Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I don't know what's wrong with me


One of my memories from close to thirty years ago still lingers, fresh in my mind. It's a warm midwestern summer night and the windows are open at my grandparent's place in town, the place they'd retired to after selling off the farm a few years before. My parents, sisters and I are visiting for the weekend and I've spent most of the day out riding, for I brought my bike with me. This was one of the summers I was racing, but a skinny-tired bike was something inexplicably foreign to the farm roads around Pelican Rapids, Minnesota and the idea that I'd train for races no one had ever heard of was something that maybe didn't even make sense to me and certainly was baffling to my family.

I remember rolling past farm fields and through small towns where the grain elevator was the tallest thing for miles around, seeing gophers squeal and run for cover. I remember sprinting against my lengthening shadow and coming back to my grandparent's place tired and tanned just as the sun was setting and the mosquitoes were starting to swarm.

The house in town was smaller than the farm house had been, so I was trying to sleep on the livingroom couch but I could hear my grandparents pillowtalk from their room. They talked loudly, the way old people who can't hear very well do to each other.

"That boy rode his bike all the way to Perham and back. I said we could take the truck but he said he needed to get out and ride. I don't know what's wrong with him..."

I still don't know what's wrong with me. Back then I'd go out and camp, by myself, in the woods. I knew then it was something not everybody did, but I read books by Bradford Angier, Jack London, Robert Service and Henry Thoreau and those words made sense to me. Robert Service wrote:
There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.

I knew that there was (and still is) something inside of me that is uncomfortable with comfort, something that makes me leave, at least for awhile, people and places that I truly love.

Later, when Christine and I would meet and fall in love and eventually marry, those who knew us were amazed for we'd both been pegged as hermits both in training and temperament. And yet we are, and always shall be, a couple. Co-hermits we call ourselves.

And now I have this wonderful wife and two fine sons and I live in a wonderful place and I have a job that is both challenging and rewarding. And yet, I don't know what's wrong with me.

I'm taking off for a month next year, a month that will be hard -- hard on me and probably just as hard on my wife. I'm blessed with the best wife in the world. I can try to explain, perhaps borrowing words from Lucinda Williams,

If I stray away too far from you, don't go and try to find me.
It doesn't mean I don't love you, it doesn't mean I won't come back and
stay beside you.
It only means I need a little time
To follow that unbroken line
To a place where the wild things grow
To a place where I used to always go.

Next year, I'm racing the Tour Divide. Again. Well, not exactly again, in 2005 I rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race on a single speed bike. The Tour Divide route adds a few hundred Canadian kilometers on top of the GDR. This year's race has just been won by Matthew Lee by the time I finish posting this note Chris Plesko will have probably set a new single speed record. Sounds like a great excuse for me to get a new bike. I'm already talking to the folks at Redline about a Monocog Flight 29er. And Dirt Rag is on board with me filling up a few more pages of their fine magazine as well.

Next year, I'll be 51 years old. AARP is telling me to slow down and send them some dues. I've always been slow, but I've also always been persistent. I see no reason to change now. I'm sending my dues to the Adventure Cycling Association and I'm entering the 2010 Tour Divide.

I don't know what's wrong with me.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Go Kent Go! I can't wait to watch

JoeDell said...

way to go kent. thats great news. i cant help feel the strong pull too. good luck

Bob said...

Whatever it is I hope it's extremely contagious.

Bob

Fxdwhl said...

nice! maybe you'll get pie this time around.

Kronda said...

Don't forget your milk. :)

Andy said...

Maybe it's what is wrong with everyone else?

Marrock said...

From what you posted here I don't see anything wrong with you.

Gunnar Berg said...

Ride kid. Pedal as hard and fast as you can. Fill up your memories with fast riding. At one time I rode fast, but it started slipping away when I was about your age. I'm 64 now. I still ride, but now it's slower. That sensation of flight, of freedom, is gone. It just ain't the same.

alex wetmore said...

Awesome Kent.

Dartanyon Race said...

Just in case you hadn't heard it enough yet ... the answer is "There is nothing wrong with you", sometime you just have to answer the call of the wild.

bikelovejones said...

