Dec 20, 2010

Tell Me What You Know About Dreaming

Another sun sets over the Tucson Mountain Park. The cloudless Arizona sky almost instantly turns to a deep ruby red. Like most evenings, my mind begins to wander.

Although every moment in my passing life is new and fresh, I am overcome with a strange sense of familiarity. For some, racing over 140 miles is it, the end-all, be-all, the pinnacle of their existence. I wish I could relate. Memories of the day have faded quicker than the deep ache in my battered body. The howling wind has calmed and that intoxicating sun has set. When a person goes through a traumatic experience, those most upsetting moments are the first to be forgotten. I remember the pain. I remember telling myself that after today, it was alright if I never ran again. But those memories have lost clarity. They’ve been pushed deep into the part of my brain that allows me to forget. It’s that most crucial facet of my character that allows me to dream tonight.

My dreams are consistent, yet strong willed. Looking back upon that day in Cozumel, some may express admiration; others, dissatisfaction. Regardless, that day happened like any other. It was and still is merely an extension of that dream. A day that can never be replaced, will never be forgotten, but is completed incapable of satisfying that dream. Going fast in Cozumel was never my dream. Finishing time is irrelevant. My dream burns as deep as it ever has. Like every year, time has shaped and changed my life’s aspirations. But the beauty of a dream is its ability to change overtime while remaining true to its original form. As long as I keep chasing, the ending to my story will always be right.

Dec 13, 2010

Another Summer Adventure in the South of France

The tips of my fingers turned to a ghostly white. The voice in my head was convinced that my death grip was my only saving grace. My shoulders started to fatigue, but I clenched even tighter. I asked myself, “Was this going to be another one of those bad decisions?” My body language portrayed my distrust. I was told to relax, but I couldn’t. Why was I so afraid? A day ago, I had bombed down this exact mountain, dodging each pot hole and crack with my skinny bicycle tires. Maybe it was the inevitable darkness of a mountain town at night? Maybe it was that my life was in someone else’s hands? Regardless, I hung onto the back of the motorbike as we ripped down the mountain…

The sun seemed to rise early that morning. I rolled out of bed with the weird sensation that I had wasted the whole day sleeping. It was only 10:00am… The coastal wind near the Spanish border was fierce today. The road sign read 40km to Collioure. The chosen route was incredibly hilly, but the views of the Mediterranean were absolutely breath taking. Knowing that I only had to ride an extra 20km to Matt’s house in the mountains, I decided that I would turn today’s short ride into a seemingly innocent game called King of the Mountain. The road steeply climbed out of each coastal town. My heart was working overtime as I eagerly pushed my 60 pound machine up the road. The wind was strong enough to push me to a dead stop on some of the steeper pitches. I craved the reprieve of each descent. After climbing and descending through half a dozen Mediterranean towns, I unenthusiastically began the steady climb into the Pyrenees.

Six days had passed since I found myself glaring over all of Perpignan and the seemingly infinite Mediterranean Sea. Matt, my previous host in Perpignan, was kind enough to offer me a place to crash for another night. This time around, it didn’t feel like I was couch surfing. Matt and I got along pretty well, and I felt like I was visiting an old friend.  That afternoon, I finally found a host in Beziers, a very small town between Perpignan and Montpellier. My original plan was to pass through Beziers; however, I was told that Saturday night was La Feria, their biggest street party of the year. Knowing that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience La Feria, I made plans to leave Perpignan the next afternoon and make the 95 mile trip to Beziers.

It was Friday night in Perpignan and Matt didn’t want to spend it hanging around in the Pyrenees. We decided to make the trip into Argeles, a small beach town 20km down the mountain. Our main objective was fraternizing with the local gals. Matt suggested that we hop on his 100cc scooter. Knowing nothing about motorized bikes, I figured it was a fine idea. I didn’t regret this decision until he hit the throttle and we started flying down the mountain.

