Category Archives: Magazine

The Importance of Being Earnest

Thursday April 12, 2012 saw the opening night of Colorado State University Theatre’s performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. As an almost sell-out crowd took in the period stage design from the theatre’s opulent red seats, the half shell floor lights illuminated the exquisite silver tea service situated front and center.

Seated in the half-round of the University Theatre, the crowd is almost on top of the performers on stage. This intimidating studio atmosphere would daunt many actors more advanced in years than the students who trod the boards on opening night.

Striding on stage with all the purpose and cheeky disposition of a young Michael Caine, Seth Klusmire immediately won over the crowd with his interpretation of the character Algernon Moncrieff, the play’s lovable rogue.

The impeccable English accent Klusmire affected is all the more amazing since he is a Colorado native. Holding it on stage for the duration of the play appeared to barely tax him.

“Everyday I sat down for fifteen minutes, at least, just to talk with a British accent. Even if it was nonsense like ‘hello, I’m making breakfast,’ little things like that, definitely.”

This devotion to the craft was evident in the sacrifices that Klusmire had made in an effort to further his stage career, often at the expense of his other academic obligations.

“Balance? I’m not sure I balance anything. I’m going to die before the semester is over. I just became a theatre major, I was history education and I just had a test today in one of my history classes and it was rough.”

“You definitely have to make this your number one priority, and if you don’t, that’s going to be bad,” added Klusmire.

Competition had been fierce for all of the parts, and the actors were determined to make the most of appearing in one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous works.

“There is a sign-up list, and anyone can audition for the parts. I think about eighty people signed up,” said Tim Garrity, who stole the show as the acidic and aloof Lady Bracknell.

“There were about ten callbacks for the guys, and you weren’t on the list for Lady Bracknell yet,” laughed Kiernan Angley who played the protagonist of the piece, John Worthing. Opening night doubts about who should have filled the sensible shoes of the snobbish, insensitive Lady Bracknell were instantly vaporized. His delivery of the most famous line in the play, “A handbag?” dripped with all of the vehemence and incredulity that the young actor could muster. Garrity’s performance was so mesmerizing that the crowd almost gave him a standing ovation after his first lengthy monologue.

The fun being had by the actors was evident in the relaxed, assured performances. Obvious, too, was a deep respect for the author of the play, Oscar Wilde.

“I like Oscar Wilde, I like a lot of his writings, he’s just really funny and clever,” said Klusmire.

“It’s just a funny play, it’s not like big drama and theatre. It’s not like, ‘look at this art we’re doing right now, it’s so beautiful, they killed a baby, that means something.’ No, we’re going to eat some muffins and throw things at each other,” laughed Angley.

As the night continued the enthralled audience lapped up the performance. Multiple delays for applause occurred after monologues that seemed to be the pinnacle of the evening’s acting. Until the next monologue that was, as the actors sought to best each other with ever more classic performances.

As the play moved into the third act, set inside the morning room of the Manor House of main character John Worthing, the circuitous route that the play had taken started to arrive at its conclusion.

Members of the crowd who hadn’t seen the play before, or read the play in its entirety gasped as the truth of John Worthing’s heritage was revealed. As the play’s characters all found the ending to the proceedings that they had so desired, once again it came down to Garrity’s Lady Bracknell to upstage all the others. Displaying the pompousness and utter disregard for the suffering of others more commonly associated with the British aristocracy, Bracknell tied up the loose ends of the plot.

As Angley delivered the final lines of the play, the house lights went down and the student actors ran off stage in near pitch darkness. A few seconds later they were back on stage taking the customary bow before a standing ovation from the crowd.

The opening night was a tremendous tour-de-force from a relatively inexperienced cast, setting the bar extremely high for future productions by the Colorado State University Theatre troupe.

© 2013 Jamie M. Bradley All Rights Reserved

Breathe Deep and Meet the Locals: Biking in the Himalayas

So you’ve made the decision, you’ve got your gear together, and the tickets have been put on the credit card. The easy stuff has been done and now it’s time for the real work to begin. Where do you look for travel advice? Who can you expect to find out there? What are the inherent dangers in doing a circular bike trip at the foot of the Himalayas in Northern India?

If you listen to the advice out by the U.S. Department of State then you won’t feel like going very far at all.

“Jammu & Kashmir: The Department of State strongly recommends that you avoid travel to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) because of the potential for terrorist incidents, as well as violent public unrest.”

