The Saratoga Sun -

By Tom Dixon 

Discovering the why of adventure

 


For the last couple summers, my girlfriend, Sheila, and I have been putting up cyclists in our home thanks to a website called WarmShowers.org that connects people riding around the world with people who think that sounds like an amazing adventure.

The cyclists we met came from every point on the globe - Brazil, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, Canada - and most of them came to the United States to tour the country via the TransAmerica route, which meanders coast to coast from Oregon to Virginia.

For many cyclists, Saratoga is the first night they’ve ever spent in Wyoming. Sheila and I have introduced them to the psychedelic show known as a summer lightning storm, drank local beer with them, taught them the difference between an elk and a moose and assured them that, yes, it is always this windy.

In other words, I got to be part tour guide and part booster for one of the most beautiful, and one of the most rugged, places in the country.

Cyclists’ reasons for taking the journey varied: some were recently divorced, some were in college, some had just retired and some just wanted to do something a little different.

Each had dozens of stories about what they had seen on the road or how they had escaped a scary or strange situation. They could tell you who they were before they began this journey and where they hoped to go next. I never got a concrete answer on the most important question, though. The why, it seemed, was tricky to nail down.

With my own adventure just on the horizon I find myself challenged by the same question.

I can explain the where - New Zealand in just a few weeks - and the how - by cycling, camping and cooking my own food so I can afford it.

I can explain what I love about Saratoga: fishing moose out of Hugus Ditch, hiking Medicine Bow Peak while snowboarders race down the face a few feet away, watching a community rally behind a sick child.

I can describe who I’ll be leaving behind: people who have seen me at my most foolish (having unwittingly attended my own roast recently, I can tell you there are plenty of those moments) and call me a friend anyway.

Why am I leaving, though? I know I have tried out a few answers, but each of them only gets at part of the reason.

You can only hang out for so long with people from all over the country, and all over the world, who threw caution to the wind and took off to explore before wanting to give it a shot. There is challenge in facing the unknown.

One of the cyclists who stayed with us abhorred hunting. She was interested in learning, though, and by the end she understood the reasons and the ethics behind hunting. A taste of elk steak didn’t hurt her new perspective, either. In order to grow and learn, you have to step outside your comfort zone.

By the same token, every cyclist had stories to share about things I had never experienced and places I had never been. Life is nothing but a collection of stories, and I want to write and hear as many as I can (and hopefully publish as few corrections as possible).

To that end, I was lucky to have a boss willing to take a chance on a wet-behind-the-ears reporter. Since coming to Saratoga, it has been my job to learn everything I can about this place and the people who make it a community. Thankfully, I am also fortunate to have landed in a place where people go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

I have celebrated with state champions, explored local ranches, filled and tossed sandbags and sliced through whitewater with friends and neighbors.

It’s been a privilege to tell your stories.

This chapter may be ending, but our Wyoming story is far from over.

When Sheila and I first started talking about this trip, our big question was - what next? Last week, my parents officially bought a lodge on Half Moon Lake in Pinedale and, since they have as much experience running a lodge as I do fighting bears (we’ve all been there), they asked if we would like to help them get the project off the ground.

The fishing is great, the hunting is even better, it is not far away and we have lots of room for everyone, so come visit next summer.

In the meantime, I will be sharing our stories and photos of the trip on kiwiwheels.wordpress.com for anyone who wants to follow the trials and tribulations of wobbling uphill with 40 pounds of gear in pouring rain, or trying to soak in a New Zealand hot pool famous for its brain parasites.

The running joke at the Saratoga Sun is the day we put out the perfect paper is the day we quit.

This week’s paper probably isn’t perfect, either, but today, as always, I hope it teaches you something you didn’t know, gives you a better idea of the challenges ahead and inspires you to continue making Saratoga not just a home, but a community.

Enjoy your journey and I will see you on down the road.

And, remember to try the elk steak.

 

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