"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Monday, November 6, 2006

11/6/06: Bike Tour- An Inevitable End

There are elements of these last two posts that echo and resonate loudly years later. Some things are seared into your consciousness. This period was huge. - tx 12/23/09

*Posted to Crazy Guy on a Bike*

15 miles (24 km) - Total so far: 97 miles (156 km)
My leg of the trip is over.

It's taken me a week to figure out what to do with this journal. It occurred to me that I could delete it, or simply let it fade into the abyss of cyberspace, but I've also noticed that there are very, very few, if any, journals completed after one has 'failed'. Plus, it's a good example to set for others: perfection is NOT required for membership. In the interest of honesty, and hopefully as some sort of a humble service to others who may be contemplating such a trip, I decided that brutal, humble- honesty is the noblest of paths.

So, here's a dose of humility: I never had a prayer!

The first day of the trip was fine, as you may have read. However the next day was a different story on several levels. First: significant 'disconnect'. I began to sense that the trip had morphed into something it wasn't intended to be. Getting lost in the 'how' rather than the 'why'. Over a few months, I had gotten lost on that level to a degree I wasn't even aware of. I wasn't happy with the route, destination, the pace from having another rider, and even the mundane particulars of this particular tour. Something was just wrong! I would have been fine and kept going; adapted and adjusted. However, one we reached Franktown, and turned east on Hwy. 86 there came the hills...

I expected hills. I had lightened my load significantly, and while I knew they'd be difficult, I had SEVERELY overestimated my physical conditioning. The 9 miles between Franktown and Elizabeth felt like it was killing me. Ever since we'd left, I had a consistent pain in my upper back that I had never felt before. Also, an aching left shoulder, numbness in my left hand, headaches, and even an instance of slightly slurred speech. Like a fool, I didn't pay attention to them and simply attributed it to the bike; getting adjusted. I expected it to be hard. More on that in a bit....

We got to Elizabeth, and pulled into a Safeway so Bruno could dry his sleeping bag, and so I could charge my cell phone and video camera Bruno had attached to his handlebar. I went inside, wrote in my journal for a bit, and when we got ready to leave the 'disconnect' was chaffing me to the point where I had to talk it out with Bruno.

We sat there for 3 hours.

The most significant problem, in consideration of this venue, was the fact that this wasn't 'our' trip. It was never intended to be. We had decided independently to do this before we knew each other existed! I decided to try to find someone to come along, and that's how we wound up together. I had said from the beginning that if it wasn't working out for either of us, rather due to pace, personal- preference conflicts, whatever, that we should be willing to shake hands and go our separate ways. It was pretty obvious that my pace was annoying him, and worrying about that was killing mine! There was NO way I could keep his pace. Not even close. Couple that with the physical issues I was feeling and some circumstances at home, the desire needed to take this trip died right there.

I obviously felt guilty. Bruno bussed to Denver to take this leg of the trip with me, and I was quitting after a day and a half! To his credit, he was very understanding and actually supportive. No one was mad, yelling, or arguing. As a matter of fact, a few days later he pointed out that if he hadn't come here, he probably would have ended up back in Montreal, rather than on his way to Mexico. So, in some backwards way, I suppose it was a benefit to him. I obviously found a great partner! We chatted some more than finally decided to find a place to camp for the night, and I made arrangements to have my GF pick me up. Luckily, there's a park/ campground right on the east end of Elizabeth, so we stopped, ate, chatted and I waited for my ride.

The next day, I told my mother what had happened with the pain, headaches, slurred speech, and she scared the shit out of me! Both she and my father have a history of heart disease. She was afraid that the signs I had were either acute 'warning signs', or worse. It had never dawned on me... yes I'm ignorant... that all the pain I felt on that bike was on the left side of my body. She was able, as a former nurse, to point out several things that I hadn't been aware of.

I was on the brink of going to the doctor, but without Bruno's luxury of Socialized Medicine, I've decided to try to handle things myself first. Yes... I'm quitting the cigs. After 20 years, they'll finally be given up, after much struggle I'm sure. I've managed to cut them by about 2/3 with no help, and relatively easily. Fear will do that! I've also joined a gym and have been going everyday with a serious focus on cardio. After 10 minutes Sunday, the guilt of leaving Bruno in Elizabeth left me. I REALLY had NO prayer in hell, or anywhere else, and God knows what might have happened if I had continued on and ignored it. Maybe nothing? Sure. But I'm glad I didn't roll that dice.