This obviously isn’t what you want to hear if you are about to set out on the Rishikesh Loop that will take you right through the middle of this area. But, what if it’s just America overreacting again? Maybe the pragmatic British have something different to say.

“We advise against all travel to rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir other than Ladakh; all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, other than at Wagah; and all travel in Manipur,” states the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

The next line has more grim advice, “We advise against all but essential travel to Srinagar and Imphal,” which is unfortunate as Srinagar is exactly where you have to go. Then the British Foreign Office puts the final nail in the coffin of your dreams by saying that air travel is the only way to get around up there. Time to start reaching for the ticket cancellation option?

Not so says Navneet Prasad, a foreign exchange student who lives near the area in question. He explained how Paul Woollams would have fared up there.

“Even after he left Rishikesh and started heading into the Himalayas he wouldn’t have looked too out of the ordinary,” says Prasad, “there are people from all over the world there, it is one of the most visited places in India.”

But what about the more remote areas as you move into Jammu and Kashmir?

“People out there don’t have experience of people from America or the United Kingdom, especially riding a bike,” laughs Prasad.

“It’s crazy, even though I live in India and I know these things happen, nobody would expect him to be doing these things up there.”

Local hospitality plays a critical role in an adventure like this. Since this style of trip involves the rider spending long periods alone, friendly contact with the locals becomes even more important.

“Paul would have been treated really well, because people would have been curious to know things about him,” says Prasad.

“Where is he from? What is he doing? They would want to know these things.”

It also appears that location affects friendliness in India as well.

“People up north are different, their behavior and nature is really good,” beams Prasad, “even the military up there wouldn’t have cared, they would have been really helpful.” A fact confirmed by Woollams himself.

So the locals and military are on your side, now it’s just a matter of turning the crank and moving forward. Which is of course easier said than done at 15,000 feet. To put that idea into perspective, here are the heights of some popular tourist destinations: Cuzco (11,000 feet), La Paz (12,000 feet), Everest Base Camp (17,700 feet), and Kilimanjaro (19, 341 feet). At these heights altitude sickness can have a severely debilitating effect on a rider. Confusion, fatigue, irritation and an inability to sleep could seriously derail your plans.  But, don’t let that sort of thing put you off too much, The Center for Disease Control website carries plenty of advice on how to tackle the problem. All that’s left to do is to cast those doubts aside and begin the countdown to the road trip of a lifetime.

© 2012 Jamie M. Bradley All Rights Reserved

Choosing the Right Ride for Your Epic Journey

Data complied by the U.S. Census Bureau and released in its 2012 Statistical Abstract shows a steady increase in the number of people taking up cycling. Apart from a couple of blips in 2005 and 2008, when the number of people cycling declined, cycling has maintained its status as a growth pastime in the United States.

So what happens if you decide that cycling to work, or getting involved with a local club just isn’t enough? What if you decide as Paul Woollams did that you want to go out and see the world on two wheels? How would the average person go about getting kitted out? These are the moments when it’s probably best to seek out the advice of an expert.

Matt McMillan and Ian Venable are both bike builders and avid cyclists who work at Lee’s Cyclery in Fort Collins, Colo.

“I’d recommend a touring specific bike,” says McMillan, “something with a steel frame.”

“Yeah, steel definitely, because it’s stout and it’s repairable,” adds Venable.

The importance of having a steel frame becomes obvious when you realize that even in the most remote areas of the world, there is someone who can fix it.

Next on the list of components that need to be able to hold up to the rigors of multiple environments are the gear sets.

“If it’s a self-supported tour, then you’re going to need to carry a lot of gears, something like a mountain bike rear cassette,” says Venable.

There is also the dilemma of wheel choice; should you go with fashionable 29-inch wheels or something else?

“26-inch is the most common size, they do make touring frames with these wheels,” says McMillan, “add onto this something with a wide range of gears, something that can haul your load.”

It is possible to walk into a bike store and pull something like this straight off the rack, have it tuned up, and then head out on your journey. But how much money are you going to pay for such a bike?

“Probably about $1500,” says McMillan, “maybe a little bit less.” Of course, there is the other option of a customized build at the store.

“You can make it as expensive as you like,” laughs McMillan. “I guess I wouldn’t want to put absolute top of the line stuff on there, because some of that is very specific and not every part of the world is going to have parts available.”

