Two months ago, when Philip and I realized our “vacation” to Idaho (prior to my cousin, Jack’s, wedding) was fast approaching—we sat down to make plans for the three or four days before the festivities would begin. We did toss around hiking and volunteering…despite what Philip says, I never heard him mention a spa…that I would have taken him up on. What did come out was how cool it would be to bike in Idaho; specifically since I had been planning on “learning” how to bike in order to start triathlon training. This progressed into “wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to bike from Boise to Ketchum?!”…and that became “wow, wouldn’t it be awesome to bike from Boise to Ketchum through the mountains…” As much as I joke that I was challenged by Philip (I think he said, “gee, too bad that’s not an option because you can’t bike”), he was entirely correct—I didn’t know how to bike, at all. But, I figured I had to learn anyhow—why not jump in head first…plus, no one wants to be the person in a relationship who holds the other one back.
So, I bought my third bike ever—following in the pedalsteps of an ill-fitting 10-speed, and a pink Huffy with decorations on the spokes. In between hearing how crazy I was to take this on (and simultaneous looks to Philip, silently saying “Are you nuts? She’ll never make it. You will hate this!”), I bought a great pair of bike shorts and jumped on the bike…and then fell off. Falling off a bike at 28 is much different—it hurts the ego (not to mention the body) a bunch more, especially when your boyfriend is your coach. I’d heard it took time to master the clipping-in/out skill; but time definitely wasn’t on my side and I was short on patience and tall on pride. Besides learning how to handle a bike, learning how to receive help, coaching and advice was equally as challenging.
Looking back, it probably was a hair-brained idea—and biking for 200 miles in any condition is challenging, much less through 13,000 feet of vertical climbing, with very minimal (if any) opportunity for support/water/help along the way if something happened. Lest it appear we were reckless, I was always 100% confident that my biking partner had all the potential disaster scenarios covered—the real unknown factor was whether or not I could do it at all.
After my first 50 mile ride a few days prior to our departure, Philip asked me why I wasn’t more pleased with myself. Then, days later when our departure plans were disrupted by airline difficulty, and our Day One became an 85 mile marathon—complete with an 8 mile sprint at the end in order to make it to the lodge before dark (or, more importantly, the kitchen closed)…again, he seemed way more impressed with me than I was. It’s not that I didn’t realize the magnitude of it all; it’s simply that there wasn’t a bail-out option—we had to make it, giving up or quitting would have been impossible and/or dangerous…plus, we had run out of bear pepper-spray.
This morning, the only wheels I’m on are the four that scoot my office chair around my desk—and last night when we arrived in new york city, the SawtoothMountains were replaced by similarly soaring high-rise structures. In a few days I’m sure that the trip will be a fond memory, and an amazing one at that, but it will be only as real as the epic photographs we took along the way. I imagine too, that the next time I’m on a bike, it won’t be nearly as hard, or scary, or frightening. I may even, one day, be an adequate biker. Only now am I looking at this experience and finally giving weight to what we accomplished—and Philip deserves equal credit, not only for the immense amount of planning and safety and coaching, but for taking a leap of faith that he wouldn’t have to be pushing me up the mountains. How rare is it that we get put ourselves in such precarious or challenging situations that we’re actually not sure we’ll make it? Or even more so, that we make them so intense that there’s only one outcome—you have to succeed?
By nature, I’m not a risk-taker—I like planning and preparing and finalizing details. I like to be pretty confident that I’ll come out the other side having succeeded. I say that this trip was one of the greatest experiences of my life because not because of the epic views, or stunning vistas, or the hot springs, cold rivers, sourdough pancakes, bikers-eye-view of the SawtoothMountains, the endless climbs up peaks that afforded 6-mile descents… It’s that most everyday I do things that I’m fairly good at; with room for improvement of course, but there are very little surprises or challenges. And that’s ok, it’s a secure way to live and enjoy life. It’s not often that we test ourselves; physically or emotionally, to such extremes. But when we do, that’s the most exhilarating feeling in the world. That’s why the trip was great; it was something I didn’t think I could do.
The real question is; what would it be like if I did that more often. And of course, Philip has to be asking himself that question too…and since it’s only fair that I tried biking, he ought to try swimming. I hear England is lovely in the summertime…
Thanks to our family and friends who trusted us to come out unscathed on the other-side, and held tight when cell service was suspended and you couldn’t reach us (though that didn’t stop mom from calling every lodge on our itinerary and checking in on her daughter and that “tall guy”); and for being there at the very end when we finally rolled into Ketchum—it’s pretty rare to be able share that moment with close and extended family all at once, and our gratitude goes well beyond 13,000 feet…