Reflection: Where Have I Been and Where Am I Going?

 

Italy - Mortirolo - me with mountain background

This morning, this memory from about six years ago today popped up into my world.  This was the day that I biked to the top of Mortirolo, a very famous mountain in Italy.  This mountain belongs to the professional cycling race known as the Giro d’Italia.  Mortirolo is one of the the most talked about mountains in the road cycling world.   Some of the pro cyclists themselves have claimed it to be the most challenging climb they have done.  Yet, little ‘ole me somehow made it up there, one pedal stroke at at time, pigtails in tow.  It’s true.

Sometimes I still can’t believe that I did make it to that summit.  The picture of me was taken right at the point where I doubted that I could do it, and wondered what I was doing there.  My husband, who has played the role of my coach numerous times over the years, convinced me that I was choosing to talk myself out of it.  He was right.  He told me to do one switchback at a time.  He told me not to stop during a steep incline as it would be really hard, if not impossible, to get going again.  He told me to take a break at the flatter part of each turn.  He told me breatheand to regroup during each break.

Putting the pieces of advice he gave me into action, I made my way up some of the steepest sections of road that I have ever encountered.

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Orcas Island

We left Friday Harbour on a ferry and headed to Orcas Island.  We didn’t have confirmation of a place to stay that night.  We had contacted one of the few places that may have some vacancy, so we took a chance.  When we arrived, we drove the peaceful, quiet road, easily sinking into the slow pace of everything and everyone around us.  We found the one small ‘main town’ and a lovely breakfast.  How delightful!! The food was tremendous, the view was spectacular, and who knew what the day held?  After our adventures in escaping from the blazing fires in Oregon (Burning Eyes of Fire) we were definitely ready to turn over a new page on our road trip!

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Burning Eyes of Fire

I was SO excited.  We were finally hitting the road!  It had been a while since we had done any travelling.  We had just moved into our first house.  It was a huge endeavour that took much more time and energy that I had anticipated.  The fruits of our labor included an amazing summer in our new oasis.

I was craving some time on the road.  Some time away to explore and be free.  We had a great two weeks planned, packed full of craft beer, cycling, and outdoor exploration.  We arose before sunset.  As we backed out of the driveway in our little Subaru, packed to the brim with bikes and outdoor gear, we were guided by the soft glow of the moonlight.

The summer had been an absolutely terrible one for forest fires.  We were fortunate.  Being in Alberta, and the fires mostly burning in British Columbia, the most we experienced were some minor inconveniences when we had to cancel cycling or hiking plans due to poor air quality.  For those in the heart of it, lives had been changed.  I didn’t realize how much, until we embarked on our exciting little road trip.

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Choosing to Face the Impossible

Henry Ford Quote

Henry nailed it on the head.  You can, literally, talk yourself into or out of anything.  It is up to you.  I could not have had any more of a lesson on this than the day that I found myself at the bottom of a famous mountain, broken, terrified, and in tears.

Alpe d’Huez is a very famous mountain that has made many appearances in the Tour de France.  Composed of a series of 21 switchbacks winding their way up from the valley to the peak, this mountain is not something to take lightly.Alpe d'Huez switchbacks

When I showed up at Alpe d’Huez, I was not an experienced cyclist, I was not an athlete, I was not in the type of physical condition that one should be to ascend such a monstrous beast.

I had a choice.  I could not even try.  I could simply give up and declare that I needed to find a way to get back up to the top of the mountain without using my own two feet.  Or, I could try.  I had travelled all that way.  I was at the base of a very famous mountain.  I did not know if I would ever be back there.  Crying is great – it relieves a lot of tension.  Allowing myself to completely break down, be honest about my fear, and to fully take stock of my situation, took me to the conclusion that there was only one option.  I had to try.  By choosing to face my fear, I found a mental resilience that I didn’t know was there.

Alpe d'Huez Book Snippet 2
Snippet from Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

I was willing my body up the side of the of mountain, one stretch at a time.  Any progress I made was a result of mind over matter.  Logically, I should not have been able to ascend.  There is nothing logical about will power…it allows you to will yourself to do what seems impossible.  When you completely decide to do something, when you choose to believe that you will, is when you really put things into motion.

Alpe d'Huez Book Snippet 3
Snippet from Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

My journey was nothing as smooth or graceful as the one shown here, by the famous Pantani who holds the record.  My journey was one of struggle, brute force, and putting one foot in front of the other.  I made my own valiant attempt, in my own way.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was one that I will never forget, and one that changed me forever.  The day that I chose to climb a mountain, I chose pain, I chose to suffer, and I chose to find my inner strength.

Check out my Alpe d’Huez climb page for more details about the cycling route, where to stay, and my personal experience with this amazing mountain.

Want to read the full story? Find it here: Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

Break on Through to the Other Side

 

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I was completely numb.  My body was numb.  My mind was numb.  Everything was numb.

I could feel myself leaving my body.  It was as if I was looking down at myself, from outside of my physical being.  Everything was hazy.  There was no time.  There almost wasn’t any space…but not quite.  I still knew where I was, but only faintly.

I was drenched in heavy, sticky sweat.  I was so thirsty that I had stopped being thirsty.  All my beings had definitely melded into one.  There was no separation between physical, mental and spiritual.  I was just one single being, floating in the air, looking down at my physical representation and drifting in a weird, hazy existence.  I wondered if this is what Jim Morrison meant by breaking on through to the ‘other side’.

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A Hidden Gem: Crater Lake

lake-view

Crater Lake came into my life unexpectedly when a road trip spontaneously got extended.  With the gift of extra time, my husband James and I found ourselves in the lovely little town of Bend.  Our location, the fact that we had our bikes with us, and our love for craft beer all resulted in our stay in a place that we had never heard of, and quickly fell in love with.

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I’ve Been Through the Desert with a Horse with No Name

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I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name

‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

La la la la la la la, la la la, la la

The words echoed through my mind.  Distant voices of people that weren’t really there. I could hear the soft strums of the guitar.  A guitar that wasn’t really there.

There really wasn’t anyone to give me any pain.  Just me.  And my bike. Continue reading “I’ve Been Through the Desert with a Horse with No Name”