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Joy Ride: Can a Competitive Mountain Biker Kill His Instincts and Just Gape?

first_imgPhoto Courtesy of Devon O’NeilNo matter how good you get at something, it’s important to remember when you sucked at it. Both for your sake and others’.As a mountain biker, my period of sucking is boiled down to one very vivid memory. It was June 2004. I had just bought my first pair of clip-in pedals, and I went for a ride to test them out. The switchbacking trail behind my home gained 200 vertical feet before you could catch your breath. I was almost at the top when I came up short on a rock, couldn’t complete the pedal stroke and my bike stopped. I tried to unclip with both feet but failed, all the while sloooooowly teetering over like a Jenga tower.Splat!I hit the ground and immediately felt an uncomfortable warm sensation on my right wrist. I looked down and saw the dog poop at precisely the moment its odor filled my mouth and nose, which, as I lay on the ground, hovered about four inches from the still-steaming pile. I gagged. Somehow the vomit stayed down.I picked myself up, used a pine branch to clean my arm, turned my bike around and rode home, humiliated. I glanced around on my way down the hill to gauge whether anyone saw. As far as I could tell, no one did.After briefly considering whether to find something else to do with my time, I stuck with mountain biking and grew to love it. Now I ride five days a week all summer and fall. I write about the sport and its colorful characters for magazines. Some of my favorite adventures involve pedaling a full-suspension rig on a remote trail, hungry, thirsty, beat up from crashing, kind of screwed in the mind, wondering how and where the day will end.And inevitably on days like that, I come across at least one tourist, sometimes more, who looks like he just got off the bus from Amarillo and has a hundred questions but is too proud to ask them. This, in mountain-town-local parlance, is a “gaper.” (Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker that reminds fellow locals to “Love thy gaper”?)I have never liked that term. It sounds negative to me. Plus, I have been the guy in the foreign place, gaping, literally, at the new and interesting sights, probably while driving like a grandmother. I don’t mind being a gaper, but I don’t think I should be chastised for it either. That’s why I have a problem with the term as it’s used in resort towns, no matter how well the stereotype fits a certain percentage.The problem is that as human beings we’re wired to impose our will wherever we can. It’s instinctive, on some level, to claim superiority, and the outdoors is not immune, which is really too bad. Nature deserves better.I refer to this as the outdoors relativity complex, and it goes beyond just calling tourists gapers. In fact, it exists in strikingly parallel form in towns across the country and throughout the world, bridging languages and cultures, sports and stereotypes.The relativity stems from the way we get so concerned with where we stack up in nature that our competitiveness—trying to outdo the next guy—drains the experience of its actual benefit. I’m 35, so maybe it doesn’t sound so curmudgeonly when I say it baffles me to see a runner or biker going so fast down a trail that not only does he not have time to say hello to someone going up, but neither to yield.The line between instinct and intent gets blurry, but it’s easy to take oneself too seriously. It happens to all of us, myself included. The ego is built into the brain. It gets hungry. So we feed it. But in doing so, we drift from the beauty of coexistence and develop a less compassionate grasp of what being outside is all about.This tendency exists in the rest of life too. For as long as I’ve understood socioeconomic class structure, I have wanted to end up stranded on an island with Donald Trump, armed with more survival know-how than he, and observe him gradually come to terms with how helpless such a rich man can be sans credit card and communication. Wouldn’t you pay to watch that?Overzealous outdoorsmen often fit familiar molds: the über-competitive guy or girl who can’t just go for a casual run or ride, no matter what they say at the trailhead. The climber who chides someone who’s still dialing in his rope work. The skier who heckles beginners from the chairlift.Funny, isn’t it, how we focus on whom we’re better than, instead of who’s better than us? Why else do so many average athletes enter races if not to see how many people they can beat? The psychologists at Strava know this. If you only cared how fast you could do something, stopwatches would still be in vogue and king of the mountain would still be a game kids played on snowbanks in the schoolyard.What those who draw their entire self-worth from their place on a results sheet miss is that there is only one person on earth who’s the best at something, and only one who’s the worst at something. Everyone else falls in between—each of us is faster than some, slower than others. Yes, you may rank substantially higher on that list than your fellow local trail users, but it can help to remember there are plenty of people elsewhere who would crush you. As one of my ski chums says when he hears people brag about their conquests, “Don’t be too proud. Somebody probably did it decades ago in leather boots and on skinny skis.”The outdoors relativity complex doesn’t consume everyone, of course. Plenty of men and women exhibit a genuinely humble attitude, including elites who win races. But for those who do get consumed, the complex can drive everything they do, sapping the fun and beauty.It is also related, indirectly, to the “how long have you lived here” status symbol—a misguided favorite in resort towns, whose communities are built around residents’ shared interests, not tenure. Plus, longevity is relative. How do you think the elk feel when they hear some 25-year-old get all puffy because he’s been here six years and someone who’s only been here four is trying to tell him about the trail network?Stifling pride, as it were, takes conscious effort and doesn’t feel as good. The ego wants.Let it want.Sometimes we need to simmer down, gape at our surroundings like tourists, and remember that we’re in the greatest place there is: outside.last_img read more

