When I was laying in the trauma ward for four days, there wasn’t a lot that I was certain about. My body was broken in a couple of places, but I had lived. My emotions cycled between grateful to be alive and near desperation as I waited for the next round of pain medication.
Yet, even as my mind relived the act of flying off the side of a bridge and walking away, I knew that I needed more than a goal but also a plan to achieve it. I heard this phrase from one of the nurses while I was there, and it seemed to make sense as a mantra to take me from the trauma ward to the athletic arena.
Let go of thoughts that don’t make you strong.
Yet, I needed help. I re-lived the wreck in my mind more than once in a while. After leaving the hospital, I had a session with a PTSD counselor. Linda listened in to make sure she could try to understand what happened to my head and not just my body that day. Before we ended the session, I learned enough to start feeling safe and empowered again. I came to peace that I was never going to be the old Jeff again, and the act of trying to return to that earlier “Jeff” would potentially injure others as I fell short of expectations. I was different, and I needed to be gentle with myself.
That didn’t mean I couldn’t achieve new highs and challenge myself to go above my Thresholds. With that in mind, I created a path to “better.”
I knew that I had to revisit the crash site, with my bike, as part of my healing. I also knew that I needed an epic event to prepare for, and the global response of event organizers to COVID-19 has taken away nearly all of the organized events. That meant I needed to organize my own event, but it could not just be “my” event. It needed to be for others, too.
I decided that it needed to be within driving distance. It also needed to have the promise of appealing weather-that ruled out the Carolina beaches in the summertime, as the temperatures aren’t conducive to anything epic.
Lastly, after spending 4 days alone from everyone I love, I wanted this event to include the family. This was not going to be another “Jeff goes off the moon by himself,” sort of journey.
I picked the Blue Ridge Parkway as our destination and
started my homework. It is 469 miles long and took a whopping 52 years to finish constructing. It goes up and down a lot, and most of it is elevated above sea level enough to keep the summertime temperatures pleasant and out of the 90s. There are quaint inns long the way that are either on the parkway or immediately off of it, making for easy access. And with COVID overwhelming the travel industry, it was easy to book literally everything the first try.
Starting next Thursday am, we will ride from Rockfish Gap, VA at the northern terminus and ride all the way to Cherokee, NC, the southern terminus. We have our routes created and saved on ridewithgps.com, and we have reservations for each night along the way. My son, out of college for the summer, is going with me on the bike, while my wife and his girlfriend with ride in the Support Vehicle.
The philosophy emerged from that time alone, seeping into the plan like the last water through coffee grounds. Epic adventures, outside of context, are selfish and incomplete. There is little chance to share them with others, as many people don’t have the same risk tolerance I do, and they have a greater fear of the unknown. Yes, I am sharing this event with my family, but my wife and I both agreed that we should take each day and plan out a trip that we can lead others to cross their fear and risk tolerance thresholds.
This year, we have four people, two bikes and one vehicle. Next year, we are planning on 12 people, 6 to 8 bikes, and two vehicles. We are meeting with hoteliers and group reservation people most days, to talk about what we should expect if there is a larger group in tow. We have setup a tour of the Chetola Lodge and will do some gem mining and tubing once we hit NC and the daily distances on the bike aren’t as great. We have winery visits and hiking on the schedule, as well as a lot of small-town shopping trips for those that like that sort of thing. We will spend one night “on the town” in Asheville and see if we can get group reservations for next year for a couple of ideas.
Linda, as the ultimate hospitality queen, has a folder for each day, where she will populate all the logistics as well as inserts of places we stayed and receipts of activities we did. We want to make this journey something we can share with others, down to the detail. We live close enough to the Parkway that a thorough recon trip like this only makes sense.
Planning this trip has taken back the power that we have given to the global response to COVID. It has given us something tangible to dream of and execute. It has given us something to look forward to and feel hopeful.
Now, the only test left is to see if these broken ribs and the fried A/C joint in my right shoulder can make the journey. Based on this last week of riding, I think I can.
Thinking that I can’t doesn’t make me strong. And I already committed to dropping those thoughts.
Let’s do this.