Sunday, July 29, 2007

In the Beginning

There it is. This simple non-descript photograph is the reason why I am about to endeavor to drive to Ushuaia, Argentina. Even at the time, August 1996, this photo didn’t mean too much to me. I was in the middle of my still standing personal driving record of 21 hours and 1400 miles in one day. I was on my way home from a summer working in Alaska. It was my first of six trips across the Alaska Highway. Even though I was coming home to Utah I figured a photo at the beginning of the famous stretch of road was an important one for the album.

My 1987 BMW 325is was the anomaly in the parking lot of motorhomes and 5th wheel RVs. There was, however, another passenger car. Something old, out of the 50s, I knew nothing about cars then. I just knew it was old. In retrospect maybe a Packard, regardless I approached the retired couple to ask if they could take my picture. With a Spanish tinged, broken-English reply they agreed. That is the photo you see here. I told them thanks and got back into my car. As I pulled out of the lot I noticed their plates were from Argentina. Although rather amazing I shrugged it off and got back on the road. I had concert tickets three days later at Park West and needed to get some miles under my belt. I never got their name. I never really spoke to them beyond common courtesy.

How could I have known that the kind old couple from Argentina would be the genesis of a dream and a decade of preparation? Two years later in the spring of 1998, I was driving near Tok, Alaska. It was late in the day, as I pulled out to pass the slow car in front of me, I recognized it as the same one from Argentina. In a manic reaction I nearly ran them off the road. After a few miles they pulled over. I asked if they remembered me and they said ‘no.’ There would be no reason for them to remember me. However since that day two years earlier I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to drive the length of the Western Hemisphere. In the two years between our chance encounters they had driven the distance twice. At that moment I decided that I would take on the same adventure before I turned 40.

Here I am at the ripe old age of 32 ready to begin my journey. Not too much has changed since this photo was taken. I’m still bald, now my nature, instead of by choice. Shaved heads are far more acceptable than they were back then. The Tevas have been replaced by Chacos but I still hate to wear socks. Shorts and Tshirts are still the preferred attire, regardless of season. I still camp at least once a month and find my greatest happiness behind the wheel.

So what has changed since then? Obviously a few more pounds around the middle. Instead of wandering from job to job I’ve been at the same company for almost 7 years. The BMW was 5 cars ago, all but one have been a Toyota 4wd. I’ve learned a lot more about how a modern vehicle works and a few hundred thousand miles of driving under my belt. That photo was taken almost 11 years ago today (my concert tix were for August 1) and it still has profound effects.

People respond to my trip with one of two different reactions, jealously or confusion. Both reactions are valid and I understand them. What most people don’t realize is that 11 years of dreaming and preparation made the decision simple for me. There is no fear, there is no hesitation. Okay there are moments of intimidation and feelings of being overwhelmed but they are fleeting. It’s not like I woke up one day in May and said I’m going to Ushuaia. I’ve been preparing, however slowly, for this for a long time. November is rapidly approaching and I have a lot to do but every task is filled with excitement and enthusiasm. I have an opportunity to fulfill a dream and I’m not going to let it pass me by.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

We are all so excited for your journey. This blog will be read at least weekly in our home (maybe more since blogs seem to be taking over a bunch of my time lately). I can't say that this was a total surprise, you seem to like adventures :) I hope that "the dream" in reality is more rewarding than you have ever imagined it to be! You're a true inspriation to those of us who need to LIVE our lives... It sounds like you will really be LIVING..... We are already talking about "Uncle Dave's Excellent Adventure" in our home! Can't wait to hear more! XOXO, Wendy (Faith, Hailey, Noah & Ammon too)