Friday, August 05, 2016

Friday News And Views: Brian's Ride

I've been collecting a few too many of these lately.
Today's "Friday News And Views"is going to be a bit different. Don't worry! The main thread through all of this is still bicycles. That said, things are going to be a bit more personal here today than you are used to. So, with that said.....

I do not typically bring the personal, private side of my life here on "Guitar Ted Productions" because that was never the intent of this blog. However; life and bicycling often overlap, or the cycling part fades and the life part, or as in this case, the end of life part, comes to the fore. I have had the former hit me pretty heavily through the first six months of this year, as I lost an Uncle, Grandmother, and my Dad. That's why when I heard from a guy named Erik Mathy earlier this week, and heard his story, I felt a bit of a connection right away. Big life events tend to do that.

See, Erik has suffered "end of life" issues as well. His story involves family and close friends, but what really punched him in the mouth was the loss of his cousin, Brian, to a battle with cancer. In fact, Erik has lost a lot of close friends and family to cancer. That's got him pretty ticked off. But it was Brian Brendemihl's death that really affected Erik, because they were close. Erik wanted to do something to honor Brian, since, as Erik put it, "I can't take cancer in the back alley and kick the crap out of it."  Instead, Erik has come up with the concept for a special bicycle ride he calls "Brian's Ride".  Erik is seeking solace by cycling, fighting cancer, and making art. Well, hopefully Erik finds peace in the end. That's the plan, anyway.......

Erik Mathy and "Bumble", which is the name he has given to his Salsa Cycles Marrakesh. Image courtesy of Erik Mathy
Yes, there is a plan. Erik is going to raise funds and awareness about cancer along a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles using the Adventure Cycling's Bicycle Route 66 cycling tour route. The funds raised will be evenly split between the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and the Pablove Foundation’s Shutterbugs program. But who is this guy anyway? That's a great question.....

Erik Mathy is 43 years old, was born and raised in Wisconsin, but now resides in San Francisco working for Pantheon Systems. He is an avid cyclist, photographer, and hater of cancer. Yeah......I can see why concerning the last bit!  I've heard about Erik a lot, actually. I see his work linked on social media and featured all over the place. He is known as a great photographer and for good reason. He just happens to really know his stuff when it comes to this photography gig. 

Erik doing one of the things he loves best. Image courtesy of Erik Mathy
Funny thing about photographers, I seem to know a lot of these people. My friends Jason and Wally are both outstanding photographers in their own right, but Erik does these crazy pinhole camera things and the large format stuff, which requires a level of work and dedication that is far beyond the scope of mere image grabbing mortals, like myself. You have to carefully and methodically learn and apply that knowledge in the field in the same manner to get good results. It isn't like a digital camera. You get one shot at it. 


It was the "careful and methodical", along with quiet generosity and love of family, traits of Erik's cousin Brian, that attracted Erik's notice. Brian was good at anything he put his mind to, and he mastered these things he took on. Things like backpacking a remote Canadian island, building an off-road vehicle, building and maintaining a stock car for his sister, getting a ham radio operator's license, or doing a tour by motorcycle of North America. Brian seemingly mastered all of these things in a way that Erik wants to emulate and honor on his Route 66 trip. 
 Brian with his mother, Erik's Aunt Pat. Courtesy of Patricia Brendemihl.

"Sometimes it’s the quiet ones you miss the most. They leave a hole there, that people keep looking at, waiting for the silence to be broken, but it never is. I hate cancer for leaving that there, the way it has left so many other gaping holes in so many other lives. I feel compelled to do something, anything, about it. Yet I am only one person, with only three appreciable abilities:
  1. I can ride a bike long distances, alone.
  2. I know how to take a photograph.
  3. Don Quixote is my patron saint.
 While Brian was the quiet one, I never have been, and I am not yet ready to say goodbye to him. I still can’t wrap my head nor my heart around the fact that this quiet, steady presence in all of ourlives is gone." - Erik Mathy

So, Erik is going on a quest, using his bicycle, and his large format camera, with a goal of making a difference in not only helping himself hopefully gain some peace with this death, but to help others as well. Erik already does work with the Pablove Foundation’s Shutterbugs program, of which he says, " Working with those kids, some of whom are on oxygen or are terminal, helping them express themselves or just FORGET it all for awhile, is...incredible. It's hard to put into words." The John Wayne Cancer Foundation  was chosen since Brian loved John Wayne and the clinic is well known for doing great work with cancer patients.

And what of all these images Erik is going to take along his trip? What happens to that part? Well, Erik kindly shared his vision for that, which isn't 100% solidified as yet. Here's a bit of what he told me: Once the ride is done, I'll have somewhere in the area of 120-150 sheets of exposed 4x5 film to develop and another 15-20 rolls of 120 film. The end goal with that work is to put together some limited edition prints for folks to buy, some folios of prints and more than likely a book as well.

Erik's large format camera he plans on taking on the Bicycle Route 66 trip. Image Courtesy of Erik Mathy
 The plan is 100% that the images will be available afterward, it just isn't 100% certain what the results of Erik's work will look like. Erik shared with me the following: "I really don't know what that's going to look like. I know how I shoot, I know generally the things I see, but I don't know Route 66. As an experience, as a place, it will have surprises for me. A lot of them."

Riding a 2,500 mile route, I am quite certain that there will be some surprises for Erik. Touring is an intimate, personal way to experience an area. You get to see and experience things in a way that just is not possible with other means of travel we employ these days. Erik's trip starts in October, and if you'd like to follow along, he will be using a SPOT tracking device and Erik has even said that if you are in the area he is riding, to come out and say hello. 

If this sounds like something you could get behind, please consider donating and/or following along by checking in at this link

Riding bicycles can be a very therapeutic activity. I have found healing, transformative experiences, and new ways to deal with old problems from the saddle of my bicycles over the years. It is truly a lifesaver, at least for me, in dealing with grief, which the loss of loved ones can engender. It is my hope that Erik not only has a successful result for the two organizations he is trying to raise money for, but that he does find that peace he looking for out on Route 66.


steve said...

I love vintage cameras but don't recognize the one pictured.
Any idea of the model? Thanks

emathy said...

Hey Steve!

Well, interestingly enough, the lens is vintage (an old 90mm Rapax from a Speedgraphic!) the camera is new. A couple years ago or so a crew in Chicago did a Kickstarter to make a new ultralight travel 4x5 called the "Travelwide". It's got no tilt/shift or anything like that. The Travelwide is built to take 90mm lenses exclusively and made to be as light and compact as possible. As a result the whole package with lens probably weighs barely over 1lb! It's perfect for carrying 2500 miles on a bike.

I do sometimes wish I had the tile/shift and some other controls, though. I won't deny it. The size and weight, however, are hard to argue with!

I'm also carrying a 3D printed 6x18 panoramic pinhole camera that shoots 120 film. I'm a sucker for panoramics! :D

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask away! :)

- Erik