A Letter From Ayani

Ayani was a student and friend of Alex. Here is a letter he read to us at our Gathering in Ashland on August 10, 2014:


Dear Alex,

I just got back from my week-long backpacking trip in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. As I admired the beautiful scenery and rugged terrain, the whole time I was thinking “this is a place where Alex would like to be.” I could picture you running the ridges or hiking the trails or swimming in the high mountain lakes and I could feel your presence as I enjoyed everything the wilderness had to offer. This experience proved to me that you will never be forgotten in my mind. Alex, even though you are gone, your spirit will live on in those who knew you and were touched by you.

I also never got to tell you about my ten day bicycling trip in the San Juan Islands; the trip that you helped me prepare for. All of those hours you spent helping me hone my cycling skills paid off and One of the best memories I had of the trip was when we were getting ready to bike to the top of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. I had heard from many people that it was a hard ride and I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. It was at that moment that I made my decision: “I am going to do this for Alex. Alex helped me get ready for this trip and he would be happy and very proud of me if I made it to the top.” So that is what I did, I hopped onto my bike and pedaled all the way to the top and as I stood there I not only knew that you would be proud of me, but I was also proud of myself.

Alex, I could never thank you enough for all of the things that you have done for me. I still treasure the many times you helped perfect my math skills and help me understand the subject that I disliked the most. It was because of these many sessions that I ended up actually liking math and even getting an “A” in math for the first time. You made feel capable for the first time ever.

There are countless other things that I will remember about you and I know many other people have their own stories, too but there is one thing we all share; you have inspired and touched us in many ways. Alex, we will miss you, but you will never be forgotten. Thank for you loving me and making me feel important.

Love Always,


Notes to Alex

A Note from Dan Britton

“Alex was an amazing guy.  He was a phenomenal athlete, very driven, a most memorable character, and very kind to me while I was visiting.  Alex was the guy that offered me a bunch of cycling clothes after our first meeting, the guy that slapped me high five as he sprinted off the summit of Mt Ashland as I made the climb up on my bike, the guy that made awesome homemade energy treats with dates and coconut, the guy that brought raw cacao beans to our picnic in the Mt A parking lot, the guy that knew every good cycling route in the Pacific NW, the guy that started following me on Strava and encouraged me to go up every bad ass climb I was in the vicinity of, the guy that commented “Such a rad route!  You are probably one of the few touring cyclists that enjoy these sort of side trips.” after I rode up Hurricane Ridge Rd., the guy that Ryan and I joked with about opening a resort/spa for athletes on our ride down the Mt Ashalnd ski road, the guy that was wearing the shortest possible running shorts every time I saw him, the guy that used the word rad more than any person I have meet.  Alex will be missed.”

Dan Britton

Notes to Alex

A Note from McHale

Alex’s older sister McHale read this note at our gatherings this past weekend for Alex.

I have such fond memories of being a kid with Alex in the forest and home where we grew up …playing in the creek together, building little dams so we could watch the water pool up, collecting snails, traipsing through the snowy forest, my friends and I outfitting him in my dress-up clothes during slumber parties, snuggling into bed with him on one side of my dad and me on the other so we could read bedtime stories.

As we got older, I remember some competition and typical sibling rivalry, heated discussions in the mornings when we were getting ready for school- me spending way too much time (and hairspray) on my bangs and Alex pulling on a pair of shorts even though it was January.

But as we reached adulthood and pursued our interests, I found myself almost surprised at how much our passions aligned. Although we pursued them in different ways, Alex and I were both teachers, both shared an appreciation for words and language, both loved the joy and challenge of being active and pushing ourselves physically. Beyond shared interests, we shared values- the importance of family, an appreciation of nature, the value of hard work and perseverance.   Perhaps this isn’t surprising, given we both grew up with the same amazing parents, who taught, and instilled in us, many of these values

But I was always impressed- and proud- by how deeply Alex embraced all of these things, the passion and intention with which he lived. As a teacher, he embraced his students and was personally invested in them as individuals. As a reader and a writer, he had a deep wisdom and a way of putting words together such that the thoughts seem completely obvious and exactly what I had been thinking, and at the same time also help me see the world in a totally new way. As an athlete he was amazingly disciplined and accomplished feats that were often unimaginable to me. As a lover of nature, he was always one to venture off of the beaten path, and to discover and appreciate treasures that many people didn’t notice.

