Dancing on the Edge of Comfort—Without Crashing
Sunshine, blue skies, and mid-70s-breezes embraced me as I set off for home from the Horizons Unlimited Travellers meeting in Virginia last Sunday. Perfect riding weather belied that I’d be dancing on the edge of comfort before long.
I’d taken two days for the 1,110 km/620-mile trip down but wrestled with making the return trip in one day. It’s further than I like to ride at once but Monday’s forecast predicted rain and temps barely above freezing. Conditions didn’t improve for days.
Cold is manageable; cold and wet are miserable on a sliding scale matching temperature and rainfall.
Stopped for a picnic breakfast on a bench in front of a Court House in small town VA, I debated my choices. One long day would push my physical limits, but the alternative seemed much riskier and way more uncomfortable. I could always stop.
I planned for two and prepared for one, taking steps from the onset to fend off hypothermia and fatigue.
The air chilled as I headed north. By the time I crossed Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, the cold, drizzle, and threatening skies had me thinking I’d have to call it a day. But the rain held off and the air warmed as I moved west to lower elevations. As conditions improved and Monday’s dismal forecast loomed, I decided to push all the way home.
My heated jacket helped keep my core warm. I’d taken the express rather than the scenic route and kept my speeds at the posted limit to minimize wind chill. My supply of high-fat goat cheese, avocados, and protein shakes provided extra calories to fuel the furnace.
Frequent breaks and staying hydrated by drinking from the two-liter water reservoir in my tank bag (which also ensured I stopped often) warmed me up and allowed me to monitor my temperature. The insidious onset of physical and mental clumsiness that accompanies hypothermia is hard to detect while riding but evident when you stop.
I may not have exceeded the speed limit but I pushed past the edge of my comfort zone. Time slowed to a crawl. It got COLD, the last few hours barely above freezing. I knew I had the physical, mental, and emotional resources to do it, yet many times I thought about packing it in. Tomorrow would be worse though.
My internal dialogue reminded me how people, including Oliver Solero who’d given a presentation about a trip to northern Manitoba in much colder temps, had persevered through hardship. My cold (or distance) didn’t even rank on Oliver’s scale. Others have dealt with far greater adversity.
Those paths, however, were not mine.
Growth happens when we overcome perceived barriers, whatever they are. The only one to calibrate against, and answer to, is ourselves. That also means basing decisions on internal guidance, not what we think others will think of us.
While we must consider our safety, we are called to not run from the discomfort and even fear of growth. What we find when we’re dancing on the edge of comfort is a more perfect understanding of ourselves.
I rolled into my driveway just before midnight. A friend had unlocked the door and turned on the lights. The blast of warm air that welcomed me felt like heaven. It sure was good to be home.
Photo on Visual Hunt.
Reminds me of a time in Cyprus (yes, that sun kissed holiday island in the Mediterranean) when a Wima buddy and I unexpectedly discovered the snow covered Troodos mountains. We set off in beautiful, warm, sun with airflow jackets. We got carried away with the day with beautiful mountain riding, stunning views on tiny switch back roads. But, when it started to get dark, we discovered that although the lights on the hire bikes worked, they were pointing directly up in the air, so, as to be totally useless. At this point we discovered the hire bike company had removed both tool kits from the bikes, so we had nothing to make adjustments with. Being a deathly, dark, night, we could not go back home through the mountains, the quick way we came, with no lights. As the temperatures started to quickly fall, we were forced to take a huge, sub zero, but partially, street lit, detour, home, where both of us secombed to mild hypothermia. There was no sign of human habitation for hours. We stopped at a wheelie bin and scavenged cardboard, bubble wrap and newspaper to line our bike jackets for extra warmth. The first place we saw selling hot food and drink, we stopped, but neither of us could actually get off the bikes, or walk. I could not unwrap my frozen hands from the handle bars, for ages. It took hot food and drink, heating and a couple of hours rest, before we could complete our journey. We arrived home nearly six hours later than planned. Jubilant that we made it and vowing never to take out a hire bike without checking that a tool kit is available again! For the want of a simple screw driver, to adjust the lights, we managed to get ourselves into a right pickle!
I can picture it. Love the bubble wrap! Seemingly insignificant details, when absent, change our whole trajectory. Great story and glad you lived to tell the tale. Thanks Sue!
Liz my friend you are a very tough and inspiring woman I so love your writing.
Thank you for your inspiration Mary!