“You’re bound to have mechanical issues, it’s just a matter of time. Something that’s going to be fixable is going to become more desirable.”

So armed with a wallet and desire, what brands should the prospective traveler have in mind?

“Shimano, they’re known for their reliability,” says McMillan, “they are also worldwide.”

There are also multiple versions of steel frames available, so picking the right one is an exercise in weighing up competing variables.

“A frame is not a frame, there are many, many different types of steel out there,” says McMillan.

“There’s Reynolds steel, Columbus steel, Tengay steel, and many more that I don’t even know about.”

The steel itself varies on lightness and strength and so does the price. But McMillan felt that it wasn’t completely necessary to go for the top of the line in frames all the time.

More importantly, you’re going to need some wheels to get yourself on the road. McMillan and Venable both have some suggestions.

“An aluminum alloy wheel is just going to be stronger and lighter than a regular wheel,” says McMillan.

“It’s probably worth spending a little more on the wheels than you would think.”

Venable suggests a particular brand prospective riders should be thinking about, “Shimano XT hubs with Sun Rhyno Lite rims.”

“They are really good value and they are bombproof.”

Surprisingly, you could put all of these separate components together for roughly the same $1500 that you would spend on an off the shelf model. So why bother?

“You would just have much more bike in terms of quality, and it would be personalized to the specifications that you wanted,” states Venable.

So when you get that desire to go a little further than nearly all other riders, get a plan together and make your way down to your local experts for some professional advice. It will pay off in the end.

© 2012 Jamie M. Bradley All Rights Reserved

Government Encroachment and Money Management: America’s Principals Under Pressure

The workload is seemingly endless. The pressure only ever seems to increase. Business models have replaced the pure joy that the vocation used to reward people with. The life of the school principal in modern U.S. teaching has changed drastically over a generation. Not so much that it would be unrecognizable, but enough to start sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of teachers looking for the next rung on their promotion ladder.

“The number one problem that I encounter on a daily basis is the management of the building,” said Penny Stires, principal of Boltz Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Making sure that I have a sub there, if someone is absent, making sure that I have a plan to get that covered. Lunch duty, if teachers are absent you have to make sure that you have it covered.”

Once the kids and teachers are covered, the daily routine begins to heat up in the office.

“Just the flow of the office, making sure parents are tended to in a timely fashion. One of my main responsibilities is answering calls to parents, dealing with their concerns about something that happened in the classroom, or some other problem with their kid that they want to get addressed right away,” said Stiers.

These things manage to fill up 50-55 hours a week of Stires’ time, an average amount according to many principals, but the specter of progress is never far away. And with progress comes extra work. The Colorado Department of Education is always on hand to heap on some extra initiatives for Stires to deal with.

“There are way too many initiatives. There are too many to realistically, and effectively address, way too many. That leaves me attempting to balance the needs and wants of the state, the needs and wants of the district, and the things that I know to be true within the building,” said Stires.

Stires also wondered how the introduction of Colorado SB10-191 was going to affect her workload. The Great Teachers and Leaders Bill as it is also known, has, according to the Colorado Government website, been introduced to deal with an unwanted side effect from teacher tenure. In some cases, teachers gained tenure and then let their standards slip. The website promotes the bill as a way to, “Emphasize that a system to evaluate the effectiveness of licensed personnel is crucial to improving the quality of education in Colorado.”

Stires just saw it as more work, “Every teacher in your building, all over the state, will have to be evaluated every year. That is huge. I like the accountability part of it, but like I said, this is huge.”

Then of course there is the financial aspect to the business of education. The Colorado Department of Education recently announced the per child budget for all of its districts for 2012-13. With some help from the School Finance Act, further swingeing cuts aren’t expected across the board, but the funding will most likely stagnate at 2011-12 levels. 2012 was the lowest dollar amount for state funding of education since 2006. For Stires, the reality was that she was going to receive $1.66 less per student than last year’s under-funded amount.

Stires understood well the financial component to her job, but she had one thing many principals at present don’t. Somebody who understands money better than her to look over the books.

“We have a book keeper and I told her that ‘no class that I took in my undergrad or grad school for education prepared me for managing a $3 million budget.’ We are extremely fortunate here at Poudre School District to have a book keeper and an office manager, who are both trained in the systems that we use for budgeting.”

Even with this sort of professional help, the workload was still enormous.

