So, here’s a little perspective for you. Strava, right? Every month, the fitness social network offers challenges to its users, including one that asks people to ride 8,000 meters on their bikes in a month. That’s 26,247 feet. That’s a lot of feet, and I know this because every month I take the challenge and no matter how many rides I get, it’s a buttload of vertical.
Photographer Brian Vernor and his mates Eric Brunt and Jonathan Neve rode 24,613 vertical feet over 192 miles in a single push, pedaling from Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California, to White Mountain Peak in the, um, White Mountains. They rode from 282 feet below sea level to 14,252 above it, with lots and lots of soul-crushing desert climbs and temperatures that ranged from nearly 100 to below freezing. It was a monster.
So, yeah: a month of hard riding in 30 hours.
Vernor isn’t like all the other photographers, and in the film he made about the ride, Hi Lo Cali, he shows he’s not like all the other filmmakers, either. It’s a wonderfully stitched crazy quilt of a long-assed spin, with a strong and visceral sense of the grinding numbness and tunnel vision that settles over you during a big day(s) in the saddle. There’s no voiceover, little dialog, and none of the false theatrics that cheapen so many films.
Good. Who needs more of the same?
“This ride was unsupported,” he told me. “There was support/additional film crew at the beginning, and end. Everything in-between was shot by the riders from the bike. Everything you see in the film which would indicate a film crew (tripod shots, 16mm/heavy cameras, etc) was done outside the ride and this took a lot of planning on the creative side.”
“Also, an important-to-me stylistic note, the film is not an attempt to give the viewer some FOMO nature porn, I intentionally acknowledge the human elements along the route. I love public lands and I feel in outdoors storytelling we often idealize absolute isolation from human touch, and I see that as false at the least, and misleading for cultural reasons at worst—somewhere in-between is misleading for commodification of the experience.”
“Last notes. This was fun and us three riders did this for our own enjoyment. It’s not a plunge into the great meaning of the outdoors, but we all experienced a great confirmation of our appreciation for that outdoor experience.”
Jonathan Neve, Brian Vernor, and Eric Brunt
Words. They’re good, but sometimes the meaning’s in the watching. Here ya go: