Near and Fargo: New Mexico 20140831

“I haven’t ridden since May,” my friend said.

“Good.” “I want you fat and slow,” I replied.

The goal was just twenty-five miles of hilly, New Mexican gold. My house, north of town, east of town and then back into the guts of the city. But this was my first ride with someone else in roughly a year. I knew we would ride fast, too fast, because neither of us knew the correct pace. I on the Fargo and he on his road bike. The route begins straight up. Within ten minutes neither of us can speak as we gasp for anything we can. “I can’t talk anymore,” I said. “Give me ten minutes.”

Cold to hot and the sun begins to show it’s face. Strong enough to tan my arms through sun sleeves. Lips chapped. Legs on fire, but the conversation, when possible, is fantastic. That’s one of the great things about this pursuit. Time in the field. Time to think. Time to talk. Time to wonder if coincidence is really that or something far more.
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Heading west from a small bridge. “Now we have a nice, long downhill,” I say lowering into the drops and crouching just over the top bar. The road is rough, vintage New Mexico, with dirt, glass, broken road shards and other debris. The bike is so stable and rolls supremely over everything in my path. Rounding at corner at high speed I nail a medium sized rock lying in deep shadow. It fires off the tire like a gunshot into the brush but the bars never tremble or move.

By mile ten my legs are good. Solid. Ready. A short stop for a bite and then back to finish the ride. Done.
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“Will you ride with me now?” my wife asks as I roll to a stop in front of the casita. “Sure.” “Why not.”

Bikes on the back of The Duck and off south of town where the road ends and the dirt begins. She is tentative, still learning, but the trail is perfect. I air down the Conti’s but she doesn’t want me to TOUCH her bike. A short, steep drop and the trail begins. Twenty-five miles of rolling singletrack. It’s beautiful. Truly beautiful as the wind from the east assures us a tail wind on the return trip. A few steep, sandy dips but otherwise packed to perfection with the wet summer.

This is my first real trail work on the Fargo, and I’m amazed at how solid it is, how smooth. Even with the new tires, and the sand, the ride is fantastic. My seat post and saddle making strange popping noises, but I pretend they are bird sounds and enjoy the ride.

Fargo-ing

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Spent the last week at the Blurb mothership in San Francisco. I drove up so that I could take the machine with me. Glad I did. Still fighting Lyme which means every single day is a guessing game. I think I’m going to ride and then reality hits and I end up staring at the bike, but this past weekend I was up for it. Rode about 60 miles over two days. Slowly. When I say “slowly” I mean never maxing out or hammering to the point I’m going to blow up, which is precisely the way I would ride pre-Lyme. I would hammer, implode, then see how long it took to recover. Then I would do it again. That’s how I built up my routine and my stamina. Now, I can barely remember those days. I have almost no strength in my legs, which frankly is a combination of lack of exercise, nine-months of antibiotics and the actual disease. I’m also on a very strict diet. No sugar, gluten, alcohol or dairy. I’m down to 158 pounds. In some ways this entire debacle has been a good thing. My life is changed forever, and in some strange ways, for the better.
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Over the past nine months I’ve been asked about Lyme on a near daily basis. I don’t like talking about it, and I don’t visit Lyme websites. They are too terrifying. I’m lucky. Very lucky. I have insurance, which works with a small part of my Lyme experience, the rest is out of pocket. I wanted to write about the bike, and I will, but I just wanted to add a bullet point list of strangeness associated with being a Lyme patient.

I want to dispel a few things and shine a light on others.

1. It’s global. Truly global. The CDC has convinced Americans it’s an East Coast thing but it’s not.
2. Over half the people who have it, including me, never had a bite or rash.
3. A significant number of people who have it have never been in the woods. They are CITY dwellers who live near wooded areas.
4. One antibiotic for treatment is not enough. You need three. (Gov of NY just made this kosher)
5. The American medical world wants NOTHING to do with Lyme patients regardless of what they say publically.
6. Six doctors have blown me off or flat out refused to even TALK about Lyme.
7. A standard blood test is useless to test for Lyme but used as a legal basecovering by many medical orgs.(Including my current insurance.)
8. There is mixed information in regard to transmission, person to person. I was told to “take precautions.”
9. There are somewhere between 3-10 million new cases per year.
10. Everyone gets diagnosed with MS, Lupus, Parkinsons, chronic fatigue, polyneuropathy, restless leg, etc, etc, etc. This goes ON and ON.
11. There are stories of the US military weaponizing the bacteria post WWII and the bacteria “getting out,” so to speak. Hence the coverup like coverage.
12. It is BY FAR the worst thing I’ve ever had, and I’ve had meningitis, Epstein Bar, Giardia, Mono, kidney stones, etc. Lyme is relentless.
13. Most people seem to spend about 2-10 years being misdiagnosed. NO EXAGGERATION.
14. I had a nurse tell me if the medical facility I was in knew I had Lyme they would “ask me to leave the facility.”
15. I just had my insurance company tell me I had to prove I had it before they would talk to me, but refused to look at my lab results. I was told they circulated a memo that said not to deal with Lyme patients. My doc said “They are blowing you off.”

