I’m a fan of the Dirtbag Diaries. It was the good ole Russian aka Bro Meinkey aka Shelby Sticks that brought the podcast to my attention. As one who loves stories, you would think I would be a podcast expert, but alas, I rarely am sitting long enough to listen to them on a regular basis, but I try to keep up with the Diaries.
The last episode that crossed my radar was about the opening question. Specifically, about a guy who had been pushed as a child to his breaking point by his dad only to learn in his adulthood that he actually loved being pushed to that point. His story focused on him trying to get to the line where he thought he would not be able to continue and then continue. Spoiler alert, he SUPed for over 500 miles and didn’t find his line, but it was a good story nonetheless.
I was listening to this whilst preparing my breakfast and drinking that all too effective brain lubricant, coffee. So the wheels were turning, the gears were grinding and… I wondered how many people had never been to that point. How many people live in a world where comfort is all they have ever known? Heated home, garage, heated car, garage, heated office, reverse it. Which lead to the rabbit hole of wondering if the machines had already taken over… but I digress.
If you don’t know how far you can go, are you alive or just slowly dying? Which I find to be an extraordinary question. If you push yourself to the point that you don’t think you can continue, you are approaching death. If you hit that line and can’t continue, well, you know. And yet, the other extreme is living a life of comfort that also leads you right into a slow, painful existence that ends in death.
I think I would rather push.
I handed KB my phone, told her to dial 911 and if I collapsed to hit call.
We were in Mammoth. We should’ve been somewhere on the John Muir Trail, but the coughing and raspy sound in my throat caused her to turn me around and head toward a hospital.
I had spent the night gasping for air, coughing and more or less not being able to do much other than keep my head just above the water that seemed to be drowning me. We were only three days into what was expected to be a 20 day adventure, our first big one together. She was worried. I chalked it up to, well, I don’t recall what I chalked it up to, but I was certain that if we turned around I would get to the hospital and they would tell me I was fine.
We headed down. Stopped. KB was crying. I turned around and headed back up, she stopped me and we moved on down the trail hiking 10 miles out to the ranger station in Tuolumne Meadows. The ranger wasn’t able to offer us much help other than a sharpie to make a sign that we needed a ride. We hitched our way into Mammoth to the hospital.
They told me I was fine and sent me home.
We went out to dinner. The restaurant was right across the street, down a very short and slight incline. We ate some pizza, had a beer. And then, I could barely make it up the incline back to our hotel. In 30 feet of climbing, I must have stopped 6 or 7 times. We made it back to our hotel.
Mama bear fell asleep. I couldn’t breathe. I started to hack up some of the nastiest looking shit… Then I handed her my phone.
Day 8. We had dropped all the way out of the mountains and within 20 miles of Boise. Despite a chilly start and overcast skies, by the time lunch hit, it was miserably hot. We had started the day with the idea that we would take the time to visit a bunch of hot springs because, well, we hadn’t really done that yet. We made it over our climb for the day and had nothing but flat road and hot springs for the next 30 miles or so.
Our first stop for a spring turned into a giant waste of time. It was a private spring, one you pay to soak in. We waited and waited and waited for the host to return from cleaning thinking we could pay and dip in. No such luck, the only way to soak was to rent a cabin. We were back on the road at the hottest time of day.
We weren’t too concerned about the lack of a hot spring, there were 4 or 5 more within riding distance. We made it to the next one. Scrambled down to the river and found that the water level was just a bit too high for a good soak. The water was either burning hot or freezing cold. We clambered our way back up the bank and continued.
By this point it was mid-afternoon and we had about 20 miles left to ride to get to our planned destination. There was another spring 7 or 8 miles on and we headed that direction. I was too focused on the idea that today was hot spring day to realize my adventure buddy was fading and fast. We stopped to soak, but only I soaked.
After the hot spring, I realized it was time to put it in “find a god damn place to camp as soon as fucking possible or shit is not gonna be pretty” mode. About 3 miles past where KB was officially done, we found a place that almost had a flat spot in it next to the river. It was time and we had found a place.
I believe the line was only another half mile or so down that dusty, dirty road.
P. L. and R.