For many Americans, it might come as a surprise to see mountain biking in the Olympics this year. Yet cross-country mountain biking is not new to the Games. The sport debuted in Atlanta in 1996, and is today, dominated by Europeans.
But, recently, chances that an American cyclist could reach the podium and take home a medal have dramatically increased, thanks to Kate Courtney, whose success hasn’t been rivaled by other U.S. cyclists in decades.
Born in Marin County, Calif., the birthplace of mountain biking, Courtney grew up biking in the hills behind her house. In her first year in the elite field, she achieved something no American, man or woman, had done for 17 years — winning the world championships. The following year, 2019, she won the Overall World Cup title, taking the top spot in three of the seven World Cup races in the process.
These achievements are the pinnacle of the sport, and winning them has propelled Courtney to the front of the pack. Still, Olympic medals are nothing to scoff at. And for Courtney, who is in her prime, an Olympic gold medal is the remaining achievement.
In Europe, where the sport has robust grassroots support and participation, the top athletes in the field are considered celebrities. Local races often bring out large crowds, and World Cup races attract thousands to Germany, the Czech Republic, France and Slovenia. Every season, a majority of the sport’s race calendar takes place in Europe.
Here in the United States, it’s a slightly different story. When Kate Courtney started racing mountain bikes in 2009, NICA, a scholastic cycling league, had less than 1,000 participants across the country. Today, it has over 14,000.
While that growth is impressive, to put it in perspective, the number of high schoolers participating on a swim team in 2018 (the last year a national survey was conducted) was over 138,000 for boys and 175,000 for girls. Outdoor track and field for both boys and girls had over one million participants combined.
Still, mountain biking has come a long way, in no small part due to the success of figures like Courtney. A vocal proponent of the sport, in 2020 she started a scholarship for four high school seniors, to help them attend college and continue to compete in mountain-bike racing.
A great album and unbelievable performance at Telluride Blue Grass Fest
by Glenn Alexander
There Records 008
Peter Rowan could just as easily been a preacher. He’s got the whole fire and brimstone attitude on stage, he’s got heaps of tales of triumph, morality, and revelations, he has visions (of Elvis), and he’s met the Creator (Bill Monroe, folks). He preaches from his pulpit ceaselessly, and without fail manages to keep the faith, whether or not his sermons are speaking to the masses. With this release of a show from over 10 years ago, wherein six fellow devotees merge behind a righteous cause (music), Peter Rowan and gang release the devil and make a deal with righteousness.
With Telluride elder statesman Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas (who has to be on the all-time list of performers most responsible for excessive drooling and oggling), and the eminent upright bassist Victor Krauss backing him up (with Larry Atamanuik and Kester Smith on skins), there is certainly no shortage of talent here. Let’s just get this out in the open. Hell or high water, these boys burn the shit out of these tunes. Rowan hasn’t released anything this combustible since, wellever. Yes, I am a fan of his music. I appreciate his history with Bill Monroe, his Old and In The Way, his Bluegrass Boy, the lyrical and melodic brilliance of Dust Bowl Children, and his work with the boys of Two High String Band down in Texas and beyond.
I can even appreciate him at least taking a stab at mixing reggae and country, which not even fellow weed-wielder Willie Nelson seems to be able to do with any real success. Maybe someday the two idioms will have a serendipitous moment in the studio, but I’m afraid we’re still waiting. Live, on the other hand, Rowan has actually made his Reggaebilly sound relevant, if not damn near revelatory at times. Sometimes, when the meeting of minds coalesce into one thing on stage, boundaries and labels seem to disappear into the air, if the air is magic on that particular night or day. When he sticks with what he does best, he’s a force of nature a dazzling, idiosyncratic shaman of the lonesome sound. He can be an astute purist or a side-stepper branching into new waters with varying effectiveness. Within his own musical cosmos, he is the jack of all trades, the master of destiny. At times, it takes good company to really shine. In Telluride, Colorado in 1994 at a music festival in the mountains Peter Rowan and his compadres proved not only masters of their world, but of the air in which their sound traveled on that festival night.