“We have to get that budget stuff done, this is why we end up working 55 hours a week. If you compromise and do the budget stuff during the day, you’re not going to be an instructional leader. That’s why all the financial stuff waits until after the daily educational duties have been performed. I spend so much time writing grants, something I’d never done before. It’s all about the money and enrollment,” said Stires.

At the other end of the spectrum, the job of preparing graduates to become some of the nations principals falls to people like Donna Cooner at Colorado State University’s STEPP program. Cooner spearheads an instructional team that does its best to ready the participants for  a workload more befitting a politician than an educator.

Cooner reeled of a list of problems that the new principal will run into; the external pressure for student achievement scores, the political environment that education is viewed in, the challenge of the students and the building, and ultimately the stress of how much of your own personal time it will take to run the school.

Cooner, like Stires, also saw the looming cloud of EduBusiness on the horizon.

“Buildings have become more autonomous with their budgets. They are becoming like little businesses where they have to recruit students to their campus in order to get the per student dollar allocation from the state or local government.”

“They have to advertise, they have to figure out what their angle is, they have to figure out what their pitch is going to be for the public. They have to be savvy in things such as PR, and they have to figure out how they are going to be different from the identical school down the block.”

Schools that don’t get with the program quick enough soon find themselves dipping in enrollment, beginning a helter skelter ride to the unfunny house of budget shortfall.

“Principals are expected to know their school-based budgets, and to be able to recruit and publicize in order to bring in new students. It’s a different ball of wax to what it was in the past, you’re expected to do everything,” laughed Cooner.

Cooner also agreed that the endless push for new government initiatives was having a detrimental effect on the day-to-day running of schools.

“It is a concern. When there is grant moneys that come in, it is often tied to purchases that are made for a new program, a new curriculum, new books, and then in five years some new thing comes down and all of it is done away with again. Then consultants come in and that costs money. It’s difficult. The resource issue is huge, it’s back to the budget. But, there’s no training. There’s not even a budget course required in their administrative training.”

“There’s nothing about how to maintain resources over time, long-term planning, strategic planning for budgets. It’s just not something that people are getting trained in,” said Cooner.

Cooner admitted that the program at CSU still doesn’t cater to this financial aspect of administrative training. But, she was upbeat about the exposure STEPP graduates were getting that allowed them to see how much of a money manager they were going to have to be.

“The best way we do it is through their internships. They shadow principals and the see the levels of stress involved before they go into it. They spend all of their internship hours shadowing, and I think that’s the best way for them to get a feel for the job. There isn’t a course in finance that’s required right now, but with new standards from the state there may be in the future,” said Cooner.

Whatever the future holds for Colorado education, one thing appears to be sure. As money for education funding dwindles, it will fall more and more onto the shoulders of already overworked school administrative staff to get creative with budgets. At what cost to the quality of education provided remains to be seen.

© 2012 Jamie M. Bradley All Rights Reserved

Modern Classroom Stress Hastens Teacher Exodus

Olivia ChristopherOlivia Christopher sits nervously in her chair, glancing at the clock on the wall. The seconds are ticking away quickly and the butterflies in her stomach are reaching a crescendo.

The bell goes, the door flies open, and a wave of middle school students pour through the door. The classroom is buzzing with excitement as the students lay eyes on Señora Christopher for the first time.

In the Spanish that she learnt at San Diego State University and during a semester abroad in Spain, Christopher introduces herself and lays out the details of the semester’s curriculum. The smiling faces of the students make all the years of hard work seem worthwhile. She hands out the day’s worksheets and begins her career as a Chicago Public Schools Spanish language teacher.

In the weeks and years that come, Señora Christopher will be threatened, harassed, and intimidated. She will be reduced to tears at home, question the point of her vocation, and often feel totally alone. The one thing that she will not do is quit. That determination to stay in her job puts Christopher in an almost elite category; she will survive her first five years in teaching without walking out of the door for good. Almost fifty percent of teachers in the United States aren’t strong enough to do it. So where is it all going wrong?

“Teachers don’t get the opportunities that they need, and the experience that they need before they are thrown into the classroom. Three months of student teaching just isn’t enough.”

And that in Christopher’s opinion was just the beginning of the problems.

“Administration would hire you and expect you to develop curriculum and deal with classroom management. When I asked about the mentor program they said they didn’t have the staff or the money to run it.”

Money is often taken away from teacher support and affects vulnerable teachers acutely.

“It seems to be the first thing that goes, the support system. Management thinks that all the money should go to the students.”

