That's my buddy Ron. We have what they call "history". More on that in a minute.
As I've written about Ron off and on over the last year, I will offer, again, that he's among the most creative men I've ever met. I love and respect his eye for beauty, his passion, and his stubborn fidelity to his dreams. I respect his try.
This coming summer he hopes to hike all 2600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 26 weeks in 26 wedding dresses. It's not a joke. He's very much for real about this goal and I, more than anyone, believe he will actually accomplish this feat.
He's done radio interviews and during these broadcasts that troubling question of "Why" comes up.
Is this to draw attention to anything? Gay Marriage? Breast Cancer? Sensible Wedding Wear?
"It's complicated" Ron responds. "I love to hike. I've always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and no one has ever done this before.
Yet no radical faerie is he. "It's not about the gay thing either. It's not because I am into wearing wedding gowns, but it's part about performance art..." his voice trails off.
How dedicated is he? Well try this on for size. The dude is about to move into a barn for the next six months, during a Pend Oreille County winter no less, to save money toward his hike. He will be living above a horse stall. There is no bathroom.
How many gay men are willing to make this kind of sacrifice to go, uh... hiking?
To prepare for his epic adventure Ron's has spent a great amount of time and energy penciling out a way to finance this epic pilgrimage.
He currently works in a metal fabrication shop as a commercial painter. He had to tell his employer about his leave of absence. Other employees now know. He is looking for sponsorship. The employer said yes...but that's not enough.
Not everyone gets this dream.
So far his co-workers have been pretty cool about it.
Remember, Ron is not working in some high end art shop in Seattle's SODO neighborhood, there are no lofts, there are no tatt'ed up, pierced, anarchist glass blowers in residence. These are men who construct massive dam gates for hydro electric projects and they create massive machinery. In Ron quest to complete his trek across the west he is not just changing trail dialogue, but he's changing blue collar attitudes about what a real man is and isn't.
To finance his adventure, Ron's made T Shirts. He's also created decals. Two for six bucks. They are perfect for car windows. Or you can buy a hoodie, like the one he's wearing in the shot with yours truly featured above.
All the proceeds are going to fund his adventure.
You can follow his progress on http://www.hiking26.com/
This is no small feat. The logistics of Hiking 2600 miles, in wedding gowns, at various elevations, through all sorts of weather, is not for a novice hiker. Multiple issues are already presenting challenges.
For one, the gowns have to stay intact.
Loose sequins on the trail are so not cool. Fellow hikers tend to take offense at fabric left behind on these pristine trails, much less the glaring sin of satin snagged on bushes and lace left on ledges.
The weight of the gowns is also an issue. There's also Ron's basic survival, logistics and transportation issues to consider. The gas for his one-way trip to the southern trail head on the California/Mexico Border. Someone to drive his rig back home. The lodging on his way south. The Food cache's. The tent. Emergency sewing kits. Get the idea?
And don't forget the challenge of falling in love with a fellow hiker, who may not be so hot on a hot guy trailing a train down the trail. Yeah. There is that.
Yet as interest continues to grow, and even as he promotes the value of a good man doing good hiking in now, not-so-good looking wedding gowns, the clock ticks.
Brides to be, accidentally not-to-be, and brides gone spousal are sending him their wedding gowns. Friends have dumpster dived on his behalf for other gowns. Still he could use a few more. A dress with a story, a forgotten dream, or a happy ending. He'll take em all.
A few weeks back Ron asked me to write about this Hiking 26 thing, maybe do a blog entry, and he feels pretty certain that I am one of the few people that will follow through. And thus our "history".
I first met Ron in 2005. He came out to Washington for a couple visits, and then moved to Pend Oreille County about 6 months later seeking to change a few things in his life that weren't meshing with his dreams of simplicity, good reliable friends, and a decent view. We've tried dating. Twice.
For a good part of these last six years, he's woken up most mornings to vista's of Diamond Lake, Washington. He started a blog called Northwestern Adventure. Ron's made a lot of friends throughout the northwest. But still he felt a greater calling.
I still remember when he showed me his initial ideas at Millers One Stop near Elk, Washington last winter. We sat in his truck, the engine running to stay warm. I told him, and I still stand by this, "Ron, this is brilliant. You're best idea yet. You have to do this."
Ron had recently lost another friend, an accomplished mentor who he'd quietly been planning the initial foray into hiking26.
"I have to do this, for him." Ron told me as we looked though his first pictures.
Ron is a not only a gifted photographer, as well as a talented multi-media artist, but he has an eye that see's things that most folks pass by. He once created massuve theater displays for big block buster movie openings. He's served time in a glamour shots store. Yet he is also very blue collar, drives a beat up 4x4 and has a certain fetish for neglected Airstream Travel Trailers. He's what I think matches the perfect definition of "complicated".
I write all of this to make perfectly clear that hiking26 is not about doing a 26 week long drag, it's not about offending anyone, but it is about creating a striking image in a striking environment that is meant to start conversations rather than stifle them. This is performance art and a physical, personal-best challenge. And as I look through all these pictures, I am very proud of him.
If there is any untapped striking beauty to be offered the stay-at-home set, I truly believe Ron is uniquely gifted to show us that undiscovered gem. Ansel Adams has nothing on him.
I also hope my readers know that in pledging my support for Ron's Hiking26.com, and endorsing his efforts, I can say I do not do so blindly nor is this because I have some sort of unresolved crush. I probably know Ron better than most, and I suspect he knows me better than I am eager to admit. I confess our shared history, as I hinted at before, is not a perfect one.
Thus I write this not through "Rose Colored Glasses" but from an intimate vantage of a sometimes bloody road rash that only two souls who have clashed and worked out their differences can know.
While Ron and I may have shared some difficult moments (He's the only man I've ever ditched (albeit briefly) in Monument Valley) and our creativity creates both conflict and beauty, it also means that I can write this from a perspective of transparency.
I urge you to visit hiking26.com. Tell your friends about the guy who is willing to bear witness to the reality that although marriage is hard, most gowns can go the distance. No matter what obstacles they encounter.
And please, don't leave this guy waiting alone, standing at that altar. Support him.