In recent years, Alex and I bonded over running. As with many things, Alex took running to an entirely different level than I did. While I ran marathons, he often ran much longer distances, with thousands of feet of elevation gain, and at a pace several minutes per mile faster than mine. I will always treasure our runs together in the forest, sometimes talking about life, other times just running together in silence, soaking in nature.

Alex and I often spoke before one of us had a big run, and I distinctly remember three pieces of advice he gave me that I continue to appreciate. One was in response to my worries about running up hills- he said something that helped him was envisioning little birds, lifting up each foot as he ran. Alex was also the one who taught me the value of a mantra, especially when you need a little boost- repeating a short, inspiring phrase that helps to establish a sense of rhythm and provides an emotional lift. Another one was as I was preparing to run my first 50K trail run, which he had urged me to do, and which got me hooked on trail running. I explained to him that I was worried about not having the energy I usually get from big crowds in a road marathon. He assured me that I could draw just as much, if not more, strength and energy from nature. He was right- the trees and other life around me on the trails gave me all the energy and boost I needed, and in a way that also brought a sense of peace.

While I will deeply miss feeling Alex’s feet hitting the trail next to me, I know he will always be running along beside me. He’ll be the one who helps me reach the top of the seemingly endless hill, the one who urges me to speed up just a little even though I’m feeling tired, the one who reminds me to breathe in the scent of the forest and to feel the energy of the trees.

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to honor Alex, to keep him in our lives, especially because I want Kaya and her little sister to know their uncle. In some ways, they will honor him without even knowing…like the way Kaya can spend inordinate amounts of time playing in icy mountain lakes; the way she zooms around on her skuut, a gift from her two uncles, with such joy and determination; her enthusiasm for downward dog; her love of nature.

In addition to continuing to talk about Alex, I’ve also realized that honoring him means becoming a better person myself– helping to share his qualities that I appreciate and admire the most, with my daughters—and with the world. It means

  • Being true to myself
  • Pushing myself- setting my goals a little higher and putting in the extra work to reach them
  • Showing people little—and big—acts of kindness
  • Appreciating the world around me- recognizing and treasuring the special moments, even, or perhaps especially, when my days begin to feel routine
  • Sharing creativity…perhaps through a poem or story, a new recipe, a picture, a yellow marble…
  • Taking time to be quiet, to reflect, to just be

I encourage all of you to remember that Alex is always with us, and to honor him by embodying his qualities that you most admire. In these ways, even though he is not physically with us, he will continue to be in, and touch, our lives.



Notes to Alex Photos

Offering from Student Maris Evans

Maris spoke at our gathering for Alex in Ashland, Oregon on August 10th, 2014. Below is his transcription.

“For those of you who don’t know, I’m Maris, and I’m here today because I am among a large group of people who were touched by Alex Newport-Berra.

I met Alex as a frustrated kid, a product of both my mediocre academics and my lack of social ability, making me the ultimate loner. At first, tutoring was a burden. That didn’t last long.

Over time, Alex became something of a fascination of mine. He was always so calm, yet at the same time, so alive. It was an interesting comparison to me, relentlessly trying to twist my life against the hands of fate.

I remember, one night, after a late tutoring session, Alex walked me to the door. I think it’s safe to say he made a joke, and then he handed me a red envelope.

“Happy Birthday.” he said.

Yes, it was my birthday.

Inside the envelope was a two dollar bill.

It was then that I realized that I wasn’t just a burden to him. I wasn’t just a way to make ends meet. I mattered to him, because that was just who he was.

If Alex taught me anything it was that math isn’t just numbers and symbols and x’s and y’s, math is a living force that exists on its own. He made me love math.

But not just that.

As I began to excel at math, and realize that I could, I began to work harder at my other subjects.

And it was then that I realized that I was not an exception in the fact that I could socialize. I could interact with people just as well as anybody else if I set my mind to it, and for teaching me that, Alex, I cannot repay you.

He taught me that if you want something, you don’t have to clench and clench until you can clench no more to get it. There is a way to live and relax at the same time. He taught me all these things, without meaning to teach me anything but math.

At the beginning of this summer, he said to me, “Thank you for doing math over the summer. I realize it isn‘t the most fun thing.”

And I was like well, why are you thanking me, you’re using part of your summer to tutor me when you could be doing a myriad of more entertaining things.

“Math is fun with you.” I said.

And it is true.

