The two old cowboys leaned against the hitching post. The sun was low in the sky, but it was already hot. It was going to be a dusty day out on the trail.
“You going to Horseshoe?” asked Ole.
“Nope, going up over the Divide,” said Bob.
“Now,” said Ole,”You don’t need to go there. Just take ’em to the Horseshoe Camp and ride day trips from there. They’ll like that just fine.” We were expecting a family in from California for a ten-day horse pack trip. They had never been to Wyoming before, so – likely – Ole was right.
“Nope. We’re going to the Divide.” Bob looked at me and started walking towards the corral. “Let’s go catch some horses,” he said.
The Skinner Brothers had a field camp in at Horseshoe Lake, which was about a four-hour ride into the Wind River Range. There were three teepees there, a corral, and a big wall-tent that functioned as a kitchen and dining room. You could take some nice day-rides to beautiful spots, right from there. I had ridden those trails hundreds of times, and knew that Bob had ridden them thousands of times. Bob’s jaw was set. We were going on a very long ride, away from comfort and what we knew well, because the alternative bored Bob to the point of hatred. When Bob was bored he was surly, and when he was inspired he was delightful. That family from California would’ve loved the area around Horseshoe, but because Bob hated it he knew that they would have better trip if we took them somewhere else. Three days later, high above treeline by the Golden Lakes, when Bob was flipping pancakes over the griddle he was laughing and telling stories about when he had been there last.
When you cover the same ground again and again – as if by rote – no matter how beautiful that ground is it will ultimately take on the color of dust. When you have your own name for every rock, every puddle of mud, and that spot where Blackie died, you may know a trail too well. When you can trace the entire route you’ll be traveling in your mind and arrive at your destination, and then blink and wake up sitting where you are and still be four hours away, just wait a minute: Blink, and you’ll only have 3:59 to go.
You’ve heard about our #carfreereps initiatives from Pete (Part I and Part II). For over a year we’ve been looking at alternatives to traveling our territory. Our main goal has been to reduce our environmental impact while being more effective on the road. We have also discovered that we have saved time and money by finding alternatives to driving. Freeing ourselves of driving has also opened up avenues towards greater attention and focus, which is invaluable to us. In our travels, we’ve taken trains, buses, public transportation, bicycles, folding bicycles, rental-cars; we’ve used car-share programs, and even ridden skateboards. (Haven’t – yet – worked out how to use horses, though; give us time.)
I’ve been a rep in the Midwest for almost twenty years. I’ve taken every route out of Madison to every regional destination imaginable, thousands of times. I know every road in the midwest and all of the airports as well as I know my own kitchen. The adventures I’ve had while working out the kinks of #carfreereps have been exciting for me, and fun. I’ve learned new things about cities that I thought I knew well, met a few wacky people, and made some friends, too:
- Jake, Ernie, and Mike are construction workers from Cleveland who traveled across country by train to go to a Phish show in California. By the time I met them, they were just waking up from their first bender and were starting a second one. They were loud, and mean to each other as only good friends can be, but funny and engaging to everybody else. When I last saw them, they were laughing in the lounge car with a nice professional couple from St. Louis, and a group of Amish from Iowa. I didn’t know that Amish women could put down shots like that.
- Raymond is a cab-driver in St. Paul. He took me from my hotel, to Best Buy to get some new headphones, then to the Greyhound station. He told me more about his first wife’s [colorful euphemism here] than you would ever care to want to know, but he was funny, and kind. He has three adult sons that he put through college or the military. When he turns 55 next month, he’s retiring and going to live with one of his sons. He also turned me on to some new hip-hop.
- Roger is a retired college professor and former park ranger from Mt. Rainier. We were seated in the dining car enjoying a dinner of broiled fish and rice along with a glass of Pinot Noir. Our other seat-mate was a young man who had decided on a whim to move from Maine to Washington State, to be a park ranger. We all had a lot in common. We were laughing and talking, and suddenly Roger said – quite pleasantly and as clear as day – “Would you all excuse me? I have to go vomit. I have acid-reflux.”
- Ahmed is Somalian, and drives a cab in Minneapolis. He told me all about how the Cedar Avenue neighborhood has changed in the past few years. He is concerned about the Somalian boys who hang out there, and how they are forming gangs. He’s taken one boy under his wing, named Biggy. Biggy fashions himself to be the leader around there, and Ahmed is determined that Biggy will know what it is to be Somalian. I think that Biggy will be okay; Ahmed’s going to make sure that this is so.
Driving your own car gives you the illusion of complete control. (Never mind traffic, construction, filling your tank, emptying your bladder, and – oh yeah – the fact that all you can do while driving is drive…) Giving up this illusion is an exercise in being more accepting to what comes your way. Basically, you leave yourself open to adventure when you choose to give up control and to accept the unknown. And adventures are fun. It was fun to ride a folding bike through the streets of Chicago during rush hour, and to explore Coronado Island by longboard, and to figure out the BART system in San Francisco and the ferries in Seattle. Doing these things has made me a better traveler, and it’s been a lot more fun. Harder? Yeah. It takes a lot more thought, planning, and effort. The plus side is that I look forward to travel now, as each trip is something completely different. This gives me more energy, which in turn helps me to have fun at work. When I’m having fun, I do my job better. And – maybe – I’m more fun to be around.
At least, I feel like I’m more fun, now that I’m not so often on the same dusty trails.
Come with us on our next journey! We live-blog most of our #carfreereps adventures on our Twitter feed (and others are using the tag, too!) We also post pictures in the moment on Flickr. It’s almost as good as being there.