Of course there's disappointment. I'd been planning for six- months, and invested alot of time, effort and money. However, one thing that occurred to me has stuck, and taken root. It seems that sometimes the process of achieving something is more important than the thing itself. I enjoyed the summer that was filled with the anticipation and even anxiety. The two weeks Bruno was here were great, and thanks to something I read about 'only preparing for your first trip once', I paid attention to it all and enjoyed it. Goals are great if you want to buy a car, house, climb the vocational ladder. I'm not one for equating my status in life with how many 'goals' I can reach. All too often, goals are imposed anyhow. Check out "Grand Illusion" by Styx sometime...

It reminded me of that old adage: "Life's a journey, not a destination." Cliche' I know, but isn't it truth?

While I was planning the trip this summer: Life happened. While Bruno and I were here pontificating: Life happened.

I wouldn't trade any of it. Now, you know what I get to do? Experience what it's like to quit smoking! Experience going from piss- poor to excellent cardio health, and all that comes with it. Sounds a bit extreme, doesn't it? Like Pollyanna on Meth perhaps, but true. Part of the tapestry of life.

My primary goal with this trip has been achieved too. Vitam Impendere Vero: Know yourself. I've learned too many things to count. There is a difference between knowing and improving. To improve, you have to identify, REALLY identify it, then attack it. So, the next mini-phase of my life has been presented to me: try not to have a heart attack!

So there it is, in all it's naked honesty. I didn't make it to Mexico, or even Oklahoma. It's taken a week to put it together, decompress, and re-evaluate, but I don't consider it a failure. I'm better, and wiser for it. Is there really anything else to ask for?

One final word on Bruno. He's doing just fine, of course. He's almost to Lubbock, Texas now and is finding our Texan comrades very agreeable! I'll post a few of his updates on here, so if you're interested to see how things turn out, feel free to check back.

He's about half my age, but he's one of the rare young people, in my experience, that actually teach you something other than quoting textbooks. I admire his courage, honesty, and wisdom. Wisdom's a hard thing to come by at a young age! Oh, and I'll pray for you!!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

11/1/06: Bike Tour Ends-Repairing Cracked Foundations


November 1, 2006

I've been dreading, or better put: avoiding this. The bike trip failed. Miserably.

By the time Bruno and I got to Parker Road on Sunday, I was beginning to get frustrated. Parker Road had very little shoulder and heavy traffic; frightening for someone inexperienced like me. That was the beginning of the end. We got to Franktown, and Bruno's frustration with my pace became apparent. He asked if we could go faster than 8 mph. I understood the concern, but that was the last straw. I became defensive, self-conscious and ill-prepared for what lie ahead. I'm not going to blame Bruno for this -- the seed was planted on the ride down Parker Road. I really didn't like that! Immediately after leaving Franktown on Highway 86; Hills. Big , long climbs. They nearly killed me. If it wasn't my legs, it was my breath. I could only climb at between three and 5 mph. I didn't stop much, only two to three times, but the hills kept coming. It was here that I finally asked, "What the hell am I doing?" and began to think about home. I wasn't enjoying myself. I felt inadequate in comparison to Bruno. Bad things. We finally got to Elizabeth, elevation 6600 feet, 9-miles later, and stopped at the Safeway. We needed to charge the video camera and the cell phone, plus Bruno wanted to sun-dry his sleeping bag. I went into Starbucks, wrote in my journal, and came back 30 to 45 minutes later. All the time since Franktown, I had been stewing: coming up with scenarios and reasons to quit. My entire body was hating that bike.

All day, I had pain in my left shoulder, my upper back, and my left hand had always been the one to go numb, although I don't remember that being a problem. I tried to remember "the hard is what makes it great" etc., the stuff that had gotten me thru all summer. Nothing. I felt nothing but frustration, anger, and pain up those hills. I could summon nothing; none of the mental resources I thought I'd stowed away somewhere. I felt myself failing and could do nothing about it. Once at Safeway -- after everything was said and done, Bruno and I began chatting. I needed to verbalize my frustrations and doubts. Not only was this my trip, but his as well. I felt like I was holding him back while at the same time feeling that he was rushing me. I knew it was ending and was trying to find the softest edge with which to kill it.

I made arrangements for Laina to call when she got done at work, and Bruno and I continued up the road in search of a campsite. There, again, fate stepped in, much like finding the bike shop. There was a small park/campground on the other side of town. We stopped, ate, and chatted. I began to rethink my decision to quit. Again -- I loved the campsite! It is here- every time- that my energy soars! Eventually, I knew it was too late. In retrospect, that can was opened.

