*A trip for two to sunny Las Vegas, entry to 2007's Interbike and the chance to ogle all the new cycling goodies slated to hit the shelves in 2008*

*A 2008 Mission 3, Diamondback’s versatile all-mountain machine. Nimble, efficient and stable, the Mission 3 features Shimano’s new Deore XT components, including the Shadow rear derailleur and high power disc brakes.*

*15 minutes of fame in a Diamondback ad that will appear in Dirt Rag featuring the winner on their new Mission 3.*

*Swag from Dirt Rag, Diamondback, Fox Racing Shox, Rockshox, Shimano and WTB. *

To enter, simply go to diamondback.com and click on the “What’s Your Mission?” button to submit your all-mountain inspiring description and photo.

You will also find the fine print there, too, but here’s some to get you started: No purchase necessary to enter or win. One entry per person. Void where prohibited by law. Contest submissions will be accepted from May 1 through August 1, 2007. Entrant must both author their description and take the photo submitted

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mark F. - Baker City, OR

Becoming biking buddies with the owner of the only bike shop for at least 50 miles in every direction wasn't what I'd set out to do when I walked into Dave's store in the summer of 1999. I'd just moved to Baker City, and we had an easy connection. Dave even lent me his road bike so I could try riding on pavement for a change. I liked it. But it was our common interest in the exploration of unmapped goat tracks and cow paths that put Dave and I on the trail to friendship. In retrospect, we were bound to be friends. When your idea of fun is grunting up, over and through terrain that would be hard to hike, much less ride, it's difficult to find people who want to go with you. Lone wolves rarely pack up, but once we did, Dave and I pounded pedals through some of the most remote corners of Northeastern Oregon. The area is one of the least populated in the lower 48 states, and to the few folks who do live here, the word "Bend" is a dirty word. As for mountain bikes ... "What are them? Mud bikes?" a grizzled old miner asked us one day in the Elkhorn Mountains. "What you wearing? Football shoes?" Even other mountain bikers found it hard to come along. The few group rides we organized on our regular "trails" inevitably ended with Dave and I scratching our heads as one of the riders was carted off to the emergency room. We wouldn't realize just how technical our routes were until we visited places like Hood River, Bend and Sun Valley. "This is nothing like our redneck riding," Dave would muse. "We have it so good, and nobody knows about it. Champagne riding in Keystone country." In fact, it was days if not hours after I turned down a transfer to Bend that our riding world changed forever. I had agonized over the job opportunity for weeks, finally deciding I'd prefer to be the kind of person who blazed trails rather than just riding them. I was going to stay in Baker City -- for the riding. And ride I would, but not with Dave, not the way we used to ride. He and his wife, Karen, had given up on having children. Then, suddenly, on the eve of his 41st birthday, Dave became the father of a little girl, Sophie. Her brother, Isaac, came along 14 months later. Dave's ride time dropped to almost zero, and the few opportunities we had to hit the trail in the next couple years were dominated by his need to talk about his family's problems. The kids weren't coming along right. The strain was tearing at Dave and Karen, and they alternately blamed each other or themselves. The diagnosis almost came as a relief. Autism affects almost 1 in every 100 births in Oregon now, but Dave and Karen faced a more daunting and rare reality: both Sophie and Isaac were autistic. There's a moment I know too well, when sweat burns your vision and the mental calculus screams, "You'd be going faster if you got off and pushed!" To keep going, you need to take a deep breathe size up the slope ahead by breaking it down into manageable pieces. No matter how long or how steep the hill, being able to see the road ahead helps you find the traction you need to move forward. What's true in riding can be true in life, too. Only Dave and Karen couldn't get off the bike and push. Dave sold the bike shop and bought a carpet cleaning business in order to provide more flexibility in his schedule for his family. Karen went to work learning every last thing she could about autism. And the family adopted new habits and a radical diet to try and combat the condition. It's working. Sophie didn't used to acknowledge my presence. Now she says "Hello" when I come in the door. Music has tamed Isaac's wild beast. Turns out, he loves the guitar. He'll help me play by strumming while I form the chords. And he has an unexplainable fascination with Bob Dylan. And best of all, Dave and Karen are finding time for each other -- and giving each other time for themselves. Last summer, Dave and I spent five days riding in Sun Valley. In the fall, we pulled off a themed excursion to Angel's Staircase and Devil's Gulch in northern Washington state. I know how much it means to me to share the trail with my friend. That's why it made it doubly hard for me to finally decide to pull up stakes and move across state to Eugene this past spring. Dave and I haven't been mountain biking together since the Washington trip, and my new life has afforded me the free time to indulge in the McKenzie River Trail, the best of Hood River, even a Fourth of July excursion on Mount St. Helens, an active volcano. Dave hasn't been able to join me, but we're working on plans for a trip to an unsung, unheralded and largely unmapped mountain range in Northeastern Oregon where neither of us has ever been to ride. We don't know what we're going to find, but it's a mission: to ride wild, unknown country with the kind of friend who comes along once in a lifetime ... if you're lucky.