I’m finding that a lot of times a photograph is the instigator of a new piece to sit down and write about and lately the subject matter (of this blog) is less about photography and more about other musings (did I just use that word?). The photo to the left was one such inspiration and is of friend Steve Steinke, who I ran into at the Growlers Snow Bike Race this past week hosted by the Bear Paw Outdoor center.
I still remember the first time we met-a warm summer afternoon at Levis Mound. I had pulled into a parking lot that was empty except for one older pick-up truck with bikes latched onto the roof. A small tent was pitched, a lawn chair and a rider sat enjoying a cold beer on the adjacent picnic table. I went out and put a quick ride in on the singletrack and when I returned he was still there relaxing. I introduced myself, and he asked if I’d like a cold beverage myself…the best of introductions. He realized I was a trail builder here and had nothing but complements on our trails. An hour or two passed and our conversation dove into mountain biking, trails we ride, land use, favorite places and other outdoor activities. Sometimes you just know a first meeting will become a friendship.
Our paths would cross from time to time, for not only is he an excellent rider but also a cross country skier and Levis Mound seemed to be a favorite destination. Steve is also a
fishing guide in Medford, Wisconsin and an artist producing some great work. Anytime we meet, like this past race weekend, I know we’ll have a great conversation and pick up from where we left off, no matter how long ago it was. He contributes often in MTBR forums, a website for mountain bikers and trail advocates. He’s close in age to myself, but spends much more time on the bike and can hammer the trails to no end, as results from last weeks fat-bike race can attest.
I always look forward to finding friendly faces like Steve’s at a race venue. Last weekend I drove half way across the state to just be a spectator and shoot some pictures at the Team Growlers Snowbike Race, all the while hoping to just observe how the folks (whom I didn’t know) at the Bear Paw would run their event. When I got there, another race friend, Randy Wegener, happened to be sitting inside the bar area warming up and contemplating his race strategy for the day. Or maybe just enjoying a beverage?
Our circles overlapped a few years ago with another picnic table meeting at Gnomefest on the Levis Mound trails. Randy is from Plymouth, and he and I met while heading out to ride the “Dirt Cat” check point race. Since I set up the course, and it was my home trail, he didn’t seem to mind tagging along. He’s super fit, and one of the best riders in the state, so my only hope of riding together was that I knew every short cut. We clicked off the checkpoints and had a blast doing so. Post race we enjoyed some quality times over a beer or two at his campsite. Since I knew few people at this event, Randy and girlfriend Sara became quick friends and have remained so over every addition of the Gnomefest. Randy is a trail builder down in the kettles and is one of those riders who embraces the sport to it’s highest level, but also loves to have fun. He joined up with two other talented riders at the snow bike race, but was more than willing to take PBR handups during his lap…-they ended up winning, of course.
Mountain biking and skiing have introduced me to a lot of friends over the years-during the race years. Perhaps it’s the shared suffering, the pre-race preparation and post race celebration that bring like-minded people together. My long time friend Marvin Schmieser from Antigo learned through the social network grapevine that I’d be at the Bear paw, so he made the short drive over to just catch up. It’d been a few years since we’d gotten together, maybe since we both retired from the Birkie? Marv is still hitting a few mountain bike races and no helps build trail as I do. I think we met at a ski race a long time ago and at some point we’ve hit every major race in the state. We share a love of the outdoors and good beer and expensive bikes, so we never have a shortage of things to talk about when we get together. It was just the best to spend part of a day with him.
Races and outdoor events have brought me to meet many new friends-Gomez, of Fat-Bike.com fame, Bethany, Marty, Adam, who so kindly delivered my latest bike, and many others at Gnomefest. I’m sure Scott Berry from the Bear Paw will be another-there are just too many things we have in common for a friendship not to grow there, and I’ll be looking forward to it. I’m also looking forward to those friendships with people I have yet to meet, but would guess riding or skiing or the trails will bring us together and who I know will enrich this life.