This is a MINOR glimpse into the madness. You wont’ believe anything I say until you are in the middle of it. I didn’t.

Okay, back to the bike. Added rear rack. Went with the Salsa rack due to the extreme width required. Tubus doesn’t make ANYTHING to fit this thing. I had originally planned to buy a titanium rack, based on the shape of my old racks which are pretty worn, but ended up with the Salsa. Love the water bottle mounts on the front forks. I’ve also got a third, larger bottle down below, which gets nice and grimy from the front tire spray. Use with caution. I might also mount a bottle on the top of the stem at some point. Remember my kidney stones? Ya well the last one they had to GO UP AND GET, and yes, that is as bad as it sounds. What could be worse? Funny you should ask. I’ll tell you. When they get the stone they leave a stent in place. And then they go get that little bad boy….with NO anesthetic. NONE. I had flashbacks for weeks. No joke. So water is my new best friend. Love it. Can’t get enough.
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I loaned this bike to a friend for a quick spin and his one word response was “effortless.” It is. I’ve ridden 60 miles many times, but never with such ease. I rode trail, bike path, gravel, singletrack, parking lots, pavement, over curbs and wood, etc., etc. So comfortable. Quicker than you would imagine on the road and smoother than you would imagine over the rough stuff. Titanium is as good as I thought it would be. Also, I spent the entire 60 miles on the large sprocket. This thing is geared for the mountains but still has enough for a nice, long, sustained road ride.
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The only thing I’m really ready for is new tires. These are Racing Ralph’s, but I need a touring tire. I’m thinking Continental Travel Contact or the Schwalbe Mondial.
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The bulk of my miles will be on pavement or dirt road. I’ve got a mountain bike for New Mexican singletrack, but this thing will do everything else. I flatted on Sunday and was amazed at how soft the tires were. A shard of glass cut about a 1/4 inch slice in the tire and did the same to the tube. I’ve run the Marathon tires in the past and a piece of glass like that would have never come close to puncturing. In fact, I never flatted with the Marathon tires. Ever. And have only flatted with my Gator Skins once in about 3000 miles. I did put a set on my wife’s bike and she flatted about ten feet from the driveway then looked at me like “You idiot, what did you do to my bike……no get over here and change this for me.”

In short this is the most fun I’ve had on a bike, and this includes flashing back to my middle school BMX glory. Crossovers over the double jumps, running over another kid who everyone despise and having the crowd cheer me for doing it. Yes, the Salsa is even better. More fun. So I find myself bidding my time. Waiting to get healthy and staring at a lot of maps.

Go ride.

Near and Fargo…….Ti

While I have yet to discover a cure for Lyme Disease I have found a wonderful distraction. This distraction happens to come with 29r tires, a titanium frame and disc brakes. The new beast has arrived. The 2014 Salsa Fargo Titanium, drop-bar, adventure touring bike. I know what you are thinking. “Milnor, you live in Newport, get real man, there is no adventure in Newport outside of bombing the stairs at South Coast Plaza or Fashion Island.” You are nearly correct, but just as this bike is a distraction from the battle with Lyme it is also a permission slip to dream about the future.

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The idea is a long tour. Originally, my idea was just across the United States, Washington to Maine on the Northern Tier Route, and I might do this, but I’ve also got ideas for a longer, more exacting route that I don’t want to divulge here, at least at the moment. It’s a secret and it involves doing my photography thing as I go. I got on my bike today and my wife asked,“You ready to go?” I said “Mentally, I’m already gone.” The reality is a tour like this is not in the cards for me at the moment simply because I love my job and I do not have the time required to even begin to think about something like this. But think I do. Almost every single day.

So, to satisfy my curiosity, when time and location allows, I will be taking short trips, three to five days if I can time vacation or holidays with being in the right location. So far I have made four short excursions on this new bike. All four were what I would describe as Newport excursions. Now for those of you who routinely ride across the Yukon or places like Mongolia, don’t go thinking Newport is a breeze. No. Sorry. Newport is as dangerous as any location on Earth.

Newport excursions include things like dodging financial dudes in 4×4 Rovers with front axle breathers who have never seen the dirt but have no issue driving like they are in the Paris Dakar. We also have soccer moms in black Escalades with 22-inch, black spinners who have the innate ability to navigate a car full of kids doing 60mph in a 30mph while simultaneously TEXTING and drinking a $13 cafe latte half cafe decaf with acai. And not to be outdone by other generic urban centers, EVERYONE on EVERY TRAIL, at ANY time of the day is on their phone, walking serpentine like a drunken felon on weekend furlough. I once saw a puddle of blood, one shoe and a broken cell phone on the trail. Like Ron Burgundy says, “You gotta keep your head on a swivel when you find yourself in the middle of a cockfight.” I couldn’t agree more. Newport might not the Divide Trail, but I’ll take a grizzly over a high school girl on Instagram ANY day of the week.

