Summit

It took 31 days and a whole lot of bacon, but I finally went as far north as I could without getting arrested. The border area in Blaine, WA, was empty, so I pedaled along one of the border entry queues for a short ways, snapped a picture, then turned around.

It was like kissing the Wailing Wall without kissing it and without quite getting to the wall.

Then I pedaled into Blaine, had coffee, chatted with a guy and his wife from Tacoma, and went campsite hunting. My mind wasn’t blank, but it wasn’t exactly cluttered.

Riding your bike at age 56 from LA to the Canadian border in 31 days is hardly a monumental feat of any kind. Randonneurs knock out Paris-Brest-Paris in 90 hours, more than 700 miles of furious riding. What I just did takes some perseverance, perhaps, but in the end it was nothing more than a series of 55-mile bike rides. Would it have been easier stopping at motels and eating at restaurants?

Maybe.

But I wouldn’t have met the same people or felt so exposed. I wouldn’t have been the beneficiary of the hard-earned wisdom of so many strangers. I wouldn’t have confronted The Alone so nakedly. I wouldn’t have had true friends show up with spare batteries, bacon, spare propane, blueberries, and invitations to come stay for a shower or a day.

Most of all, I wouldn’t have gotten to cross the threshold into The New. One piece of wisdom related to that is a comment I heard last night, a comment about making decisions based on fear or making them based on love. I didn’t probe much, but I thought I understood the gist of it. Acting based on the one is much better than acting based on the other.

For me, though, that’s not the dichotomy. It’s acting based on fear versus acting based on non-fear. Based on security.

Did I do that thing because I was afraid of what might happen if I didn’t? Or did I do it because I was secure that it was the right thing to do, and if unsure, did I do it because I was secure that I could bear the outcome?

These daily bike rides have been packed with choices. Go? Quit? Shorter? Longer? Haagen-Dasz? Ben & Jerry’s? Take the kind invitation? Tough it out? Follow my head? Follow my pocketbook? Follow my heart?

There are right answers, you just don’t know what they are, often, until later, or even until much later, or even until never. So if you decided out of security, you’ll travel well while awaiting the denouement. If you decided out of fear? Then no matter how it turns out, you’re scared and unable to live in the pedal stroke.

I didn’t see it before, but now I think that living there, in the pedal stroke, is a mighty fine place to dwell.

END


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12 thoughts on “Summit”

  1. It can’t end here. It can’t!. Still plenty of time to head east, into the Rockies and the south into the deserts. If you stop now, you may ask yourself later why you didn’t keep going when you had the chance.

    1. 40 years ago I stopped because I had to go back to school, thinking “Hey, I could be out here again in a summer or two”. While I have done a lot of backpacking, and I have ridden and raced my bike ever since, I never put panniers back on a bike again other than to go to the super market every once in a while instead of driving.

      So, if you don’t have to be anywhere, and you aren’t running out of money, and if no one is expecting you to be anywhere soon, then keep on riding. As David says, head east and explore everything up to the Rockies, and work your way south. Hell if you take long enough, the deserts will cool off a bit and you can simply complete a giant loop.

      We’ll keep reading.

      1. Same here! I kept my panniers for over 20 years but never toured again. The opportunity to take a big chunk of time off like that never presented itself again.

        It’s still summer in the Rockies but snow storms can hit in September and temps start dropping overnight. But that’s what gear is for. He could see the Aspens turning gold in Colorado and chase the summer in the deserts of the Southwest.

        1. Gear solves all problems. Check out The Bike Wanderer, and you’ll see a young man who has battled extreme conditions bike camping since 2014. Some fantastic videos.

  2. AT the end of a trip like this, I’m usually thinking that I didn’t find all the answers and don’t even know all the questions. You’re so much more enlightened than I, Seth. And we are too for following along!

    Next stop?

  3. Congratulations!

    You put it better than I do, but even staying in motels (camping when there’s no reasonable alternative) and eating in restaurants, I’m a better person on tour than at home. Somehow the daily decisions about route, food, and where to stay seem both more important and easier than decisions at home.

    Where to next?

  4. I read “Black like me” way back in High School, and I think if that book taught me anything it was that as a white male, it just simply isn’t in my realm of understanding just how often the treatment I get is because of my white maleness. When I rode across the country in 1981, the “Be safe”s and the “Be Careful”s and the “Watch your Backs”s were all said to us by our loved ones thinking that the odds that we would return alive were slim because the country was one big fugged up place that wanted to kill us. We of course DID run into one or two assholes who may have wanted to kill us, but by an large, as you yourself have found, the country is filled with generous people who went out of their way to help us. Would we have had the same level of generosity if Frank and I had been black? Or some other non-white color? It would be naive to say anything other than “No we would not”. We would have enjoyed some level of generosity, but I don’t believe there was ever much apprehension in anyone we came across, where as if we had been Black, then “Why are those black cyclists looking at me? And what do they want?”. The default was always “White male, good. Let’s talk to these boys”.

    So you have enjoyed a tremendous privilege, and it has been a privilege to follow along and reminisce on your journey.

  5. Congrats, Seth. I am looking forward to the encore after looking up “denouement.” Be well!

  6. Thirty-one days and a thousand plus miles and that head of hair still looks magnificent!

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