Return from Mojave, Epilogue

There was no indication in the background music of life to say that the scene had changed. This is, apparently, a construct that exists only in Hollywood or on primetime drama on television. The truth is this: the scene is always changing. The scene? The scene is now -- where I am, what I'm doing, how I feel -- the scene is now. After a trip such as this, I expected a fanfare to announce that I had returned to my home state with evolved skills, a new self-awareness, and permission to change the world.

These three thing sall occurred. And the reason for no fanfare is simple: the scene is always changing, and no composer will survive continuously writing the thrilling notes that draw attention to the change in plot or action.

In other words, I believe that I learned this: I should not wait, with one ear cocked skyward to detect that something new is eminent. Rather, I should understand that there is a constant current of enlightenment that is always moving and whispering. I returned from the West hoping to find a single moment of breakthrough, an "a-ha!" that I could use as a lesson to enhance my character. I sought out places of great beauty and enormous desolation. I traveled to these places, looked into their hearts and my own, and discovered greatness. But I also found this greatness in unexpected places -- in wrong turns, long drives, and friends' homes. The current of life is everywhere and everytime.

In less general terms (I hope) -- the opportunity always exists to discover what capabilities I possess, what character I have, what I want to do with the fortunate life that I have. To roughly quote Prefontaine -- to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. Though I found it easy to assess my gifts in immense vistas and rocky peaks, I also found it was possible to recognize my gifts in everyday life. Now it is time to train, to give my best. This is what I have to offer the world every day. Evolution on a personal scale. I will be a leader of leaders, I know this now and I can live with this in mind in times of personal greatness and average-ness and low-ness.

This is the end of one road and one trip but there are many more to follow. What lessons there will be to learn, what sunsets there will be to experience, what life there will be to live.

Illinois to Mojave and back again. The experience of life can only go on from here.

Return from Mojave, Day 16

Bismarck, ND to Camp Wilderness, Park Rapids, MN

Start: 90906 miles

Camp Wilderness, Park Rapids, MN

I'll tell you a few things that I admire about the Boy Scouts organization. First, you are never a stranger in a strange land. That core set of values expressed in the Oath and Law provides a common ground no matter where you are coming from or going to. Second, the emphasis on teaching skills in an outdoor environment is an important facet of life that is often neglected in modern everyday life. Finally, the leadership skills acquired in the program are second-to-none. In a nutshell, this is the basis of a solid program.

Anyway. They have a very nice lake here at Camp Wilderness, a nice place to watch the setting sun reflect on the rhythmic waves. And reflect, myself.

Expenses

Gas: Conoco, Jamestown, ND
$24.79, $2.159/gal, 11.480 gal
335.2/91013 miles, 29.20 mpg

Burger King, $2.13

Gas: BP, Hawley, MN
$21.97, $1.999/gal, 10.991 gal
315.2/91329 miles, 28.68 mpg

Return from Mojave, Day 15

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit) to Bismarck, ND

Start: 90553 miles

River Bend Overlook, Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit), morning after storm

Sunrise after the storm. I realize that I do not know when there will be another morning like this. When will I wake up again in such a beautiful and strange place? It is sad to think of this, but I am still happy for the opportunity to be here. I am pleased that I made the journey, one which was met with curiousity by some that I met along the way.

To express this feeling better -- there is no sadness at all. I accomplished what I set out to do. I better understand my personal machinery, how it operates, where it was failing, and most importantly, how it is to be used from this point onward.

Along the way, I encountered good friends and family. This was an important step in the process of self-awareness. I like to think to myself that solitude is the only state pure enough for the process of self-examination. This is a lie, at least for myself. Experiencing the friendship of others is vital.

(For situational reference, a small herd of buffalo, perhaps 12, is crossing the Little Missouri River, their snorts and splashes audible from a mile away)

Self-awareness. Taming the beast. Understanding what lies within. Cliche, but an important waypoint on an ongoing journey. Life, and how to live it.

Understanding the landscape is one thing, but navigating is another. This is the next challenge. This trail will not require boots, but the footing is treacherous still. I'm eager to go, to apply my new experiences, and to arrive at the next waypoint with the same enthusiasm and curiousity that allowed me to venture this far.

Expenses

Gas: Conoco, Williston, ND
$12.95, $2.199/gal, 5.889 gal
182.7/90678 miles, 31.02 mpg
Coffee, $1.00

Captain Jack's Liquor Land, Bismarck, ND, $17.15

Return from Mojave, Day 14

Bismarck, ND to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND (North Unit)

Start: 90321 miles

Petrified Forest Loop Trail

There, on the grassy prairie. No signs of humans anywhere except for the intermittent trail sign. No roads. No cars. No planes. No contrails high in the sky. No powerlines. Hell, nobody.

With my current possessions -- notably, 1.5 liters of water, no food, and other odds and ends, what would survival be like in this green ocean?

Expenses

Dan's Supermarket, groceries, $6.87

Gas: BP, Bismarck, ND
$13.79, $2.179/gal, 6.328 gal
202.5/90323 miles, 32.00 mpg
Coffee, $0.63

Gas: Tesoro, Belfield, ND
$11.72, $2.099/gal, 5.585 gal
172.7/90495 miles, 30.92 mpg

Juniper Campground, $10.00

Return from Mojave, Day 10

Morrell Falls, Lolo National Forest, MT

Start: 89407 miles

With only a few more days remaining on this trip, I believe the groundwork has been laid to address some of the important questions behind this trip. Through encounters with friends and wild places I have had the opportunity to see within myself. Short story: things are good, but there is ample room to improve myself.

So -- with the waters below me rushing and the ridges beyond shrouded in mystery, I seek the thoughts rushing with my own shrouded wild.

I embarked on this three-week trip to discover both what capabilities I have for creativity and leadership and to find what was blocking their passage from idea to reality. I hoped to do this through time alone in remote, aesthetic locations on my journey home. I believe that I succeeded, but will not declare the journey a victory until I can isolate a plan for knocking down the wall.

My leadership ability draws its uniqueness, its identity, from a few things: my honest desire to work on the lowest tiers (i.e. dirt under nails, not office managing); my agility and "travelability;" my ability to keep multiple tasks going at the same time. My approach has several weaknesses: lack of confidence; worrying about bothering others with requests and followups; strong pushes in the middle of projects with weak finishes; lack of desire to be recognized.

At the onset of this trip, I was seeking a cure for my weaknesses. This was all wrong. This would have treated the symptoms but not the disease. The correct approach is this: identification and concentration. Identify the instances when my behaviors are passive and weak, demonstrative of above-listed traits. Concentrate on what the behavior should be. Do it. Not easy -- but I am capable.

Expenses

Barnes and Noble, $12.90

Gas: Exxon, Big Timber, MT
$21.75, $2.339/gal, 9.298 gal
281.7/89823 miles, 30.30 mpg
Coffee, $0.79

Gas: Cennex, Glendive, MT
$21.30, $2.269/gal, 9.389 gal
296.8/90120 miles, 31.61 mpg
Coffee, $0.75

Return from Mojave, Day 9

St. Mary Peak Trail, Bitterroot National Forest

Start: 89290 miles

It is a good day when the only sounds are the wind in the pines and the snow sprinkling on your head. With the conditions outside my little region covered in clouds, essentially invisible, it is like being isolated in a room of pine trees. With the wind and snow for company.

Expenses

Lolo National Forest map, $6.00

Barnes and Noble, 2 books, $32.95

Gas: Holiday, Missoula, MT
$20.49, $2.199/gal, 9.318 gal
295.5/89305 miles, 31.71 mpg