When I learned of his death, part of me wanted to scream, part of me wanted to cry, and another part of me just wanted to just go to sleep. I couldn’t believe it. He was one of the most lively, animated people I knew. He was with me for the time I changed, grew, and learned who I was, and his death made me realize that he held a baseline for me. He was one of those people who doesn’t appear that much in your life, and in retrospect, doesn’t appear to have that big of an influence, but as I said, he held a base line, and when his death finally became real for me, it felt like I was coping with something bigger than the death of my math tutor. Because that was Alex. He made himself matter more than anyone in his place could.

I’ve thought of, if I knew that the last day I saw him, would be the last day I saw him, what I would say. And this pretty much sums it up.

“Thank you for being awesome.”
Godspeed, Alex. Friend, teacher, awesome math tutor.”

Notes to Alex

R _ _ E


On May 9, 2009, Alex participated in the annual “Tour of the Unknown Coast”, and his beautiful account of the ride is posted below.

This last weekend my friend Matt and I drove down to Humboldt California for “The Tour of the Unknown Coast”. One hundred miles, around 10,000 feet of climbing, and billed as “California’s toughest century ride”. (Note that there are rides/races longer and/or tougher than this in California; double-centuries etc. and of course stages in the Tour of California).

The words “ride” and “race” start and finish with “r” and “e”, just a couple of letters in the middle different, sometimes those two letters make a huge difference, other times not so much. Last Saturday I did my first “race” in a couple years. There wasn’t really much separating this from a real race: numbers, a mass start, neutral rolling support (awesome!), it was timed, a King of the Mountains competition on the first climb to get the fire lit, prize booty for the winner. Not to mention the fact that Humboldt Locals refer to the ride as “The Tour”, and a couple of the local shops represent with their full racing squad of 10-12 riders.

The event has drawn famous names like Lance Armstrong and Tinker Juarez. The Director, Vic Armijo has put the race on since 2004 and the man knows how to do a superb job. Vic has combined his passion for riding and organizing with the green hilled coastal beauty of Northern California to produce one of the most inspiring, challenging, and exciting rides I have done; and many others at the ride agreed, most I talked to had done the ride at least a few times previous (Ashland bike shop owner of Cycle Sport, Alex Hayes, was on his lucky 13th edition). I know it takes something special to get me out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and travel to a 7 a.m. start time…

I’m writing this report the day after the ride, in hopes you will read the most direct account. Before it becomes a fish story, you know, the climbs get longer and steeper, the winds get stronger, the descents get crazier, yadda yadda yadda.

The ride starts and ends in the coastal town of Ferndale, Ca. Pre-race getting going with food, driving, getting my number, deciding exactly how much clothes to put on, wishing I could get my “morning movement” on its way through before we hit the road, check bike, then get to the start line and look as cool as possible with hairy legs as to assert some sort of presence without bringing too much attention to myself (yes, in most cases bike racing is generally narcissistic, masochistic, and fashion forward.)

I saw a few friends from the OBRA racing scene who I had not seen in a while and it was nice to have some familiar rear ends to watch during the first part of the race. The group rolled out, a big number of u, not sure yet exactly how many, perhaps around 100. The first thirty miles were pretty flat, taking us east at a good clip through the low coastal delta and through the scenic “Avenue of the Giants” that winds its way through massive redwoods, perhaps the true long endurance organisms. We all chatted, ate food, started to shed layers and get the legs warmed up. A few of us getting a feel for the rest of the pack. After some of the first little rollers the group was a bit smaller as riders started to fall behind the pace.

Through some sections on the tree lined Avenue of the Giants the road was rough and chunky, adding a bit of a Paris-Roubaix meets Smoky the Bear feel to the ride. The sounds of bikes, bodies, bones, bottles, and brains rattling for the next few miles. Though it did serve to loosen everyone up for the traditional “nature break” where we all quickly dismount for a pee. This is a fact of riding the bike for more than five hours at a time: you learn to eat, drink, pee, and change clothes while on the bike. My release required a bit more than most, my morning movement was on its normal schedule. I quickly dashed into the woods, knowing that the group was only stopping for mere seconds then would be back on the road at race pace, and travelling in the draft of the group saves energy. You have to do what you have to do, and I knew what I had to do would be worth it. A few minutes and a couple of rocky “toilet paper” uses later I was back on the road, a bit lighter though now and a few minutes behind the main group, I would have to work on my own to get back up to the group.

I made contact with the group at the base of the first major climb, Panther Gap, an eight mile smooth switchback slice of climbing ecstasy. The first rider over the top of the climb would be crowned “King of the Mountains”, regardless of their final finishing place (a sort of race within the race). Besides a sweaty tiara the winner would receive a set of new tires, some socks, and a free entry into next year’s edition. Think of it as an economic stimulus check for spending lactic acid.