A quick look at the budget of Longmont’s Twin Peaks Charter Academy where Christopher works shows the inadequate funding dedicated to professional development. Out of a net operating budget of almost $6.5 million, a total of $13,000 is set aside to share among almost 50 teachers.

The cold, stark reality that three months of unpaid student teaching has done little to prepare the new educator usually precipitates the first big weeding out of the new employees. Romanticism and mystique are first up on the chopping block.

As a former Chicago Teaching Fellow and new teacher mentor, Christopher has seen many new recruits come and go.

“I think that some teachers come in and think that they are going to change the world. Then they have their first day and their first experience of a student being disrespectful. No one has an idea of how challenging urban districts can be, unless of course you grew up in one.”

Fiscal pressure can also have a big effect. In Colorado, where Christopher now teaches, wages are notoriously low.

“Most of the teachers in Colorado are from here and they don’t know anything different. It appears to be normal here for teachers to have a second job, and to not have money. No one seems to be bothered that they have a master’s degree and they’re not making more than forty thousand. To me, it’s demeaning.”

Dwindling resources, endless professional development initiatives, and a chronically heavy workload all take a toll on the new teacher.

“At public school I had 180 students, so if you figure that every day a kid is turning in an assignment that needs to get graded, on top of creating curriculum, on top of creating exams, on top of doing administrative duties that the school wants you to do, it’s all too much.”

Throw in the almost forced unpaid attendance after classes finish in Colorado and you have the makings of a perfect storm of despair.

“They want you to be part of every committee that comes up, they want you to coach, but they don’t want to pay you for it. Administration makes you feel a little bit guilty if you aren’t staying, you kind of get a look from your principal that says, ‘you’re leaving already?’”

Donna CoonerThe job of orientating new teachers falls to people like Donna Cooner. Cooner is the director of Colorado State University’s School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation, or STEPP for short.

Cooner is well aware of the pitfalls that destroy the dreams of educators and does her best to get the new recruits ready.

Seated in her office, beneath her framed doctorate in education, Cooner ruminated on the attrition problem and the ways that her department is trying to deal with it.

“We’re are in an age where students are driving instruction, instead of teachers driving instruction. If you are looking at why people are leaving the profession, it could possibly be that they don’t match that style. They had in their mind that they were going to be the lecturer, the boss.”

Cooner had also suffered what she considered to be one of the main problems that new teachers all across the U.S. face.

“Isolation is one of the key factors that teachers bring up when they talk about why they leave the classroom. There’s no support for a mentoring, co-teaching model for the first couple of years. But, part of what we do at STEPP is that we prepare them in a community, this helps teachers go into it with their eyes open.”

Cooner also considered her role in thinning the herd of prospective teachers to be especially important.

“Our goal is to weed out the ones that really shouldn’t be there. I always say that if I can talk you out of it, then I will. I think we all enter teaching for certain altruistic motives, but I think there also has to be a determination.”

The high attrition rate is also creating another problem, the loss of quality educators that would theoretically have ended up becoming principals of schools.

“Teachers are looking at the job of principal and saying, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ It is important because if we look at the whole education system we can see deficiencies in several places.”

However, Cooner doesn’t see pay as being as big an issue as Olivia Christopher saw it.

“I don’t think pay is the big reason why teachers are leaving. I think the problem with expectation is the biggest part of it.”

Unfortunately, accurate and unbiased poll data reflecting Cooner’s statement is practically nonexistent.

The constant pressure of being judged and juggling multiple competing job roles also leaves teachers confused and tired.

“I think teachers are saying that you’re requiring me to do more and more. I think that they just feel overwhelmingly that the job is just not worth it. It’s the main reason why teachers are searching out new careers.”

Putting a finger on a single reason for teachers leaving the profession in droves is impossible. Multiple factors conspire together to leave educators shell-shocked and despondent. Even worse is the thought that career progression only leads to more of the same. Thankfully, many people are still answering the call and trying their hands at guiding the next generation. STEPP program students like Ryan Barrios look forward to the challenge.

“I’m excited, the program here is really good. I’m excited about all of it. I’m really looking forward to teaching.”

© 2012 Jamie M. Bradley All Rights Reserved

Beer Springs Eternal in Foothills Brewing Mecca

Pateros Creek BarAt 5000 feet above sea level the sun beats down hard. Endless blue skies provide the perfect backdrop to the foothills on the west side of town.

