This is a refresh of an article I wrote for a company newsletter a few years ago. I figured it needed an update with the events of 2017, because it reminded me how much maintaining a good work/life balance is key to enjoying life.
If you asked anyone that knows me to tell you something about me it’s that I like bicycles. It’s true that I’ve spend a lot of time with bikes: commuting, exploring, racing, road, mountain, fat or otherwise. What doesn’t always come through is my love for the outdoors in general, and my choice in employers in more recent years has allowed me to maintain a healthy work/life balance that I didn’t recognize that I needed in the past, and I’ve come to appreciate even more as time passes.
I’ve been working in the construction industry in some way, shape, or form since 1998. The thing you will notice if you look at building trends over the years is our homes and workplaces have gotten much more comfortable in the last 100 years protecting us from the elements better than ever before, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spend time outside. Just look at office buildings and how much natural light they let in now versus those built a century ago. Why would you want to go outside when you have all that natural light streaming in?!
I’m always planning my next adventures, and looking back at past trips to learn from those experiences. One example of a learning experience was spring of 2016 when I spent most of a week in Colorado with a friend riding our mountain bikes, but that wasn’t by choice. We had planned on visiting some trails in Arkansas. However, just like the previous 2 years I’ve gone, Mother Nature rained (or snowed) on our parade. So when we woke up to raindrops hitting the tents and big storms to our South, instead of Arkansas we pointed the truck West and went to Colorado. We ended up having a great time, managed to get about 100 miles of singletrack under our tires, and rode places we hadn’t been to previously. I have clearly learned not to go to Arkansas in March, but you would think I would have figured that out after the first 2 trips.
In June of 2016 the hearts of my wife and I called us back to Isle Royale for the third time and we were able to truly disconnect for a while. Isle Royale is the kind of place that if you’re lucky you might get a cell signal from Canada. (Click here for details on that trip) That little strip of land in the middle of the Gitchee Gumee may be our favorite place to visit, it’s a magical place after all. Our first two trips to the Island brought us to either of the two main ranger stations, and from those points we hiked out for several days in different directions never being more than a day’s hike away from the ferry. It allowed us to learn a lot about the terrain and what to expect on future trips. This time around we took the ferry from Grand Portage to McCargo Cove, and then spent the next 8 days hiking across the island back to Washington Harbor. Sure we could have done it faster, but we want to make sure we enjoy ourselves and leave some time to explore and take photos. And as with many of our trips, plans had to be adjusted part way through due to weather. We’re people, and we can adapt, so we did.
In the past we’ve also gone to South Dakota (Black Hills/Badlands), Montana (Glacier NP), Colorado (Estes Park/Rocky Mountain NP), Ontario, (Sleeping Giant Provincial Park) and Utah (all 5 National parks; Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Canyonlands), not to mention our countless trips to the North Shore of Lake Superior. In 2017 our honeymoon finally took us to the East Coast where we spent 9 days in Maine and Boston.
One thing is for sure, in the years since I’ve started attending various mountain bike races and events, I’ve learned a lot about myself, what my limits were, and have really pushed those boundaries a few times. I remember when 7 miles was a struggle, but in 2014 I pushed myself to ride 7 laps (79 miles) in 13 hours at the Wausau 24. This year I’m hoping to push myself further than I have in recent years, but I haven’t figured out what that means yet!
I guess what it comes down to is I’ve spent a lot of time over the years either behind a desk or a steering wheel with very little free time, but life doesn’t have to be that way. For a person like myself who is active outdoors I needed the freedom my career has allowed me to have, and I’m thankful for that opportunity today. Sure, we get busy stretches here and there, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to spend a little time outdoors.