The Art of Adventure
My sophomore year of high school we read “Into Thin Air”. We had an assignment called my personal Everest. We had about a month to accomplish a goal of our choosing that was personally challenging and something we felt would take great perseverance to achieve.
Recently I was reminded of this project when I saw the film, Everest. My friends and I got into a heated debate about the thrill-seeking mentality and whether it is worth it to do something so risky, and where the line is. On one hand, driving a car is dangerous and we do it every day. On the other hand, climbing Everest is very unpredictable and even if you train and prepare, when you climb a mountain like Everest you know there is a possibility you will not make it. So the question that kept coming up is, can you get the same thrill and satisfaction from completing a more personal (possibly safer) goal? Life is short and anything can happen anywhere, so we have to live life to the fullest and do what we enjoy most as frequently as we can.
As a child, I was always climbing the tallest trees and skiing straight down the mountain without any fear. I got thrown off jumping horses and sprung back up and hopped back in the saddle. As I grew older, I started to ski slower and more carefully and even developed a fear of heights. Maybe I became smarter and more aware of the dangers, or maybe I am just more fearful and I know how short life can be. Most of the time I wish I could live the way I did when I was younger, but sometimes I can appreciate the responsibility that comes with being an adult. There is a fine line we have to walk to be able to live life to the fullest while being aware of the risks.
About 6 months ago, fed up with LA traffic and inspired by our avid cyclist neighbor, my boyfriend and I got into biking. We started with short rides to our friends house and slightly longer rides to the beach or brunch on the weekends. Another neighbor joined the group and pretty soon, we were hooked. Our neighbor informed us that we would bike all the way from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara in January. It seemed like a far off adventure. He warned us to train and we did, but after the holidays we were increasingly busy and rode less and less. Finally, the weekend arrived and we nervously changed our route so that we would be biking along the train route in case we didn’t make it!
On Friday, we woke up at 4:15am, packed up our bikes and began the journey that seemed impossible (especially at 5am).
We rode through Hollywood and up to Nichols Canyon. At the start of the hill, my chain fell off and got stuck. It was cold and dark and took a long time to fix. We ALMOST turned back. Finally, we got up Nichols Canyon and down the other side and were on our way. Our fearless leader informed us that the worst of the hills were behind us, which was certainly not true but kept us going.
By breakfast, we had gone 17 miles, which was a small fraction of the hundred-mile ride. After breakfast came the hardest section of the ride, Topanga Canyon and the Santa Susana pass. This canyon was nearly impossible to climb. I got off my bike numerous times to walk up. It was definitely the hardest I have pushed myself in a long time. At the top of the canyon we showed our leader how much we hated the hills and found old furniture on the side of the road.
At lunch, we had gone 30 miles which seemed like a million miles! After lunch, it got easier. My legs were burning and the sun was beating down on us but the burning wasn’t getting worse so I kept pushing! Throughout the ride, I was wishing I had trained more while simultaneously I was amazed at what my body is capable of even without proper training. It is amazing how much of what we are capable of is mental.
This leg of the ride was the most beautiful. I appreciate California on a whole new level after seeing in on a bike.
Our last break was for coffee and a doughnut in Camarillo at Element Coffee. It was an adorable spot with amazing coffee and the friendliest staff. One thing I learned from this trip is that people are nicer when you are on a bike. Cyclists have a secret support system. People who love to ride bikes are always there to support other riders. The amount of people who offered to help us when we were fixing a part or gave us suggestions of places we had to see and experience on a bike blew my mind.
After our coffee break, it started to get dark. We were behind schedule because of technical difficulties, but determined to continue, even in the dark! We made it all the way to Ventura and turned down a very bad road, bumpy and gravelly. It got really difficult to ride and I heard rattling and realized that I had a flat tire. Once I stopped, my boyfriend realized he had one too! We pulled to the side of the road into the parking lot of a farm stand. We took off the tired and started to replace the tubes. A beautiful 1960’s Chevy station wagon came barreling toward us into the parking lot. There was a high curb that was hard to see and he went right over it, sparks flew and the sound of the engine changed drastically. A surprisingly chipper young surfer dude jumped out of the car and exclaimed, “I pulled over to help you guys, but I guess now I’m the one who needs help!” We were all amazed by his positivity. He had a friend who owns an old car shop and definitely knew his car well. He crawled under the car and immediately diagnosed the issue. He then found a long pole and began to bend the piece back into place. We struggled fixing the tires as he patiently fixed his car. In the end, he was successful and offered us a ride to the train station. Our friends biked the 5 miles, praying to avoid a flat as we rode with our knight in shining armour. We kept thanking him for his kindness and he assured us that he had been helped many times across the country and was only returning the favor. He did more than rescue us at the end of a long trip. He taught us patience, kindness and the importance of paying it forward. Every time we thanked him, he told us it was nothing and that all we could do in return is to help someone else. As he pulled off the road so hurriedly we were nervous, not knowing his intentions. He reminded us of the good in the world and about what is important.
Initially, we were disappointed. We had to take the train the last 20 miles even though we felt like we could ride the whole 100 miles. In the end, we learned that sometimes misadventures are the best adventures.
This ride taught me many things. I learned that I am capable of whatever I put my mind to (no matter how much I train :)). I learned to listen to my body, but also to push my limits, because that is how you grow. It taught me to be kind, to be patient and to be flexible and take things as they come. I am a serious planner. For an adventure like this, it is impossible to plan for everything that could happen. That’s the beauty of it.
Do something you never thought you could. Try something new, and meet new people! We are so ingrained in our routine, we forget what living is all about. Do something that will help you remember.
And then…. Celebrate!