Ambassador Tommy Butler was born and raised on a small nursery in the Garden State. Here he learned to embrace the gratification of long days of hard work, and perhaps fueled an early love for landscape.
Now he and his wife call Denver home, lured here a decade ago by 300+ days of sun, access to year-round adventures, and it's economy.
Because COVID-19 has forced us all to get creative to stay safe and sane this summer Tommy and his wife were able to get out and travel across country in their built out sprinter van. During their journey they were able to explore a few of their bucket list places, like Acadia National Park and Pisgah National Forest where they had the chance to visit us at Kitsbow's Old Fort Headquarters.
Great question, easy answer; Friends and Exploration.
I’m fortunate to have a group of friends throughout the country that are really into riding. As our lives and careers have taken us all over, it’s been a medium for us to stay close over the years. Our annual guys trips, bachelor parties and, in some cases honeymoons, all seem to morph into bike trips. These trips have been the source of some of my most honest, deepest conversations and life altering personal revelations.
I also love maps, and some of my friends also happen to be map nerds too which helps when planning epic trips and rides. On a trip to Telluride last year, we spent countless hours pouring over maps, researching / building routes on ridewithgps.com, and talking a lot of shit about who could create the most epic ride. In the end, we all won in that type 2 fun kind of way, and celebrated our accomplishments over many beers and late night campfires.
What role has your van life offered opportunities to travel and play safely during COVID-19?
COVID has forced us all to get creative to stay safe and sane. My wife and I are grateful we built out an old Sprinter van a few years back.
This summer we spent a little over a month traveling across the country to visit loved ones (social distancing protocol was observed) and explore some new bucket list places
Hipcamp has been a game changer - we stayed in some incredible places all over the country, on the cheap, and the website & property owners have really taken COVID safety protocol seriously. At no point did we feel unsafe. Just last weekend we camped at a 4000 acres ranch that have seemingly endless miles of private gravel and we saw way more horses than people.
You weren’t joking about those Pisgah miles! My friend and I talked a lot about this during our rides - we explored Linville Gorge, Jonas Ridge, Mortimer and a few other beautiful locales on an 80 mile ride and did a Mt. Mitchell “recovery ride” the day after. Colorado has plenty of steeps and long climbs, but the extended steep grades felt much more extreme in Western NC. Our rationalization was: in CO, the mountains are larger so the roads tend to wind up them, usually topping out at 13-15% grade. Whereas in Appalachia, the mountains are a little smaller, so civil engineers were probably like, "fuck it, let’s just go straight up and over this thing!” That gravel climb up Linville Gorge on 38c slicks - I’ll never forget it!
As a recent visitor, what excites you about the Old Fort Ride House and it’s location?
I’m a sucker for thoughtfully preserved historical towns, the beautiful structures within them, and ultimately the strong sense of community that they create. From what I could see, that’s exactly what the town of Old Fort is doing and specifically, Kitsbow is playing a critical role in that investment in the community.
I can’t wait to see the completed Old Fort Ride House, explore the trails right out of town, and sip a few more beers at Hillman’s on my next trip (Fall 2020?).
Tommy's Favorite Kitsbow Gear