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Posts tagged ‘family’

Saddle Up, Cowboy

Inextricability is frequently misunderstood in life.  Contrasted with the wandering of the autonomous, inextricable lives are obviously entangled with notions of purpose, community, and continuity.  Many twenty-somethings fear the specter of commitment, perhaps not out of loathing for these principles but out of fear for frequent separations.  Yet the inextricable life is inevitable.  Life is an election that you cannot stay home from because you vote with your feet.  We carry necessary anchors with us through life and our bodies grow stronger from the movement.

Beautiful Highway 1.

Minimalism is like moving those anchors, not cutting their ropes.  Humanity drops anchor in wealth, homes, cars, relationships, and careers to name a few things.  There is an important dual lesson in all of this: the first is that we have a choice in where we anchor ourselves.  The second is that we have no choice but to choose.  I remember selling my car in Anchorage three months ago before we began riding our bicycles north to Denali.  That sudden liquidation of my trans-continental transportation left me feeling liberated and proud.  Do not underestimate how liberating minimalism can be!  But months later, the personal anchor of my beloved Honda has been wholly transferred onto the rack of my Surly Troll.  I covet and adore it with the same intensity.  Don’t fool yourself by thinking that you can live anchor-free; take it from three guys with nothing but three bags and a bicycle.  We carefully measure the inextricability of our lives by bicycle, always critically self-aware of our perceived necessities – whether they be your only comfy pullover or the heaping bowl of oatmeal we delight in every morning.  Minimalism forces you to confront and better appreciate your anchors of necessity.

Cool California coast.

Time compels us forward and bids us southward, away from these past days with family in the Bay Area.  Our cause calls us to our fundraising and other personal goals for this journey.  Inextricability is a daily rhythm that binds us once more to a road going south from San Francisco.

Reveling in the Redwoods.

 

Bend and Break

Synchronization.  I was devastated when I spelled that word wrong at the Ramsey County Spelling Bee in 7th grade.  The word captures the feeling I’ve had since crossing the volcanic arc of Oregon’s northern Cascades.  Things seem to have come together for Bound South, with a shared rhythm despite the brotherly dissonance that makes a journey like this so special.  Our MSR Mutha Hubba seems to erect itself when night falls.  The innumerable varieties of Campbell’s Chunky Soup have been thoroughly vetted.  The clear winners have emerged to take their rightful place in our panniers alongside our rice and rotini.

Early morning over Mt. Hood, 107 miles to go.

We rise with the sun and ride despite the wind until the time is right to stop.  There are few explicit plans or deadlines and yet we have internalized this southward tempo like some kind of circadian rhythm.  How far today?  This has become a rhetorical question, an inspiration, and our daily adventure.

From lush timber forest to desert in just a few miles. Amazing contrast.

107 miles separated us from Bend in Oregon’s high desert, a full day of hard riding from the timber forest of Mt. Hood where we camped.  A hard day of riding was followed by some splendid days of Habitat building, photography presentations, and meeting with family and friends.  Bend has been the welcome breath between movements that we needed.  The seemingly permanent sunshine of Central Oregon belies the cold roads and high altitudes that still lie ahead.  We can’t help but soak it in while it lasts.

David shows off his Habitat build painting skills.

Every day I like to ask myself whether I believe in what I am doing that day.  It’s a simple litmus test to isolate the road ahead from the accumulated weight of the long road behind us.  Days of rest have been sweet here in Bend, but already I am itching to get back on my bike and ride south.  I love this journey as much now as I did leaving Anchorage in August.

Long and windy road to Bend with mountains to the west.

 

America

_____________”The spirit is at home, if not entirely satisfied, in America.”_____________

Thus wrote Allan Bloom in Closing of the American Mind.  I couldn’t help but commit the quotation to memory and it came to mind as we passed through the invisible veil separating Canada and the United States.  The boundary between them is an arbitrary political construction that poses no barrier to the mixed conifer forests, mountains, and cold autumnal rain that covers the landscape this time of year.  The casual bicycling observer would note that miles pass by much more slowly than kilometers, and that America got something right when it minimized taxes at the grocery store.  Yet these are trivial distinctions that lay like debris over the spectacular character of this America that we call home.

Canadians will celebrate their Thanksgiving this coming Monday.  Though our own Thanksgiving is still far away, I wish to excerpt from Vermont Royster’s “And the Fair Land” which is printed annually on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page every Thanksgiving day.  We are forever grateful for the goodness of those who have helped us since our return to the States.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure.  For that reminder is everywhere – in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators.  Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

Brothers

The first thing that people notice on our business cards is the tagline for Bound South: Three Brother’s Expedition from Alaska to Argentina.  Immediately they gaze in awe at the three of us.  However, it is not the 30,000 kilometers separating Alaska and Argentina that shocks them.  It’s the fact that we’re doing this with one another as brothers.

Taking a rest day in Jasper, hiking 3000 ft. of vertical.

“You three must get along pretty well, huh?”  No, I like to say that we hit rock bottom somewhere in the mid ’90s.  Our parents may attest to this.  The tipping point was the winter of 1997.  Nathan and I buried David up to his head in the mountain of snow on the edge of our farmstead and convinced him that we had left him there to die in the imminent blizzard.  Good times.  Since this relationship is incapable of further deterioration, I figured that my brothers were a safe bet for a year-long bicycle expedition.  Blood is thicker than water.  On this trip we have discovered that blood is also thicker than sweat, Gatorade, Tang, and the delicious jelly filled with glass shards that I recommended to David in Alaska.  “Countercultural” might be an epithet in our home state, but I think we fit the definition pretty well.  I don’t know how many siblings would voluntarily choose this path that we’ve taken.

On some level, I think that fact is a small tragedy of modern America.  America reaps the fruits of individualism, mobility, and pluralism.  You can be who you want to be and escape the traditional confines of your family or region to find your community, whether in the real world or in cyberspace.  When relationships suffer, it is far too easy to withdraw, escape, and move to an environment with less friction.  Society can freely atomize and self-sort into stagnation.

The Heisman

Yet perhaps this is just mild self-aggrandizement.  The three of us are lucky to have brotherhood and friendship that is more than duty or obligation.  I attribute this blessing to the years we have spent working together on our family farm in Starkweather, ND.  Occasionally, we were jealous of our peers with their summers of liberty and we resented the family farm for it.  We look back now and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  When you have work together and live together, inseparable from planting to harvest, you can’t walk away from your problems and you have to learn to love one another.  We have strong family bonds to show for it.  There is a powerful, sustaining magic in kinship of which we have only begun to scratch the surface.  I hope that this magic can be made evident here at Bound South and perhaps rediscovered in the lives of our readers.

Bound North

It’s been years since we first dreamed of this journey.  It has been a matter of days since our bicycles were built at Paramount Sports, our expedition gear was provided by Scheels All Sports, and our lives were fit into five small bags.

The thing you miss the most in leaving is love.  Our family and community has showered us with a powerful kind of love that is hard to leave and impossible to forget.  That is why we’ll come home as soon as our work is done.

We’re on the road to Alaska now.  Forty hours later, we will sell our car and take our Surly Trolls on the road.  Until then, we’re bound north for Anchorage.