The “Deal With The Devil” that opens up is a Charlie Daniels Band-like romp that showcases Bush’s fiddle work, Rowan’s tireless and precise finger picking talent, and those good ol’ rock-solid country drums, just chugging along. It makes for a great opener, introducing us to the Rowan his fans know him best for: country-tinged earnestness, wailing vocals, high-lonesome lyrics and being thoroughly possessed by some unseen force. The Latin-tinged “Panama Red” is the album’s jamming zenith. Every member shines on this number, none more than Jerry Douglas, whose solo towards the end rivals any acoustic solo for shear explosiveness and dexterity this author has laid ears on in some time. Rowan yodels, hollers, takes an earnest stab at his old Martin come solo time and Bush proves once again why he is the mainstay that he is at the festival, dazzling the crowd with rapid fire attacks and inflammatory inflections. After its over, in the left speaker you hear Bush proclaim across the stage, “That’s the way ya do it!”. Indeed it is.
“Rainmaker” is prefaced by a rather amusing tale about a vision quest, wherein the author meets Elvis standing on top of a building in a parking lot declaring that Rowan is to write a rainmakin’ song, “no neo-shamanistic jingle'”, he says. Duly noted. What follows is a sure-fire honky tonk take on this Rowan classic that epitomizes ‘crucial country’. It’s country the way that it too often is not played these days, with attitude and honesty, and more importantly — with a seriously driving rhythm section. The Marley-penned “No Woman No Cry” incites not only the crowd to sing the chorus, but rouses the band into playing reggaebilly the way it was supposed to be heard — a merging of styles into a seamless and unique idiomatic experience. It’s light and airy like the original, with the added pleasure of bluegrass instruments to add a little flavor. Douglas crests and climbs with his slide work, gliding and moving the song along beautifully.
Audibly, it sounds rich and layered. Everything thing is there, in crisp detail. Good thing for us, because this one is a keeper. If anyone has ever doubted Rowan’s position among the great performers of acoustic music, then this release reaffirms once again why he played with Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia, and why he continues to perform around the country. This is the one his fans have been waiting for. Come and get it.
A Tour de France official says the organization will sue a spectator who caused a pileup of cyclists by stepping into their path in the first stage of the race Saturday. The crash was the first of two as the famed bicycle race returned to its spot on the sports calendar following last year’s delay because of the coronaviruspandemic.
A woman holding a large sign bearing the words “ALLEZ OPI-OMI!” (German terms of endearment for grandparents) clipped Germany’s Tony Martin, who lost his balance and set off a chain reaction that sent cyclists sprawling across the pavement as she stepped in front of the peloton to display the sign for TV cameras. Several spectators and cyclists were injured in the first crash.
“We are suing this woman who behaved so badly,” Pierre-Yves Thouault, the tour’s deputy director, told Agence France-Presse. “We are doing this so that the tiny minority of people who do this don’t spoil the show for everyone.”
However, the woman, who fled the scene, had not immediately been found, according to Ouest France (via France 24).
Julian Alaphilippe won the stage with blood dripping from a scraped knee. “I hope everyone is okay,” Alaphilippe said (via Reuters) after the 122.9-mile stage from Brest and to Landerneau, France. “I’m calling on the fans to be careful.”
Last year’s race was delayed until August because of the pandemic and took place with fans barred from starting and finish lines of each stage. “It’s nice to see the fans back on the side of the road, but please be careful,” he added.
A second massive pileup occurred near the end of the stage, with riders going full speed. All told, several dozen riders were involved in the crashes, making for “a bit of a crazy stage,” Chris Froome, the Tour’s four-time winner, told the Associated Press.
In 1999, Ron Rosenbaum observed that no books were more frequently shoplifted from Barnes & Noble stores than Charles Bukowski’s. His writing was a ballad to the underdog, a light at the other end of the dark bar. His poetry was simple and accessible to all, with an unexpected edge that cut through the noise of complex prose. Among his admirers was a man of comparable status among the forgotten subsets of society, a musician named Tom Waits. Credited with one of the music industry’s most raspy, deep and original voices, Waits was the perfect choice to read out one of Bukowski’s most famous poems, The Laughing Heart. The combination of Bukowski’s words driven by the emotion and emphasis of Waits’ unmistakable voice churns out one of the most moving poetry readings of all time.
