January 29, 2018 - Maxton Caplanides is Adventure Cycling's Sales and Shipping Specialist and now the photographic force behind the Open Road Gallery too.
When Adventure Cycling cofounder Greg Siple retired in 2017, not very long after I started working at Adventure Cycling’s online Cyclosource store, a big question that came to my mind was, what would become of the black and white portrait collection known as the Open Road Gallery, a staple in the bicycle-touring community over the past few decades and always the last page of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
Earlier, I had joined thousands of other touring cyclists in the collection when Greg pulled me aside for a quick portrait in the summer of 2015 during my visit to Adventure Cycling headquarters in Missoula, Montana on my journey east to west on the TransAmerica Trail.
This trip, including a ride down the Oregon coast and into the redwoods of northern California, completely changed my life in every imaginable way, and I documented the journey with countless photos of my own — a handful of them appearing in the book America’s Bicycle Route.
So, when Greg offered to document my visit to Adventure Cycling in his timeless black and white style, I was honored. Greg had me fill out a form detailing the ride up to that point and then ushered my partner and me to the parking lot around the back of the building. There we saw the famous backdrop, a grey curtain hanging by a set of hooks.
Greg started by weighing each of our loaded bicycles on a hanging scale — 93 pounds with empty water bottles for my loaded bike. This amount suddenly brought a sense of pride that I had been hauling all that weight up and down mountain passes. Greg casually assured me that this was a pretty average load.
He then directed us to the curtain where he calibrated his camera accordingly and snapped several shots individually and as a pair. I remember feeling there was a possibility that many people might one day see this moment, even though at the time I had no idea I would actually be featured in the March 2016 issue of Adventure Cyclist.
When I approached Greg before his scheduled January 2017 retirement and asked what he thought about a newcomer to the organization stepping behind the lens, I was surprised that he seemed somewhat delighted that it should fall into the hands of one of the cyclists who was a part of the collection.
After talking with Greg, I was affirmed in my assumption that he believed the project was bigger than just his efforts. We both shared the sentiment that the portrait collection had never been about glorifying the photographer and had always been solely about the riders and the rich stories they had to tell. It made me happy when he encouraged me to continue to document the stream of cyclists that come through the headquarters every year. He did emphasize to me of course, that the photos were just a part of the process, one element in the vast collection that fills several large filing cabinets, including the all-important paperwork accompanying each portrait — handwritten accounts of millions of miles pedaled.
Greg had worked meticulously to follow up with his subjects and organize their responses into a collection that I believe is worthy of a contemporary history museum. His archives are truly the most concentrated collection of fascinating stories relating to cycling that exist today.
Having one summer here under my belt and snapping shots of close to 200 people from the world over, I have now gotten a small taste of the scope and importance of this project. The entire process has given me a better appreciation of the value of recording the stories of modern-day adventurers. To document this slice of the cycling population feels less like collecting for a photo gallery and more like the work of a historian. Meeting folks from all walks of life with different motives for traveling by bike, even if for but a brief moment on their journey, and learning about their trips has been an inspiring and life-affirming experience for me. I feel honored, lucky, and grateful to be a part of this project and am enthusiastic to help to steer it forward into the future.
You will be seeing more of my additions to the Open Road Gallery on Adventure Cycling’s social media on Tuesdays, and as per tradition, on the back page of future issues of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
Photo by Maxton Caplanides
CYCLO NOTES is brought to you by Adventure Cycling’s Cyclosource team—Teri, Max, and Maxton.
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