It’s midday, the giant umbrellas are opened above the wrought iron tables and chairs, and a steady stream of customers are already clamoring to sample the beers brewed straight from the imagination of Steve Jones.

Jones is one of the latest people who have carved out a niche for themselves in the competitive world of beer brewing in Fort Collins, Colo. Pateros Creek Brewing is Jones’ brainchild, and Jones aims to be around in the future. But how do small, independent breweries keep the public interested? What does Jones think is going to be the big thing this summer in Fort Collins?

“For some reason, in this town people are still craving the hoppy stuff. But, what I think is something like a dry-hopped cider might come around, a dry-hopped mead, dry-hopping different things might be the way it’s going to go”

Not five minutes walk away at Equinox Brewing, owner Shannon Westcott already had a couple of things in mind.

“Our seasonal beers are popular, Vernal Hefeweizen in the spring and Midsummer Pale Ale released in mid-June. But, if anything we try to stay away from trends in brewing. If we do what everyone else is doing, then we aren’t setting ourselves apart.”

Jones had similar things to say when it came to following the desires of a fickle public.

“I try to hold my ground as much as possible, and I’ll tell you I’m actually a sore thumb in the town. You’ll notice that not all of my beers have hops in them. They are session style, not a lot of alcohol, not a lot of hops, I’m really just going for the malt flavors. I guess English styles are just really my thing”

The hard-headedness needed to march to the beat of your own drum is particularly well appreciated in a city like Fort Collins. But, not every unique business path leads to success, more so with the most recent downturn in the economy. So why is craft brewing still making great financial strides in small towns and cities across the U.S.?

“As craft beer grows, more people learn about it and introduce their friends to it. It seems that people are beginning to pay more attention to what they drink,” said Westcott. “New Belgium and Odell Brewing have been operating here for over 20 years. New Belgium especially has brought a lot of attention to Fort Collins as a place for craft beer, and that allowed a lot of smaller breweries, like ourselves, to open up.”

Starting a new brewery can be a costly enterprise as Jones explained, “We spent about $200,000 in total with the build-out, but about $150,000 without.”

Jones had also managed to keep the cost down by doing a lot of the actual build-out labor himself. Also, Jones had frugally invested in used equipment instead of going for brand new gear.

Brewing Equipment“A new 15 bbl system with 2 fermenters and 2 brites will run out $130,000 alone.”

Then of course it is just a matter of making the brews, and even though both breweries try to stay clear of obvious beer trends, there was one extremely important thing to bear in mind.

“You still have a customer, and your customer has a good opinion of what they like to drink. So, you’re sort of following what they want to do. I’ll have my specialty beers, but the standard taps, that’s because of the customers,” laughed Jones.

Westcott was much more succinct on the subject of customer feedback, “If a beer sells quickly, we try to keep it around, or make a similar beer.”

However, even though some people have the vision, desire and credentials to make it as a quality craft brewer, there can often be a financial impediment to getting the whole venture off the ground. Jones and Westcott had arrived at their present destinations in very different financial fashion.

“We got all the way to the end of one funding application, and the guy said ‘we’re going to cut your checks next week,’ and then he called back a within that week and said, ‘you know I just got a call from corporate and they said they’re not doing any more small business loans,’” said Jones.

“It was really frustrating for us, because we had all of this stuff kind of lined up. We had no money to pay for anything, what are we supposed to do? Claim bankruptcy?”

Faced with what seemed like an almost impossible situation, Jones turned to the people he trusted most, his friends and family.

“We just sort of scrambled around, we talked to friends, friends of friends, and we found investors. We offered them a piece of the thing, we actually have investors that don’t own any stock, they actually own the equipment and we lease it from them. We got creative.”

The upshot of so many people who want Jones’ venture to succeed is having many hands to help pitch in with the more mundane daily activities.

“Our investors are so into it they’ll come in and clean kegs and help brew batches of beer.”

Westcott over at Equinox didn’t quite have the same issue as Jones, but did see possible financial issues on the horizon if the trend in start-up breweries in Fort Collins continued at its present pace.

“We had our successful business, Hops & Berries, to back us up. We also had a solid, well thought out business plan, and years of experience both in brewing and running a business. We were able to secure Small Business Administration funding for everything we needed, along with our own money of course.”

“I wonder if it will get harder to get financing as more breweries come in. The banks may think there is a limit to how many breweries Fort Collins can support.”