Witnessing a growing wasteland, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee seeks the threshold that could bring us back to the place where the land sings—to a deep ecology of consciousness that returns our awareness to a fully animate world.
I LIKE TO WALK early and am often alone on the beach, the ocean and the birds my only companions, the tiny sanderlings running back and forth chasing the waves. Some days the sun rising over the headlands makes a pathway of golden light to the shore. Today, the fog was dense and I could just see two figures walking in the distance, until they vanished into the mist, leaving a pair of footprints in the sand until the incoming tide washed them away. It made me wonder what will remain in a hundred years, when my grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive? Will the rising sea have covered the dunes? Climate crisis will by then be a constant partner, and so many of today’s dramas will be lost in a vaster landscape of primal change.
Sensing this reshaping of the seashore, where the waves roll in from across the Pacific, makes my mind stretch across horizons. How this land and our own lives have evolved. One story of science says it was only seventy thousand years ago that humans left Africa on their long migrations across continents, arriving here on the Pacific coast just thirteen thousand years ago, when the Bering Strait was dry land and not ocean; or possibly they came earlier in boats down the coast.1 But how was life then, long before the written word, when we traveled as small groups, communities of hunters and gatherers? What was the consciousness of our ancestors, before agriculture, long before cities or our industrial way of life, and what did we lose as we settled the land, and then forgot it was sacred?
They may have carried few possessions, but their consciousness contained a close relationship to the land, to its plants and animals, to the patterns of the weather and the seasons, which they needed for their survival. Fully awake with all of their senses, they had a knowing, passed down through generations of living close to the ground, even as they migrated across the continent. Today we are mostly far from the land and its diverse inhabitants. Cut off from these roots, we have become more stranded than we realize, and while our oncoming climate crisis may present us with many problems, we hardly know how to reconnect, to return our consciousness to the living Earth. It is as if, having traveled to the far corners of our planet, we now find ourselves in an increasing wasteland without knowing how to return to where the rivers flow, to where the plants grow wild. And unlike our ancestors, we cannot just pack up and move on, because this wasteland surrounds us wherever we look, like the increasing mounds of plastic and other toxic material we leave in our wake.
And sadly, tragically, our consciousness has become divorced not just from the land under our feet but also from the unseen worlds that surround us. Anyone who looks at the animals in the Paleolithic cave paintings in southern France with a receptive awareness can see that the physical and spirit world are infused together. Those early artists were imaging not just physical animals but spirit beings, shamanic, magical. This is part of their mystery and intensity. And this knowing continued for thousands of years, whether experienced in relation with the powerful beings that for the Native Americans are present in all natural things, invisible but everywhere, or expressed through veneration of the kami, the sacred spirits that exist in nature, mountains, rivers, earthquakes, thunder, animals, and people, which until recently belonged to an elemental Japanese consciousness.2 For most of our history the inner and outer worlds were woven together, as shown in the myths and stories that defined our existence.
Have we wandered so far from the source that we cannot return?
There’s still snow in Colorado’s mountains near the headwaters of the South Platte River, and Brian Domonkos has strapped on a pair of cross-country skis to come measure it.
He’s the Colorado Snow Survey supervisor, and knowing how much snowpack is left from the winter to runoff into streams, rivers and reservoirs this summer is crucial, especially in a year when much of the West is in extreme drought. As it melts, the snowpack here will become the primary source of water for millions of people in Colorado and across the West.
Domonkos skis to specific points on what’s called a snow course. He jabs a tall metal pipe into the snow to collect a core sample, then weighs it to calculate how much moisture it holds.
The snowpack at the South Platte’s headwaters is over 110% of normal levels for this time of year, but that’s not the case for the rest of the state. In southwest Colorado, it’s less than 40% in areas that are already experiencing a historic drought.
