Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Tattoos and Missions

Got my first tattoo Friday and decided to pull the trigger for two primary reasons: 

(1) I’ve had a personal mission statement (live fully tread lightly) that has stuck with me since 2006 and it’s the cornerstone of the life transition I’m going through, and 
(2) tattoos are now so common that I’m not as worried about being 70 years old with a wrinkly one. 

live fully

tread lightly

As I think back to its origins, I recall the first class I took while getting my MBA in 2006 (another class in that program spawned this blog, actually, and its always carried the "live fully tread lightly" tagline). The class was kind of a “zen and the art of leadership” sort of deal where the professor encouraged us to dig into our soul, unearth our true values, and then let those be our guiding star as we lead others. I remember thinking it was pretty cheesy when we were asked to come up with a personal mission statement because at that time all the mission statements I’d seen were complete corporate jargon-filled bullshit like this no-shit, real life one (no longer active) from a national grocer:
Guided by relentless focus on our five imperatives, we will constantly strive to implement the critical initiatives required to achieve our vision. In doing this, we will deliver operational excellence in every corner of the Company and meet or exceed our commitments to the many constituencies we serve. All of our long term strategies and short-term actions will be molded by a set of core values that are shared by each and every associate)
Gentlemen, we nailed it!

But the zen vibe of that leadership class quickly grew on me and I really appreciated it. I also now look upon it as the genesis of my newfangled thinking.

My personal mission statement evolved slightly over the years and I now encourage others to come up with one as well. I'm no expert, but to create an effective personal mission statement I recommend my simple five-part strategy:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Write it down
  3. Be aware of it (i.e. Keep the written form visible)
  4. Write down your thoughts regularly (daily or weekly journal)
  5. Allow it to evolve over time
It's worked out for me and now I have a clear reminder inked permanently on my left forearm to guide my decision-making and help keep me on a desired path.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

8-Hour Bicycle Ride

Monday I took a nice rural drive on the small highways to Lake Scott State Park in Kansas 5 hours east of Denver. Purpose of my 3-day KS sojourn is to get in an 8-hour dirt road bicycle ride. I’ve never been in the saddle that long. 

Woke up Tuesday morning and was a little nervous about the ride. But I figured it’d be easiest to not map out a route and just ride in a random direction through rural western Kansas for an hour or two, turn, go for another couple hours, and keep just enough eye on the map to get me back to the van after about 8 hours. 

The ride went as well as I could have hoped. I started by asking the local park ranger if there were any scenic dirt roads around and she mentioned a couple options that were 3-5 miles away. From there I just followed my nose through some wonderfully flat and stereotypical Kansas vistas...

 to some canyons and rock formations that completely defy the stereotype, including this natural arch.  

The most challenging part was a stretch of 25 miles where I was riding south straight into the teeth of a consistent 30+ mph wind. It took me close to 4 hours to cover that distance as I was only able to average 6-7mph. But this is where I knew it was important just to get the time in the saddle and so I didn’t worry about the speed too much. After all, when I’m riding the 100-mile event in southern MN in a month it could be super windy there, too. At least I was smart enough to plan the wind at my back for the last 15 miles which felt great.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Week of 4/15 in Denver

4/15 - Rode my first group bicycle ride in Denver and got a good chuckle when the chatter amongst other riders reminded me of this...

4/16 - Feels like a Tuesday.

4/17 - Why do I allow myself to get emotionally involved in hockey games, the outcome of which are 100% beyond my control? Is it healthy to be a sports fan? The Minnesota Wild choked away a two-goal lead late in the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight.

I’m not calling myself a sports fan, but I guess I am a hockey fan. Over the past decade I’ve quit paying attention to pretty much every sport beyond NHL (MN Wild) and Univ. of MN Gophers hockey. In my youth I recall being depressed for days after a Vikings loss in the sport we call American Football. It seems quite pathetic now to look back on it, but hockey is the one sport I still get emotionally involved with. Again, I’m not the guy next to you at the game/bar yelling and frothing at the mouth. I observe quietly (and hopefully without desperation). But there’s a definite level of heightened stress that comes with it for me.

Sure, there is the camaraderie of being part of a tribe (e.g. fans of a particular team). I get that. And that must have some value for humans because it is quite common. And I guess any form of entertainment is about enjoying something over which we have zero control of the content. 

But when the enjoyment turns to strain and negative emotions linger, is that when its no longer healthy? 

4/18 - Fun and hope-filled bike ride & beers today with a new friend who appreciates both at least as much as I do. Those are good traits to find in a new friend.

4/19. My third straight day riding significant mileage on the bicycle and I'm feeling strong. Still, I have a ways to go before I'm ready for the Almanzo 100 in 4 weeks. It's 100 miles of hilly dirt an gravel roads in beautiful southern MN and it'll likely take me 11-12 hours to complete. I've never been in the saddle for more than 6 hours which is why I'm planning on getting in a 75-mile ride in rural western Kansas this coming week.

4/20. This passage from Thoreau’s Walden struck a chord last night: 
"When he had obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced."

Friday, April 18, 2014

LoToMojo's Recipe for Financial Freedom

One man's recipe for financial freedom. Of course you are encouraged to season to taste, but I do not recommend winning the lottery or playing professional sports as those tend to leave a particular and surprisingly bad after taste.


