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I was a free-range kid before raising free-range kids was a thing. See, growing up on a farm in rural Petaluma, California, in the early ’70s without a TV meant that I spent plenty of time outdoors roaming the hills looking for adventure when I wasn’t doing ranch chores. I played all the stick and ball sports growing up, but wasn’t particularly good, or gifted, at any of them. It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I found my sport: lacrosse.
Lacrosse became my ticket to Cal Berkeley, where I was the captain of the team my junior and senior year as well as a West Coast All Star selection. So, how did I go from being a collegiate “meathead” knocking the shit out of others with a stick to pedaling bikes for a living?
It all started in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in 1994 while I was teaching English as a second language and American literature at The Hill School—think Tobias Wolff’s memoir “This Boy’s Life” or the Robin Williams film “Dead Poets Society.” To fill the athletic void of not playing collegiate lacrosse anymore I began riding with two teacher friends who let me borrow their hardtail GT Zaskar.
I rode in cutoff jeans, used flat pedals, wore Chuck Taylors, and was a total hack—but I loved it! Exploring places with friends and pushing my physical limits in a new sport had me hooked. It wasn’t more than a year later that my competitive side got the better of me and I entered my first bike race in the Sport mountain bike category, still on that GT Zaskar.
Well, fast forward 25 years, an 11-year career as an elementary school teacher, thousands of miles training and racing, countless states and countries traversed, too many broken bikes and body parts to mention, a few industry jobs under my belt, an evolution from cross-country to 24-hour solo to endurance gravel racer, and I’m still pedaling away with the same passion I had when I first picked up that borrowed bike—although now I ride a sweet carbon Niner and have a few grey hairs sprouting up.
Here’s to all the free-range “kids” out there who chase their passions, whatever they may be, who try new sports, who explore new places, who make new friends and who push their limits.