It’s all about the journey
It’s called Blue Ridge Motorcycling Magazine, and it’s become part of our family. Let me explain.
At almost 60 years old — damn, I can’t believe that’s true — odds are I’m beyond the midpoint of my life. That means I couldn’t realistically blame a mid-life crisis around three years ago when I became obsessed with buying a motorcycle. I had owned dirt bikes as a teenager and so knew how to ride. I wasn’t one of those old guys who was starting from scratch, figuring out the gears and the clutch and braking and starting on a hill and all the nuances of counter-steering and leaning into curves. Once upon a time all that was second-nature.
So I spent months combing through newspaper and online ads, visiting local motorcycle shops to talk to salespeople, reading reviews and articles. Finally, my son and I rode to Asheville one day to buy the mid-size BMW after responding to an ad on Craigslist. The 11-year-old bike was in much better shape than the ad described, and so the deal was sealed quickly. I handed the pony-tailed, gray-haired guy who lived in a million-dollar house on Town Mountain Road a roll of bills amounting to the agreed-upon price, we signed the title over and he handed me the keys and a couple of boxes containing service records and extra parts.
Just like that, after having been on a motorcycle perhaps three times in the last 30 years, it was time to ride back to Waynesville. It all came back surprisingly fast, my son following me the whole way in our truck as I made my way through downtown Asheville, out Patton Avenue to Old Asheville Highway in Enka and through Canton as I had the thought that avoiding Interstate 40 made the route home safer as I knocked the rust off my skills. We were back home before I knew it and scooting up our dirt driveway. I have bicycled, literally, thousands of miles since the last time I had ridden a motorcycle, and I think the basics of thinking, feeling and balancing on two wheels transferred to riding a motorcycle.
Since then, I’ve enjoyed many hours on that bike, gotten somewhat into the bike scene, and look forward to years of riding.
But back to that mid-life crisis. No, buying a motorcycle at this age may not have counted as a mid-life crisis, but starting a newspaper in 1999 when I was 39 and while I had a good job, a wonderful wife and three kids — ages 7, 4, and 11 months — did border on lunacy. Lori and I put every penny we had — and some borrowed from my in-laws — in our hands, shook it around, blew into my fist for good luck and rolled the dice, hoping that hard work, some skill and a bit of luck would see us through.
And here we are 20 years later. We have survived thanks to a word you hear often in today’s media world — diversity. The Smoky Mountain News is our flagship and always will be. Early on, though, we used my skills in the editorial/news realm and Greg Boothroyd’s skills in advertising/marketing to start producing special sections. Those early annual reports for Kids Advocacy Resource Effort and Mountain Mediation Services led to magazines for the likes of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and our own WNC Travel Guide.
Now, revenues from our niche publishing ventures — along with our ever-evolving digital marketing division we call Mountain South Media — are key to our survival as we navigate the fast-changing media landscape. In addition to a dozen or so once-a-year magazines, we also have Smoky Mountain Living, a six-time-a-year lifestyle magazine covering the region from West Virginia and southwest Virginia to North Georgia.
And, as mentioned in the first sentence of this piece, we have Blue Ridge Motorcycling Magazine. It’s a quarterly started by Jeff and Carla Myron of Asheville. When they decided to get out of publishing, they searched for a company that could keep their baby in print and thriving. Hopefully that is just what we will do.
When it comes down to it, I’m an old news guy who loves these mountains and this region. We have diversified over the years so we can use those other revenue streams to continue to invest in quality local journalism. Our newspaper and our website are top-notch, and they will continue to be a vital part of the Western North Carolina media landscape. That’s a promise I’ll make to our readers with no hesitation. It’s my life.
Smoky Mountain Living and Blue Ridge Motorcycling are fantastic lifestyle magazines that are models of quality magazine journalism, both in print and online. Check them out when you have a few minutes, and subscribe if you find them interesting.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to winter and all its fun while still yearning for those unseasonably warm days when I’ll be able to roll the old BMW out of storage, crank the engine and cruise along the open road for a few hours, remembering that it’s the journey that holds the real meaning, not the destination.
And so the journey continues.