The trend is concerning, Domonkos says, and part of how the warming climate is disrupting this delicate system in multiple ways.
“That might be the real wow factor for me, where these soil moisture deficits and low stream flows that we’re seeing in the fall prior are having such a massive impact on the current year streams,” he says.
Year after year, unusually dry soils from warmer than normal temperatures and a lack of moisture are absorbing a lot of the water that melts from the snowpack. This means that water isn’t making it into rivers and streams, essentially limiting the efficiency of the melting snow.
Even a year with an above-normal snowpack might not push Colorado out of a shorter-term drought, Domonkos says. Plus, warmer temperatures also mean less snowpack accumulation.
“That’s where I think some of our concerns, for us as professionals that do this, the deeper we get we wonder if we’re able to get out of it,” he says.
Colorado has also been missing out on its late summer monsoon rains the last few years. Assistant state climatologist Becky Bolinger says that means the soils don’t have a chance to catch up on moisture until the snow melts.
“Your soils are dry, which gets into this unfortunate feedback loop of hot soils, evaporating dry and hot air,” she says
Last year was a good example — no big monsoon showed up in 2020, and “incredibly hot temperatures” dried out the soil.
In years that start with a water deficit, like this one, melting snowpack saturates the soil first.
“In order to have a normal runoff season and get what you need into the reservoirs, you need above-average snowpack,” Bolinger says.
Poor snowpack efficiency doesn’t just impact Colorado. Reservoirs Lake Powell and Lake Mead are projected to shrink to historic lows in the coming months, which could trigger the federal government’s first-ever official shortage declaration. That would mean mandatory water cutbacks in some states.
The Colorado River, which starts in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, feeds those reservoirs. The snowmelt supplies water to millions of people downstream. Yet the forecasted runoff for Lake Powell is just 28% of average levels.
“This wouldn’t be a concern if Lake Powell and Lake Mead had more water in them, but they are already at critically low levels,” Bolinger says.
The record lowest inflow for Lake Powell was in 2002, during a historic drought for the West. But Bolinger notes that Powell and Mead were “quite full at the time,” and believes there’s a chance this year could rival the record.
“We have not recovered from that 2002 drop,” she says. “I am extremely concerned about what this is going to mean for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.”
Ripple effects on recreation, ranching, wildfires
Some parts of Colorado rely on snowpack as a central water source. Sonja Chavez manages the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, where snowpack levels are around half of normal. With less snow melting off quicker, Chavez said it’s shortening the recreational season. If the snowpack was above-average, she said there could be six months of a season on the rivers.
“When you’re in drought like we are right now, that season is concentrated into maybe four months,” she said. What’s more, she said, low river flows can mean bad water quality from higher concentrations of metals and other contaminants.
The lack of snow and monsoon rains also has a big impact on ranchers in the area, who are reporting lower hay production and smaller herd sizes.
“So this year we’re starting to see our producers reduce their number of their cattle herd, and that has trickling economic effects throughout our basin,” she said.
Chavez said the federal Bureau of Land Management has reported that water wells drilled on federal grazing land are starting to dry up. “The groundwater supplies and levels are actually falling,” she said. “The city of Gunnison is actually dependent upon groundwater well supplies for our municipal water uses.”
Chavez said there’s a sense of urgency for water managers to plan for worst-case scenarios. She said more people have moved to the Gunnison area because of the COVID-19 pandemic allowing for remote work, and the water rights on those homes are newer.
“Some of those junior water right holders, they just may not get their water at all which is a concern,” Chavez said.
Another symptom of snow disappearing from the landscape earlier is an extended drought and fire season.
“The earlier the snow melts, the drier the landscape becomes in that late summer period before fall rains sort of drown the system again,” said Kelly Gleason, who researches eco-hydro-climatology at Portland State University.
The dried vegetation creates fuel sources primed for wildfires. And the feedback loop continues. Later, snowpack that collects in recently burned areas of the forest collects black carbon and is exposed to more sunlight.
