Chapters

Gravel and Gratitude


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Part 3

Part 3

Cycling can take you on journeys, not all on the road or dirt. This summer, I will attempt to ride the entirety of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR). It’s a ride that claims not to be technically difficult, but a battle of endurance and the mind. My goal is to rekindle the joy of my childhood while reckoning with the emotions, hardships, and toils of being an adult. It will be a journey of the soul.

My bike has been taking me on adventures since I was kid. I’m flooded with memories of getting off the school bus, rushing through my homework, and getting on my bike. I would cruise the sidewalks of my neighborhood and find people to visit and places to explore.

A few years ago, I was reintroduced to the joy of cycling. I traded in my overalls and handlebar streamers for fancy kits and bike computers. I have committed myself to hours in the saddle training for the GDMBR. It is an adventure of a lifetime that brings back memories of my childhood. Memories of wandering on my bike, meeting folks, and finding new places. 

The GDMBR is the longest off-pavement route in the world. It covers more than 200,000 feet of elevation gain over the course of approximately 3,000 miles. The route makes its way through the breathtaking views of the Canadian National Parks, into the forested mountains of Montana, and down into the valleys of Wyoming. Eventually the trail climbs into the majestic Colorado Rockies and ends by traversing the New Mexican desert. The views alone are enough to make this trip worth it, but there is something else that calls me to the trail. 

The great outdoors are where I experience joy and healing, and wrestle with all the parts of my psyche—all the parts that make me whole. On remote trails I get to listen to them, to acknowledge them, to understand their beautiful ways of manifesting themselves. The harder I push, the more they reveal themselves. 

Some parts will want to protect me. They will want me to stop and to give up. On tough days when the body grows weak, they will be the parts that I will hear the loudest. I must learn to give them grace, to acknowledge their protective nature, but also find understanding in the fact they are just a part and not the whole. During my training I sometimes let these parts consume me. I struggle to separate my feelings of weakness and failure. So clear is the voice: “You can't do this. You're not strong enough,” but in the quiet, remote places of nature I practice listening for the other parts. Out there away from the noise, the flashy lights, the ringing of the cell phone, I hear the other parts whisper to me: “You are strong. You are resilient.” Although they seem to contradict themselves, I embrace them both.

It is out there in the quiet that my soul will begin to confront itself; where I will learn that I can be fierce and vulnerable, strong and weak, brave and fearful. I am ready for the struggle. It excites me and cripples me with fear. It will be a journey that will force me to explore my soul, my body, and my mind. I look forward to rekindling the kid in me that endlessly wandered, picked beautiful flowers, and pedaled from one new place to the next. As an adult I embrace the challenge that will force me to confront all the parts. The Great Divide will be a place of healing.

Gravel and Gratitude

PHOTOS BY ADAM ANDRES PAWLIKIEWICZ MESA