11 Years Down The Road: Looking for my second wind.
(Sent From Death Valley National Park, Southern California, USA)
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I am writing this on laptop battery power in my lonely
desert camp in the Mojave National Preserve, Southern California. I was
going to have to pack up and ride north today but a kind woman in an RV gave
me a couple gallons of water so I decided to take an extra day off in my
free camp and write this letter. My thoughts about traveling these past 11
years are complicated. I really do not know what to say other than drifting
with the seasons on a bike seems to come very natural to me. I can sleep
anywhere, eat almost anything, hang out in most crowds and be adaptable.
Making friends and building trust quickly is key. All very important skills
for a long term traveler. But I could do these things even before my travels
started. So, 11 years and I am still at it. It seems hard to stop now. March
30 is my anniversary but I don't expect a special celebration. Maybe I will
be lucky and be near a store or bar but this is a lonely stretch of road,
heading into Death Valley, and I will probably be camping in the middle of
nowhere using a 10 liter water bag as a pillow. Wherever I am you can bet
that I will hoist the best drink I can find, even if it is my water bottle,
and ask the road where she is taking me next. (Picture is a couple days ago
in Joshua Tree National Park)
Playing around with the self timer on the long climb in Joshua Tree National
It has been so long since I wrote an email letter I better
quickly recap the last year:
Extended travel is not without its costs. My drifter
lifestyle has kept me far from home during most family functions. Traveling
uncles are out of the country for birthdays, Thanksgivings, graduations and
most other family events. So, unfortunately the worst was bound to happen
and when it was my turn I was far away from my family. My mother sadly and
unexpectedly passed away while my travel partner and I were cycling high in
the Indian Himalayan Mountains. So remote in fact that when we finally
pulled into a modern enough town with electricity and internet I learned of
the tragedy several days too late to get home in time for the funeral. I was
crushed. My crazy nomadic lifestyle caused me to miss my own mother's
To add to this tragedy was the situation with my travel
partner and girlfriend Gretchen. We had traveled together for over a year
through Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. But we always agreed that two
travelers like us would eventually find separate roads. When I went back to
Indiana she went to see her family in California. We parted ways on good
terms but don't have any future plans of traveling together.
I lived with my dad a few months while he adjusted to life
without my mom. They had been married over 50 years. Mom left us
unexpectedly and no contingency plans were in place. I hung out with dad a
lot and my family always has something going on like birthdays and holidays.
Through Face Book I reconnected with several high school friends (Greenwood
HS 1985) and we had informal reunions. To keep my fitness up I pulled down
my road bike from the attic and made the best of the Indiana summer/fall on
the numerous country roads.
Now that I am back on the road (more below) I have to
think about what is next. If you ask me on any given day what I want to do
with my life you will get one of two opposite answers. Most days I dream of
continuing on several more years to the remaining places I have not been to
yet including Europe, The Middle East and Africa. On other days I just want
to return to a normal life in my house in Prescott, Arizona. It's funny,
before this trip I used to dream of extended travel and made it my life's
goal until I made it happen. Now, years later, here I am with no limitations
as to where to travel next. It is kinda weird reaching such a lofty goal in
ones life. You are left asking: Now what? How do I top that? Is everything
else boring compared to that? To give up this freedom seems crazy but I also
know I can not keep this up forever and the longer I am on the road the
harder it is to stop.
Recently I rode through Prescott, Arizona and checked on
my house and a few remaining friends. I've known, even on the day I started,
that this trip would end there and I can picture what my life would be like.
Walking to work or home from meeting friends from my downtown house and
joining the hiking and biking clubs. Comfort, stability and even health
But my sister Terri, has better plans. My nephew Jake is a
wiz at school and has taken so many extra classes (many with college credit)
that he is graduating a whole year early from high school. He is already
accepted at Indiana University (where I went and raced Little 500) and has a
whole year to kill. Terri wants Jake and I to take a long bike trip to give
him something enriching to fill the gap – some time to grow up before
college. So, I temporarily scrapped the temptation to go home and committed
to meeting Jake in Portland, Oregon in mid June. Maybe passing the travel
bug on to my younger relatives is just what I need to catch my second wind.
A strong enough second wind will carry me all the way to Africa......
One of the rare times I pay to camp was in the Joshua Tree NP campground
My current travels:
Last month I flew to Phoenix and am in the process of
spending three months solo cycling around America's incredible desert areas
and National Parks on my way north to meet Jake in Portland in mid June.
Death Valley is my next destination.
My tentative route map here.
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