcol8
  • 4 0
 @thustlewhumber: Seasoning is not grease. Seasoning is carbonized and polymerized oils. Dawn does not cut through seasoning.
  • 1 0
 @rickybobby19: Nooooo! Soap on cast iron is a no no! Takes the seasoning off from what I understand.
  • 1 1
 Honestly I think the seasoning thing is kinda BS. Any tiny amount of flavor that comes from the pan would be dwarfed by the seasonings you're adding. I'd rather have cleaning be easy. I add oil before I cook on it.
  • 1 0
 @fattyheadshok: modern dish soap on cast iron will not ruin the seasoning! If it does, your seasoning wasn’t fully polymerized anyway, and was still just grease/oil. I’ve been using dish soap on my cast irons for a few years now and my pans have never looked better.
  • 37 2
 Best list so far! I wish you the best in a complete recovery Smile
  • 23 2
 A good cast iron pan will always return the flavor.
  • 11 0
 Sometimes I feel like Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk, “I don’t need anything… I don’t need anything besides this air fryer. I don’t need anything besides this air fryer and this cast iron pan.”
  • 5 0
 Recovering from a knee surgery that kept me off the bike all summer. And while I wish I could have ridden, I did appreciate having to slow down a little — so I get where Alicia’s coming from there. Hopefully I can maintain a little of that balance when I’m up and running again.
  • 3 0
 Same here! It's been rough. Best of luck on your recovery! Following Alicia's has sure been inspirational
  • 1 0
 @nicholasha: Thanks! You too!
  • 3 0
 I got a singlespeed commuter bike this year, from eBay. It cost me £60, less than the lock I used to use if I parked my hardtail outside a shop. I don’t worry if it gets stolen.

But it is actually pretty fun bombing about town on a singlespeed bike with skinny tyres and bars.
  • 3 0
 Running was my 2023 - I entered a half marathon and trained for that from Jan to June, then pretty much just kept running only less and hardly rode my bike - trail running gave me a less complicated connection with the paths in the woods than riding a bike. Slip on my shoes and head out the door - I love riding a bike and will do it more in 2024 but there will always be a place in my schedule for a good trail run.
  • 3 0
 I see two of my favorites on your bookshelf Alicia...How To Change Your Mind and The Things They Carried. I'm a "highlight while you read" reader too. Great things I loved article here and glad to see you're getting back to yourself! Good luck on your road here...
  • 4 0
 I will read any commuter bike content. I've had my own ups and downs with my fitness in the last couple of years and using a bike to do daily chores has helped me keep base fitness and maintain interest.
  • 5 0
 Added your article of the things you loved in 2023 to the list of things I loved in 2023!
  • 2 0
 I've really come to enjoy running over the past few years, it took a while for it to not suck but now I find it way more meditative/relaxing than biking. It is so easy to get lost in the rhythm of my footsteps and zone out in a way that you just can't while on the bike. It's also done wonders for me on the bike, I am a much stronger climber than I used to be.
  • 3 0
 I started running recently as well. It's so easy just grab shoes and go right from my doorstep. No driving to trailheads, finding more gear, tuning the bike, etc. It took me about three months of running to actually enjoy it but I was forced to find a hobby that required less of a time commitment since having a baby. I signed up for a marathon in 2024.
  • 1 0
 I agree on being a stronger climber from running. Trail running and hills is my secret weapon to staying in sound riding shape. The past couple of years my volume dropped for various reasons and my bike fitness suffered. I am back at a more consistent pattern now and it feels great. Trail running and mountain biking are way more sympatico than most realize. I also love the simplicity of it and the fact that wilderness explorations that are closed to mountain biking can be accessed. There is some gorgeous land out there off limits to bikes. There just isn’t a downside as far as I’m concerned.
  • 3 0
 @alicialeggett I spot one of my favorite books on your bookshelf. "The Things They Carried"! I'm not sure I've seen anyone else who owns that book. Glad you're on the mend, Pinkbike is a better place with you in it (on it?)!
  • 1 0
 The things they carried is such a great read. If you read "if I die in a combat zone, box me up and send me home" by Tim O'brien then you'll see which stories are true and which are maybe true in TTTC...