“That blackened gunk acts like a black t-shirt on a sunny day, absorbing solar radiation,” Gleason said.
Imagine a young woman, free of makeup, a curtain of black hair, barefoot even in the Massachusetts winter, burnishing 200-year-old ballads in a crammed Cambridge coffeehouse, picking like an old hand at her acoustic guitar. At the launch of the 1960s, this was radical, inverting music on its shiny, hair-sprayed head. Joan Baez landed on Time magazine’s cover, lauded as the Queen of Folk. All at the august age of 21.
Her searing soprano with its trademark vibrato exhausted superlatives. It was declared incomparable yet compared to everything: old gold, the clear autumn air. It was deemed a line straight to God — staggering, the voice of an enchantress, a sibyl, a siren.
“The gift,” she calls her voice, which once traveled three octaves. “If I view it that way, then I can appreciate it and talk about it for what it is, not something I created,” says Baez, now 80. “It helps me stay grateful.”
Yet, she had a hand — or, precisely, an index finger — in augmenting her sound. At first, the vibrato had to be coaxed. As a teenager, “I literally sat in front of the mirror and wobbled my Adam’s apple up and down,” she says, demonstrating the Baez vibrato technique via Zoom, from the kitchen of her Northern California home, a portrait she painted of her granddaughter above the fireplace.
Many performers practice public self-abnegation about their talent. Please, I can’t bear to hear my work. Not Baez, one of this year’s five Kennedy Center honorees.
“I love to listen to my albums,” she says. There are 40, one issued almost every year during the first two decades. Baez is partial to her sound on the early ones. “That instrument is just unsurpassable. That little vocal box and all that stuff comes out — it’s just, to me, it’s some kind of its own perfection,” she says. The perfection, by her own estimation, lasted 20 years.
“She got bigger than folk singers ever get. She didn’t come across with a lot of ego,” says Roger McGuinn, founder of the Byrds, who first heard Baez as a teenager in the Cambridge coffeehouses near Harvard. “She looked like a hippie before there were hippies. And she’s a great guitarist.”
Baez “changed what it meant to be a star, a celebrity, a prominent figure in mainstream popular culture. She was representative of a radical new set of values,” says David Hajdu, author of “Positively 4th Street,” about the Greenwich Village music scene in the early 1960s. “She embodies the image of earthiness and simplicity. She’s not precisely fitting into the White American ideal. People are now squeamish talking about the exotic and the other, but that was part of her allure.”
Baez wrote songs, most famously “Diamonds and Rust” and “Sweet Sir Galahad,” but is best known as an interpreter of traditional ballads (including the Child catalogue) and the work of other singer-songwriters. She excelled at Americana before it had been named.
She has a genius for harmony, reflecting an agility to listen, collaborate and adapt swiftly onstage. “You want to try harmonizing with Bob Dylan?” asks David Crosby. “She’s a good, deep-in-the-groove folk singer. She didn’t try to be a pop star. She was beautiful and dignified and smart and funny and curious and intelligent and courageous. All the good stuff, man. I was madly in love with her.”
Baez’s commitment to social justice and folk music, the twin rivers that course through her big life, took her wherever trouble thrived: Hanoi, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Chile, Argentina, Alabama. The voice became her passport. Baez sang for Martin Luther King Jr., Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa. When she was arrested for protesting the Vietnam War, King came to visit her in 1968, a few months before he was assassinated. How was being incarcerated? “For me it was heaven,” she says. “I mean, I gained eight pounds.”
Baez is possibly the only artist to have performed at the March on Washington, Woodstock and Live Aid. A sensation at the inaugural 1959 Newport Folk Festival, she blew up before Dylan. Their romance was legendary. Less famously, Baez dated Steve Jobs.
“It is,” she concedes, “a little remarkable.”
Activism was the silver pattern of her only marriage. She and antiwar organizer David Harris married in 1968 and were a constant in the news, “Mr. and Mrs. World Peace.” They were wed five years, 20 months of which Harris spent behind bars for resisting the draft, coinciding with the birth of their son, Gabriel.