Outlander, Cycling, a Newspaper Article, Austin Workouts, and the Universe

Do people orchestrate magical connections? Or, somedays, do our tiny human intellects simply realize that these grand scale connect-a-dot relationships exist?

Perhaps it’s a combination of both–on lucky days, the universe allows a glimpse of complex relationships between small and intertwined human experiences.

You know: it’s the whole “7 degrees of separation” thing, that party game involving Kevin Bacon’s movies. Sooner or later, some commonality is uncovered  (whether that connection is, in fact, due to the divine Mr. Bacon or not).

Connecting the Dots for Writing Inspiration with Outlander, X Games press pass, NYT article, and notebook

Austin’s Baylor Street Art Wall

Just the other day, I spent several happy hours clicking through thousands of my Dropbox photos. Why? As the new communications manager at Top Trip Rentals, I wanted to update one of the website’s popular posts. A few vibrant images of Austin’s amazing street art would do nicely. Between my east-side neighborhood, about a jillion city runs, and an ardent passion for striking visuals, I’ve amassed a sizable collection of Austin’s urban art (just check out my Instagram account).

Aha! I found what I was looking for– Guadalupe Street murals from a New Year’s Day run with friends (perfect! This even says “Austin, Texas”!) and Austin’s Baylor Street Art Wall graffiti.

Urban art mural in Austin, Texas on Guadalupe Street
You find a lot of treasures, like this street art, when you run around your home town. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Danny MacAskill, Street Trials Cyclist

Danny MacAskill on his bike, preparing to drop down Austin's Baylor Street Art Wall, in 2014
Danny MacAskill prepares to drop down Austin’s Baylor Street Art Wall. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler
Man; I love how photos put me right back in the moment.

That sunshiney 2014 day is so vivid I can practically feel the sweat dripping down my legs. Red Bull Media had invited me to meet Danny MacAskill, a street trials cyclist who creates acrobatically poetic videos of stunningly visual rides. That year, Austin was gearing up for its inaugural summer X Games; MacAskill, visiting, was pulling double duty by promoting the event and his latest video, “Epecuén.”

The Baylor Street Art Wall was a brilliant choice for the photo shoot. From the top, at street level, Austin’s gorgeous cityscape and wide blue sky provided a Technicolor palette. Partially crumbled concrete walls, arranged in steep step-downs, became MacAskill’s playground as he launched his bike with joyous abandon from one level to the next.

Two local artists had even updated one of the ever-changing walls, turning the swath of space into an outdoor, urban step-and-repeat of “Epecuén” graffiti art.

Two Austin-based graffiti artists finish the promo work for Danny MacAskill video "Epecuen"
Street artists finish painting Epecuen mural in Austin. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

“What are you writing about next?”

My friend Julie hit me up twice with that question. First, as we enjoyed a morning aqua jog at Barton Springs pool and second, after a walk and breakfast with AWDAT friends.

Women runners hug in front of graffiti that says "Hug Someone."
AWDAT (Awesome Women Doing Awesome Things) is a regular group of workout buddies in ATX (I’m in pink, hugging Julie).
Julie wasn’t interested in business-related tasks; she wanted to know about passion projects, pieces she might read.  I fumbled around with some vague answer.

Dang it–what was I writing about next? Truth be told, nothing was inspiring. For the last week, I’d been profoundly unmotivated to write. Every topic felt a chore. Nothing leapt out. The blog, however, needed new content, and writing was on today’s agenda.

Naturally, I chose to procrastinate.

Procrastination, Reading-Style

Orange tabby cat laying on the New York Times newspaper
I’m not the only one who enjoys the NYT in the morning. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler
I came home, reheated some coffee, and sat down to peruse Friday’s New York Times.

Reading the newspaper is a fully interactive experience. My phone, pen, and paper are within reach for tweeting, taking notes, and spur-of-the-moment research. Everyday, I complete the NYT crossword puzzle.

I’m embarrassed to admit how long this ritual can take. Worse yet,  I’d shot out the door to make that 6:30 a.m. workout, so I was starting late; now, a valuable chunk of morning work time was being consumed by a leisure activity.

