Since Steve and I left Boulder on January 19, we spent the next 33 days learning everything we would need to know in order to become trailbuilding professionals.
We traveled to or through 6 states – Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas – and logged over 2,700 miles on the IMBAru.
In a nutshell, and to paraphrase McDonald’s, we’re lovin’ it.
The only damper so far had nothing to do with IMBA, but rather, a young man joyriding in a borrowed Cadillac Escalade and effectively totaling our IMBAru, three days into the job. This happened in snowy and icy Prescott, Arizona. The whole situation was a bummer, as it impeded our quality training time, but after a quick jaunt back up to Denver, we were able to pick up right where we left off in Prescott. Although wintry weather (snow, rain, hail, sleet, wind, mud, you name it) did follow us throughout our first month, and only toward the end of our training were we able to practice trailbuilding, we feel very confident in our trailbuilding skills, our bread and butter.
Little by little, as we watched Ryan, Chris and Leslie in action, read up, and practiced our new skills, we became versed in all of the facets of the job. It’s essentially educating, collaborating, talking, and leading, which can be wearing at times, but as you can imagine, the rewards are immeasurable. It’s plain fun to be able to work outside, meet new people and give riders and non-riders the opportunity to conserve the outdoors via trails and recreation. My background as a facilitator and many looong days helping people solve their problems prepped me for the intense work we do (it’s not all riding bikes!), I’m used to traveling and living out of a suitcase, and Steve and I get along swimmingly, so our training consisted more or less of learning the skills that we teach and how to teach them.
And what are these skills exactly? Well, mountain bikers, land managers and people literally of all ages, sizes, background and interests ask for our help on how to create, maintain and enhance the best mountain biking experiences for them. Their goals are generally much more specific, but in a nutshell, that’s what we travel around the country to promote. Over the five visits in which we participated so far, we imparted our own skills as to allow our hosts to adopt those skills and accomplish those goals themselves. We teach these skills through interactive presentations, field sessions, one-on-one meetings, sit downs with various interests, and facilitated collaborative workshops.
These are some of the tools in our toolbox that we learned and practiced over the past 33 days, and that we’ll be honing for the next two years:
- For clubs and mountain biking advocates, how to get started; become legitimate mountain biking advocates; gather their volunteers to build sustainable trails; effectively work with their local, state or federal land managers to meet their goals (how to be organized, basically); and have FUN
- The science behind building sustainable mountain biking trails, from start to finish; and how to get trails built
- Every nuance of managing the sport of mountain biking through partnerships, hard work, and fun
My favorite quote from one of our presentations is: “Communities build good trails. Good trails build communities.”
So tomorrow Steve and I will resume our travels, after a week-long break and sans Chris and Leslie (tears!), ready to teach, advocate, inspire, and have fun. I’ll keep you posted.