On Writing & Riding: The Hudson Valley Randonneur

I’ve become a regular reader of several randonneuring blogs, including today’s feature, The Hudson Valley Randonneur written by George S., who is based in the Hudson River Valley of New York state.

I was already a regular reader of The Hudson Valley Randonneur in 2010 when Felkerino and I were part of a ride in which George was hit from behind by a car. We came upon the scene a few minutes after it happened and watched as George was placed on a stretcher and driven off in an ambulance while his bike lay mangled in the road.

George wrote about his lengthy healing process and recuperation on The Hudson Valley Randonneur, and set his sights on randonneuring again. Honesty, determination, and optimism permeated his posts as he came ever-closer to achieving his goal. Over time, I realized that those qualities are present in a lot of George’s writing. It’s one of many reasons I enjoy reading The Hudson Valley Randonneur.

SWAIN - portrait with new bike

1. If you were to write a Tweet that summarized your blog, what would it say?

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T.S. Eliot

2. What prompted you to start your blog and why did you choose to write about bicycling?

Originally, a few of us who ride together in the Hudson Valley had the idea to start a blog to share stories and spread the word about randonneuring and long distance cycling throughout the region.

I soon took it over as a personal blog as it seemed I had the most interest in the project. Having started randonneuring in 2007 as part of an early-onset mid-life crisis, I was still just a few years into this passionate pursuit and had much to say about the evolving journey.

3. How did you come up with your blog’s name?

I was actually inspired by a blog I’ve read for a long time known as The Daily Randonneur. Are you familiar with it? (Editor’s note: Why yes, thank you!)

The Hudson Valley Randonneur had the ring of an old-fashioned newspaper and seemed fitting for a device to spread the word about riding in this beautiful part of the world.

4. Who are you writing for? Do you have a particular audience in mind?

I suppose I’m writing for fellow randonneurs and also other cyclists who may wonder what’s possible on a bike as I work through my own limitations and figure out my own potential.

I’m a pretty regular middle-aged guy without any superhuman physical characteristics who tries mightily to ride his bike long distances while also being a good father, a loving husband and a successful professional. The balance is pretty universal and not easily achieved.

Mainstream adventure and endurance writing sometimes leaves me feeling left out. Outside Magazine (which I love), for example, seems to be written for a young, single, childless, free-spirited demographic without the demands most of my friends and I seek to keep in balance.

I’ve often thought that riding the bike is the easiest part of being a randonneur. I enjoy working through all of the planning, the disappointments and the compromises that randonneuring demands of me in my writing on the blog. I guess to a certain extent, I find it clarifying, if not downright therapeutic.

5. What aspects of bicycling do you enjoy writing about?

I love sharing my excitement about new cycling adventures and challenges. Most people I interact with on a daily basis, family members included, tend to glaze over when I start waxing on about some upcoming endurance event.

A blog is a good way to connect with people who actually share a passion, no matter how obscure it may be. Writers are also blessed by not having to watch their readers’ physical expressions while reading their work.

6. What are your favorite parts of being a blogger?

Meeting people from around the world who are familiar with my blog. When I rode on London-Edinburgh-London in 2009, I met a few folks who followed my blog and it made me feel like an active part of a global community in a wonderful and heartwarming way.

I’ve also met a few people on more local rides who’ve told me that they’ve been inspired to enter randonneuring events after reading my blog, which has been really great to hear.

I’ve been a teacher my whole life and while I’m also in a state of perpetual learning, the thought that others may learn something from my mistakes give me great comfort. Randonneuring is a rather narrow cycling niche, so it’s really great to form and maintain connections with people in distant parts of the world through a blog.

New Paltz in Fall
New Paltz in Fall

7. In 2010, you were involved in a very serious accident where a car rear-ended you at speed, many bones in your body were broken, and a long rehabilitation process ensued. How did that accident and recovery influence your bicycling and your blogging?

Social networking and writing (through my blog, Twitter, Facebook and CaringBridge) were major features of my recovery from the 2010 accident. Sitting in a hospital bed for six weeks following the crash and then at home for weeks and then months after that unable to ride, writing about my recovery and connecting with friends and acquaintances around the world helped me to stay focused on progress and recovery.

Publicly outlining goals has always helped me articulate and follow through on things. As a teacher and principal, I would often share goals and plans with students thinking of how embarrassing it would be to have to tell them I didn’t follow through. While I was away from work, the blog increasingly took on that role in my life.

I’ve also changed somewhat as a cyclist since the accident. While I’ve achieved things in my recovery about which I’m very proud, such as the RUSA R-12 award, riding a full SR series again, completing Rapha’s Festive 500 and Rising Challenges (not to mention my three-time Coffeeneuring finishes!), I don’t feel quite as driven to prove something to myself as I once was.

I continue to have long- and short-term goals, but cycling no longer takes up such a dominant part of my headspace. Having a blog to be able to look back on to track and remember different periods of my life and the perceptions I’ve had along the way has been priceless.

8. Was there anything about maintaining a blog that surprised you?

I’m not sure that I’m a particularly exemplary blogger. In a perfect world, my blog would be more focused and regular. I often go weeks at a time without posting followed by a flurry of posts on a similar theme. If I were intent on building and maintaining an audience, I’d be more deliberate and disciplined.

Looking back at the past five years that I’ve been blogging, I’m surprised by what a wonderful chronicle of segments of my life this has become, which is another huge value to the blogger. What a joy it was to look through old posts thinking about favorites. Thanks for the opportunity!

George and Shirley 3

9. Do you have any favorite posts? What are they?

Here are my five favorite posts written over the past five years in chronological order.

  • My First (Indoor) Century” ~ this was the blog’s second post. It was about my first attempt at to ride an “indoor century” on my trainer deep in the snows of winter.

10. What tips do you have for someone who is interested in starting their own blog?

Just do it. Pick a topic you love and a niche you think your blog will fill and get started. It will take on a life of it’s own and bring you great joy.

11. What did I forget to ask you that I should have?

The only other thing I can think of is how inspired I’ve been by reading the blogs of other cyclists. This has been true for me as a cyclist as well as a blogger.

Some of the blogs I enjoy following include excellent writing, while others are filled with humor and irony and still others include gorgeous photographs that make your heart sink with their beauty.

I’m also very impressed by how much time some bloggers seem to devote to their work and to building and maintaining their online communities. I could do better on all fronts, but feel honored to be a part of this larger community.


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