Up climb the group started to separate based on determining factors of: number of miles ridden uphill that year, ability to detach muscle synapses from brain receptors, and power to weight ratio i.e. who has eaten the least amount of ice cream.

On the way up I was grateful for Devony, the smiling happy woman in the neutral support car who patiently took my jacket, gloves, arm warmers, the sun was makng a grand and beautiful appearance today. The weather was perfect for riding bikes, Vic must have some good connections with the gods!

About three miles in I was off the front of the group and making way to claim first to the summit of the climb. At one moment taking my focus from my labored breathing to get an amazing view of the hills below shrouded in early morning fog, blue sky above, my legs, body and mind were all happy to be together and wanted nothing else, interesting that it sometimes takes a certain level of challenge and pain to get to this.

At the top of the climb a couple volunteers handed me up some energy gel, which when riding one thinks of simply as “calories” which are good, needed, fuel. I was on my way down. I had opened up a gap somewhere aroun two or three minutes, which left me in a moment of decision:

A) Slow down and wait for a couple people to bridge up and join me so we can work together along the windy flat sections, using a paceline and drafting to lighten the workload or…

B) Power on alone and hope I make my breakaway stick for the next 60 miles to the finish, knowing that the group behind may be working well together and if they caught up to me have some fresh riders ready to make an attack.

I thought, then decided to ask my Grandpas, I figured if anyone could see how the race was unfolding it was them on their wings flying above. This may sound cliche and sentimental, I find inspiration drawn from my blood to be powerful and wise. And they have been with me on all my rides, training and past races so they know me pretty well.

And the image they put in my mind, and the look on their faces when I asked, were big smiles and they simply said, “Go! Why would you do anything else. Just go!” and so I did. The looks on their faces were calm and confident.

Descending like a bumble bee in a windstorm trying to rush back to the hive, twisting on steep, fast, bumpy road. Adrenalin my pollen, sweat and smile my honey. I was happy to be making this descent solo so I could choose my own line and not worry about others in front of me. Although I did more overcooking than a teenager behind the broiler at McDonalds. (overcooking is a cycling term referring to coming into a corner with too much speed, narrowly avoiding launching off the road)

I finished the descent, crossed a steel trussed single lane bridge, saw a white arrow markig in the road and started to plow my lonely furrow west toward the Unknown coast through the smooth rolling hills. After a few miles I was not quite sure I had taken the correct path, I didn’t see any more road markings, signs, etc. for a while. I told myself that “No, Vic is not going to spend two weeks marking every mile of road just to reassure my under-oxygenated brain”. I was reassured when the road started to parallel a beautiful river and I noticed my direction was going with the current, down stream, towards the ocean, westward ho!

One thing I know, it’s easier to be in pain when I am surrounded by beauty, and for some reason, and perhaps this is the masochistic and narcissistic side, it’s easier for me to feel beauty when I am in pain. Such was the case for the next miles as the rolling roads along the Matol River, through the small town of Petrolia with the locals out waving.

The next miles were alone. Along the river, over the river, above the river, green, blue and cool. I told myself I need to come back here in sometime and just explore. Beautiful country.

After some miles I looked back to see a lone rider approaching, he was around a minute behind me though I knew it would be another six or seven miles before he finally made contact. Again, more choices:

A) I ease my pace a bit knowing that if he had some energy he would catch up and we could work together, and be confident in my climbing to know that once we hit the wall I could attack and solo in to the finish

B) Though if he was on the edge and used all his energy trying to bridge up and had no energy me slowing down would be for naught and I would have lost some of my lead over the main group.

I saw the Beach! The eight mile stretch of beautiufl hell, strong north headwinds attempting to mush me backwards, I had to be persistent. A mile later the lone rider, Nelson, connected and we made our way north along the coast. Wind whipping our faces, as we ground our gears and teeth. Trading pulls and resting in each other’s draft. Nelson was making some strong pulls and I was happy he bridged up. The next seven miles the wind was relentless, the road a bit rough, and it all mkes you just a tad crazy, which is good, because the absurdity of it makes it all feel easier too. The neutral support car made a check-in and gave us some calories and fluid, yeah!

