Sam Schultz – Olympian, XC National Champion, and Kitsbow Ambassador – has been busy since we last caught up with him. We checked in with him this week just before he hit the road for an epic trip into the gravel covered roads of Alaska. Here’s the update we received from the Missoula-based outdoorsman.
“Here’s some advice: don’t tear your ACL while backcountry skiing in the Bitterroot Mountains. I learned that lesson the hard way last winter. An unseen wind lip had put me in the back seat, slightly twisting, and when I tried to pull myself out of it and I heard my knee pop. I tipped over to see my knee twitching under my ski pants. Not a good sign. I gritted my teeth and trudged out of there.
I wasn’t mentally ready to be down and out so I put off surgery for as long as I could. Over time, my knee continued to bother me, but I could still use it. However, it got to the point where I knew I wanted a better knee than the one I had. Since there’s never a good time to go under the knife, I finally went for it. New knee time.
It’s been three months now, and I’m halfway healed. I’ve been making strides weekly, which is always good for the morale and sanity, although I have had some nagging patellar tendonitis lately that has been driving me mad.
Fortunately bike riding is pretty dang good for knee recovery, so I’ve been riding quite a bit. It’s definitely forced me to redefine what a ride is – no more day-long expeditions, since I’m only supposed to ride for 30 minutes at a time. The doctors recommended I ride a trainer, but I figured riding my trail bike on a flat gravel road was at least as safe as a stationary bike. Way more fun, too. Turns out if you drive to the right spot, you can actually access some pretty great terrain in a short period of time. Being outside, enjoying the mountain air, it keeps me feeling good.
In addition to riding and lots of physical therapy, I have been obsessively building out a Sprinter van that I recently purchased. I gutted it and have been redesigning and refinishing it. It’s been a bigger project than I imagined, but my Dad has been helping out a bunch and it’s coming together. I’m putting on the final touches right now in preparation for a nearly two month road trip up to Alaska. There I’ll rendezvous with my girlfriend, who will be finishing up her seasonal job as a hiking guide in mid-September. The plan is to explore around Alaska until it gets too cold and then chase fall back through Canada. I can’t wait!
The photos here were taken last month during a 2 week trip to Alaska. As soon as my knee would allow, I hopped on a plane to the North land. If you start in the wilds of Alaska, even an hour and a half of gravel road riding can feel epic. In these photos, my girlfriend and I loaded up bikes, dog, and camping gear in the car and set off on the Denali highway, a 135 mile remote gravel highway connecting the towns of Cantwell and Paxson. We stopped to ride the primo parts of the road on the way to the Maclaren River, where we camped out for the night. It ended up being a great trip, including chance encounters with friends, spectacular riding, and a never-ending sunset.
That taste of Alaskan adventure has got me motivated to get this Sprinter ready as the next road trip is in the works. Stay tuned for more updates from the road!”
Thanks, Sam. We’re looking forward to seeing pics from the Schultzmobile on the road. We know a thing or two about building the perfect Sprinter for backroad exploring and outdoor adventure. We’ll see you out there!
Photo cred: Emily Sullivan @emelex