Thursday, June 24, 2010
Eight Miles High
That's dedication, people!
Readers of the blog will remember that I mentioned meeting a guy--Bill Haddan--as I was going up a mountain in Colorado. I ended up staying at Bill's house in Girard last night, and it was an unforgettable experience.
Bill's an interesting guy--a wild man with a heart of gold. In one sentence he would describe in detail how he made a flamethrower that can shoot a plume of flame 130 feet, and in the next he would tell me about how he didn't want to lose his best friend, who's dying of cancer.
For Bill, the two most important things in his life are his kids and flying, and he shared both with me during my all-too-short visit.
His kids were dynamite, polite to a fault, and very interested in the crazy guy on a bike.
The flying came this morning.
We drove up to his friend's house/airplane hanger in Pleasanton, and Bill took me up in a Kitfox--a small, two-person plane. This particular plane was built by his best friend Dave Yeamans (the guy with cancer), and it was a prizewinner at the big air show held every year in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The plane was also almost destroyed in a flood back in 2007, but it was meticulously cleaned and restored by Bill.
To hear Bill talk about flying (and to watch him do it) is to get a rare glimpse of someone doing what they're meant to be doing. It was also a nice change for me, who's been getting a bike-eye's view of the country. This flight was a welcome perspective shift.
For one thing, floating 2000 feet above Kansas farmland made me think about the huge role that chance plays in our lives. If I hadn't stopped to talk with Bill in Colorado, we wouldn't be here. Also, the main reason that I was on that road to begin with was that I couldn't get any cell service, and I wanted to call Nick that night (he was graduating from 8th grade). So if Fort Garland had AT&T service, I wouldn't have run into Bill. Going back further, if I hadn't met John south of the Grand Canyon and gotten the idea for an alternate route, I wouldn't even have taken that road.
And on and on. There are a million more "if not for"s that I can list here. It's dizzying, really, to think about the random factors that have such influence in our lives.
I guess one way to look at this is that we're all subjects of chance and helpless in the face of it.
But I prefer to see a kind of beauty in chance, where we can both appreciate the course it puts us on and make the most of it.
Speaking of the course I'm on, it's clear that I'm back on a well-traveled bike route. I've seen tourists left and right: Scott and Keith in Girard (Keith was riding a tricked-out Surly Big Dummy that made me think of my friend Dave in Prescott); Mike from St. Louis, who I met on the road to Golden City; and Mike from Orlando, who's also camping in the park tonight.
And I'm happy (and lucky) to be here. These roads in Missouri are something else--rollers the likes of which I haven't seen outside of an amusement park. I'll climb in my lowest gear for about 5-10 minutes and then practically freefall for a minute. Then I'll do it again about 50 times in a row. By the time I finally pulled into Ash Grove, I was dragging on the ground.
Good thing I had my memory of flying high this morning.