Tag: Introvert

Alone In My Head

While I was on my motorcycle trip last week, a friend texted me and said, “I think it’s really cool you’re comfortable traveling alone”. The truth is it’s not always by choice. It’s often a matter of sit home and watch the grass grow, or go pursue activities by myself. I’m in a very fortunate position in that I’m able to be free most weekday days. I don’t have to deal with the weekend crowds or traffic. Unfortunately, especially at my age, it’s hard to find other people who also have their mid-week free on a consistent basis. So it’s either go out and do it alone, or wait until the stars line up with other people’s schedules.

To be honest, I’d certainly rather do stuff with other people. I’m a, what’s the term… “introverted extrovert”. I’m somewhat shy and am horrible with initiating things in social settings. But I do like being around other people. Activities are almost always better with a group. I know there are motorcycle groups and mountain bike groups in my area I could join. I just find those initial social interactions painful. I probably will reach out at some point. Hopefully I’ll convince a friend to join with me so the first few meetings aren’t so awkward. Being the new guy sucks.

The other issue is not even a social thing, it’s finding others that match your skill level. A few years ago I did join a group mountain bike ride with a bunch of folks I didn’t know. It ended up being a horrible experience. There were a handful of young guys who were determined to ride everyone into the ground. The rest of the group were total beginners. There were crashes, blood, and some unhappy folks. No thanks. It’s comfortable to ride with the guys I normal ride with when they’re available. We’re all roughly the same fitness level (or lack thereof), no competitive egos to deal with, etc… How do you find that perfect mix in a group where someone is a bit better than you so you learn, and you’re comfortably in the middle skill-wise with everyone else? The motorcycle is even harder to find folks. It’s a much less common sport, so the community is smaller. It also seems like the skill gap is greater. You have people who’ve been riding forever and folks who are brand new. Not much in-between.

Yes, I know the answer is to keep putting yourself out there and eventually you’ll find the right group. It sounds sorta like dating advice, except for old guys with limited social skills. Maybe there’s an app for that? Middle aged guy, slightly overweight with questionable fitness and skill level, looking for like minded folks who are just as happy riding as abandoning halfway to eat nachos and drink beer. Must be free most Wednesdays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, while I continue to contemplate dropping into a social group meeting, trail maintenance day, or joining a group ride, I’ll keep on going out and getting my adventure on by myself. Because sitting at home is not an option.

It’s In The Books

It’s done. I’ve been babbling about, prepping for, and anticipating this moment for quite a while now. The first official “summer of George” event. If you haven’t been following along, I made the decision a while ago that I wanted to explore, travel, and see small town America. I’ve been preparing for this for far too long. I purchased a ginormous new motorcycle and began outfitting it with the things needed for on and off road travel. I put in a thousand miles of short, local rides to get used to the bike and improve my riding skills. I sorted through navigation equipment issues, backordered equipment, and some challenging mechanical installation problems. Finally, everything was ready.

In my part of the world, we’ve had a vexing spring. Extremely windy, wet, and lingering snowmelt. This has delayed any sort of real trip. But the weather finally broke and summer arrived. As is customary in my state, we went from cold, wet, and windy to a hundred degrees overnight. Sigh. I’d managed to pick the week for my first trip with record high temps forecast. I was going to postpone until the following week and then saw a post on Instagram from David Goggins. If you don’t know who he is, it’s worth reading his book. Former SEAL, lost over a hundred pounds just to make the teams. Had to go through BUD’s/hell week three times due to injuries. He’s kinda crazy, but still manages to be very motivating. Anyway, out of the blue he posted this on the day I was contemplating postponing:

“Don’t be the person that looks at the weather report the night before to decide what you are going to do the next day. What that means is don’t be the person who sees if it is going to rain or snow or be too hot or cold and make your decision off of that forecast. Whatever Mother Nature puts in front of you, go out and attack it.”

Well damn. I guess I’m not much of an adventurer if I have to wait for the perfect forecast. So… the next day I kissed Mrs Troutdog goodbye and left. Now, it’s not like I was heading off into the wilderness for a week (that’s still to come). The purpose of the trip was twofold. First was to see if equipment worked, can I navigate without too much hassle (on a motorcycle it’s not like you can work a map/GPS while driving like you can with a car), and how will I do with hours in the saddle. The second, and perhaps more important, will I even like this sort of travel? Will I make the effort to stop and take pictures? Will multiple days on the road, alone, get to be too much? Did I just waste a crapload of money on something that I don’t even like?

In short, I didn’t know what to expect. I worried that I’d built all this up a bit too much in my head. I’ve watched many YouTube videos of cross country travelers who make it look easy. Riding from town to town, interacting with interesting locals, taking fabulous pictures, dining at quirky out of the way spots… what if this isn’t what I find? Enough with the suspense.. while my short trip wasn’t a soul-changing experience, I had a blast.

The equipment mostly all worked as expected. A few minor tweaks are still needed. I didn’t get lost. I saw almost all the sights I’d planned on seeing. Survived riding 700+ miles over three days in near 100 degree temps. Made it through 180 miles of high speed, brutal crosswinds and double (and triple!) trailer semi-trucks nearly blowing me out of my lane. Got a few pictures. Talked to a few people. Stopped and helped a guy stranded with a couple dogs and no water. Confirmed that I am able to travel alone and pushed through my introvert tendency to not make an effort to stop and see something or talk to someone because I’m by myself.

Not everything was a magical experience. It was hot. Traveling on a motorcycle can be a pain in the ass. See something you want to take a picture of? Find a place to stop and park the bike where it won’t fall over. Pull off sweaty gloves and helmet. Unplug the phone and or pull the camera out of the tank bag. Clomp around in heavy motorcycle boots, getting hotter and hotter because there’s now no airflow going through your riding suit. Take your picture. Put everything back on, reconnect things, get ridding again while unzipping to get air flowing again. Tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere aren’t always charming. Sometimes they’re just rundown spots on the road. When those little towns only have one motel for $40 a night… well, you can imagine that it’s not the Hyatt.

So all in all, was this the life changing experience I’d pictured? Maybe not life changing, but I loved it. I proved to myself that I can take off alone on an adventure, explore, and make the most of whatever I encounter. I feel like I accomplished something. I wished I’d make a video because there were moments on the road where I was seeing some jaw dropping beauty that is hard to describe. Early morning and come around a corner as the only vehicle on the road, to see a majestic mountain range lit up by the early morning sun is worth the price of admission. Images and experiences you won’t get sitting on the couch.

It’s amazing how inhibiting fear of the unknown is. Worries about weather, getting lost, what if I don’t like it, being by myself – all things that if you spend too much time thinking about, will stop you from doing the actual thing. But if you push past the worry about the unknown, you’ll find that most everything you worried about was no big deal. I’m left with excitement for whatever my next trip will be. It seems silly, but getting the first one out of the way was a big weight off my mind. Why oh why didn’t I do this sooner? As I’ve said many times – we’re only here once, so you may as well make the most of it.