Today was the time trial. Fourteen miles. I think. Maybe 15.
Car mostly packed last night. Got my family off to church, took a shower, loaded some last few things, then off to Seven Mountains Scout Camp.
It seems most everyone pulled in Saturday. No spaces left in the big field that’s serving as the RV/tent area. But I found a nice little area just below the RVs and just above the bathhouse with room enough for my van, my ginormous canvas tent, and my pathetic little shade shelter. Honestly, there’s probably enough room for that times ten. When I wasn’t looking, Jeremiah Bishop and his very SoCal SHO-AIR / Cannondale Ford van (it’s the custom wheels and fenders that makes it stand out as SoCal) parked across the way. Along with a big, beautiful, black Sprinter that says “Pro Tested Gear” on the side, whatever that is.
|Keeping my legs up before go time.|
A 2:44:30 pm start. About a 4:00 pm finish. And the miles in between proved what we already know about me and mountain biking: I can ride fast, except through the curves, and I’m a wuss on the scary descents. But we also learned this: pro mountain bikers, the dudes whose names you know, who are national mountain bike figures, the guys you don’t very often race with because they’re not at the races you do…well, those guys are fast. And when I say fast I mean that when they come upon you, and pass you, you feel like a child. They are fast I’m I’m fast compared to a 10 year-old. And the thing that kills me, the thing that I can’t quite wrap my head around, is how they can move through those corners so fast. I mean: So. Fast. It’s not just that they seem to have an extra gear, it’s like their tires are aligned to a cog railroad track. I’m in awe.
It’s nice to be in the woods. There are bugs and trees and rocks and things. So many birdsongs. But where we are can hardly be described as wild.
One of the fun things about Pennsylvania is how so much of the landscape is not obviously great land. It’s rugged. Hard to navigate. Expensive to build on. Yet it’s all crisscrossed with a network of paved and unpaved roads. However, from the perspective of seeking out The Wild, one of the really crappy things about Pennsylvania is that it’s all crisscrossed with a network of paved and unpaved roads. There are pockets of The Wild, but for this Western boy, raised on the grand vistas of alpine peaks and deserts the size of European countries, everything seems so small. Still. After living here for eight years. There are trees everywhere and not a forest to be found.
My week’s experience in the woods has more in common with Thoreau’s ventures away from civilization than it does Abbey’s. He reports:
“We did not go far yesterday. We rowed and drifted two miles down the river and then made camp for the night on a silt bank at the water’s edge. There had been nobody but ourselves at Mineral Bottom but the purpose, nonetheless, was to ‘get away from the crowd,’ as Rennie Russell explained. We understood.”
There are bugs and trees and rocks and things all around me, but a semi-truck’s engine brakes temporarily drown out the sound of the songbirds as it descends the grade into State College. This isn’t a Wild place.
During the race we got much further away, of course. But who can stop to enjoy…anything when one’s brain is starved of oxygen and when one’s focus must stay hyper-attuned to the sapling’s trunk around the next bend; catch one with the edge of your handlebars and at worst you’ll smash a finger (happened once today) and at worse it will swing your wheel sideways and send you flying over the bars (also happened once today). This is not a leisurely float down a wide, calm river. But Abbey and friends haven’t made it to the rapids yet. There will yet be moments of adrenaline-infused adventure—those moments that walk the razor’s edge between terrific and terrifying. On today’s ride there was at least one of those for me.
|Camp cooking can be exceptionally satisfying. I'm I'm happy to report I put everything away washed and dried.|
Dinner. A stir-fry of onions, green peppers, snow peas, spinach, and canned salmon over brown rice. With a tomato and a little grated cheese. Others have bought a meal plan. They eat in the mess hall where the messy scouts will sit three weeks from now. I prefer to do it on my own.
Abbey quotes Thoreau as having defined happiness as “simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.” I’m trying for simplicity and independence. However, cooking on one’s own, here, is also somewhat isolating. Food usually brings people together.
It’s interesting to me that those first two of Thoreau’s happiness values—simplicity and independence—contradict the last—trust. Why? It takes social interaction—work of a social nature—to develop relationships worthy of trust. But with social relationships emerge complexity and interdependence. Or maybe Thoreau is merely suggesting that we trust everyone, regardless of our relationship with them. The consequences of that course would hardly seem to result in a life of simplicity and very likely a lack of independence.
A day or so into his trip, Abbey says he tries to feel guilty at having left the world behind, but that he can’t. That’s cute, but I think untrue. Because he’s developed, perhaps in spite of himself, meaningful social relationships. His life isn’t simple nor is it independent. Ten pages later he reflects on Thoreau’s disingenuousness in prescribing the simple life, but as he’s free from the complications of family life, it’s an easy prescription to follow.
“How easy to work part-time for a living when you have neither wife nor children to support. (When you have no payments to meet on house, car, pickup truck, cabin cruiser, life insurance, medical insurance, summer place, college educations, dinette set, color TVs, athletic club, real estate investments, holidays in Europe and the Caribbean…)”
Abbey clearly felt the tension and complexity of living a life with feet firmly planted in two spheres very different from each other and very difficult to reconcile. Now, that’s an insight I can relate to.
Results: Finished 8th in 40+. Eighth of I think 25.
Aaron Synder won the endure. Congrats to him.