Monday, May 18, 2009

Wild Great Smoky Park

A week ago I visited the stunningly beautiful Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a place of incredible wildlife diversity, mature forests, and cascading streams. I felt that one of the streamside hikes I took was a metaphor for ascending a difficult mountain pass on a bike…or maybe even a metaphor for life itself.


It started quietly at first.
A slow meander.
Little focus
As it crawled through an ancient forest.

Then it gathered purpose
As it wound through folds in the Earth
It willed itself through
A deep scour in the ground.

At the crux of the ascent
It reached its peak of power.
Strait and focused.
It thundered over beaten rocks.

Higher upslope it branched apart.
The roar subsided to gentle but steady drones,
Little capillaries feeding a vein.

Toward the top the calm returned.
The roar had left.
Only whispers remained.

Then it was gone
As if it was never there at all.
Vapor in a blue sky
Streaming back to the basement of time.

Friday, May 8, 2009

stairwell from hell

Preparing for a long distance bike journey is a microcosm of one’s larger life; you’ve got to give to get. I know that the more physical and mental preparation I put in before the bike journey starts will permit a more enjoyable experience. I will be better able to compartmentalize the discomforts, stay focused, and absorb outstanding scenery and wildlife in traversing the greatest country on Earth. It will be a fun ride to benefit the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter.

Part of my preparation includes workouts on human-made hills…bridges and stairwells. These are the only real elevation gains in Carteret County, North Carolina. My workplace features two dungeon-like stairwells that, this time of year, are 80 degrees and 80 percent humid on a good day. In climbing and descending the four-floor well 30 times, the heart-rate and discomfort ratchet up. The goal in each of these hour-long workouts is to give my mind and muscles the experience of trying to complete the last miles on a long hot day across the plains, or trying to ascend a mountain pass in Colorado. The bike journey will not be exceedingly difficult all the time. However, there will be those miles on the trip where the terrain, wind, and traffic create tough conditions where I will draw on months of advance preparation.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Three months and counting...

I’ve biked across the continent before so know - to some degree – what is in store. However, there are many, many things about my upcoming trip from Oregon to Carolina that my mind is racing to wrap itself around. What will the weather be like? Will the roads have descent shoulders? Will my bike hold up? Will my body hold up? What will it feel like to participate in extreme fundraising for a non-profit? I can only hope that my mental and physical preparations pay off. Yesterday evening I went for a training ride, summiting the only hill in Carteret County, NC 30 times; it was the Atlantic Beach high-rise bridge. Each time I got the top of the bridge, I was provided stunning views of a fast moving thunderstorm that barreled its way down Bogue Sound, past Cape Lookout, and out over the mighty Atlantic Ocean.

While my mind has that tone of anxiety, I also know that a solo journey of this mileage and duration provides some of life’s rarest gift. I will see places I would never see otherwise, and many that I will never see again. I will make friends with folks who are still strangers to me. In getting rescued from a rainstorm or a helping hand to fix a broken bike, I will be constantly reminded that ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are still the most important words in the English vocabulary.

I am riding for a good cause. Yesterday I volunteered a few hours at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter. OWLS is getting ready for its seasonal influx of baby birds and animals that it cares for every spring in coastal Carolina. As I write this on a lovely Sunday morning, a baby brown thrush is huddled in a bush outside my back porch. Its mother is dutifully finding insects to feed its insatiable appetite.

Today is Sunday, May 3rd: Perfect temps, a strong sea breeze, and sunny skies, a good day for a ride…..