We got into the tent to keep warm. He wrote e-mails while I wrote in my journal. We're barely spoke. I dozed off until Laina called. I asked her to come and pick me up, then dozed off again. I happen to wake up at about the time she was due to get there, so I walked out to the road and waited. She called from Safeway, unable to find the place, so I waited by the road. When she got there, we quickly loaded the bike and panniers etc. and said goodbye to Bruno. We hugged, smiled, and as I turned around felt an odd combination of failure and regret, but also that this was the right time to do this. The bike tour ended when I turned around.

So, here I am three days later. I've had time to ponder, think, adjust, etc.. On Monday, I spoke with my mother about some of the cardio symptoms. Pain between the shoulder blades, in the left shoulder, even one instance of slurred speech. She had me convinced- freaked out actually, that I was having a heart attack. The events aren't as clear now is they would've been, say Monday, but I believe the "cardio excuse" is just that. It's not what made me quit. I quit because of the strain of departure, not enjoying the riding, and not being able to be the master of my destination. This is pretty simple, and we can go back a year for another example: expectations. "Go on your own journey; and go alone." Never have I quoted or thought that so much.

This wasn't my own trip anymore. I didn't want Mexico. Nor Texas. Hell no! I didn't want 50 miles a day or the feelings of failure if I only did 20. I didn't want to carry 20 pounds of food- every day! Perhaps that, as much as anything, killed my motivation. I don't blame anyone for this but myself. My fears let this happen. That's what "didn't feel right." I needed that safety net, Bruno cooked. He fixed flats. He knew bikes. My vision could not possibly be realized due to our sharing the experience. My vision of camping in the middle of nowhere watching the stars by a campfire couldn't be realized with someone afraid of stealth camping. I couldn't read or write because I was too tired after trying to keep pace.

Bruno asked me, "What about your dream?" Great question. I made a promise to Laina: No more of this. If this fails, no more. But, did it fail? Or, was it corrupted? I am at crossroads- a big one. Similar to last year. I have to step back and be sure to gain a crystal-clear perspective. We all learn from failure, as Dylan said. Me as much, if not more, than anyone.

What did I learn? I learned that this trip should have been my own. By myself. I compromised that out of laziness. I didn't learn the camping and cooking techniques because I could lean on Bruno. I didn't condition myself properly. "I'll be fine!" Bullshit. And, the reality couldn't match my vision because of the time of year. I was fighting the physical elements and my physical shortcomings at the same time. That was a cancer to my psyche. Even if I had kept going, there was no way I get out of this what I need. Something on Tuesday was trying to tell me this.

I'm a very weak person in some regards; I have to admit that. Both physically and mentally. I suppose I could step back, reevaluate, retool, and fully prepare for something. Pay much closer attention to my health. I need to do that anyhow. If I want to do anything- I have to learn to prepare myself much better. My skills won't carry me any more. Hanging out with a 19-year-old kid for 15-days has shown me where my vitality has gone: do I want that back? Or, in my content to accept what aging laziness allows? You reap what you sow. I reaped a weekend trip to Elizabeth. Yet, I was able to take a weekend trip, on a bike, to Elizabeth! It's all a matter of attitude.

Regardless, I must quit smoking- now. Must! There is no middle ground after seeing my limitations in action. It all starts there. I have to do whatever it takes to quit. Take up walking or jogging... find something to fight the cravings. Gym membership? Personal trainer? All this and saving money. Instead of three months I could go for a year! Or, go walking with Gary? No! Go alone! I have to attack this somehow. What do I hate? Running. Stairs. I like where this is going. Potential positive on the negative. Keep riding when I can. This is an opportunity; a second chance? Probably should have been done long ago. A wake-up call?

So, let's reflect. The two weeks Bruno was here were a culmination rather than a beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed the time he was here, and we got along great! I'm very impressed with him; his wisdom, courage, and honesty at such a young age. The sky is the limit for him. We had our differences, mainly over our views on faith etc. Bruno is also, in my opinion, a bit naive; a bit trusting of government and people in power. He still young, and he's smart. I'm willing to bet that changes!

This is been a great experience in-and-of itself. The journey is the destination. I'm glad I realized and accepted that when I did. I've now made peace with my supposed "failure." I've learned much, and am a better person for that. While I am still in limbo, I have another set of tools in the toolbox. I'm prepared to try to take things more seriously, and my ego has been put in its place, yet again. I have obvious weaknesses and need to accept and address them. I'll never forget the last two and half weeks- that is for sure. Plus, I have video!

What's next? Great question, worry about, what I can control. Quit smoking; strengthen the heart. Get stronger. Perhaps like last October 29, this will lead to some very positive changes. I feel that it will...