Both Pateros Creek and Equinox were optimistic about their futures, but they differed slightly on where they wanted to be in five years.

“I want this little tap room to still be here,” said Jones, “we actually own the portion of the building that we’re in, and that’s our little downtown tap.”

“I want to be building a bigger facility off site, somewhere else, to brew larger batches to can, and to get that beer out into the liquor stores. That’s kind of my dream.”

Westcott had a dream of her own too, “Our goal is to keep Equinox small, doing what we do now. We may grow and expand our space, offering more music and the like, but we aren’t interested in becoming a distribution brewery.”

The final word rested with Westcott who seemed to sum up everything that Jones had talked about as well.

“We have a lot more fun being connected to our customers.”

Whatever the future holds for Pateros Creek Brewing and Equinox Brewing, it seems that both have already cemented their reputations in an ultra-competitive market, within a community that really knows and appreciates its beer.

© 2012 Jamie M. Bradley

Ennui Triggers Himalayan Challenge

Paul Woollams “I was bored basically, it’s not like I’ve always wanted to cycle around the world. I just wanted to change my life and this was all I could come up with.”

“After a while I’d told enough people that I thought I’d better go and do it. I think I pressured myself into it a little bit.”

Not exactly the most encouraging opening lines to a story about one mans quest to cycle solo around the world. But, Paul Woollams doesn’t really care whether people are interested or not.

“One of the main reasons that I had started planning something was because I couldn’t get on in Holland anymore. I was always working temporary contracts, I had no chance of buying a house or getting a pension.”

Woollams at that point had spent many years living and working in Holland as a welder. But a combination of broken contract promises and a feeling of general malaise pushed him towards his big adventure.

In May 2011 Woollams arrived in India to start his round the world tour, and to get himself into peak riding condition. The draw to start in India was strong.

“I’d been in Holland for ten years, but in 2008 I visited India. That trip to India got the travel bug going in me again.”

There are many ways to explore the Indian subcontinent. For most people the extremes in climate make traveling by bike the last thing they would think of.

“I like cycling. It’s a good way to get around. I didn’t want to travel by bus and train. I’ve traveled by bus in India and Asia before, and I’ve always found it to be a negative experience,” said Woollams.

“You travel somewhere overnight, and you’re just shagged the next day. A ten hour trip then takes you another 14 hours to recover from.”

Obviously, there has to be more to this trip than just avoiding public transport. There must be something bigger at play here to make a man in his forties set out on such an epic trip.

“It’s just the experience really.”

Woollams also wondered how he was going to translate such a trip into his daily life when the whole thing was over.

“I don’t think it ever does really, unless of course you’re speaking to other people who have traveled. I mean it’s going to be a good conversation piece, a good conversation starter,” laughed Woollams.

“It’s something to say that I’ve done, and I feel that I’m just going to carry on anyway. I think it’s something that I’ve found out about over the last six months or so, that this is something I want to carry on doing.”

Traveling on your own is one thing, but carting around almost 60lbs of gear with you on a bike in the Himalayas is another thing altogether. The stresses and strains that a rider has to be prepared to endure are varied.

“You get low moments, when I first started the roads were so shit that I even considered flying somewhere where the roads were going to be better. Cycling in the mountains you go through lots of emotions anyway.  Thankfully there weren’t too many low moments,” said Woollams.

“But when it’s good, you feel that you’re on top of the world. You’re 4000 meters above sea level in the Himalayas and everyday is the weekend. It’s just a good feeling really.”

While the low moments were a little less than would be expected, there were of course other difficulties to deal with.

“I ran out of money quite a few times, not having an ATM card. That was pretty stressful actually. At one point I had hardly any money and I thought I could exchange some travelers checks at a place in the Spiti Valley. After about a day I found someone who could change some dollars for me.”

“Otherwise if I couldn’t, I would have had to cycle about 5 days back to the last town. What’s funny is the reason I couldn’t find anyone to change money was because a bunch of Tibetan monks had come through and exchanged loads of fake dollars about two years ago. This made everyone a bit shy of changing money,” observed Woollams.

“Whether the monks knew they were fake or not I don’t know.”

Having survived his brush with insolvency in the mountains Woollams continued cycling in some of the most inhospitable areas of India. Navneet Prasad, a foreign exchange student from Northern India puts the situation into perspective. 

