Friday, August 3

No Team In I?

I was a solitary kid. I could entertain myself for hours. I could go on indefinitely alone when friends were absent or non-existent.

I used to ride my bike all over the place, all alone, exploring, killing time, daydreaming...and I walked in the woods, imagined better worlds for myself and escaped the drudgery of my young life as best I could.

The only athletic pursuit I was interested in was cross country. While it is a team sport, runners receive no physical benefit from others, only sporadic moral support. In even our biggest races the spectators were clustered around the start/finish leaving the majority of the race lonely requiring internal strengths to carry you through.

As an adult I became an avid hiker, but I almost never hiked with others. In my early twenties other people slowed me down and over complicated things. I wanted to explore as much as I could as fast as I could. My mother fretted that I went alone, but I argued that if I waited until I had partners I'd never be able to do the things I wanted. And that had been my philosophy ever since. I typically plan my adventures to that standard.

I applied it when I took up rock climbing, even though I looked to rock climbing to bring me out or my shell and invite me to social prowess. I failed, early on discovering roped-soloing. If I could climb alone why did I need others?

I've been a cyclist all along. I've never cycled with a partner or a club. Again, I desire the simplicity of just doing my own thing.

I've been surprised in my middle age to discover, now that my mindset has evolved, that I actually enjoy riding with other people. I've had enjoyable rides with my father-in-law, my wife and other friends.

This summer I've had greater opportunity to ride with just my wife, and I've truly enjoyed spending the time with her, just the two of us, and I wouldn't choose riding alone over that ever.

The thing that hasn't changed about me is that I still never hesitate to go out alone. I am comfortable in my own skin, with my own thoughts and with social silence. I don't need the company of others to succeed in my own dreams. But it sure helps.

I did my latest century alone on the bike, but with the moral and SAG support of my wife. While her physical contribution was minimal, her presence in the experience gave me a boost of inner strength that I think was very important to my success that day.

I'm finding that I want company in my adventures more and more, though not for reasons of safety or security, but for the warmth of human companionship.

On the other hand...now that I have nearly four decades of solo adventuring under my belt I find my self-confidence and abilities inspiring me to greater adventures. Rides like the CTR and the Tour Divide dominate my fantasies. Long distance touring, endurance bikepacking, even just good old fashion backpacking...all appeal to me like never before.

These days, being a family man trying to be responsible, I make my best effort to make sure people always know where I'm going, no matter how far from help that might be. But here was a time when I tried to go far, far from the edifices of mankind, to escape the built world, the world I felt was crushing my soul, in an effort to be far from help and alone, to be in a place where only I existed.

Those experiences gave me valuable perspective. You know yourself intimately, completely, starkly. Mistakes have monumental consequences. In the dregs of your soul you find flecks of preciousness that make the experience worth the pain, the exhaustion and the doubt.

Riding back from my Kingston attempt I truly wanted to give up mountain biking. My body was beat down, my spirit was crushed, and my heart was gone from the effort.

But getting to that point and coming back has given me a greater appreciation of the MTB and I'm actually more stoked to ride it these days than I had been for a long time before Kingston.

Because I suffered so much that day, I can honestly say my bid for Corona Pass was the best bike ride of my life.

I do love solo-adventuring. I like being in the mountains all alone. I like being miles from nowhere on my bike all by myself. There's a nobility and extreme satisfaction in a minimalist approach to adventure travel. But it's on the company of others, when I can share their enjoyment of the experience that I find the most peace and satisfaction. All those years of roaming around alone I was fantasizing about having companionship on my adventures.

Do I sound confused? Because I'm not.

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