Saturday, April 14, 2012

It's All About Adventure

Bill Dragoo in the Valley of Fire, Nevada
As I see it, outdoor recreation is all about adventure. Adventure is where we find it, and Lord knows I've spent a lifetime looking. As a Boy Scout I found adventure in the usual activities and did not rest until I had earned my Eagle badge. As an adult I have only grabbed another gear and picked up the pace. My passions of late have more to do with experiencing cultures than earning merit badges.  
A shy Chinese boy hides behind my motorcycle
on a dike near his home in Xiaguan.

In Swaziland with a new found buddy.

Children in Batopilas, Mexico loved to ride the bike.

Last October my wife and I were in Haiti to work
with the Mission of Hope.

The plight of the people of Haiti seemed hopeless from the comfort of our homes, but once there, we could see the work being done and were able to chip in. We went there for them, but we took something unexpected home in our hearts.

Many of their homes were ramshackle huts
built from leftovers...whatever they could find.

These plastic buildings were built after the
earthquake as  temporary structures,
only intended to last for one year. It had been
nearly two years when we visited.

We helped build them new homes from
concrete with metal roofs...
much better than any they had known before.

“It’s a small world,” or so I’ve heard it said. But the more I travel, the more vast I realize our world really is. 

 Contemplating the scope of creation
on The Great Wall of China.

Sure, we can jet over ground hygienically, never being touched by what lies below, but the closer we come to the trail, the more we are affected by our travels. Our understanding is enhanced by each new culture experienced in the raw, natural way God intended, that is, by going outside. Travel erases prejudice, increases awareness of our blessings…and of our obligation to our fellow man. And it heightens the senses. Our presence in lands foreign to us, even for a little while, makes a difference, changes us and sometimes, them. Collectively, as travelers we can share our bounty… and the people we meet give back more…their peace, a taste of their way of life. What a trade?
But I have found our own culture to be fascinating as well, once I left my bubble. Pedaling my bicycle across our continent taught me a lot about kindness. A lone cyclist riding far from home is vulnerable and approachable. A loaded touring bike makes a statement and becomes a conversation piece, a friend-magnet if you will. I have been invited into a number of homes where I was able to rest, clean my bike and gear, and was fed, and then sent on my way with blessings from my hosts. Travel is envied, admired and looked upon with awe by those who don’t, or feel they can’t. There is so much to learn right here in our own country.
Draining my last few drops of water on
a lonely highway in Montana.

And then there is the test of a man, that feeling we only get when we have broached the boundaries of reason, beyond where most sane folk would consider comfortable or safe. As a motorcycle “Adventure Rider,” I often find myself bumping the envelope. Maybe by crossing the Malheur River on a loaded, 700-pound dual sport motorcycle far from civilization on the Oregon Back Country Discovery Route, the swamps of South Africa or Swaziland, or in the deep sands of Mozambique where riders helping one another is essential. 
Crossing the Malheur River in Oregon
on a loaded GS Adventure.

Crossing an unlikely swamp in South Africa.

Deep sand in Mozambique can be treacherous.

Standing near The Bridge of Heaven in the Uncompahgre Wilderness.

I have experienced this “test” backpacking high in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, and racing through the woods on a mountain bike with the competition literally barking at my heels, trying to distract me, hoping to get into my head and slow me down. There is no feeling like giving it your all physically, emotionally…leaving everything you have on a mountain, or on a single track of dirt, rock and roots, and crossing the finish line first, spent. I love that.
Finishing a solo Trans American bicycle
ride is quite a feeling.
Winning the Ultimate Outsider contest at the local level was a little like taking my first breath in the pine scented wilderness of the Rockies… It was great, and I wanted more. My prospects for a trip to Nepal have never been better. Yea, I call that exciting. 

In Tiger Leaping Gorge, China.

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