Monday, May 28, 2007

Damn--I done it...

Well, I've taken a huge step in my quest. Today I made my airline reservations--gulp. This makes the whole thing a lot more concrete. A couple of months ago, I purchased the maps from Adventure Cycling that I'll be using, but this is an order of magnitude more intense. I looked at various cheap ticket places, compared prices and schedules. When I finally got up the nerve, entered the information, and pressed "purchase," the computer would not bring up the next screen. Was the universe trying to tell me something? Scott, dude, DON'T do it! Or was it just a test, a measure of my resolve? I logged on later, however, and got the business done. At $367 and change, I've got myself a non-refundable ticket to Bar Harbor, ME. I'll leave Burbank, CA, at 1:05 pm on Tues. 7th of August and arrive in Bar Harbor at about 9 am on August the 8th. I decided to push back the date a little to give me plenty of time to get myself and my gear together after returning from the Oregon coast. Jodi and I should be home from that adventure about the 25th of July, give or take. Also, I want to err on the side of cooler temperatures generally. I'll still have plenty of heat, but with this date, I'll be crossing the Mid-West well into September, maybe early Oct. I'll hit freezing temperatures in the Rockies for sure, but I found that Oct. is one of the driest months for the regions I'll be cycling through. My other concern was the low desert. Oct. is still pretty hot in places like Quartzsite and Yuma. The later the better for that part of the world, for sure.

So the knowledge of my impending journey sits in my stomach like a molten lump of oatmeal or a greasy burger and super-sized fries. Throw in one of those nasty petro-"shakes" and you know how I'm feeling. Perhaps the toughest aspect of this anticipation is the emotional turmoil--worry at leaving Jodi, fear of failure, trepidation at the months on my own. This is a big meal I'm gearing up for, and that, of course, is the point, but knowing that doesn't make it easier. I suppose facing these emotional challenges is one of the biggest reasons to do it. The journey has its physical and financial components, but the emotions are the point--well, and the knowledge such travel conveys.

Before each journey or big mountain climb, I've found myself in a similar place. When El Capitan loomed above me, I drank deep of the uncertainty that now courses through me. Of course, once I get into the flow, climb the first pitch, pedal those first miles, I'll have a better time of it. I've got to take this 12 step style, one day at a time. Admit to myself, my God and one other person that I've got a problem--adventure addiction--and move to deal with it. The only solution here is to tackle the illness head-on and do the deeds, chug the liquor life and ride the high from east to west.

My most recent touring experience was a bust. We started from home, but two days in, Django bruised his paw again. We rented a U-Hual in Lake Isabella and drove home. Besides missing out on a great tour, I was looking forward to using this as a training base. I'm not worried, however. I'll have plenty of riding when I get home, and Jodi and I have the big Oregon tour in the middle of July, which should put a fine edge on my condition. Django is fine, but we did purchase a set of booties for him that we will be using all the time for road touring. We can't risk blow-outs in the remote places we travel, and we don't want to hurt the poor doggie, either!

Something unexpected came of this aborted tour: I've recommitted myself to becoming a climber again. I haven't climbed much at all over the last couple of years, and I thought I had made peace with not having it in my life. I'd pulled a finger, torn a shoulder muscle, felt annoyed at the driving required to get to the crags. After Jodi and I got back to Tehachapi, we retooled our trip, loaded up the VW camper, and headed out for the East Side. Jodi has done some day rides over the last week or so, and both of us have done some hiking. One hike in particular shifted my perspective.

The three of us headed out for Kearsarge Pass, about 11,700 ft. Late spring snow clung to the peaks, but the trail was mostly clear. Jodi was still dealing with the cold I'd given her, so she bailed out after a couple of miles. Django and I continued on. Soaring granite walls, steep snow fields, crags, walls and spires filled our vision. The day was cool, perfect for hiking. The more I looked at the rock, felt myself move through the mountains, the more I knew something was missing in my life. I just had to get back to the vertical world. I was a grinning, happy fool as we topped the pass and looked over the west side drainages and peaks--rank upon rank of Sierra perfection. Yes, I needed to be up here, in places like this, more often.

Cycle touring is still very important to me, but as John Muir said, "I am forever and hopelessly, a mountaineer." What this means for my TransAm is that I will be treating it as an opportunity to start getting back in shape for the rock. I've already purchased a set of elastics with handles that I'll use as a protable gym. Most days, early or late, I'll start my reconditioning. I've lost a lot of muscle over the last couple of years. I'm just a skinny punk at this point--175 lbs. Sounds like a lot to some of you, I'm sure, but I'm 6'4" tall and fine boned, so you might get a sense for my build. The attached photos should help, too. Anyway, I've got to re-gain ten to fifteen pounds of muscle to be where I want to on the rock. During my "burley" peak of my early twenties, I was up to 205 lbs. I don't expect or really want to be that big again, but I'm going to have to lose some of this stick-man thing I've got going now. I guess I'm looking at balancing these twin passions, which shouldn't be too hard. I may take fewer long bike, tours, however, to make room for climbing, which takes a steady application in order to be done properly. More than cycling, it requires a mental/spiritual "edge" that requires some regular attention.