A few years ago one of my New Year's resolutions was to spend more time living out of my comfort zone. I felt that in my earlier life I was overly cautious and put too much emphasis on doing what people expected of me. After my first marriage ended, living on the edge meant keeping my finances organized, traveling without getting lost, buying a new car by myself, not feeling out of place at a dinner party where I was the only single guest, or bravely submitting a personals ad to Match.com.
Now that I'm happily remarried, retired and living the life that dreams are made of, spending time outside of my comfort zone has taken on a different meaning. Now it's about being willing to camp in the Sahara Desert to experience the most remote music festival in the world, rock climbing in an ancient Mayan cave in Belize, paddling upriver by canoe to spend a couple of nights with former headhunters in Borneo, traveling across the distant deserts of Namibia to visit the vanishing Himba tribe, climbing down the steep, rocky escarpment to connect with the exotic Dogon people of Mali, and now in May of 2012, riding my bicycle 2000 miles up the Mighty Mississippi from New Orleans to Lake Itasca, Minnesota, the source of one of the world's great rivers.
So, as you know, I'm leaving May 3rd on my Mississippi River adventure where I'll spend some time living outside of my comfort zone while riding 2000 miles for 40 days. I will be joined by 31 awesome women. Some of them have ridden their bikes across the country, but others have never been on a bicycle tour in their lives. One Mississippi rider recently wrote that we should think of this bike trip as "Mommy Camp", but I know nothing about being a mommy. Another rider said she will be happy not to cook two meals a day or make anyone's bed. Now I can relate to that, but since I did a 30 day bicycle tour a few years ago, I know it's not about giving up domestic life or taking a vacation. Instead -- It's all about you and the bike!
This bicycle trip is about rising between 5 and 6 AM every day for 40 days, tugging on the spandex, repacking your luggage, wolfing down a healthy breakfast, studying the route map over and over, praying it won't rain and hoping the wind will be at your back. It's also about riding safely, obeying the rules of the road, hydrating well, and making sure you are consuming enough calories to support the long daily distances. It's even more about bonding with women and forming life-long relationships, sharing funny and sad stories, supporting those who are having a tough time and accepting support when it's your turn. It's about spending at least six to eight hours a day sitting on your butt, and even more hours alone in your head while finding comfort there. It's about pedaling that last ten miles which are always the hardest, wondering who your roommate will be that night and hoping she doesn't snore. This ride is also about enjoying home-cooked meals by our traveling chef who is responsible for providing the energy you will need to succeed the next day. It's about celebrating personal goals like riding 96 miles one day and 70 miles the next, wondering if this trip will ever end and sobbing when it finally does. And yes, you can lose weight, build amazing leg muscles, see a beautiful part of our country and even learn some American history, but this bike trip is more than any of the above. It's really about self determination, perseverance, resilience, acceptance, understanding, confidence, and regardless of age this ride is about personal growth.