Tour of the West – Day 1
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
- Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Frank Herbert – Dune
Pulling into the airport in Monterey, I’m a little surprised to feel a touch of dread creeping into my mind. For the past couple of days, this rental car has become my “base camp” as I’ve traveled out here from Colorado. I expected to feel excited at this point – dropping off the one-way rental to begin my journey – but I feel a bit of reluctance to give up the security of the car.
Over the past couple hours of driving up California’s Central Valley, I’ve felt the hint of doubt tickling the back of my mind. I’ve driven a lot of miles to get here, and the many hours in the car have me wondering about whether I’m really up for backtracking those thousand-plus miles on a bicycle – most of the way by myself.
Am I nuts? What on earth makes me think I can do this at 57 years old?
I park the car, and start to rig up my bike for riding. Back in Colorado, I was careful to make sure everything fit. The only “extra” things I brought were the old jeans and t-shirt that I plan on throwing away at the airport. As I rig up the bike, though, I find a few “extra” things that ended up with me. My truck keys for example, that had been in my jeans pocket – not something I want to throw away.
I get stuff bundled up, and decide to move away from the car. I take all my gear and my bike with me to the Hertz counter, drop off the keys, and do my final arranging there in the airport – away from the security of the car. A quick stop at the men’s room, and I drop my jeans and t-shirt in the trash can.
That simple gesture – dropping those clothes in the trash can – seems to lift a weight from my shoulders. As-though I were releasing the last remaining connection with my security and connection to the journey that brought me to this point. Releasing that connection illuminates the place the fear had occupied, and allows me to look forward toward the journey now in front of me.
What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
– T.S. Eliot
The automatic doors part for me as I walk out of the airport terminal to the sidewalk outside. It feels pretty right for me – releasing my connection to the past, turning, and walking into the sunlight of the future as the doorway opens for me.
I lean my bike against a post to take a picture of the bike at the beginning of the trip. I strike up a conversation with a young woman sitting on the bench, who offers to take a picture of me with the bike. My white and untanned legs shine brightly in the picture, but I feel pretty neat documenting this beginning point.
The young woman has come out to Carmel for a writers conference that lasts all week. Ironic, I think to myself. I hope to write about this trip when it’s over, and I start the trip with a conversation with a young writer who travels clear across the country to learn more about how to write.
I leave the airport, and immediately start a little climb. I’m surprised at the weight of the bike, and figure I’ll get used to it as the trip goes along. I feel little pangs and pings in my knees and hips as I climb, and worry about whether or not they’ll develop into real problems in the coming hundreds of miles.
Worry – it’s a deep black hole into which enjoyment of the present falls, never to be retrieved. I’ve learned this lesson throughout my life, and I think of it now as I feel the deep pang in my right knee each time I bear down on the pedal. I’ve always been the “designated worrier” in our family, but I’ve gotten better in recent years. I’ve come to realize that unless there’s something I can do to change the situation, then I need to focus on where I am. In this case, I’ve spent reasonable time getting myself in shape, and what I can do right now is gear down and take pressure off the knees. Take it easy, and put it out of my mind.
The hills are steeper than I expect them to be in the short jaunt over to Carmel. Are they really this steep, I wonder, or is the load on my bike that heavy? Climbing, after all, is where you most notice the extra weight when you tour on a bicycle. Have I brought too much with me?
I crest the final climb, and begin the wonderful descent down into Carmel. In the short distance, I’ve climbed over 800 feet, and descend every one of those feet plus a few more. I wind my way through the quaint little tourist town of Carmel By The Sea, and find the Green Lantern Inn, where I have reservations for my first night. I put up my bike in my room, shower, change into walking-around clothes, and head to town for dinner.
I like Carmel. It’s surely the land of the Beautiful People, as they say, but it’s cute and homey, and gives me a warm and comfortable feeling for the start of my adventure. It’s Erik’s (my brother) birthday, and I call and wish him happy birthday. He’s not at all happy about me taking this trip, and has been trying to talk me out of it for months. He has the worry gene too, but much worse than me.
I stand on the beach after dinner, talking to Erik, reassuring him that I’ll be fine. After we hang up, I sit on the beach and think about Erik and I, and consider the difference in how the cancer of worry has manifested itself in our separate lives.
Not that worry is a wholly bad thing – it can certainly help in the decision-making process so long as it’s moderated. In the case of this trip, there are surely things I should worry about – crossing hundreds of miles of desert on a bicycle in the worst month of the year for example – but should I let that worry keep me from a great adventure?
That old Bene Gesserit litany on fear has stayed with me my whole life: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
I can easily substitute the word “worry” for the word “fear”, and the litany would still apply. Makes sense after all – worry is just another form of fear. The difference in my mind is that worry is fear of something poorly defined and theoretical, and I usually have very little ability to sway the outcome of the object of my worry. Nothing healthy about that, is there?
Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.
– Christopher Reeve
I’ve lived in the middle of the country my whole life. Mountains and prairie, Ponderosa Pine and oceans of grassland and wheat, this is what home looks like to me. The ocean is a thing of grandeur and magic to me – a real novelty.
I enjoy the sunset on the beach at Carmel, walking around, taking pictures of people, taking pictures of the sunset over the ocean. There are folks out in the water surfing, and I see a couple guys trotting down toward the water.
Confession: I don’t like cold water. I can’t imagine what enjoyment a person could get out of swimming in cold water. This water is cold – way too cold to swim in as far as I’m concerned – yet folks are splashing out there on surfboards and acting like they’re enjoying themselves. It’s just plain crazy, since the best you can hope for is a little wave that might carry you 20 or 30 yards.
After taking some nice sunset pictures, I walk back to my room at the Green Lantern Inn, do a little writing and a little reading, and fall asleep, looking forward to tomorrow. They don’t serve breakfast until 7:00, and I have a short day, so I decide to sleep in until 6:00, and enjoy breakfast. Today marks the beginning of this journey, and the sunset I just enjoyed seems the perfect way to begin.