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(post for BVOF Thanksgiving Feast Blogging Brawl)

(posted 27 November 2008 - 15:31 Eastern)



Bigalke - The Cerebral Vortex







It's Thanksgiving again... damn, how the year flies by. As I sit here with a Chilean malbec from the Valle de Colchagua, a continent away from its source in blustery Eugene, Oregon. The wine flows, four days of work-free bliss ahead and a feast advancing on the horizon, as introspective reflection sets in.I think to myself about the bounties that this world has seen fit to reap upon me in the past year. Oh, how a world can quickly change. Right about this time twelve months ago, I was making my first fleeting forays onto this website; now here I am, one of the regular flapping heads of FanNation.


I've had a hell of a lot to be thankful for during this past year... so let's take a stroll down memory lane, to really come to the source of such gratitude.



Sunrise over Red Canyon @ Flaming Gorge Nat'l Rec. Area

I'm thankful for the new house my wife and I have moved into here in Eugene. While we still rent, awaiting the right place to purchase somewhere down the line, it still is reassuring to have a roof over our head -- especially living in perpetually rainy Oregon! I've never really have had the misfortune of being without a place of residence... even when it was hopping around the couches of friends and family, at least there was always some kind of shelter in which I could feel secure...


But there have been moments in my life where I have been trapped in the elements. I remember times backpacking and even simple day hikes through the Teton range that turned sour in a hurry. I've had friends go hypothermic on the trail right before my eyes. And while shelter has always been one of those things I usually take for granted, it certainly wasn't after I completed my bike tour through Wyoming back in 2005. After sleeping in places both more and less comfortable -- a hodgepodge of lodging as diverse as a good Samaritan's living room floor; a makeshift tent village near a rancher's windswept boundary fencing; a culvert on the side of the highway; an abandoned campground; and a wooden viewing platform overlooking Flaming Gorge -- there is an intrinsic trigger which gets pulled in the antipodes of the mind, helping a human who has lived a lifetime in relative comfort understand the true value of his surroundings and shelter... so I guess I'm thankful both for having shelter and for having been afforded the opportunity to understand why I'm so thankful for that housing...



Moving on, I'm also thankful for that other human necessity -- food. Being a chef, food has been quite good to me in my life. From providing the opportunity to work at both highbrow and lowbrow establishments, to preparing ingestibles ranging the spectrum from quick-slung hamburgers and patty melts to hand-rolled pastas and slow-braised osso bucco, food has always been one of the biggest parts of my life...


Shiitake Risotto with Parmesan Curl - Feb 2007 Habitat for Humanity benefit

On the bike trail, food is of the essence. A cyclist consumes anywhere from 4000 to 10,000 calories while riding on their course. Add a fully-weighted bicycle, packed to its maximum load with front and rear racks and a tow-behind trailer, and it automatically takes that much more energy to tow oneself up a mountain pass or to ride angled into a stiff crosswind...


Trust me... there have been days on the road when I have put down a 5000-calorie breakfast -- and then started feeling my stomach rumbling not even an hour after leaving the restaurant! A cyclist can eat and eat and eat, much like any other endurance athlete, yet still continue to shed pound after pound from a frame which could probably use every ounce it can keep.


So I'm thankful that there is food aplenty in my life, that I can both provide to stave another person's hunger while simultaneously producing the means by which I can get paid and procure food for myself. And I'm glad, furthermore, that I have the opportunity with the many various local markets here in Eugene to purchase high-quality, locally-produced foods which both nourish the body and shrink that carbon footprint... between the bicycle and the fuel I put into the "engine" that drives that bicycle, I trump the "Inconvenient Truths" of a carbon hypocrite like Al Gore...



Along the Willamette River Bike Trail...

Which brings me right to another thing for which I'm thankful -- that I was able in my adult life to find such a wonderful exercise outlet and stress release as cycling can provide. Thanks, especially, to a work colleague who may or may not still be with us on this earth for directing my attention to the beauty of long miles in the saddle. William Zeedyk, the man who served as the location chef at the resort outpost in Grand Teton National Park where I got my first management break as his sous-chef, was a man of contrasts. In the kitchen, he could cook like few others... but he couldn't manage himself out of the weeds on any given meal service.


He was effectively put in place by my culinary mentor as a buffer between myself, who essentially managed the place with little assistance from my chef, and a crew that for the most part was older than my twenty-one years at that time. I learned a lot that summer from Zeedyk... but little of it save the "what not to do" moments came in the form of culinary lessons...


When he got on a bicycle, though, Zeedyk was instantly transformed into a confident, assertive, reassuring presence. It was a personality shift of Jekyll/Hyde proportions. "Zeke" became a patient teacher, showing me the right and wrong ways of manipulating such a highly attuned piece of machinery as today's bicycles have become. We went on long rides through the national park, usually at night, in commune with nature and at peace with ourselves. If I hadn't discovered such a wonderful release, I might be dead of stress right now -- so thanks again, Zeke, for directing my attention toward the fellowship of the wheel...



So I've got my shelter, my food, and my transportation... and yet I still haven't touched on the most important part of my life, that for which I am most thankful -- family. Thankful for my wonderful wife, who has walked side by side with me for a year and a half of married life and nearly seven years of our relationship. What would life be like without those we love most?


I come to grips with that, as my immediate family -- mother, father, little sister -- are all scattered far away from where I sit penning these words. Mom and Dad will be with their families back in Wisconsin; my sister halfway around the world, studying abroad in Australia, where she probably won't even get turkey on this traditional day for tucking into the feast. Even over such vast expanses, though, the underlying bond still exists...


Counting blessings for the company I keep...

And then there's the extended family one develops over the years, a wide-ranging network of friends and acquaintances and accomplices which casts its net ever wider with each passing of another calendar. I'm damn thankful for all of you on this site, reading along and learning as we all seek different outcomes yet still unite with one common bond -- a love for sports which cannot be rivaled by many. I'm thankful for every co-worker who I've stood side by side with in the kitchen over the years, those who have had my back in bad times and those who helped me grow individually through their cold indifference to my plight. I am thankful for every wonderful citizen of this great land who helped out this cyclist in his times of need, be it with advice about a route or simply allowing me to fill a water bottle in a time of great thirst. All the people one meets over the years contribute to the formation of who we are and who we will become... so thanks to everyone for my development!



As you tuck into your festive fowl (or ham or salmon or even, should your taste buds demand it, a heaping helping of Tofurky), remember that for which you are most thankful. Even sports fans can find a little time, amongst all the turkey legs (watch out for Madden!) and football games, to count his or her blessings for the wonders that life has deigned to provide us all, if only we take a moment to look...






Bigalke is a freelance journalist who has been writing for FanNation since December 2007. An archive of Bigalke's writing for FanNation can be found here. He is also is a contributing writer at Helium. Got something to say to Bigalke -- questions, comments, suggestions, derision to sling, vengeance to exact, commendations to render, or contracts to offer? You can reach Bigalke through FanMail, the comments box below or here...



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