June 11th, 2015
I woke to the early morning light filtering in through my tent’s window. Rolling out of my sleeping bag, I paused a moment as the wind rustled the sides of the tent, undulating the fabric, begging me to crawl outside and feel the morning air. All night long, the wind had shaken the branches of the trees and ruffled the long prairie grass. Perched in a valley of the Virginia mountains, the nocturnal blowing buffeted our tents, causing a momentary scare until I remembered we had no food in our tent. Wild animals would not scrounge for access, especially when the garbage dumpster sat at the bottom of the campground for easy pickings.
Stretching one last time, I clambered out of my bag and made my way outside. The silkiness of the breeze caressed my skin, and tendrils of hair tickled my face as they danced along the currents. A few more early risers sat around the camp kitchen, sipping cups of hot coffee, and in the distance the mist rose in wispy curls from the tops of the pine trees. The idyllic morning encapsulated the perfect weekend, a much needed respite after last week.
I have dubbed last week The Sh*t Trifecta. As I mentioned in last week’s letter, we encountered a huge snag in our business, but on top of that, my daughter found out she’s getting laid off. Then to top off the week, even though my son has earned A’s and B’s in all his classes all year long, he bombed his end of year tests. Typically this means summer school, test retake, or retention. If I hadn’t been so busy preparing for our camping/biking trip, I might have drowned in the acid my stomach produced from all the stress.
Determined to carry on, we left our woes behind Friday afternoon and headed out of town to Damascus, VA and the head of The Virginia Creeper Trail. Multiple other Boy Scout families were also making the trip, and we looked forward to shifting our focus to a new experience. The Virginia Creeper, once a railroad track transporting lumber and iron out of the Virginia mountains into North Carolina, shut down in the early 50’s and by the late 70’s the track was removed and turned into a recreational path. Thankfully for us, we started in Virginia at the trailhead on the top of Mount Rogers. The 17 miles ahead of us were purportedly all downhill.
We started early Saturday morning. The first half mile pitched upward and I wondered if I’d been hoodwinked into thinking the trail was easier than described. Each pump of my pedal taunted me, increasing my determination to accomplish the ride. I needed this to go right. I had to conquer something, anything, even if it was a bike trail. My psyche demanded success. One of the members of our group drew parallel to us as we rode and whether it was the set of my jaw or the sweat rolling down my face, he laughed and promised me the hard part was almost over.
I repeated each word as my feet circled the pedals. The. Hard. Part. Was. Almost. Over. I lifted myself off my seat half way through my chant and dug my heels in harder. We crossed over a street and crested the hill. The path sloped downward, gently, and my hard work paid off. I sat back and coasted. Rocks cluttered the path and I had to keep my eyes peeled to avoid hitting one and toppling over. I began to pick up too much speed and gently squeezed my hand brakes to careen at a more comfortable pace. Branches lingered like unwanted arms over the path, forcing me to swerve or duck. Wet, muddy patches covered the ground in places, and the counter force of speed and weight had to be determined before I recklessly plowed through. As each mile flew beneath my tires and I avoided or managed each obstacle along the way, I smiled at the realization of how much nature imitates life, or is it life that imitates nature?
Shit happens, obstacles block our path, and life can careen out of control. How we approach these things, how well prepared we are for them, and how big a risk we’re willing to take knowing these obstacles exist, determines our path in life. Everyone made it through the ride, some a little worse for wear, but we were all prepared for the problems that arose and we all made it.
I woke to the early morning light filtering in through my tent’s window. I rolled out of my sleeping bag, paused a moment as the wind rustled the sides of the tent, undulating the fabric, and I couldn’t wait to get outside and start all over again. Shit might happen today, and it will stink, but I’ll just pump a little harder until I crest that next hill.