Thursday, January 08, 2009


Tomorrow is the 12th anniversary of my dad's death. He died alone at home. I am the one who found him about 12 hours later. That was really sucky! One of the worse days in my life. One of those days where everything changed for me.

I went into a weird funk, and it took me nearly the year to get over it. This funk included hiding from creditors in L.A., shutting down my business after filling out my largest, final, glorious purchase order...from R.E.I. no less! Escaping L.A....circumnavigating the shiprock in NW New Mexico by mountain bike (my Merlin...maybe one of the few people to do such as journey around that volcanic neck) and seeing an eagle (I took it as a positive sign that I needed to return to the Rez) in a 1972 VW Westfalia van because I had no money for back on my feet financially by landing a new job on the Navajo Indian Reservation...having the worst Thanksgiving ever (completely left town without a word, dead dad, brother out of town and sisters live out of state)...Christmas rolls around and I finally say fuck it about family time and commitment, I am going to do something that makes me happy.

I drove 6 hours down from the Rez, made a stealth raid on my brother's house where I had some of my touring and camping gear stored, made a sandwich, got out the door before anybody got home, and headed to Big Bend National Park in Texas.
I finally started feeling better about everything after 7 days alone in the chihuahuan desert. My funk began to disappear. I toured on my Merlin from Christmas day (1997) till New Years Day (1998). An arctic cold front swept across the west and reached far down into Big Bend territory. It was really cold!

Each day was an adventure. First night, I was laying on the ground in my bivy sack/sleeping bag (no tent...too heavy). I was trying to read when I heard a twig snap...I lift the hood of the bivy sack, shine my maglite outside and I was face to face, about a meter away, to a little grey fox. He kind of blinked his eyes from the light turned and pranced back into the desert.

On day 3, after a very cold day on the bike, I left my stuff at my campsite, I rode my unloaded bicycle from Ernst's Tinaja campground to the hot springs (about 10 miles one-way). When I got there, I was the only person there. I stripped off my clothes and jumped in the hot water naked. It was blowing snow flurries! It was great! I was cozy warm in the water, the Rio Grande flowing just a couple of yards away, Mexico just on the other side. It had a real romantic/rustic/adventure feel about it. I had the place to myself like that for about 1 1/2 hours, then some guy came...probably from Alpine, and he ruined the experience for me. Of course he wanted to talk. After a few minutes, I decided I better get going, so I got out, dried off quickly, got dressed in my smelly bicycle clothes, and took off. No need to warm up the muscles because of the soak in the hot spring. I got back to my camp just before the sunset. It was cold! I crawled into my sleeping bag and bivy sack, cooked some ramen noodles while laying down in my bag. Ate, then hunkered down from about 6:00 PM till 8:00 AM. It was too cold to do anything else.

The desert was kind to me...on day 4, I was riding down the River Road when a couple from Austin in Toyota 4-Runner stopped to talk to me. They gave me a smoked salmon that they had got for Christmas. That was great! That evening I camped with a couple from Albuquerque where we shared the salmon, they made spaghetti and had a bottle of wine.

Eventually I crossed the river (paid $1.00 for an old man to paddle me across in his boat) rode into Mexico for a couple of days where I eventually met a nice family. I stayed in touch with that family until I moved overseas. I still think of them from time to time, but I doubt I'll ever see them again due to 9-11.

My point of my rambling story is, this is how I finally got over my dad's death. It was all very personal and internal. Going to places like Big Bend is way better than going to any church or cathedral. I am not a churchy or religous person, but I enjoy beautiful places and feel a real connection to certain places. Shiprock, the Rez, and Big Bend are places I love and feel a connection to.


SS:Mtn Biker said...

Mims,that's a sad,but heartwarming story,man...I appreciate that I got to "hear" it. Thanks for sharing this bit of you. =)


Bruce said...

You may not be religious, but as with many of us (even us "cold-hearted" scientific types) have a spiritual side. I know it's the case with me.