Millennials: Redefining the American Dream

first_img 41SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Sarah Volling Sarah Volling is Marketing Manager at Accenture Mortgage Cadence. Beginning her career with the company over seven years ago, Sarah now oversees the marketing department, strengthening brand identity through thought … Web: www.accenture.com Details “Another article about Millennials?” you might be asking yourself. I can guarantee this is unlike most articles you have read. The industry is buzzing about the opportunity these future homebuyers will create for lenders. However, the fact of the matter is that most Millennials are still not buying homes. Because of this, I decided to do a little digging to identify why this is the case and what, if anything, lenders can do to begin nudging Millennials in the right direction. While I myself am, in fact, a Millennial, I am the exception to the rule. Find out more about my story and those of other Perennial Homebuyers here. Read on to uncover a firsthand account of one Millennial, Taylor Epskamp, who is just beginning his journey on the path to being a first-time homebuyer.Q: How old were you when you decided you might be interested in buying your first house? A: I became seriously interested in buying my first home just a few months ago at age 25. However, I can remember as far back as high school casually flipping through the homes listed for sale in the back of our newspaper. I had a vision of becoming some sort of real estate mogul prodigy, yet I certainly couldn’t pursue that career path given my lack of steady income at the time.Even after starting my first post-undergrad position, the idea of buying a home seemed like bad planning. Who knew where I would end up? In the year following graduation, I left my hometown of Chicago and made my way out west to Colorado. Once there, I rented a home with several roommates before moving again the next year to my current apartment where I live with my girlfriend. In the two years since graduating, I moved 5 times, so home buying definitely didn’t fit into the picture. Now, nearly four years after graduation, home buying feels like something I should consider. My savings account is looking better, I’ve developed a connection to my current city, and my parents surprised me with an incredibly generous offer to cover a down payment. Although my newfound stability could easily be offset by a sudden end to my long-term relationship or a shift in my career, those factors seem less significant than they did even six months ago. Q: Who have you been asking for advice regarding where to start and what to consider when buying a home?A: When seeking advice about buying a home, I naturally started with asking my parents. I didn’t receive the straightest of answers on some of the questions. What happens if I need to move in a few years? Could I rent my home out? Is it a good time to buy? And so I began to supplement our conversations with research online. I encountered some great rules of thumb and even calculators that move backwards from the maximum mortgage payment you could afford, yet I still felt like I didn’t have a complete picture. With a little more context on the home buying process, I casually sought opinions from like-minded twenty somethings. A central question was, “Where do I start?” A few referred me to their favorite realtors and recommended I speak to my bank of choice about getting preapproved. I learned, however, that pre-approvals are typically only good for 30 days, and the idea of owning a home in a month made my palms sweat a little. Even after research, I’m not quite clear on where I should go for a preapproval: credit union, community bank, or a big bank? Although it’s a huge buying decision, I’m trying not to get bogged down by all of the details, at least initially. The important thing is to just start this process, working it out as I go. Q: Your last statement ties in nicely to my next question. What is the biggest roadblock preventing you from actively beginning your home search?The first obstacle I see when looking to buy a home is a deep seeded fear that I am too naïve. If I don’t know my budget, I might get talked into a home that I can’t afford comfortably. I’m also worried about finding the best terms for a loan. An interest rate that’s only slightly higher could play out as a loss further down the road. This vaguely irrational fear is coupled with the realization that I would be tied to a specific location regardless of other factors such as a relationship, career, or lifestyle change. In other words, I might be married for better or for worse to my mortgage. In contrast, it’s fairly easy to break your apartment lease or to sublet for a few months until it runs out. The flexibility that renting affords is like a giant security blanket for us young professionals. Finally, I worry about home maintenance. With the wrong home, I could find myself choosing to pay for a new roof instead of going on that trip I had planned. Even the thought of having to putter about my lawn instead of going rock climbing is a sacrifice I’m unsure I want to make. Okay, so lawn work can be highly gratifying, but the point is that home maintenance potentially represents a huge time commitment. Even for young professionals with the means to buy their first home, there are many obstacles they see in their way. Saving up for a down payment (they likely aren’t familiar that FHA loans are an option), learning the buying process, and sacrificing some flexibility and independence are all valid concerns.Lessons to be learned:Taylor mentioned he does not know what type of bank to go with. Now is the time to target Millennials through social media and advertising campaigns geared at differentiating yourself in a crowded market. Answer the question: “What can you do for me that no one else can?”Millennials don’t want to feel tied down to a given city – let alone a house. Educating this generation on the potential to turn a home into an income property or how the selling process works would likely squash many of their concerns. Consider short, educational videos you can post to social media or your website. Millennials are likely to watch a 2 minute video before picking up the phone to chat.Consider adding calculators to your website that compares renting to buying. Renting often costs more each month than a monthly mortgage payment. Millennials likely don’t know this. This is not much different than a standard calculator you already have on your site today, but positioning it in a way that speaks to Millennials is key.The silver lining: as these individuals tire of handing check after check over to their landlords, acknowledging their loss of equity, home ownership will be a natural next step. Taylor closed by saying, “I’m not ready to pull the trigger just yet, but I am willing to talk to a few realtors and maybe even shop around for a lender.”last_img read more