Where Are Your Tires?

This past weekend I found so much beauty that it can't be summed up in one picture, or even one post. Granted, we were camping in the mountains of Montana, so there wasn't anything relentless about seeing the beauty, but we were relentless in finding it.

When we head to the hills, we like to camp near the trail heads for riding our ATVs. Montana's National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have designated hundreds of miles of trails for motorized use (most were historically used for logging and mining endeavors). Though myriad entities have bought acreage in our state, many of these trails which cross private ground were maintained for public use (as long as you stick to the trail!). This is a beauty in itself, especially for a person like me who would otherwise not be able to access these places without a motor and some wheels.

On one particularly long and arduous trail, I rode with my dad in his side-by-side (picture a cross between a golf cart and a dune buggy). This was the best seat for me as we bumped over twelve miles, round-trip, of rocky path. My father is a man of few words, and when it comes to dispensing advice, he's a practical man - he'll tell you like he sees it with a realistic perspective (no kittens and rainbows here).

As we traveled along on our journey to the top of the mountain I commented that his ATV was a bit different (as in size and width) than a regular 4-wheeler (on which I first learned to drive). I was thinking it must have been quite an adjustment in steering capabilities and choices. Rather than agreeing with my line of thought, my dad responded in much the same way as he first did when I was a ten-year old learning how to safely operate my pint-sized ATV by saying, "You just have to know where your tires are and then put them exactly where you want them."

As I thought about his statement that seemed so simple, I realized that it's a great metaphor for any long journey. There are bound to be obstacles and rough patches on your way to the top, but if you set little goals on the way, then take it step by step, you'll make it. So with this little metaphor in mind, I applied it to the rest of our ride. Understanding that all metaphors eventually break down if you push too hard, I was able to make a few more connections.

Life's journey will often bring about unexpected and spectacular surprises. About half-way along, we came across an opening in the trees as the trail switched back upon itself to continue the climb. There was a large outcropping of rock and earth that allowed for the perfect vista across the horizon. It was literally breathtaking as I struggled to keep my fear of heights under control, but it was worth it. Through a light haze, we were able to identify several distant mountain ranges, including the one we live under and can see from our back deck. Boy, if this doesn't make a person feel small in the world!

Some parts of your path will look like they lead off a cliff, but if you trust your plan, you'll keep going. As an experienced rider, I've seen this illusion a hundred times - the trail looks like it ends at the edge of a very large embankment. If I'm driving, I'll instinctively slow down and try to delay the panic by telling myself that many people have been on this road before me so it must go somewhere safe (or safe-ish) otherwise it wouldn't be on the map. Inevitably, as I near the "end," the path turns and I'm able to breath a sigh of relief.

It's a good idea to stop along the way and look for hidden beauty. Okay... I had to put this lesson in here because this is what my blog is all about - looking for beauty in everyday, ordinary situations. The picture above is a perfect example. This green, waterfall oasis could have easily been missed because it was really close to our destination (an old mining area) and our picnic lunch time. With all of that to distract us, we would only have to be looking ahead down the trail (which turned away from the hill) and we would have ridden right past.

Finally, when your goal is in sight, be careful not to rush, or you might not make it. You can see that the trail ends with a steep, rocky piece that leads down to the mining area and an old cabin. Some riders might think of the common phrase, "it's all downhill from here," and then relax and speed up. However, experienced riders know that downhill does not always mean fast and easy. If you hit these rocks going too fast, you risk losing control of your machine (helmets are always a good idea!). Take it easy as you roll into your final destination and you'll be happier for it.

As I said, seeing beauty can be easy, but the journey to find it may present a challenge. I hope you've enjoyed the first month of RL4B and I encourage you to take the challenge into your own life by knowing where your tires are and then putting them exactly where you want them.


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