Well, whatever is wrong with you seems to be wrong with quite a few of us, though not to the same extent perhaps.

You may be doing this "again", but I bet it won't be the same ride at all. And that's the beauty of it.

Please keep us posted as to how we can be of support to you as you prepare.

fatbob29r said...

Kent, nothing wrong with you that a month in the saddle won't cure.... for a while ;^)

ghd3 said...

well done Kent! Great post.

Rantwick said...

Hey, I'm with the others, and wouldn't mind being a little more wrong like you... Jack London was a childhood favourite of mine too. Tour Divide? I can only aspire to that kind of big. Wow.

Mehtul... said...

"I don't know what's wrong with me"...

... but I bet you know what is right with you. I wish you good luck and wish all good things when you ride the divide and beyond!

Big said...

Whatever may be wrong with you Kent, it is wrong with us all.

Best of luck on your ride. And I very much look forward to reading about it once you are done.

Donna said...

Hey Kent,
I Don't think there is anything wrong with you. I found this article helped with a useful perspective:

http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200904/adventure-science-brain-1.html

Donna

bullcitybiker said...

Beautiful and wonderful post, Kent. And best of luck to you next summer on the Tour Divide. Allez!

bikesgonewild said...

...linked over from drunkcyclist & i can appreciate yet wouldn't want to define "what is wrong w/ you"...

...so many of us that ride carry that same thing in our hearts n' minds n' legs, all to our own different degrees...

...i just hit 60 this year & i rode as a kid, drifted away for a few years of hitchhiking around canada & america & it's been a pretty much straight shot of riding for the last 40 years...

...& i'm damned if i'll ever "know what's wrong w/ me"...

...props to you & your wife...obviously she 'gets' it...

-d said...

it's not you that is wrong, it's everyone else that is not wrong with you. Godspeed and good luck.

CurioRando said...

Inspiring. It will be a delight to travel vicariously with you. Great post! Looking forward to reading of your preparations.

stevep33 said...

That Lucinda Williams quote wraps it up perfectly. I couldn't agree more.

Donald Boothby said...

Whatever is wrong with you, Kent, I'm glad you have reached out and sprinkled a bit of the same fairy dust on the rest of us. I've often felt like one of those "Men Who Don't Fit In".....

"He's a rolling stone, and its bred to the bone...."

All I can say, brother, is it a mighty good thing we have women in our lives who tolerate our wanderlust. I anxiously await more Tales From The Great Divide.

Anonymous said...

Well Kent your article in Dirt Rag was what inspired me to pony up to the GDR and the TD in successive years even though i never finished . I still have that issue of Dirt Rag and still read it over and over . Thanks alot .
I hope to line up again next year .

Cheers , Andy Buchanan

David said...

Hey Kent: Best of luck & we'll be rooting for you & looking forward to your tales. I know you'll be looking for sponsors for the event. Count me in and let me know how I can help as your needs become known.

David

Jim G said...

Kent, awesome! Do you wish you'd kept your Monocog now? ;)

Dan O said...

Great post.

What's "wrong" with you, is probably what's "wrong" with many who read your blog.

Welcome to the "Wrong Club". I'm proud to be a member.

Sue said...

Kent - It looks like the PNW is going to be well represented in this years Tour Divide! It will be my first time attempting anything of this level, so certainly there is something wrong with me too!

SuzanneM

Maven said...

An attempt to circumnavigate the Sawtooth Wilderness fastpacking several years ago when the sport was young and it was an adventure to simply go out with a bivy bag for 3 days taught me the lure of events like the GDMBR...One is alone, focused, pursuing a goal, a destination, with an end to it yet one is completely immersed in the process else something go awry, hyperaware of consequences, decisions, and when done it will be an experience you'll treasure. Chapeau!

JeffOYB said...

Yay, Kent!

Anyone who's inspired by both Robert Service and Lucinda Williams is on the RIGHT PATH. Just keep followin' it. ...All the way to Antelope Wells.

I think I'll be following the race more closely this time. I'm lookin' forward to the Show.

Jillian Marohnic said...

My husband just forwarded this blog to me. He's 51. Should I be worried? I think there's something wrong with him.