  • 2 0
 Absolutely love your smile in the photograph of going for a long walk by yourself, Love to see your improvement. Running as also been a huge part of my life, the pure simplicity of it and the rewarding feeling afterwards. You are inspirational Alicia, keep up the great work, My favorite PB moment of 23 is having you back!!
  • 2 0
 For any of us who have ridden MTBs long enough, or just lived long enough, it is fair to assume there were pauses for different reasons. Work, school, family, injury, and psych all play into the equation. As an "elderly" mountainbiker who started before most Pinkbikers were born I find your year end wrap up particularly relevant and touching. After 40 years of reading about the newest gear, advances in technology, or wheel size I believe it is what you do off the bike that defines you. We all love bikes or we wouldn't be here. So thanks for sharing your particular journey.
  • 4 0
 The worst life experiences, usually, shed light on what is important. And cast iron is the ONLY metal to cook on.
  • 5 1
 Lovely season on that cast iron. Treat it right and you will have it forever.
  • 2 1
 also you can thrash it and you will have it forever.
  • 4 0
 Always grateful for you and your updates. We'd love to see you next time you're in town!
  • 2 0
 This is rad! Recovering from a TBI myself it has definitely made me re-evaluate what is important in my life and slow down for a second. It has been a long road with lots of ups and downs - cheers to a better 2024!
  • 1 0
 If you like the slackline, you may also like to have a Gibboard lying around in your living room. Just like a hoola hoop, it is fun to have some stuff kicking around when you're distracted and play with for a few minutes. Better than phones. Plus whoever drops by wants to play with it too!
  • 1 0
 Excellent list! I'm a big fan of cast iron frying pans, air fryers, Google Keep and...my SE Draft. My SE Draft is my "girlfriend" bike. I bought it when I first started dating my now wife. I couldn't exactly cruise around the neighborhood with her on my full carbon Epic, so I picked up the Draft. Love that bike. Singlespeed, coaster brake. Perfect townie bike. Happy New Year to you Alicia.
  • 2 0
 I didn't want to post & be "that guy", but the more I look at that first pic of your single-speed commuter, I'm terrified for that Right Front break pad (it's screaming for some LOVE). Alicia really glad you're HERE!!!
  • 2 0
 Ooh, good catch! That one's ready to start cutting through the tire sidewall, then boom! Sometimes "that guy" says the thing that needs to be said for safety.
  • 3 0
 decluttering our lives and minds is so key, but so hard too...good for you making that a priority in your recovery!
  • 1 0
 Bookshelf looks wonderful! Cheers to some deep-cut Cormac McCarthy. I love re-reading his Southern novels, especially Orchard Keeper, on early-spring trips to western NC. Exquisite prose.
  • 1 0
 awesome list alicia! you're one of my fave PB contributors by far. hope your recovery continues-in a somewhat selfish kind of way. since it might mean more PB content from you. cheers!
  • 2 0
 Soo many rad things! Google Keep for sure, but what really got me excited is the Hermanos Gutierrez Tiny Desk concert! Been vibin’ to that hard for months now
  • 1 0
 Blood Meridian is one the of the scariest, blood soaked, depraved, empty, and hopeless books I've read. I didn't keep it after reading. It's probably mostly historically accurate.
  • 3 0
 "Any article by Alicia Leggett" is definitely on my list of things I loved in 2023.
  • 5 1
 Alicia is very cool.
  • 5 1
 Alicia rules!
  • 1 0
 I was hoping to see your packraft on this list. Glad to have been there for it's inaugural outing north of the border! -Duncan
  • 3 0
 I zoomed in on your bookshelf…
  • 1 0
 So much goodness here! Have to give a little extra shoutout to Barbara Kingsolver/Cormac McCarthy/Tim O’Brien side-by-side on the bookshelf. Three mighty writers.
  • 2 0
 What ever rocks your boat in life I suppose though not into facebook stuff, like the simplicity of the wood crate bike.
  • 2 0
 All the best! You'll get there one step / pedal at a time... :-)
  • 2 1
 There is hope in mountain biking and cycling journalism. Have a great 2024.
  • 1 0
 I am officially now using Google Keep, I hope you see some residuals from Google.
  • 1 0
 Google keep is the bees knees
  • 2 0
 Keep on keeping on.
  • 1 0
 Great article! Love the hike and flys and pack rafting!
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