Ben wrote this lovely post during the first week of October. Now he is far past Colorado, heading to Boise, Idaho!
It’s been a while since I wrote the post on the plane heading back east from California. About 7 weeks have gone by, I’ve ridden my bike for nearly 50 days, and covered about 3,200 miles and somehow made it to Colorado! The journey so far has been filled with ups and downs, both literally and emotionally, and I have had the chance to explore what makes me happy and excited and what makes me frustrated and irritable. I have met dozens of amazing strangers and even stayed in their homes with just hours notice. I’ve seen parts of the country I never would have otherwise, and visited old friends I am beyond grateful to have seen because of this trip. I am filled with gratitude for all of the people, both familiar and unfamiliar, who have helped me stay on course and keep my head up.
I am sitting in Bud Werner Memorial public library in Steamboat Springs, Colorado after quite a different week than what I have been used to. First of all, it feels very strange to type on a keyboard and to be indoors watching the day carry on outside. I had a lovely couple of days off the bike (buffer days, as some like to call them) in Boulder last weekend as I readied my bike and myself for the Rockies and many weeks on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
The first four days were challenging and beautiful - it is just past peak for the aspens and fall colors in general up here. Each day, I found myself entering my risk-management brain and feeling a strong internal resistance to continuing north as planned. Much of the new routine for each day has been right in my wheelhouse of backpacking and being in more remote settings, but something hasn't felt right. My focus has turned away from the simple task of sticking to routine and getting miles done to concerns about my own safety and other details that distract me from my mission: raising awareness for distracted driving. I am glad to know I can successfully bikepack in a more remote setting, and am interested to revisit that kind of adventure at a later point. Part of what has felt great and fulfilling about the trip so far have been the moments, even if brief, where I am interacting with the public and able to share my mission and facetime on the topic of distracted driving. I have pondered whether part of this is feeling loneliness with the lack of people around me and whether it's easier to be in more populated areas so I can feed off some of the energy of others. While part of this may be true, I want to be more visible to cars and the public while on this journey because that is sort of the point. For now, it is in my best interest to get on a more direct track to Seattle and avoid the impending colder weather.
This all gets at an exploration I have done during the trip - listening more to what my body tells me and using that as guidance for all the little decisions I need to make each day. Certain things have simply fallen into place like magic and I have learned to be better at accepting those. In the past, I may have found myself resisting these moments because they go against the plan I had in my head. It has been liberating and remarkable to let myself step back and see where the path is unfolding in front of me rather than trying to clear a path from scratch. I have not only saved myself energy and the risk of disappointment, but I have encountered amazing people and experienced things I would not have otherwise. Being flexible with a general template of direction and plan seems to be the recipe. My dad recently shared a quote from Eisenhower with me: "Plans are nothing; planning is everything."
I am proud of myself for letting go of the reins when there is clear guidance in front of me; this is certainly not how I have lived most of my life to this point. I tend to crave control because it can, at times, make life more comfortable and seem easier. The advantage to embracing the brief period of discomfort is gaining experiences that could never have been planned. And, the feeling of discomfort becomes smaller each time I release my grip on control. I still keep an eye on the bigger picture each day. Living day by day has shown me the incredible benefits, including true presence, of removing the resistance that the desire for control can add to my life.
With all of this in mind, I point my wheels more directly west and toward Utah and then directly toward Seattle. I don’t expect the weather to be perfect or glamorous the whole way, but I do know it will be less extreme than that of the more northerly route I had planned originally. Onward!