Friends often ask me how I have managed to live my mountain bike dreams of making a living as a mountain bike coach. It isn’t that hard to follow your dreams, the hardest part is breaking the inertia of your current life! Often it seems like life is conspiring to not let you go. Every time I have made a big life change I have massive car problems (honestly, every single time), that cost me both a great deal of money (that I usually didn’t have) and time. So far, these problems haven’t stopped me. Quite a few of my personal “coaches” (often people I have never met but read a great deal of their work) will tell you simply, “life is a struggle”. This is not only true but outstanding, happy news! If life wasn’t a struggle we would never have the perspective to appreciate the good times.
It started in 1986 when I decided to take a year off from university and move to Aspen, Colorado (from Virginia). On the way home to my parents house, the day before I planned on leaving for Aspen, I blew one of the heads on my 1967 VW Bug. I made a glorious arrival home in tow truck with lot’s of flashing lights waking up the neighbors. Then, I replaced the heads with ones I found in a junkyard and started my journey West. On the way to Aspen my gas gauge went out so I started using my odometer as my gas gauge (get gas every 200 miles was my plan) this worked well until the speedometer broke! Then I used the tachometer as my speedometer (I believe 3,600 rpm was about 60 miles an hour) and I used mile markers to tell me when I needed to stop for gas. This worked well until Kansas city where I-70 snakes around and the mile markers change. I ended up running out of gas in the middle of nowhere Kansas. Luckily, a really nice surfer from California saw me broken down and gave me a ride to a gas station and back to my car. His stories of surf trips to Baja stoked my fire to get on with my trip! Did I mention my bug had no heat? Then a cold front hit and I put on my ski clothes over my regular clothes to keep warm. I stopped at a hotel close to the Colorado border that night and woke up to a freak October snowstorm and a bug that wouldn’t start. Even while getting jumped started by the AAA tow truck, no luck. So he towed me around down while I kept popping the clutch and it finally started. Back on my journey and heading into Colorado on I 70 my windshield wipers broke, so I did what any insane 20 year old would do, I found a lid to a spray paint can and I would stick my hand out the window and scrape a little hole to look through. This worked great until an 18 wheeler would pass me and throw a massive amount of slush on the windshield. Nothing like doing 55 miles an hour on a snow covered highway while blind! I finally make it to Denver and my bug didn’t have the power to climb the big hill heading up into the mountains. Turns out my valves had become loose and needed readjusting. Spent the night at some friends of my family’s house fixed the valves and made to Aspen the next day, what a trip!
In 1991, a year and a half after graduating, I decided to move back to Colorado to pursue my pro snowboarding dreams and train with team Breckenridge. The morning after telling my girlfriend I was moving to Colorado we had a big snowstorm in Deep Creek Lake, MD (home of Wisp Resort where I was co-snowboard director) and in my excitement to shred the powder I was driving too fast and rolled my beloved Toyota pickup, totaling it. Still got a great powder day in after it was towed away! That was an expensive turn of events!
A week after I quit a GREAT bartending job at Old Chicago in Fort Collins in 1995 to turn pro at mountain biking I blew the transmission in my van on the way home from my first pro race (where I broke my bike in half!). This caused me to miss the Kamikaze and start my go $10,000 in debt in the summer and work two jobs in the winter to pay off summer debt cycle for the next five years!
I blew the transmission in another van on the way to my first out of Colorado mountain bike camp in 2004 right after quitting another bartending job when I decided to take BetterRide full time. I grossed $1,500 for that three day camp in Nashville, TN but lost over $3,000 do to hotel rooms, a rental car and getting a new transmission put in.
This year, right after I decided to downsize BetterRide and work on my “mindful mountain biking camps” I blew the engine in my beautiful Mercedes Sprinter van! $1,200 in rental car fees, eight days completely lost to traveling and searching for a new van, $21,000 and a plane ticket later I had a new (used) van. Though it was frustrating I managed to survive!
I have always thought it was life’s/god’s/mother earth’s way of seeing how bad I wanted to make the change. Life was testing me, life started to become a struggle, but I didn’t let it get me down. If I can live my dreams, so can you! So do you what you want to do with the rest of your life! Don’t let set backs and/or societal pressures/norms get in your way! If you really want something you will be surprised how resourceful you become.
Now, I did have over ten years of professional snowboard coaching training, education and experience (and I was a pro downhill racer) before I started BetterRide, I’m not telling you to recklessly chase your dream, being calculating and smart about it. At the same time, if you wait to long you might miss your opportunity so weigh your upside vs downside in chasing your dream. My downside was failing to make a living and returning to bartending if it didn’t work out, if you have a family your downside might be worse than that.