On Adventure. Or Lack Thereof.

I am a fraud. To use the vernacular of my 80’s upbringing – I’m a total poser, dude. I’m an armchair adventurer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fully in the Walter Mitty category. I do occasionally go outside and do stuff. But it’s happening less and less often. What’s more telling is that I’m starting to feel more apprehension about activities than I ever did before. My fear of getting hurt, or failing, and the unknown are starting to creep into my head far too frequently lately.

What I’m discovering about myself is that I really, really, like the idea of being adventurous. It’s the doing part that I don’t follow up with. The other day over dinner with some friends we talked about all the things we’d like to do this summer. I was happy to jabber on about road trips, backcountry motorcycle expeditions, climbing and mountaineering, and spur of the moment mountain bike rides. After the drinks wear off, I know that the possibility of my actually doing any of those things isn’t super high.

I’m not sure why that is. Some of it is just laziness. A rolling stone and moss and whatnot. I’ve been gathering a fair amount of moss these days. A lot of it is just caution. I’ve noticed that at the climbing gym, once I’m five or six feet in the air I’m very reluctant to try a move because of a fear of falling. It’s not like I’m going to get hurt. I’d be falling on a soft crash pad. Worse case I get the wind knocked out of me. So why am I so afraid? It must be a facet of getting old.

What gets into my head is that I really want to do these adventures. I can easily spend all day reading about adventure trips and free spirited folks who just do things. Americans have always been enamored with the antihero. The folks who just get stuff done and go out and make adventures happen. Shane McConkey, Jimmy Chin, Cheryl Strayed, Alastair Humphreys, Hank Patterson. These folks decide to do something and just go make it happen. Granted it didn’t always turn out so well for all of them, but they did what they wanted to do. I fear I’m turning into that kid in the commercial who calls his grandma on the phone in the next room for another grape soda.

I’ll spend two hours on the ADV forum following some guy’s two week motorcycle trip across the backcountry dirt roads of Idaho and tell myself, dammit I’m doing that. But that would mean getting the motorcycle running again and buying some more gear. And it’s kinda cold out right now. And I’m directionally challenged so what if I got really lost, or what if the bike stopped running and I got stuck? Besides there’s a couple of episodes of Walking Dead I haven’t caught up on and there’s some yardwork that needs doing. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll think about it again.

I think I’m one of those people who always needs a guide. Someone who takes me by the hand and says we’re going to go do this, and here’s what you need, and here’s how it’s going to work. Once I do it I’m golden. I’ve skied for years at my local mountain without exploring some areas that I knew were there, but didn’t know if they were above my ability or if I’d get lost. This season I finally put on my big boy pants and followed a friend to these places. Now that I’ve seen them and they’re not the unknown I’m happily exploring every off-piste area I can find. Why was I so worried about exploring them before?

Is there a moral to this rambling? Doubtful. I think it’s mostly an internal pep-talk to convince myself to go do stuff and that I don’t always need a “guide”. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll end up with a good story to tell. Then again there’s a bag of chips in the cupboard and 24 hours of political coverage to watch. And I hear there’s a threat of rain today. Time to catch up on my Instagram feed of adventurers and amazing photos.

On Feeling Young. And Tacos.

I don’t know what it is about street food that makes it so good. Grills and pans take on a certain patina when they’re not exactly cleaned spotless each night. Lard tastes better than heart healthy sunflower oil. (write this one down kids… fat = flavor) Maybe it’s the thrill of taking a chance on salmonella or hepatitis. Regardless, Anthony Bourdain has it right – you’re more likely to get sick from the hotel breakfast buffet than a street vendor. Accordingly, a friend and I took a chance on a serious dive, hole-in-the-wall, side of the road taqueria the other day.

I had a couple of pork chili verde tacos. Two small homemade tortillas, pork, onions and cilantro, hot oil dripping down my fingers. Simple. Heaven. Makes me ashamed of the American contribution to Mexican culinary history – the Chalupa Nacho Cheese (si, queso!), beef or upgraded to authentic carne asada. Oh, and Cinco de Mayo. Truly sorry about that one. Since I’m apologizing I may as well throw in blended margaritas. If you feel that you must drink your alcohol like a Jamba Juice smoothie, please have the decency to not call it a margarita. Ice cubes (Cubes DAMMIT!), Cointreau, good 100% blue agave tequila, salt. A lime if you must. Anything else and it’s no longer the beautiful drink Don Carlos Orozco gifted us with.

Since we’re talking tequila, we should probably mention a certain Jose Cervo-fueled night when I was in my twenties. Or not. Let’s just say that livestock, downtown high-rise hotels, and base jumping rarely ends well. What is worth talking about is that feeling you have in your youth.  Joints don’t hurt and backs don’t ache. There’s no such thing as stretching and warming up before you do something. There’s no hesitation when it comes to running, jumping, or climbing things. You just do it. Afterwards muscles aren’t sore. Sleep often comes easy. You don’t blink an eye at starting your evening at 11pm. Roll in as the sun is rising, go to work and repeat it the next evening.

Sitting here at an age that’s probably closer to the end than the beginning (holy crap, that’s a depressing thought), I wonder where those feelings of youth went? Well, not exactly true – in my head I still “feel” like I’m late twenties. I still listen to loud, obnoxious music that doesn’t fit my age. I feel ridiculous the few times I need to wear a tie or a suit, like I’m pretending to be an adult. The thought of going on a cruise just feels claustrophobic and something grandparents do. I like speed and thrills – skiing, mountain biking, motorcycles. I don’t think twice about going on crazy long hikes or trail runs in the backcountry. Unfortunately most of my activities usually culminate in ibuprofen, ice, and being too sore to walk the next day. I am constantly surprised when I can’t do something that I used to be able to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in the morning in pain and been honestly puzzled why I hurt? I never used to have to stretch my hamstrings and calves before spending an afternoon pulling weeds in the garden.

The lesson is that while you can’t stop the physical aging process, there’s no need to grow old mentally. The older I get the less interested I am in becoming a “grown up”. I don’t want to stop riding bikes, going for hikes, or listening to ridiculous gangster rap and 1970’s funk at eardrum damaging volumes. Everyone should resolve to do something youthful this week. Go watch a three stooges film festival. Go-cart racing. Sign up for climbing lessons at the local climbing gym. Wear a baseball hat and flip-flops. Take a spur of the moment trip without planning. Stay up past 10pm. It doesn’t matter what it is… just go do something to prove to yourself that you’re not an old fuddy-duddy.

And resolve to skip a chain restaurant this week in favor of street food. Preferably not in the best part of town. Take a chance. Have a real taco.