Summer's End to the Fall That Never Was

The end of summer came quickly with so much time left to the run around of a small young family and the sports, gymnastics, family parties, birthdays, and the like. It flew by like time seems to do more often than not in this phase of life I find myself. I had big hopes for fall mountain biking and the beauty of the changing colors. However, a wet cold winter blast came in early and spoiled all those fall ideas. It exacerbated the skier's itch I had boiling up in my blood, but did little to serve the to-do list I had in mind. 

^This time of year is about trying to make the most of family time as I can. I have a rambler's soul so sedentary family life is a strange dichotomy for me in that I unfortunately can find myself looking towards the horizon when I should be focused on the little crew right in front of me. I am fully aware of this now-a-days and I work really hard to try to condition myself to focus and be present when I am with them. It is starting to help more that the boys are getting a little older and can handle getting out and about more often. We always wanted to be able to take them out on adventures and travels and the like, but then reality came into play to teach us otherwise. Couple this with our eldest son Amos' difficult early life as a Leukemia survivor and all the grand visions of adventure parents we had were put on hold as that existence took precedent. Next, our youngest boy, Walt, came soon thereafter. It seems now though that since Walt is two years-old, and Amos is healthy, that we can venture out more and more. One of our favorite things this summer was to bike ride down to the new small farmer's market in Twin Lakes run by our friend, Kim Adcock, at here quant little craft farm store, Adcock Farm & Co. that she has down in town. My wife Christine is a hobby bee keeper so she would either be down there selling honey and honey lollipops or we would just stop by for an excursion to buy some goodies and lunch from whichever food truck Kim would have on the lot. 

^The boys are getting to an age where chores are coming into the picture. Here they are helping with some grass clippings and making use of their farm implements. John Deere green as they say. 

^There is no better place than Momma's arms for a sleepy Walt.

^Amos is becoming an ardent little tinkerer. He rarely stops talking or running, but little tinker projects like reassembling a door knob and the deadbolt seem to capture his attention. 

^Lakes and rivers are a staple of this southeastern Wisconsin region. Threrefore, we try to get out for a paddle as much as possible. My Dad has fallen into his role as Grandpa like a pile of leaves and it has been so amazing to see. The boys love every minute of it and I have really enjoyed seeing it. This  is among the main reasons we came back home to this little rural corner of Wisconsin and it has been a blessing in raising them. 

^Summer barbecue on the front porch. The food tasted like plastic, but the company was pretty entertaining. 

^For some reason the cereal tastes better out of my bowl. I would leave rather early for work most days, but every once in a while Walt would wake up early enough to hang out and have breakfast with me before I scurried off to work. I don't mind sharing with him. 

^Work was a brand new learning curve for me this summer. I am the Trails Coordinator for the local County government Parks system, and maybe needless to say that working for the government was a change of pace and procedure that I am not necessarily used to as an ardent entrepreneurial spirit. After my days with Delta I kind of vowed to be done working for large corporate structures and all that entails, but when this opportunity arose my wife and I had to do some real considerations. The schedule was nice. Some steadier consistency of income streams seemed appealing for a change from my efforts versus the world of entrepreneurship in real estate and my winter ski world business. As it turned out, the job was a great fit for me. The position included plenty of freedom in my day-to-day. The people I worked with were great. All in all, the work suited me pretty well. I learned a lot. I was able to work in environments that suited my personality and skill set as well. After burning out of Delta I really did not have a good taste in my mouth for corporate structure and all that entails, but this job turned out better than I had hoped it would. I look forward to coming back to it next spring. I am able to make a lot of impact on the outdoor infrastructure of my hometown and that is really very rewarding to me. 

^I also had an opportunity to go to Montana with Christine to celebrate the marriage of one of my college buddies, Spencer Porter(next to me in the picture above, he quickly changed back to flannel after the ceremony). We simply call him Porter, and he and I became fast friends when I got hired to wash dishes my freshman year of college in a local diner. He was cooking, our late friend, Ben Geiger, was waiting tables. I have talked about Ben a lot here over the years and with his recent passing last summer that shook the earth for me and this group of friends these relationships have taken on a much more golden hue in my life. It was really great to be able to have a joyous celebration with this group of friends. Porter and I go back just as long as Ben and I did. We literally all went skiing that first day together after Porter and Ben cornered me in the dish pit of that diner and questioned me about my skiing intention for being there in Ogden as they demanded that I ski with them the next day. We skied that next day together, and then pretty much every day after that for many years. Porter eventually retreated north to Montana leaving Ben and I to the Wasatch for ourselves for some good years afterwards. Both Ben and Porter stood next to me at my wedding, they were there for me when Amos was sick. They are both, along with many of the other people in attendance at this wedding, among the greatest gifts in my life. I have lost an oddly large amount of really good friends in my life, but all that loss has served to make me a more grateful man for the friendships I have in my life. Porter is among one of those that I will be forever grateful for. For all that we have done in those golden years of our lives, and for everything I hope that we will do in the future. We may not see each other as often as either of us would like, but it is a relationship that when we do it is like we never skipped a beat. 

