We weren’t originally planning on taking a whole week in Jackson, but so much of this trip has not been planned in a lot of ways. We rarely look at our route more than a day in advance and we most certainly take things as they come.
I was hoping to write a midway reflection of the trip when I got to Jackson, but as so often on this trip I find I have all these opportunities to experience different things, meet new people, that writing most certainly takes a back seat. That is probably evident to most of you that read my blog just based on how far behind I am.
So today I am going to take a crack at it.
Why do I peddle? Is it for the escape or the experience? It feels like a little of both.
What am I escaping? Work is a no brainer. When you are on the road, peddling for hours, it’s easy to get lost in the landscape, the exercise itself, the company of your friends and the thoughts of life outside of work. It’s as if it melts away and has never been a part of your being, your life. Things slow down immensely, but in a good way. The idea of being on the bike for 5,6 or 8 hours is something you look forward to, its surprisingly very enjoyable, even with the physical pain at times. Work is never like that, you sit there hoping the time passes quickly, not wanting to absorb the memories of the day, not wanting that to be what takes up space in your brain. There are most certainly those who love what they do for income and I believe I am understanding why it’s probably such a healthier way to live. Work is often a race to the finish, when you are on the bike, you’re not really “racing” anywhere, you are just going, taking in each minute, the details of the world that surrounds you and letting it fill you up which brings me to experience.
The escape brings the experience, it opens you up, it frees your mind, body, soul so that you can really listen to that breath, experience that smell, register that sight in a way that you can’t at a computer, or in a meeting, at least not for me. The world becomes so much larger, but in a way that vastness becomes more and more comfortable, less and less overwhelming and you feel like everywhere is your home, this is your space that you have been given to live in, to play in.
While the world is beautiful, the different lands all spectacular, I know for me and as I have heard Ryan say so often, it’s the people that truly make it what it is. I love taking in the sights, being outside, but without the company, the stories, the sharing, it would only be half of what it is. Which leads me to wonder how I would have handled the trip solo.
I believe isolation is important, although I’m not sure isolation is the best word. Time “alone” is often the opposite of isolation to me, it’s a time to connect with yourself. Time to let the mind wonder on its own, to decide what it wants to think about. For me that is often Kelly, good memories and tough ones, but it’s nice to remember, to not have any outside distractions, as the memories seem to become more and more vivid. It’s as if this time away has made me better at remembering. It’s remarkable how well I remember each day on the bike, the people I met, the land I passed, and with that I seem to remember things from pass before riding even better.
But total Isolation? I don’t think that is part of my disposition. As much as I can disappear for a day, or two or even three, the technology of today’s world allows me to talk with my family or friends fairly on demand, to connect with home, which allows me to live in both worlds still. The writing of this blog and the sharing of this particular time away is a perfect example and something I am grateful I am able to do.
So over the last 50 plus days there have been many things I have been able to reflect on while riding, who I think I am, who I want to strive to be, what I want my life to look like, what I’ll do when I get home, what other experiences I will want to tackle, or at least try to. It’s been great to step back and have “time” to really look at what these things where before leaving and what I believe they will be once returning, but the thing that crosses my mind more often than anything else? Death.
Death, what it means to die and be dead, they sound like morbid thoughts and I guess at times they can be, but for the most part they are not. We all must think about death in some way, maybe for some of us it’s a fleeting far away thought, a finishing point we don’t allow ourselves to believe is truly coming, some distance place that while approaching, we never take the time to recognize it. For others I would imagine it can be a driving point of fear, meaning if I try this thing I might die and therefore I can’t try it. But that fear is most certainly not rational, we might be afraid to sky dive even though the statistics might say driving our car is more dangerous, yet we do it anyway without much thought. For others maybe it’s crippling, it freezes them from doing anything, from attempting change and hoping that if they just stay stuck, nothing bad will ever happen.
My time spent thinking about death and my relationship with it was most certainly sparked by losing Kelly, and the grace in which she handled having a more intimate knowledge of its arrival than most of us will. How to make decisions in the face of that? But that is just that, we all face it and for me I continue to try and confront it head on. I think I first noticed it while ski racing this winter. I was always an able racer, known in my younger years for laying it on the line and crashing a bunch, but I never actually did. I think I crashed so often more out of fear of failure than actually letting go. I hated losing and often crashing was an excuse for not putting up a bad time. This winter I found myself more and more truly letting go on my ski’s, finding that point of just letting it happen and as a result I was faster and in a way more in control. If I got hurt, I got hurt, what was really the consequence? I can’t change this thing we call death, but I can change how I relate to it, just like you train yourself to do anything.
So the bike trip brought this out again, every person you meet asks you in some way “are you worried?”, or “it has to be dangerous right?”, that or they tell you that you’re nuts, that they can’t believe you are doing something like this. It’s most certainly all relative. When we met Wyatt Welter, who is long boarding the circumference of the 48 states, self-supported, I quickly had those same thoughts, but only for a moment, as those thoughts turned from that is crazy, to I get it and what a great way to take it all in.
So today I am sitting in the lodge at Devils Tower writing this, mentally prepping myself to climb the tower tomorrow. The plan was to climb today but the weather isn’t the best and tomorrow is supposed to be great. We have no hurry, so we’ve decided to wait it out. For those of you who don’t know it, according to Wikipedia, Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion or laccolith in the Bear Lodge Mountains. The climb from the visitor center is over 800 feet with 500 of it or more roped in. For many back home that know my fear of heights, it’s hard to imagine me tackling this, but hopefully by this time tomorrow Mr. Sock Monkey and I will have made it to the top with a picture for proof. What do I have to fear but the gain of another incredible experience, another day where I can hear my breath, my heart beat, the smell of the rock and air and feel life in a way I can’t sitting in front of this computer. So Dave Linn, if you are reading this, tomorrow is probably a day with fear, but a day to tackle it!
Miss you Muppet,