Josh: LAST WEEK, I OVERHEARD SOMETHING INSANE ABOUT YOU BIKING OVER 200 MILES IN A NUMBER OF DAYS?
Jeff: This is the Red Ribbon Ride. I’ve done it three times as a biker and once as a crew member. I rode 230 miles over three days last August between here and Duluth. We went through Stillwater as well. It’s a charity ride to raise money for several agencies that work with HIV/AIDS. I started in 2016 when the ride was 300 miles over four days, and David Coleman [another chorus member], who is a bit crazy in a good way, encouraged me to bike it with him. I thought he was crazy. I’m like, “I’m not doing that!” I could barely bike 20 miles. How the hell was I supposed to bike 300 miles? Not long before I was going through some health issues. I wasn’t getting enough calories, I was losing weight, I was constantly tired, and part of it was depression and stress.
But I got through that, started biking more and training, and by 2015, I did my first triathlon. It was a sprint, so not a huge feat. I didn’t die in the water, which was my goal. I came in rather slow, but I felt like, “Hey I can do this. David’s been encouraging me for a while, so let’s do it.” He actually got five other members of the chorus together, and that year, July 2016, we had a chorus Red Ribbon Ride team. The first two days were over 100 degrees, and the third day we had a lot of rain. It was the most brutal and crazy thing I’d ever done in my life. I didn’t even finish the first two days. Which is fine, you don’t have to, and few people did that year. But it was hot, and you didn’t cool down at night, and you then had to get up at 5 am and do it all over again. It was nuts. Most of the people in the chorus didn’t go back and do it again. Yet the same day the ride ended I signed up for the next year.
Josh: SINCE THEN, HOW DID YOU KEEP IN SHAPE – PARTICULARLY DURING THE WINTER?
Jeff: I went to the gym, and I did cycle classes and treadmills. I hate training in a gym. To be honest, I really cannot stand it and sort of had to force myself to go. I did the ride again in 2017 and this time completed all 300 miles. The next winter I barely trained. I just couldn’t bring myself to sit through another cycle class, nor will I bike outdoors on icy roads in the winter.
I probably train in some fashion about 2-3 times per week, if I’m lucky. Some of them might only be 10 or 15 miles, other rides might be 40 or 50. In 2017, I think I only biked 10 or 11 times before the ride, then I did 300 miles.
Josh: THAT MUST TAKE A HUGE TOLL ON YOUR BODY. WHAT SIDE EFFECTS DO YOU HAVE FROM SUCH INTENSE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY? ANYTHING CHRONIC?
Jeff: After 2017, I don’t think I could walk for about 3 or 4 days after and I had really bad sores and chafing. No significant injuries, but I also take my time and pace myself. It’s like those who run a marathon. They don’t go full-out. They pace themselves, they burn just a little energy, and they listen to their bodies. If their body is saying, “You need to stop and walk,” they do and then get back to running. We know more now about how to train, how to prevent injuries, proper form, and things you can and cannot do. But I have always undertrained and suffer through it. I guess it’s part of the “fun”.
Josh: THAT’S WHAT THE ORIGINAL MAN WHO RAN TO MARATHON DIDN’T PRACTICE. HE RAN THERE, HE GOT THERE, AND THEN HE DIED. ON THE NOTE OF PASSIONS, I UNDERSTAND YOU ALSO OWN A RADIO STATION.
Jeff: I do. I am probably one of very few in the nation who actually owns their own radio station.
Josh: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “OWN” A RADIO STATION?
Jeff: I have a license from the FCC. It’s not like a pirate that buys a transmitter, finds an unused frequency, and starts broadcasting – which is illegal! I went through the process to get a license in 2013, and there were very few frequencies that were available. My FM frequency is 97.5 in St. Louis Park. If you’re within about 6 blocks of my house, you can actually hear it. It’s going to require time and money to make it viable, but I’m working on improving it.
Josh: WHAT ARE YOU PLAYING?
Jeff: I play a little bit of everything. I play reggae, electronic music, ambient, world music. I have a show that is similar to what you might hear on The Current, some news programs. I’m working with a guy in St. Paul who also owns a radio station and he’s going to help with some programming, and I’m helping with his engineering. There are technical issues, of course. Getting a taller site for the antenna, right now it’s on top of my house.
Josh: AND IT’S A BIT DIFFERENT, BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. YOU HAPPEN TO BE AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER. OBVIOUSLY, IT’S A BIG UNDERTAKING. YOU HAVE TO GET A LICENSE AND GO THROUGH THE STEPS.
Jeff: It was a heck of a lot more work than I thought it was going to be. I had worked in college and community radio before. In college, I played both indie rock and electronic music and had a blast doing it! I didn’t know much about programming and marketing. It’s just one of those “just for fun projects.” But even just the engineering side… You have to get equipment, find a tower and place to broadcast from. You have to construct it, to do it according to zoning codes and FCC rules and requirements.
Josh: HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY HEADACHES FROM THEM, OR HAS THE FCC LET YOU BE? HOW MANY LISTENERS?
Jeff: So far they have left me alone. I don’t even know if I have an audience. I may have a few people listen to me, but I might not. I’ve gotten a few emails, but I don’t really market the station.
Josh: SOMETHING I REALLY ADMIRE ABOUT THAT IS THAT IT’S SIMILAR TO HUMANS. FOR A LONG TIME, I KNEW THAT NO ONE WAS REALLY READING, AND NOW, I KNOW THAT SOME ARE, BUT I’VE ALWAYS DONE IT BECAUSE IT MAKES ME HAPPY.
Jeff: I enjoy doing this. Even if I don’t put enough time to do what I should do, it’s still fun for the most part. When I was a kid, I always said I wanted to own a radio station. And I actually did it! I’m kind of proud of myself for following through on a childhood dream. Even if it isn’t much, it’s something that I have. Not many people can say they own their own radio station, in a world where it’s very corporate controlled. I’m like, “I’m gonna throw a station on. I have a random, weird mix of programming. If you like it, great, and if not, you don’t have to listen.” Nobody’s telling me what to play or what to do. I’m playing it by ear, literally.
Josh: SOMETHING I’VE ENJOYED DOING MORE RECENTLY WITH HUMANS IS PRESENTING THE PERSON FIRST, THEN MENTIONING A DISABILITY/LIMITATION/TRAUMA AS ANOTHER ASPECT OF WHO THEY ARE. YOU, FOR EXAMPLE, SAID YOU’RE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM.
Jeff: Probably mildly on the spectrum. Socializing has always been a strange, difficult thing for me. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed, but I have a hard time going up and talking to people. Like a lot of things, it’s a gift and a curse. When I was younger, people said being gay was a curse. I remember after coming out to my mom she told me I was going to live such a difficult and hard life, and in some ways, it is. But life is difficult. You deal with the challenges and then get back up and try again. And being on the spectrum, I’m going to see the world differently than other people. I have had to learn things that are innate to many people. To me, these are small, little roadblocks I have to overcome. I’m never going to be friends with every person. If they can’t get me or understand me then I don’t worry. What’s important is I’ve found my tribe.
Josh Elmore (he/him), singer and member of our small ensemble OutLoud!, created Humans of TCGMC in 2018. He graduated from Carleton College with a B.A. in Linguistics and has since worked in sales, higher education, and, most recently, as a bilingual insurance agent (Spanish). Endlessly curious, he has dabbled in improv theater, stand-up comedy, sword fighting, the cello, and modeling for fantasy-themed photo shoots.