Monday, May 28, 2012

On the road again

This week, I make haste for departure from North Carolina!  If you are interested in my tentative schedule for the summer, please read the following.  If not, skip to the contemplating further down:

  • Wednesday, May 30: depart from Hendersonville, NC by rental car with miss Jessica Wilson, heading into Nantahala National Forest for 2 nights of camping, then onto Gruetli-Laager, TN for the Unitus festival, June 1-3
  • Monday, June 4th: Depart from Hendersonville, NC by bicycle heading through Boone, NC, Roanoke, VA, Washington DC, Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA, New Brunswick, NJ on my way to New York, NY.  
  • Wednesday, June 20th: Depart from New York, NY by airplane to San Francisco, CA for 8 days of visiting with friends and family in CA.
  • Wednesday, June 27th: Depart from San Francisco, CA by airplane to Minneapolis, MN for 5 days of visiting with friends.
  • Monday, July 2nd: Depart from Minneapolis, MN by airplane to New York, NY
  • Thursday, July 5th: Depart from New York, NY by bicycle heading through Stonington, CT, Vineyard Haven, MA, Cambridge, MA, Bar Harbor, ME, Burlington, VT on my way to Canton, NY.
  • Canton, NY to Togo, MN: dates and method of transportation yet to be determined
  • Tuesday, July 31st: Begin a 3-week wilderness canoe course for Thistledew Programs in northern MN.
  • Monday, August 27th:  arrive at Black Rock City, NV for Burning Man festival  
After Burning Man: Its back to California for the fall and winter.  I have achieved the vast majority of my stated goals for the trip, though I do have several friends to visit in Colorado, Utah and the southwest whom I will not be planning on seeing this year.  However, another exciting adventure awaits around the corner, as one of my closest friends has asked me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada with her next year.  


As the days and weeks fly by I sit and wonder: ten years ago, did I truly know less?

It seems as though the more knowledge I obtain, the more I realize how complex and unknowable the world really is. What can I know? Can I even know myself? Do I know myself better than I did a month ago? A year ago? A decade ago? Perhaps. Being open to change, I feel that I have changed. I have held convictions, and let them go. I have held strong principles, and acted against them. I have let myself love and lose and strive and fail and succeed. I have pushed myself harder physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically than in years past.

I yearn to grasp an ever larger perspective on what is actually going on in the world. The big picture grows bigger. And yet, at the same time, simple things make more sense than ever. Love is the most important thing. Relationships will last longer than jobs, than careers, than journeys or adventures. And the feelings created and supported by these relationships will last a lifetime, even if the nature of the relationships change.

I am nearly weary of the myriad possibilities that seem to be opened up in front of me. Perhaps I should stop looking so hard, stop searching for an opportunity that is being offered, and instead, start creating the opportunities that I seek. The bike trip has been a step in that direction.

Blah blah blah. I've been finding it more difficult to start writing lately. Once I sit down, something worthwhile usually ends up on the page, but getting to the point where I can sit down, focus on writing, and feel as though I'll have something worthwhile to say is being a challenge. I have bits and pieces of free time here and there, scattered between classes and mealtimes and chores and scheduled social gatherings. Currently, I have 13 minutes before I need to be walking up the hill to the high ropes course, where I will set up for the next class this afternoon. It never feels like I have enough time in one go to get much done, but I have managed to squeeze in the odd errand here and there.

In the past month, I have canoed Congaree National Park, run a 5K trail race up a mountain, walked through an art festival in the rain, sold my mountain bike (which I only owned for 3 months), taught oodles of outdoor classes, spent some quality time with a new lady-friend and enjoyed the company of my co-workers. I have hiked through sun and rain, given out countless hugs and started planning my departure from here in earnest. I rafted a river, ran an obstacle course of mud and fire, and savored long chats on rainy days. All of this, I have written almost nothing about, and perhaps that means I'm not meant to.

Congaree NP is one of the least visited National Parks in the nation. It is situated just east of Columbia, SC, and is easily accessible by roads which lead to some nice boardwalks, hiking trails, and boat launches. I spent one wonderful night there, paddling through some of the most brilliant green swamp I have ever seen, and loved every minute of the low-key adventure.

I am again looking forward to the time alone in the woods that the bicycle trip will provide. Though I am able to wander off into the forest here at Mountain Trail Outdoor School, it is not the same as intentionally journeying great distances alone. There is nowhere to go back to after a night on the road, only forward momentum and new places to explore await.


In planning for my departure, I am trying to cram in as many activities as I can before I leave. My last few days will be hectic and unfortunately full of driving between beautiful rivers, mountains and social events as I prepare to pedal off once again. I am spoiled by having had a commute of zero miles for the last several months. In the last few weeks, I haven't purchased anything for my time here: only for what comes next.

My bicycle has a fresh chain and new bar tape, in addition to the brake pads I installed a few weeks ago. I took it to a shop to get the hubs greased and rebuilt after 7000 miles of riding. They claim I'm due for an entirely new drive-train (chain-rings & cassette, the “gears” of a bicycle), but I said I'd keep riding the current ones until they gets so clunky I can't stand it. It seems ironic to me to replace a part that is deemed to be “worn out” simply because it is noisy and doesn't shift quite as nice as it did a few thousand miles ago. All of that stuff still looks practically brand-new to me, but I can feel the difference when I pedal. I wonder about how much steel and aluminum a bike shop must throw away (or recycle, hopefully) if everyone follows their recommendations on part replacement. It seems like a very wasteful thing for such a “green” industry.

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