You think that’s bad. What I really wanted to do was procrastinate with a capital “P.” The other night, I’d returned to a good book friend: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The third season had begun and, even though I’ve read all eight books twice and just watched that new first episode, I wanted to immerse myself in Scotland, the fictional Fraser clan, and Claire and Jamie’s adventures.

So I did what every freelancer does: I made a bargain with myself. Newspaper first, then work. If I finished my writing and posted a completed blog, my reward would be an afternoon Outlander treat.

Carrot and the stick, baby.

New York Times Inspiration

Chalk it up to a sulky attitude, but the meatier NYT content (i.e., politics) proved difficult to digest this morning. A quirky photo spread grabbed my attention. Three images: a man in a chair, dwarfed by a huge statue; sheep in a bucolic pasture; and a cyclist popping a wheelie.

The article was about Peter MacAskill’s backyard museum, built in remembrance of his ancestor, Angus MacAskill (born 1825). At 7 ft. 9 in. tall, Angus was a celebrated giant, and young Danny grew up playing in the museum his father had built.

How could anyone not read this?

And, in my mind, a proverbial bell began ringing.


Connecting Those Universal Dots

X Games press pass, copy of Outlander, New York Times article, and notebook are connected.
The notebook, street trial cycling, Outlander, the New York Times article: dots to connect.
° The third photo’s caption identifies “Danny MacAskill, Peter’s son and one of the world’s top trick bike riders.” It’s hard to know whether, without having scrolled through my Dropbox account, I’d have remembered that 2014 photo shoot and interview. But I did.

° I wondered–where were those interview notes? Trashed, evidently…but after rummaging a bit, I uncovered a “to do” notebook from my AFM editor-in-chief days. I flipped through, and what I found in May 2014 raised goosebumps: scribbles about connecting with Top Trip Rentals for a photo shoot and article.

° Reviewing the NYT photos and article, I noticed the museum’s location: Scotland’s Isle of Skye. Any self-respecting Outlander fan has immediately flashed to the series’ opening theme:

“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone/ Say, could that lass be I?

Merry of soul, she sailed on a day/Over the sea to Skye.”

° The author notes that Danny MacAskill’s pro career launched after a 2009 video went viral. In it, he rides the streets of Edinburgh, using the city’s urban landscape to stage his tricks. Nowadays, Outlander fans can book tourist tours through Edinburgh.

° Naturally, I revisited “Epecuén,” that 2014 video Red Bull and MacAskill were promoting on such a beautiful Austin afternoon. The minute the old man, Pablo Novac, entered the frame with his dog, steering his squeaky-wheeled bicycle among the bleached and washed ruins, it came flooding back. The town, Argentina’s Villa Epecuén, had been completely submerged when Lago Epecuén escaped its dam.  MacAskill’s  poetry of motion, graceful athleticism, and soaring cycling stunts are set against the blasted and bare landscape. His cycling props are the city’s ruins.

° That flooding devastation…I’m a Texan, y’all. How could I not view “Epecuén” without thinking of Houston, those heartrending images fresh and raw after Hurricane Harvey’s recent horrific onslaught? How could I not connect all these dots?

Suddenly, I had something to write about.

All of the Links

Looking down on cyclist Danny MacAskill as he jumps Austin's Baylor Street Art Wall
Bird’s eye view of Danny MacAskill from top of Austin’s Baylor Street Art Wall. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Top Trip Rentals: “Dear First-Time Austin Guests”

My Austin Fit Magazine article on Austin’s Art Wall: “Collaborating on a Hopeful Vision for Baylor Street”

That New York Times article: “On a Tiny Island in Scotland, Two Giants in the Family” by Sarah Maslin Nir

What you need to know about the Outlander book series (the 9th, Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, is coming….)

Listen to the Outlander theme song and read the lyrics  

Watch Danny MacAskill’s video “Epecuén” in its entirety

Connecting the Dots for Writing Inspiration with Outlander, X Games press pass, NYT article, and notebook



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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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