Friday, March 5, 2010

Gone to Mexico - Please Send Passports

Still no decent cell coverage, we have a tenuous wifi connection I hope to use to post this.

I got my hands on a copy of Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, and it has put me in a philisophical, wistful, sabatoge-ey state of mind. Forgive me if I ramble.

It was the perfect reading material to prep me for a river trip down the Rio Grande. His description of a rafting trip down doomed Glen Canyon before it became Lake Powell has always moved me. Awe at the grandeur of wilderness, sadness and anger over it's loss and contempt over it's commercialization.

Above all, the importance of wilderness, not just for the sake of preservation (or, as was the case with the creation of our National Forests, for a timber reserve) but as a salve for our souls. Adam has the sentiment permanently at hand, the Abbey quote "wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit" tatooed around his thigh.

It certainly seems like a luxury to me, sometimes. We took a guided overnight trip through the Santa Elana Canyon in Big Bend NP on the Rio Grande. Travelers on guided tours live in scenic luxury. Our meals were prepared for us (filet mingon, pancakes and sausage as compared to our usual pasta and grits). Our dishes got cleaned. Our trash was packed out. Our guide, Little Billy was incredibley knowledgeable and friendly - and we had him all to ourselves. We decided when to stop for meals, we got input on our campsite, and we set the pace.

I couldn't take much more of it. Don't misunderstand, it was great having Billy there to help guide us through the tight spots, teach us the flora and fauna, and tell us local stories. In fact, Adam and I both agree that Billy is the best guide we've ever had. He would be a great companion on any camping trip.

However, in my experience, camping has always been a socialist activity. We all share the chores- cooking, cleaning, setting up and breaking down - everyone works till the work is done. This capitalist form of camping is alien to me. I felt like a heel, sitting there reading Edward Abbey while Billy prepared our food and cleaned our dishes. (I wonder what Abbey would think of that)

The social dynamics of campsite labor aside, the trip was phenominal. It was a step more removed from real life than the rest of the trip has been so far.

First, it's important to understand how removed I feel from my former life I felt already. This whole bike trip has made me feel disconnected from the real world. Scratch that. This is my normal life. Wake up, pack up my sleeping gear get on the road and ride till I'm hungry or tired. Talk with Adam.  Stop and investigate whatever piques my curiosity. Buy food. Cook it. My other life, the life of cars, bills, deadlines, routines, obligations and constraints - that's my abnormal life.

I thought about my car the other day - the first time in weeks - and couldn't remember it clearly.   Does it even have a cd player? Stick or automatic? Doesn't matter, I didn't spend long thinking about it.  I speak to my wife on the phone, and while I miss her terribly and love her with all of my heart, it is a surreal experience. I can see her face and remember her voice, but that doesn't seem like my life. It's someone else that's going to be going back there - I'm going to get up and ride every morning for the rest of my life.

The trip down the river magnified all of these sensations. The whole of my existince consisted of water, rock, boat, and companions. In my abnormal life, when I do my meditation, it is a fight for the first ten minutes to quiet the noise in my mind, the clutter and rush of daily life. The moment I closed my eyes to meditate on the river, all I saw was swirling water. No traffic, no houses, no infrastructure. Civilization did intrude. 19th century civilization. Mexican vaceros, cowboys, ranged down to the river, roping stray cows, splashing in the river. Billy spoke to them in spanish, letting them know of the stray cows we passed just upstream.

It's not that I felt even more disconnected - I didn't even think of my abnormal life at all. Rippling water, blazing sun and scouring sand washed it all away.

Tuesday night we camped in Mexico. River tours are allowed to camp and hike on the Mexican side, with certain restrictions. We discussed hiking south, perhaps stopping in Belize to let our family know where we are. A lack of food supplies thwarted our plan.

Coming out of the canyon was like coming out of a movie theater into the afternoon sun. Civilization asserted itself. Tourists appeared on hiking trails along the river. Fishing gear began to appear along the bank.

As we pulled out and loaded our gear back on to our bikes, normal life began to reassert itself. Once again, our path was bound to the asphalt, not the river.

We rode out of the mountains this morning, into Marathon, tx. There is a sense of sadness for me. It's all downhill now, literally and figuratively. No more mountains, and our trip is more than half done. It looks more and more like we're going to stop in Austin.

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