Unconquered hills

Everyone has a hill that they just can’t climb. Some outdoors, some deep inside.

I’ve been in the Kern River Valley for a little while, steep mountains lining the river, and of course the long climb outside my front door. Every time I swing a let over and say, “Today’s the day!” I have to turn around long before getting to the top.

Unconquered hills are like that. You throw yourself at them over and over but never get to the top. You can make progress, get higher up, get closer to being up and over, but at the end of the day you’re right back where you started.

As with all the other unconquered hills in my life, there’s an easy way up this one. It’s called CA 155. It’s paved and it mostly parallels Old State Road, the dirt road that is my nemesis. I could simply drop down a mile or so, cut over, and take the asphalt all the way to the top. It’s only seven miles.

But life is not that easy when you’ve promised yourself to try and do it right. When the path is overgrown with thorns, or riddled with rocks, or charged high with snow, and that’s the path you know you have to take, well, it’s of no consequence that you could take a different, shorter, milder one.

Nor does it help to change hills. “I never wanted to conquer that old hill anyway,” won’t make you feel any better, and I know this because I’ve tried it, switching routes to take me over and around the lake through a 30mph headwind. Even that satisfaction, complemented by a coffee stop in the woods by a creek can’t make you feel better about the hill unconquered.

The hill is there, waiting for you, indifferent, which is the opposite of love.


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8 thoughts on “Unconquered hills”

  1. This post spoke to me at the base level, Seth.

    I’m a lousy climber, power to weight not good. I had 2 hills that I attempted to climb, 3 days every summer when we’d visit friends in SW Virginia a few years ago. I managed the first one, the longer one, on the second summer trip but that shorter, steeper one, just put me on the ground. Every. Time.
    The friends I stayed with, would watch me come up that hill, hoping to cheer me to the top. I would disappoint.
    On the last day, of the last trip, I put everything into it and powered my way to the top and into the driveway. And there was no one there to watch and cheer.
    And I didn’t care because it wasn’t for them.

    Thanks for bringing that memory back to the front of my mind, today.

  2. David Evan Atkinson

    I…I…I’m at a loss and don’t know what to say, in so few words you have stirred all of my emotions. Peace to you my friend, I hope you conquer all of the hills before you.

  3. Hey! How do I get you to post less? I only ask because I’m desperately trying to catch up! I have SO many important things to say, but the comments are “closed” on all the great stuff you’ve written in the past weeks and months. And I get it… who wants to keep looking backwards? I’m getting too much for my money!

    e-bikes, bike theft, anniversary/beginnings. I have all these voices in my head, and I want to let them out! Set you straight! Prove that I’m right! I’m going after that guy from Arkansas too!

    But I’ll catch up to a “comments still open” post here eventually, and then you’ll be sorry!

    Relevant content: This post reminds me of my Dad’s driveway. For years, it was “impossible to climb.” Steepest damn thing I’ve ever seen. And boy have I seen steep. Grown men cry if they’re asked to drive a car down… or back up. The dog has trouble even with her four-wheel drive and studded tires. So for years, there was NO WAY to ride up the damn thing. Then a young relative who lives in the area (This is West Marin, foothills of Mt. Tam) yells “good bye!” to us and pedals up the damn thing. Knowing and seeing that it was possible MADE it possible after all those years of knowing otherwise. I rode up it that afternoon, turned around and did it again. I never failed to make it up since (though I admit the days of even trying are well behind me now).

    (editorial note: “Every time I swing a LET over….”)

      1. That’ll about match my comment rate, so perfect! Just be sure it’s like…. a good post, K?

  4. Wow, you’re a Wofford Hts resident. Who’ve guessed?
    FWIW we used to ride over Greenhorn on our way back to Ming Lake, second day of a ride we called Tehachapi Loop. Ming, hang a left at Caliente, Lion’s Trail, etc…
    If you haven’t already, assuming you like dead cow, Johnny McNally’s north outta Kville. Replenish your protein supply.

    1. The google car didn’t go very far up that Old State Road either. Looking at it on google maps, it is quite the twisty road. Seth said something when he started his trip to Houston about putting down some roots on property. Perhaps these are those roots.

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