A few observations.
I had always heard about the ride quality of titanium. Oh, I forgot to mention. Anyone who still thinks this is going to be a photography post can sign off now. Titanium is like…like…well, like your Grandma’s 1982 Le Sabre. It’s smooth. Combine this with a carbon fork and a Thudbuster seat post and you have a ride that equals my full suspension mountain bike, at least over dirt track, fire road, etc. When it comes to single track or insanely rough places the full suspension bike is the king, but for everything else I was amazed at how smooth the Fargo is. Also, the bike is, by far, the most comfortable bike I’ve ever had. I’m riding a large, which I initially thought was too large, but it’s actually perfect. The drop bars combined with the sloping top tube, mountain bike style frame is the perfect merger of siblings who never knew they were related. They are, and they play nicely together. My first time with SRAM shifters which took about 1.75 minutes to adjust to. All frame bags are made by this Canadian character, otherwise known as Porcelain Rocket. I have since added a handlebar bag as well as bottle mounts on the front forks and down tube.

There is an upside of Lyme Disease. Lyme made me rethink a few things. The reality of a medical world mostly unconcerned with the disease. My overall health, and oh ya, EVERY SINGLE THING I DO ALL DAY LONG. Lyme has given me a perspective about life. Funny how disease does that. Makes you realize there is lip service about life and then there is the actual marrow. Whatever it is you feel you MUST do in life, must be done. One way or another.

This bike for me is a reminder. A reminder that when I wake to the sound of birdsong, something I do each and every morning here in California, I need to stop and enjoy those sounds. When I take that first sip of coffee, the real black fluid that powers our culture, I should stop and enjoy it. Appreciate it. Someday this bike will aim in an unknown direction and take me to places I never thought I would every be. Until then this bike serves as my reminder there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are corners in the road I can’t yet see beyond.

Get on your bike and ride.

Brussels Express

Okay people, you know my lust of all things bike. This means you will have to suffer through posts VOID of anything photographic. However, think of the cinematography of this film, eat some tranquilizers and get your ass off the couch and ride your bike. I actually had NO idea that Brussels was this bad. I lump that entire region of the world into something along these lines…..“tall, blond people, three day work week, lots of weed, bikes everywhere, really cold, fish for breakfast, lots of cigarettes, funny languages.” The concept of traffic choked motorways and smog, not so much. Good to know Southern California is influencing the rest of the world.

South With the Night


“I have lifted my plane from the Nairobi airport for perhaps a thousand flights and I have never felt her wheels glide from the earth into the air without knowing the uncertainty and exhilaration of firstborn adventure.”

Beryl Markham, “West With The Night.”

I was rereading this book, something I do every few years, and came across this passage which made me stop and think. This is obviously in regard to flying but I think the same idea can be applied to the idea of leaving to go photograph, at least for me. The idea of not knowing what is going to happen is one of the things that really gets my blood going. People photograph for a variety of reasons, all of which are equally valid in my mind. I have a list of reasons why I do it. The need to record, sense of history, sense of documenting and for the adventure of it all, and this is where this quote most aptly applies. The adventure of it all. I know that the vast, vast, vast majority of my images will simply not work, so embarking on a photo-adventure with high numbers of perfect “keepers” as the goal isn’t really on my mind. The idea of consistent failure is true for everyone, but we can fool ourselves into thinking, or Photoshop ourselves into thinking, that a higher number actually work, but let me just say..they don’t. There, don’t you feel better? Relax and enjoy the relevance of this fact.

It never gets any easier, this photography thing. I might think I know what I’m looking for, and I have settled my technique to a certain degree, but I don’t really know anything. I feel the pressure, self-induced, each time I leave the house. I begin to snoop around and when I frame something that shows hope the walls of insecurity and pressure begin to crumble. But each night these same walls are rebuilt.

These images were made a BMX track in Texas, and are photographs I think I have posted before, but I did so again because I wanted to emphasize the point above and the one to follow. I was at this track with a Hasselblad, 80mm and tripod, YES I said tripod. I was going to say I never use tripods, but I will amend that to “I rarely use tripods.” These tracks are home to many, many people with cameras. In most cases they are home to the dslr and long lens. After all, people are trying to get photographs of little Timmy burning up the track. I get it. Well, I don’t have a little Timmy, but I do have a nephew who was burning up the track. I shot a few of those pictures, but was left with an empty feeling. Peak action sports images are not my thing. I LOVE sports, but shooting sports, not so much.

I wasn’t alone at the track. I had a brother, sister and friend riding shotgun, but in my mind I was entirely alone. You know how it is when you put a camera in your hand. Little else matters.

The humidity made me shoot these pictures. It did. The humidity made me realize the important thing about these images had to be how they made me FEEL about being here. The adventure here was in the details, in the atmosphere and it was my job to snatch them away, preserve them so that someone else could FEEL what is was like to be here, not only SEE what it was like.

I don’t remember how many images I made this night, but it wasn’t that many. A few rolls perhaps. Doesn’t matter. But I can remember every single detail because my mind was set to “adventure” mode and I was entirely ready to embrace the unknown.