“The conditions out there are really harsh, it’s a different kind of mountain out there. You won’t see any greenery up there. It looks more like a desert kind of place, it’s barren land you know. But, there are so many lakes out there that are crystal blue. You can see through them, they are beautiful.”

“The weather is really tough, you won’t find people out there. People out there might have freaked out a little when they saw him. The population is so scarce, they wouldn’t have even expected to see Indians up there. But they would have been helpful, mountain people are really helpful,” said Prasad. 

Paul Woollams Riding The places and people more than made up for the harshness of the environment, and Woollams has some fond memories.

“I’d say the Spiti Valley, I’d been there before, it’s just really interesting as not so many people go there. It’s hard work unless you’ve got your own transport. I’d say that was the best part, Kashmir was good as well.”

“All of it has its good points, but I’m going to say Spiti because of its remoteness. At one point you’re only ten kilometers away from China. I just had a really good time there, I was on my own all the time, and I never saw one more cyclist.”

Of course out in the middle of nowhere you’re going to meet some pretty interesting people. It could be middle-aged Indians bombing about on Royal Enfield motorcycles or it might be members of the Indian security forces.

“The most memorable person I met was the security officer dealing with me when I was detained by the Indian Army in Chakrata. There are loads of military academies there and I was trying to take a shortcut. Of course, foreigners aren’t supposed to go up there. But, I just turned up and hoped to take about 400 kilometers off the journey,” said Woollams.

“It started off all serious, and one or two days earlier a foreigner had actually been arrested in the town and he was in jail. I had to fill in a form stating my means of transport and I asked if I should just write ‘bicycle?’ The whole thing changed from then. All of a sudden the officer was saying, ‘You’re so brave Mr. Paul,’ and then he wanted to search my bag for bombs and rockets. Obviously he was taking the piss then, but that was pretty cool.”

“He just helped me after that. He said ‘We are the Indian Army and we are going to help you Mr. Paul.’ And then the police turned up and the copper looked pretty pissed off, but the security officer told him to shake my bloody hand, and then everything was fine with him as well. Then they sorted me out a taxi jeep, told me to go to the nearest town and not get off until I got there.”

Coping with unplanned stressful situations is one thing. But, simply underestimating a task, or conversely, building something up to be harder than it actually is can mess travel plans around as well.

“Actually the ride up to that Army place was a bit daunting. Every village I went through told me that I shouldn’t go any further, and I began to doubt whether I was going to be able to get through. But I just kept going and going, and getting more and more apprehensive. But I managed to get through in the end,” said Woollams.

It goes without saying that there were things that didn’t go according to plan.

“I didn’t cope very well above 5000 meters,” remarked Woollams nonchalantly.

“I actually found out that I don’t function very well up there. The lack of oxygen up there affects people differently and I found that above 5000 meters I got a bit of altitude sickness. I had a constant headache and I was very easily annoyed. I think that’s just something that if you can’t cope with it, you can’t cope with it.”

Loneliness wasn’t a factor for Woollams either, “I spent about three weeks on my own and then I met some Polish cyclists just before Keylong and I cycled with them. But then I couldn’t wait to get away from them. I like my own company and I’ve always traveled on my own. You got more done yourself, you have to do it.”

Living on your own on a bike also means that you have to cart everything needed for survival around on it. Woollams’ home built bike only has rear panniers on it, but these still carry around 55lbs. Woollams also kitted his bike out with a Brooks hand made leather saddle during the trip. Some of his technical choices prior to beginning the trip didn’t pan out either.

“I added some pretty cool carbon fiber parts, but it’s not designed for touring. It’s actually a mountain bike, but that’s what I prefer. It’s got an aluminum frame and Shimano Deore wheels. It’s nothing really special,” said Woollams.

“I had big problems with the real derailleur, I had the most expensive Shimano XTR and it just went into the back wheel one day and exploded. Now I have a Deore one and I’ve had no problems with that. I don’t think you need expensive parts really.”

Woollams was happy that his minimalist approach was paying off though, “I met an American couple that had four panniers on each bike, then on top of the back panniers they had a 70 liter backpack. The guy wondered why he’d been through two rims so far on the trip. The rims had just cracked. They had everything, they even had a mandolin,” laughed Woollams.

Before hecontinued on his way Woollams mused on the one big fact that as been indelibly scarred into his psyche. It seemed that some mornings weren’t always bright and sunny.

“I’ll hate waking up in a wet tent for the rest of my life.”

© 2012 Jamie M. Bradley All Rights Reserved