Having never been on a scooter, I was completely unable to relax and trust Matt. I was so shit scared that I thought I was going to crap my pants. Every time he hit the throttle, I felt as if I was going to tumble off the back of the bike. My nerves sent my heart rate flying as we came off the mountain and onto the 10km flat section between Sorede and Argeles. He punched it as we ripped through the dark, narrow roads. I held onto to back of the bike like I was fighting for my life. The headlight seemed to produce as many lumens as my trail running head lamp. It was almost like the moon was guiding us through the countryside. I continued to pray that this decision was not my last.

After surviving the commute to Argeles, I seriously considered an alternative way back. Matt laughed. “You just need to relax, loosen your grip, and trust the bike. Shit, I’ll let you drive it home if you want.” I thought about it, but quickly dismissed it as a bad idea. Matt continued, “Listen, we’ll get a few drinks, loosen you up a bit, and then we’ll cruise home.” Now I laughed. “Yeah Matt, that sounds like a great idea.” He sensed my sarcasm.

Sarcasm or not, drinking a little gin was indeed a pretty good idea. Deep down, I knew I was acting a little reckless. But for some reason, I allowed myself to get back on the scooter. **Sorry Mom, maybe you shouldn’t be reading this post** With an artificially created sense of trust, I relaxed my grip as Matt hit the throttle…

To my surprise, I didn’t go flying off the back of the bike. As each kilometer passed, I became increasingly more comfortable. This time around, that long and fast straightaway between Argeles and Sorede was absolutely magnificent. My fear of the dark had diminished as I basked in the beauty of the moonlit mountain side. Our return home was unlike anything I had ever experienced. A profound feeling a freedom came over me as we tore back into the mountains.

 Figuring that the 95 mile trip to Beziers couldn’t take more than 6 hours, I slept through the morning. When you are traveling by bike, you really never know when you will come across a nice place to stay. I was thankful for a bed, my own bathroom, and a seriously bad ass infinity pool that overlooked Perpignan from up in the Pyrenees. Matt’s place wasn’t just a nice place to crash, it was more like as oasis in the desert. Convinced that a late morning trail run was in order, Matt and I cruised onto the mountain trail. He had been telling me stories about this waterfall deep in the mountain. Known for its rock cliffs, this secret spot was a natural 12 meter platform for local dare devils. Not completely sure if I wanted to test my luck on the natural diving tower, we headed into the thick forest. The trail disappeared after a mile. Creating our own path, our running slowed into a hike. We dlimbed over boulders, jumped over creeks, and pushed our way through thick brush. Matt barely remembered the route. The whole way he joked about the time he got lost back here and didn’t make it out until night fall. I didn’t find it too funny.

I could hear the waterfall in the distance… we were close. The tiny rock pool was barely large enough to consider jumping into. I couldn’t believe that people heaved themselves into it from the top of the 36 foot waterfall. Matt showed me a smaller, alternative rock platform, and I started to consider my jump. In order to climb to the side of the waterfall, I’d have to wade through the rock pool first. I started to slide off my shoes. As I was about to slip into the dark waters, Matt urged me to quickly swim to the other side. Red flag… “Why the hell would I need to hurry to the other side?” Matt pointed into the muddy waters. Moving closer, I peered deep into the rock pool. “Is that what I think it is?!?” Looking closely, it was hard to miss the giant mass sliding through the water. A shiver ran through my spine. Snakes… my kryptonite…

Feeling a little let down, we hiked our way back towards civilization. Even though I was feeling pretty adventurous, I wasn’t about to mess with a murky pool filled with snakes. Not to mention the 6 meter jump into such a pool. Thinking back, I pretty sure I made the right decision. With the time already nearing noon, my serious commute to Beziers was looming ahead of me. My young and enthusiastic host, Lucile, wasn’t expecting me until 8:00pm. Before I made the trip, I was told to be ready and willing to party all night. Praying for a tailwind, I started my descent down the mountain. An all night street party was my reward for a long day it the saddle. As the sun bore down, I pedaled my heavy touring machine towards the sea. The miles were flying by…

With a slight change of direction, I was stopped dead in my tracks. The headwind almost pushed me backwards. Cruising at an average speed of 8mph, I started to realize that this would be the longest day of my life…