The last stretch we could see the Wall looming ahead, a long steep pitch. Check the link below for pictures. I could write tomes about the rest of the ride, but I’ll make it simple: We hit the bottom of the climb, Nelson and I separated and I opened a gap that I would hold until the finish. Steep, hot, sweaty, lots of pain, smiling, newspaper man named Jose out taking pictures leap-frogging me in his truck setting up at picturesque switchbacks. The last section called “Endless Hills” really were endless, though very bucolic and pretty, reminding me of roads through the hilly country side of Swtizerland with narrow roads and amazing views.

The last bone-jarring miles into Ferndale were fun and fast. I finished with a time near five hours and ten minutes. I enjoyed taking in the warmth and congratulations of people at the finish line.

The amount of time it took you to read this was shorter than the amount of time I spent grinding my way up the infamous “Wall” near the end of the ride, a 20% grade beast rising up then switchbacking from the Lost Coast Highway like a cobra preparing to strike…

Alex's Writing Notes to Alex

Corvallis Gathering for Alex

At the Gathering to Honor Alex on August 9, 2014 in Corvallis, Alex’s friends and family were invited to write on a rock…a word or phrase that, to them, was Alex.

Gem (Alexandrite)
soar high
Deep Connection
Love the Earth
bright star kilo 65
Embrace Life
observed love
Be Present
Love Warmth Space
Fast Friend
The extra mile
An inspiration
Always Love Everything
Passion for LIFE!
Generosity of Spirit
Peace & Joy
Love of LIFE
Enjoy every moment
Lives Touched
Open yourself to life
Go to the light
Tree Top
Pu’uwai Aloha
notice the details
Lemon bars
one of a kind
MAN of the mountain
Love you Alex
Your light shines on Alex
the unknown
Peace & Happiness
Tree spirit
peace patience kindness
zest for life
A Gift
Darkness = the understated silence that begets the stars

Notes to Alex Photos

A Note from Childhood Friend Peter Acker

Our friend: Alex NB

Alex had a passion that was so pure, and so deep it changed the course of many of our lives. He was one of the most curious and inquisitive people I’ve ever knwn. Where most of us would raise an eye-brow, interest peaked at a new concept or activity, Alex would be outside making it happen, that moment. And for so many of us it was impossible not to want to follow along.

We all have lists of hilarious, breathtaking, and even painful examples of this. I remember spending nearly a week in the creek down below the NB’s house, plotting out the course, exploring life under every rock and stick, wading a little further each day until we finally popped out of a grating next to CVHS. We were filthy, bleeding, and starving, but with our newfound knowledge, we felt rich, running home, excited for more, planning our next expedition.

Alex was a master in so many domains, attaining incredible levels of skill in time frames we could all only dream of. I asked him once if he blood doped, but I’m pretty sure it was all-natural, fueled by enthusiasm, hard work, peanut butter and watermelon juice. But Alex didn’t hoard these skills, he was a teacher, an encourager and a guide. He pushed us all to better ourselves constantly, but he did so in the gentlest, most loving of ways. He wasn’t the heavy-handed coach, over your shoulder, berating you. Instead he was leading by example, showing how far you could go, but how easy it could be for you to get there, feeling good the whole way.

Again, I’m sure you can all reflect on hundreds of such examples, I can definitely think of a few. Following Alex over the ledge of some Hawaiian reef-breaks I didn’t think I was ready for, only to come out on the other side smiling, laughing, with a high five waiting. Climbing the 3rd peak when my legs were telling me that two was more than enough. Pushing a little harder to find out what was around the next bend or the next cove when your thoughts had already turned to dinner, being rewarded with a waterfall, a sunset or an incredible moment.

Looking at the things that I hold as important today, as a nearly 31 year-old newly wed, I realize that Alex NB played a instrumental role in so very many of them. Although geography and time put us in different places, the influence he has on my life has only grown. I’m sure that as you all think back on your experiences and adventures with Alex this holds true.

I’m sad I couldn’t be in Corvallis today, gathering with such an amazing group of friends, family, and familiar strangers, all connected by the love we share for Alex and the incredible impact he has on all of us, celebrating our wonderful friend. But somehow I know Alex would much rather I be out in the world doing the things that I’m passionate about, the things that drive me, and doing them to the absolute fullest of my ability. As I sit in an airport in Turkey, on my way co Uganda, Alex feels closer than ever.

Pat, Buzz, Adam, McHale, I will be thinking about you, hoping to see you soon, reliving so many good times and good memories, thank you for everything.

Be well my friends, enjoy this beautiful day, enjoy and appreciate one another, and give someone you love a hug from me.

I love you all

pete acker

Notes to Alex