^Not long after Porter's wedding I went right into another classic trip with another group of life-long friends in a bachelor party for literally one of my longest friendships in my life with Ryan Schmaling. Ryan and I grew up together in the same southeastern corner of Wisconsin I recently moved back to. We were fast friends well before our first day of preschool in the neighborhood he and I grew up in. Ryan asked me to be his best man in his wedding, and I could not have been more honored. Ryan grew up with sisters that became like my own that I never had, and me and my big brother like the brothers he never had. Ryan moved down to Phoenix years ago and much like Porter we do not see each other nearly as much as either of us would prefer. This bachelor party became a reunion of sorts for a group of guys that had become spread out all over the country. One of those buddies, Ryan Klemko, is located in Denver now, and that seemed like a proper middle point between all of us to meet in the mountains above Denver to carry out this bachelor party. 

^Just guys being dudes,...

^...and partying like we were 21 again. That is all I have to say about that topic. Bros don't talk about bachelor parties, and especially not on the internet. It's a rule.

^I got to catch a pivotal Brewer's game with my brother, dad, and uncle. That was a really great time. The Brewers were on a historic fall run, and the laughs with my brother Tyler, my Dad, and Uncle Ron were timeless. Thankfully the Brewers are at home in this glorious retractable roof ballpark and the rainy weather outside bore zero effect on our afternoon beyond the tailgating scene. My big brother is a season ticket holder. He always makes a point of inviting me to a game, and I am always so grateful to him that he does. He enables some timeless moments for me to spend with him. We both are watching our parents aging together. It seems we both silently acknowledge the precious nature of these kinds of experiences with not only our father, but with Uncle Ron too. None of us are getting out of this human existence alive, and our Dad and Uncle Ron, and much of our elders, are further along on this march than us. Both he and I are really gonna miss them when the bell tolls for them. It will be the moments like this baseball game on a rainy day in fall that we will hold onto more than ever. That never falls short on me. Life may get busy, but I almost always manage well to maintain that kind of perspective. I have had too much loss in my life to have not learned that lesson in spades.

^Of course, I also made some time for mountain biking. I have grown into mountain biking even more as I left Utah. I am finding my way into the vast mountain biking scene that has grown up in the midwest since the days I left twenty years ago to find that kind of lifestyle in the west. It is here in Wisconsin now as well in a big way. That has made my transition to life in the midwest so much more natural, and I have jumped on it like a cougar to prey. My ambassadorship with Giant Bicycles thanks to my friend, Dave Maurer, with Giant and the Trails Coordinator job has served as a huge catalyst in my ambition into the mountain bike industry and scene here in the midwest. It has been good for my rambler's soul to explore more trail systems in the region. It has also helped keep me strong for the pending winter ski guiding work that looms just on the horizon this time of year.

^I am slowly continuing to work on the mini-ranch property my wife and I purchased some five years ago at this point as well. The new job slowed my progress, but also helped replenish the pocket book as my wife and I also impulsively bought another investment vacation rental condo at the bottom of Powder Mountain's access road this summer in Utah. We spent a bit of money we had earmarked for this property in the sale of another of our Utah rental properties and a bit of our savings to buy it so the timing of slowing down the progress on the mini-ranch played well into that financial equation as well. Thankfully, there is still a decent amount of low-cost work that needs to be done on the "Murphy Ranch" as we lovingly call it after our late puppy, Murphy, and the property's relatively small stature like her when one uses the word "ranch". It is only seventeen acres, but that is big for us and should suit our ambitions for a small hobby farm and mountain bike trail ranch we envision for it. In the picture above my Dad is helping me burn up some brush piles that are finally ready to burn from the spoils of all the lumberjack work I have done to prep the build site for an eventual home build.  

^I love how the views and the vision slowly take more shape with each step of progress. Having a project like this was all part of the plan in moving back home for me. I knew that the midwestern transition was going to be somewhat difficult for me in leaving the mountains for a big part of my year so my wife and I created these projects for me to help with that transition. Idle hands can prove to be the devil's workshop and I definitely have the kind of personality that can succumb to such vices and mentalities if I am not intentional in my life. 

^More mountain biking. My job led me to a conference in Wausau where I was able to explore more trail systems. I also took the opportunity to visit another old friend, Kraig Kruzan, whom I have also known as long as Ryan, but have not seen nearly as much over the years. Kraig moved north to Wausau a long time ago around the same time I left for Utah. Although his mother still lives next door to my parents, we have not seen each other very much over all these years. I was so pumped to meet up with him and finally meet his wife and children. Kraig and I shared a childhood together and to see him with kids of his own and become a wonderful father warmed me up inside.

^Then Ryan's wedding was upon us. As weddings sometimes go there was plenty of moving parts, schedules to keep, and dramatics abound, but in the end it was a beautiful celebration. I was so honored to be next to my dear friend as he took his vows. I felt like I poured it all out in my speech as much as I could have and the night went off without a hitch. 

