Music for Free on the Great Divide Weekly Journal

Music For Free Weekly Journal

May 24th, 2018

Why I’m bikepacking 3000 miles in 31 days with my guitar and a banjo to play 15 shows? 

Since 2014 I’ve done at least one long bike and music tour per year. This year I’m riding the GDMBR to help celebrate its 20th anniversary. I want to play free shows along the way to give thanks to all the people and communities who continue to support this iconic route.  

Last summer I was in the middle of a tour across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula performing shows and using primarily dirt routes to connect venues. On one particular day, I had been riding a series of snowmobile trails and unimproved logging roads. I had stopped on a bridge for a snack in the rain. Sitting on a stump looking at my bike covered in mud I realized very few people had a sense of what my life had become. Riding 100 miles a day carrying a banjo and a guitar through the woods playing shows.  

I started wondering what it would look like if these tours could reach more people. What if I rode a route that was more known? But then, why would I want more people to know? Was it about my ego needing to be recognized and validated? Or was it about something bigger?  

Performing music by bike has always been about something bigger. It’s about saying yes to life. Making the time, taking the risks and plunging into the unknowns. It’s been about pushing my limits both physical and mental. To challenge the existing stories for what an authentic life can look like. To intertwine my art with my passion for the natural world and bicycles.  

In a sense these tours have become a way for me to offer a living example that you don’t have to work a job you don’t love, you don’t have to put off your sense of adventure. You can make it all how you want it to be and you can go live it right this very moment.

It was on this bridge that I decided to ride the GDMBR in 2018. I intuited that the community and networks surrounding the route would help my story reach more people, which in term would help more people increase the amount of adventure in their lives.

To begin my planning process for Music for Free, I had a long call with my friend and fellow Salsa Cycles rider Jay Petervary. We both laid out all the Adventure Cycling maps on our floors and went over all potential communities where I could stop for a concert. I then used all the resources in the ACA maps to begin contacting people and was overwhelmed by the responses I got from places like the Whitefish Bike Retreat, Ovando, Pie Town, Del Norte, Steamboat, Brush Mountain and more.  

What all the front end work has yielded is a 31-day tour with about 16 scheduled shows in just under 3000 miles. It’s a huge undertaking and I am grateful to have the company of my friend and filmmaker Keenan Desplanques who is joining me with his camera to ensure that we are able to capture all the incredible stories of the people we meet along the way.  

I view Keenan and me as part listeners and part messengers. I want to focus on what makes these communities along the GDMBR so unique and what makes the people who live in them so resilient. The people who live in these communities who are providing places for us to perform, and who continue to support riders on this iconic route, they are the heroes of Music for Free.   

When you do the things that you are meant to do the universe conspires to keep you on that path.  If your dream is to do a one night, one year or anywhere in between bikepacking trip or anything of the sort, start moving towards that with little steps.  Look at maps, make lists, ask questions, set yourself up for success, say yes, let the adventure show you that you are capable of meeting it!

 
 

Super fun seeing the first round of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route riders come through this year! It’s always inspiring to meet all the interesting folks from all over this world who choose to ride the whole 2768.4 miles from Banff, CA to Antelope Wells, NM, or even a smaller section of it, whether at breakneck speed or at their own leisurely pace. These two are traveling with a banjo, guitar, filming gear and great big smiles on their faces. They’ll be bringing their music and storytelling to @whitefishbikeretreat MONDAY evening, June 10th. And check out @benweavermusic and @keenandesplanques ‘s Music For Free project that they’re doing in honor of the ride’s 20th year @adventurecycling . Riders, anything we can do to help along the way, please stop in and just ask. -HA) #musicforfree #greatdividemountainbikeroute #gdmbr #homesteadcrew ????‍??????‍??????

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June 11, 2018

June 14th, 2018

 

Keenan and I left Banff in the bright sun 6 days ago. Today we are in Missoula and Banff feels like a lifetime behind. It’s funny how that happens. Today I will play a show at the Adventure Cycling Association to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route with the people who built and continue to maintain it. 

 

Keenan and I have been averaging about 110 miles a day, though yesterday had a shorter stretch on the new Spur trail that leads into Missoula.

 

I was fortunate to play at the Whitefish Bike Retreat where Cricket Butler has made an incredible space for cyclists.

 

A few highlights from our riding since leaving Banff:

 

Staying with Theodora and her husband Gary outside of Eureka, MT.  Theodora is an herbalist and has a beautiful garden. I was so taken by the beauty and wildness of their place that I read her one of my poems called “A Wild Compliance” in her garden.  When I asked her what it was that she loved so much about where they live she started to cry and said that nowhere has she ever been surrounded by such incredible people. 

 

The next day going over Red Meadow Pass we came across a few miles of snow at the top of the pass. On the downhill side, we met a family sitting in their pickup truck that was stuck up to its wheel wells in the snow. There wasn’t much we could do to help push them out so I offered to sing them a song. They climbed onto the tailgate of their truck while I played for them. That was a powerful moment for me and one where I realized that a part of this trip is to continue to evolve what a concept can look like. The other day I stopped and asked some folks if I could give their dog a treat and they said, “No he’s too fat, that’s why we are out here walking him.” I sang them a song instead and when I was done they told us it was their anniversary.  

 

I was fortunate to play at the Whitefish Bike retreat where Cricket Butler has made an incredible space for cyclists. The concert was held up on the ridge deck which sits upon one of the most spectacular views.

 

From Missoula, we head out for 3 more days of shows. On Father’s Day, we will be in Helena, MT and after that, we have to cover about 600 miles in 4.5 days to get to Pinedale, WY. From Pinedale, we have to push on again to get to Brush Mountain Lodge in Colorado.

 

I’ll leave you with some closing thoughts I’ve been having as I speak to people along this route.

 

If Music for Free is about anything it’s about showing that people are united regardless of background. We are united by our humanity. Sometimes that humanity is being held hostage or stashed in the darkness because our culture and lifestyles have become disconnected from the raggedy brilliant wise blood of life. Nonetheless, I’m convinced humanity is still there. Approaching people with openness, understanding and respect always opens the gates back up. It’s from this place (united as humans) that radical change is possible. It’s from this place that curiosity and wonder are born. It’s from this place that we leave the political and the world of dualism behind and go somewhere different.

 

The Whitebark Pine does not make its first pinecone until it’s 50 years old. Once that cone is made there is only one way to open it and that’s by way of a Clark’s Nutcracker. The Clark’s Nutcracker hides the seeds and remembers where it stashes 80% of them and the remaining 20% become new trees. I can’t think of a better metaphor for what I’m trying to say. Live your life. Follow your path. Do the work. Be in the moment with those you love. I’m writing this as a reminder for myself as much as anyone else, while I am out here away from those I love working hard to remind present!

 

Thanks for your support.

Ben

 

 


 

July 9th, 2018

 

This morning @keenandesplanques and I hit the road at 3 am to finish the last 125 miles of #musicforfree down the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route before the heat of the day set in. We savored the last 30 miles of dirt as the sun came up and a ranch dog flanked us at 22mph for nearly 8 miles. What I know now is that beginnings are always endings and endings are always beginnings. So in the best way the journey continues even though we reached Antelope Wells this morning. This trip has solidified some very key truths for me about humans, life, wildness, generosity, risks, love, and what truly matters. Stay tuned as we finish up the film and continue to tell the stories of this absolutely remarkable corridor of American landscape and the people and riders who we have encountered along it. Join us tonight for a celebration show in Silver Cory @gilahikeandbike Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters! ...