1 decent-paying, tolerable corporate job 
2-5 weeks annual vacation (increases with seniority) 
1 inexpensive, fuel-efficient automobile 
0 babies  
2 heaping scoops of frugality 
1 bicycle 


  1. Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Place 1 decent-paying, tolerable corporate job into skillet
  3. Slowly stir in 2-5 weeks annual vacation to ease the strain of the homogenous grey cubicle world full of corporate buzzspeak in which you reside. 
  4. Add 1 inexpensive fuel efficient vehicle that you can drive for 18 years. 
  5. Combine with zero babies
  6. Add two heaping scoops of frugality, mixing regularly. 
  7. Simmer for 20 years.
  8. Place securely on back of 1 bicycle and deliver to those you love.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Van Week 4/8 - 4/14

This week I drove south from Denver to Taos, Santa Fe & Los Alamos, New Mexico. Goal was to get in some good gravel/dirt road bike riding and a long hike. I'm simultaneously training for both the Almanzo 100 and hiking 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.

8th. Spent last night in the Wild Rivers Recreational Area outside of Taos, NM and pretty much had the run of the place. I realized that mornings are so much more beautiful when I’m not stressed about going off to a job I don’t like. I can watch the sunrise, meditate, slowly drink some tea, go for a little hike, enjoy a simple breakfast. Now that’s livin’.

Photo below is of my first night campsite at the recreation area. Just behind the van is a 500' deep gorge where one can hike down to the Rio Grande river...

9th. Yesterday I drove to Abiquiu, NM (home of Georgia O’Keefe) to bike 35 miles along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (aka Tour Divide). That’s the route that goes from Banff, AB to the Mexican border and follows dirt roads and forest service roads as close to the Continental Divide as possible. Today I rode a different section of dirt road 13 miles up a picturesque river canyon to a monastery. Gorgeous, glistening green river made for a couple enjoyable sits along its banks. Photo below is of 2nd night campsite on BLM land...

10th. Civilization day in Santa Fe today was capped by watching the Minnesota Gopher hockey team win their semifinal game in the NCAA tournament. Here's the free forest service campsite where I'll spend the next 4 nights...

11th. Was a little hungover today and took it easy in Santa Fe. I tried to nurse beers really slowly while watching two hockey games yesterday, but I think the celebratory shot of Jameson after the Gopher victory put me over the top.

12th. It’s a good thing rattlesnakes rattle, else I would have stepped on this fella and gotten the wrong end of his fangs. Fortunately, he made quite a racket as I absentmindedly approached to within about 2 feet. Saw him on a nice 15-mile hike just outside of Los Alamos, NM through a forest that was mostly destroyed by multiple recent fires. 

...and this is a cool burnt out tree a few miles before the rattler. The bark is still attached in this one area by the charred, but still intact, wood behind it.

13th. Last night I watched an excellent new documentary called “Mistaken for Strangers”. It was created by the metalhead brother who still lives with his parents of the singer of The National and chronicled his involvement with them on tour. Reminded me a little of all-time classic “American Movie”. 
Here's a photo of the van stovetop and tonight's dinner -- sausage, red pepper, orange pepper, garlic.

14th. Drive back to Denver. Beautiful country out here...

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 1-7

  1. In 1998 Neutral Milk Hotel recorded one of the best albums of the '90s. Soon after their talented frontman sheltered himself from the world and was barely heard from for more than a decade. Last night (3/31) I saw them play live in Denver and they lived up to all my expectations, a feat almost impossible to achieve. Fantastic show with trombones and accordions and musical saw that makes Grammy award winning Arcade Fire look like copycats.
  2. Had a positive meeting about SuperCuts on April 2 regarding hosting a Muslim Ladies Salon Night at the end of the month. That should be fun and I love the idea of providing services to a suppressed population. Later had a fun second date filled with thoughtful conversation, which I enjoy.
  3. Dating sucks.
  4. Saw an interesting documentary film today about the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva called "Particle Fever". It was fun to see a behind-the-scenes look at the global partnership of scientists who are smashing protons and trying to figure out the building blocks of the universe.
  5. In preparation for the Almanzo 100 mile gravel bike ride in mid-May I signed up to ride the Anti-Epic 50 mile ride outside of Monument, CO south of Denver and north of Colorado Springs. Here's me in the yellow courtesy of The course was decent and I met some fine folks while helping to raise some money for Most importantly, it helped me realize that I have some more training to do if I'm going to survive a 100-miler in 6 weeks.
  6. My father's birthday is today so he and I had a nice chat. He's going to see the Gophers play in the Frozen Four NCAA hockey championship in Philadelphia later this week. Ski-U-Mah. Oh, and I bought a one-way plane ticket to San Diego for May 20th which will mark the start of my 1000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Yosemite. It's on.
  7. It's my forty-fourth birthday today and I'm hitting the road in the van for a week of biking and hiking in New Mexico. Today I'm planning on going to Taos via the scenic route and asking at bike shops there for recommendations on where to ride. I'll also pick up a New Mexico Gazetteer map book that lists all the BLM land and dirt roads and such. Goal for the week is to get in a 70-mile bike ride on dirt/gravel roads and a 15-mile hike with fully laden backpack since I'm in training for both the Almanzo and the PCT hike. 
later on.