Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Freedom To Fail

The Trans Iowa Masters Course I designed last year
With the increasing popularity of back country riding, I have noticed that more and more folks have begun poking around asking questions about route finding, or where they can go to access a route. Every time I see a request I shake my head and my heart sinks. It really makes me sad. I feel like a little piece of freedom gets squashed when I see folks looking to "press the easy button."

I'm going way back now, so please bear with me. There was a time when a certain curmudgeon named Mike Curiak was seen to be posting stuff on-line that had to do with "researching your own stuff", except that Mr. Curiak had a better way of putting that. Anyway, I was a bit puzzled as to why he was being so darn standoffish and seemingly protective about his ways and means for bikepacking. I thought that since it was a small community, (then), and that we were all "helping each other", that it was in everyone's best interest to share ideas, faults, successes, and to have each other's support in all of this endeavor. However; maybe now I am just coming to understand a wee bit about where Mr. Curiak was coming from. Not that I "get it" entirely, mind you.....

Poking around for a way to go.....
You see, there is a certain freedom you give up when someone else does all the "work" for you. You lose the freedom to fail 

That probably sounds like a good thing to lose to most everyone, but I don't think that is how it really is. In fact, I think it is a freedom that makes us stronger if we embrace it, and weaker when we let someone else do "the heavy lifting".  Why? Because when you invest, put forth the effort, and it doesn't quite come out the way you thought, or wanted, you get a valuable lesson. You, (hopefully), learn, and gain experience, grow, and learn something about yourself. When you get that end result just handed to you, without the effort and investment, you miss out on the learning, experience, and there is no depth to what you have been given.

When I was younger, there were kids that had parents that bought them cars. This was a rarity back in those days because cars were something not everyone had. (I know- hard to believe that, ain't it? ) Anyway, those kids, almost to a person, were not appreciative of the gift. They beat those cars, wrecked them, and they didn't care. The rest of us, who had to scrape up a few hundred just to buy a barely running jalopy, were standing in amazement as we spit polished our pithy paint jobs and tried our best to make sure our vehicles were in the best shape possible. We worked hard for what we had, so maybe we appreciated what we got a bit more? Maybe. Perhaps there was something I was missing there.......

Obviously in Life we should seek balance. There is something to having some wise counsel, and to apprentice under a master, that is to be celebrated, for sure. However; I see a culture that is more and more about pushing a button, and getting things laid out for them. Instant results, little to no effort in researching, and not a lot of appreciation for those that did the pioneering. Maybe the "Age Of Information" should be blamed. Perhaps we've lost something in the trade off to have "social networks", instant access to weather forecasts, and  GPS maps.

Paper maps- They are still a thing.
Take the Tour Divide for instance. It's not what it used to be, that's for sure. Yes, it is an incredible accomplishment. However; with all the knowledge that previous folks have built up, disseminated, and with all the "touch points" of social media, well, it is hard to see how it could be the same as it was when John Stamstad did it. Oh......yeah, you should check him out if you haven't heard of him. Point is, the folks riding it this year are riding on the backs of many that went before them that paid their dues. Is that wrong, right, or does it even matter? I think it does matter somewhat, but it is hard to find that balance of just how much it does or doesn't matter. Maybe no one cares.....

Anyway....... What's all this have to do with route finding and what I do? Well, I am not anyone that I would consider in the same breath as Stamstad or Curiak, not even in terms of gravel road stuff. However; I still feel like people look at what I do as something extraordinary. It really isn't all that big of a deal, really. I mean, if you just spend some time with some good maps, even you could come up with a good route, I am pretty sure. But, ya know, that requires time, patience, and you need to go out see things out in the field to make sure they exist. That said, it doesn't take any strange talent or skill to do this. You just decide to do it..... Maybe you fail, or things don't turn out quite the way you wanted. Hey......it's okay. Chalk it up as an experience, learn from it, and apply what you got to the next try.

Someone wanted to know if I was going to run the Trans Iowa Masters Program again. I said that the route was a one time deal, that I wasn't planning on putting that out there again. Nope. This year is about more riding, less route planning for others. The individual in question replied that I should keep them appraised of any future routes I might "put out there". That's what makes me shake my head, and makes my heart sink. Why shouldn't this person, or anyone else, make their own challenge, devise their own route, and "put it out there".

You should. Don't be afraid to fail........


7 comments:

Ari said...

This is a great post. Somehow I feel like people are afraid of "getting lost". Those paper maps, google, map my ride, are great resources to make you own route. It's fun to make routes when the weather is bad and you can't ride. Make routes and later explore them. Write them down on paper.
Ari

Don said...

The best rides are the ones you have no map or plan, just get lost...someone will find you!

Bryan Ford said...

Agree with Ari. I invest hours making my own courses. Constantly seeking out the most punishing routes for myself and my riding buddy. I become intimate with it in a way that I feel like I own it because of the time invested. But, fortunately for me my job allows me to do it while mutlitasking my daily duties. I can understand how some, maybe most, people don't have the availble free time to dig into all the tools available to make a good course. It's easier to just ask, or take someone elses work.

Iowagriz said...

Great post Mark. You learn so much more on doing your research, not only on the route, but escape routes and alternatives as well. Gear research is also important, what works for others may not work for your situation. People need to figure out what works for THEM.

Kate Geisen said...

I always find your take on things interesting because it's different than how I tend to think. My guess is, for a lot of people, it's kind of like where in music you learn the rules and then you can break them and improvise. I'm lucky, though, to have friends who are doing exactly what you're suggesting -- making up and refining their own routes -- which in turn is getting me more comfortable with the joys of exploration and adventure.

Guitar Ted said...

@Kate Geisen- First of all, thanks for reading.

I think your music reference is a good one. The difference here is that in terms of music, one must put in the hours of practice and research to learn "what the rules are" and where things have been before one can "blaze a new trail". It is what I was talking about in my post where I mention studying under a master, or you can think of it as "paying your dues", as the old bluesman and country artists used to say.

What I find dismaying is how some folks want it all to be handed to them easily, without the efforts and risks involved in getting the routes/knowledge/skills, etc. They seem to want "guarantees" and safety/comfort in foreknowledge instead of the experiences gained by just doing something without those guarantees and risking failure or disappointments.

It isn't for everybody, and not all can go about life that way, nor should they be able to. There needs to be balance, as I say, but for those that could, they should. That's my take.

MG said...

Amen Brother... I always love a good adventure. Often, when I roll out the door, the only thing I know about my route is which direction the wind is blowing.