I have a confession. I am afraid of the dark. I'm also afraid of being alone in an
unfamiliar place. I know these are not unique fears. Entire movie franchises are built on
them. My problem is there will be plenty of both during the three or so weeks of the
Tour Divide. There are plenty of mitigating options at my disposal if I choose. I could spare myself the loneliness and find a pace that just so happens to keep me in the company of others, but wouldn't I be violating the spirit of the adventure? Do I fear my own thoughts so much that I would rather participate in a rolling group chat than look deeply into the dark places of my mind? It seems like I would be cheating myself out of an incredible opportunity. This is in the forefront of my mind after yesterday's ride.
Last night I rode for about five hours (three or so in complete darkness) to the
east and northeast of Columbus on roads with which I am familiar. I have not ridden these roads at night. And while it is true that there is nothing there at night that is not also there during the day, the lack of visibility constantly challenges that fact. My imagination kicks in and all sorts of nature (some of it supernatural) lurks in the shadows, waiting. My only defense against the howling fantods is; a, logic, and b, the riding.
First, logic and its big brother, reason, blow giant holes through the flights of
fancy my primal brain can invent when left to its own devices. Even though others refer to me as "crazy" for my riding habits, I know that any additional risk incurred by riding at night can be mitigated with a few simple preventative measures. Further (and sillier), the weird monster from "Jeepers Creepers", the vampiric child from "Let the Right One In", or David the werewolf from "An American Werewolf in London" (all of which were chasing me at some point last night) are nothing but figments...of flesh and bone that will someday feast on my flesh and blood when I least expect it. SEE?! Ahem, they are figments of my imagination, of course (...not). STOP IT!
Second, the riding gives me purpose. I don't know why this holds the terror at bay but it does. It may be illusory but the rightness of the purpose, while not protecting me in any way from actual danger, does prioritize the fear. I think this is an important (to me anyhow) point since it reinforces something I've been thinking for a while. Namely, we never really change our basic nature. We can shed some learned behaviors if properly incentivized, and everything else we'd like to change gets a coping mechanism of varying effectiveness. For me, the goal of the Tour Divide helps me cope with the fear and loneliness. I'm far from objective but I'd venture to say it is one of the healthier coping strategies as opposed to say, never going out after dark or never going anywhere by myself. That just hides the problem whereas like an immunization I am dealing with my fears while they are in a weakened state, or maybe I'm in a strengthened state.
Finally, thank all things good and decent that Nick Drake wrote Hazy Jane. That was the soundtrack in my head last night and was MUCH preferable to the Digital Underground from the previous long ride. I don't often quote song lyrics, but he captures some basic human failures in perhaps the most gentle language I've ever heard. Mentally, it made for a very pleasant ride. For your consideration,
"Do you curse where you come from?
Do you swear in the night?
Would it mean much to you
if I treat you right?
Do you like what you're doing?
Would you do it some more?
Or would you stop once and wonder,
what you're doing it for?
Do you feel like a remnant
Of something that's past?
Do you find things are moving
Just a little too fast?
Do you hope to find new ways
Of quenching your thirst?
Do you hope to find new ways
Of doing better than your worst?"
Have a good day, one and all.