^Ryan, myself, and Ryan Klemko above sharing laughs, love, and celebrating the new married life that Ryan and his bride are embarking on. This picture says a thousand words to me and embodies over thirty years of friendship in a moment. I tried my best to convey it in my speech to Ryan, his bride, and all the people there that night, but I love Ryan like a brother and no matter how long we go without seeing each other that will never change. I have a group of friends from that time of my life that I will always feel that way about. I know now that many people in this world are not blessed with friendships like that. Literal brotherhoods forged in more than just a lot of years, but in milestones of life, love, loss, and heaps of emotions. All of which came pouring out throughout that evening. I laughed, loved, cried, and hugged my way through the night in a rollercoaster of emotion. Quite frankly it proved to be exhausting by the end of the wedding festivities. Thankfully, following the wedding as the honeymooners departed Ryan Klemko, his wife, my wife, and my equally long-term friend Ray Yousefian and I also departed to cap off the weekend in nearby Sedona for some rest and relaxation in the red rock desert. 

^Klemko, as we call him due to the repeated Ryans in our group, and his wife Emily, hike underneath some of Sedona's glory in this picture above.

^Taking in the energy of Sedona's famed vortexes.

^Hiking and talking shit the whole way. Trails have a way of bringing people together as they have time to talk to each other and share experiences along the way. Reminiscing on the old days, catching up on the new life changes, and adventuring into a new landscape. Maybe it was indeed the Sedona energy, but I think these things happen on any trail shared with friends.

^We sure did miss Ray's wife, Catherine, on this trip as she fell ill just before their scheduled departure, but it seems she gave us more of a reason to make sure to do this again so we could have another experience like this with her included. 

^Then it was back to Wisconsin to wrap up the fall, and for me to get ready to head west for the winter's ski guiding work. I had a list of things I wanted to get done at work and at home to be ready, but as it goes sometimes in Wisconsin Mother Nature had other ideas. She pounded rain first and then enough cold weather to turn that rain to snow falling down onto my plans and the progress was slowed way down. The picture above of this big fat frog served as quite the fitting metaphor. Mother Nature really cut off fall at the knees with the wintery weather. I kind of felt cheated out of the typical midwestern fall that really is one of my favorite times of year. Between all the travel and this early arrival of winter weather it really kind of felt like fall did not really happen for me like it usually does. 

 ^Some of the Robinson boys in my Dad's cousin, Tom, and his son, Alex, and my Dad and I carried out some traditional winter preparations in Alex's garage. Alex, the ardent "wrench" of the family, carried out some fresh binding mounts as the rest of us weighed in on preferred mounting points, supervision, and drinking the beer. 

^All the coming and going of the end of summer and the fall that never really happened have all been leading me to this transition that I have built my life and work around. A long time ago by now I walked away from a career as a financial advisor to begin with Merrill Lynch in the big city of Chicago in order to follow what felt like my true path in the ski industry and outdoor work in the mountains, woods, and hills of the world. I would be remise if I did not admit that every once in a while I envision that life of big city living and banking fat stacks of bills would have looked like, but such is life in the human existence. We all have to choose our paths and make the trade-offs of those decisions. None of us can do it all. We all have to live with the choices we make and try to do our best to choose well. I for one feel like I have chosen well so far. I have a blessed existence with a wonderful family, groups of friends, and colleagues that I really did only think I could have dreamed of when I was young. I have never been short on confidence that I could achieve any of it, but I also always knew it was the stuff of dreams and that those kinds of dreams don't always come true for people. I have worked really hard, and I have gotten really lucky much the same. As I now gear up to drive west into the setting sun to pursue the work I have always wished I could in the mountains for the winter I am afforded the opportunity over this bit of time off during this Thanksgiving holiday to reflect upon not just that last few months, but on all of it. My entire blessed existence. If there is anything all of the deaths of all of the friends and family I have lost has taught me, and more then ever, the earth rattling loss of my dear friend and backcountry ski partner Ben Gieger last summer, it is how fortunate each and every one of us is to have the short time on this earth that we do with the people we love. It has been the one over-arching lessons that I have learned from all of that loss and the honor of learning from the deaths of so many of my friends gone too young, and family resting in peace after lives well-lived, that I am indeed very blessed no matter what comes my way and how hard life can seem at times. I have learned that to be grateful really is the key to being happy. Happy is a goal so many aspire too, but the truly intentional effort of being grateful almost always has proven to me to be the true first step in finding any amount of happiness. I am leading a life of my choosing and my design. I have the gift of this gorgeous young family that my wife and I have built in the village of people that surrounds and supports us. As usual, there will probably come a tearful moment as I drive west next week into that setting sun towards the mountains as I reflect on all of it in the lonely van on that lonely highway driving across the Great Plains of America, but as usual it will end with a smile through the tears as I inevitably realize how lucky and grateful I really am for all of it... this entirety of this life I lead.