Ask Plenty of Yourself
This isnít another story about the Pacific Crest Trail and how it greatly impacted my life through wandering alone in the woods to obtain deep reflection. My personal discovery and understanding of my path in this life came at 10:05 p.m. on February 3rd, 2014 when my father passed away, setting in motion a project that would consume the next two years of my life. I wanted to honour the man that laid the foundation of my life, through the pain of his own. This led to my greater understanding of this truth in the days, months, and years to come. And this is the story.
Not really knowing with what, or how I was going to accomplish, or even achieve my grand goal of riding from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail. I quit my job as a winemaker and farmer where I was making more money than I had ever had in my entire life. At the peak of my ten years of growing grapes organically, observing the season and living within them, and making wine out of what Nature and I had created in union. I set forth to honour him, and to possibly have the conversation to whoever would listen, in the hopes to grow the community of people in this world that know of Ataxia, to tell them about what I have come to call ĎThe Thiefí. Because every day that passed after dadís death was a new day that I was alive and he wasnít with me or us anymore.
By keeping my eyes fixed on what and how I thought this journey was going to play out, I began to understand the importance of keeping a focus on the peripherals, so as to not miss the quiet voice of the universe thatís directing us all on our paths.
I first began to tune into this voice the night that my dad passed away. And over the next two years I would come to have a greater understanding of the truth, as I see it, that came to me on that night.
A great friend once said to me ďAsk plenty of yourself and from life. Not many people do that. Itís easy to forget that for a short time we are clinging to a piece of rock hurtling through spaceÖ.we have to grab hold of this precious time and enjoy it.Ē
In the end, when Ataxia took a stronger hold on dad, he lost the ability to speak. I believe if he had been able to talk in his last days, he would have spoken those very words. But instead when he passed away, his words became the stars. They became a constellation that I would forever relate to, one that tells a story of knowledge, love, balance, and obtaining what you want no matter how hard you have to work at it, no matter the cost or struggle.
The people that know me best would agree when I say that as I grew up I was as a bit of a black sheep in my family and Iím still a bit that way today. But there was something that dad and I shared. No matter how much we fought over the little stupid stuff that was in our everyday home life, when we would venture out into the wild, there was never a fight. We were at our happiest out there. Me learning from my dad, and he; teaching his youngest son all the things that his dad had taught him but never got a chance to teach me or my brothers.
Because just like my dad, his father was taken by Ataxia too and his life was robbed of so many to the desires and dreams he wished to have with his grandkids. So, when I turned 13, dad didnít want to miss a moment of that journey. The weight of the possibility of what could come is as much of a driving force in my life today as it is Iím sure for my brothers. So, before there was a hash tag for it developed by someone that was far cleverer than he was, or I will ever be, my dad and I opted for outside, and he gave me memories that I will never forget.
Then Ataxia came knocking on my fatherís door. Like an annoying neighbour, it was coming in no matter what. Little by little it took him. First it robbed him of the ability to walk. But that didnít stop him from being able to hold his grandkids in his lap. And when it finally took his voice, it didnít stand a chance in hell to take his smile. It can take every part of you that allows you to move freely through this world, but it can never take your mind. And thatís the real bitch of it all. You become a prisoner in your own body until it is time to finally just let go, and let others go on without you in the physical form.
On the day that my dad passed away, we all gathered around. I believe we all knew that this was it. This was the end of his days with us in this place. One by one people came to join us, and one by one they left, until it was just me and dad. When the hour became late and I knew it was time for me to go, I read him one last passage from my journal, kissed him goodbye, and walked out the door knowing that I would never see him alive again.
Sitting at home under the roof of stars on my porch I found myself that night staring up at the constellation Orion. My mom had the urge to go back to the hospice house to sit by dadís bed side one last time. With a voice only a wife and mother can utter, she told my dad to just go. Let us go and for him to be free. To end the 18 years of struggle, pain, and anger. It was at that moment when a shooting star shot from Orionís bow towards the Pleiades. This was the moment I knew that dad had finished writing his story. I knew then that dad had passed. That he had left this world and his body. He finally got his freedom.
Momentís later mom called to tell me what I had already known. That Dad was standing tall in his freedom as the Great Hunter in the sky.
The days after my dadís death I was hit with a wave over and over again to leave, to selfishly go walk about with my horse, solo. To live by my dadís motto, ďLive to ride and ride to liveĒ. And as I sat down and began to look at the maps, my dadís voice was constantly there, reminding me that whatever I do, he will honour my choice, just as long as itís with a purpose. I looked to my quarter horse Trey. However young in heart he might be, he wasnít young in body. At the age of 19, Trey was getting on in years. We had travelled far and long through the Cascade Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Range in our ten years together. But I feared that Trey couldnít make a trip like the one I was proposing to take.
Not knowing exactly what to do, I headed south to a friendís house in Susanville, California for a visit to escape from the pressures I was feeling. While there, my friend took me to see the mustangs at the Bureau of Land Management holding facility.
There I saw hundreds of mustangs that had recently been rounded up by the BLM. These horses needed to find a new home, to be off the open range because of the Wild Horse and Burro Act which was set in place to manage the population in order to preserve this part of our American history.
|Much like my dad, these horses were once wild. But now they were trapped in this cage that was out of their control. It didnít take more than a few minutes to see that my answer was standing there in front of me.|
I had never in my entire life taken a wild horse that had never been touched by man. But I wanted to be the guiding hand as we went from Wild to Willing, because in doing so I would be setting them free.
However scary it might be, it is important to listen to the rhythms of this world for your guiding direction and to follow your own path. When you slow down, shut up, and listen, you begin to see. Youíll notice the little nuances that are right in front of you, in front of us all.
|When we travel through this world faster than three miles per hour we pass these by. When weíre looking down at our phones which have taken up so much of our lives, or are so consumed with the vision of our own grand goals we miss these things.|
April 10th, 2017, I left the town of Campo, California on the border of Mexico and the United States. Leaving behind any concerns of what the mustangs and I had not learned about each other during our training together, for the discovery of what we will learn on the trail. Leaving behind the emotional pain of a failing relationship with my girlfriend at the time, for the healing that only a simple compass reading can give. The doubts in my mind, for the human experience that lay before me in the people I will meet along the way. At the time, I didnít understand what the expression ď3 Miles Per HourĒ meant, but 517 miles into my ride, I had gained a clear vision of its meaning.
After waking on the morning of the 6th of May to rain, sleet, and blustering wind storm I was thankful for the picnic shelter I had made camp in the night before. I decided to change my route and not go up in elevation and climb over the mountain in front of me as I had planned, but to stay low, and ride along the roads at its base in the hopes to find shelter from the wind by using the mountain itself.
|With the wind at my back for a short while that morning I eventually turned around the base of the mountain and found myself on the leeward side, with the new direction the skies began to clear and I was able to relax my shoulders, sit up straight in my saddle and feel as if I have to no longer shelter myself from the storm.|
In awe of the sweet smell that only comes after a fresh rain I looked down at my feet to look at the wet ground we were traveling on. There looking right back at me was a tarot card, face up. I thought for a moment that maybe I should leave it where it is as I donít know what this card means. But a greater thought of curiosity told me I should pick this card up and take it with me. Not to pass it by in my rush to get to the next town some fifteen miles away where there was a promise of shelter that I could dry off in. What I learned about the card in the days to come still gives me chills, even as I speak about it now.
|The card is called The Knight of Cups. Pictured on it is a knight, riding a white horse, with a cup out-reached as if he is a messenger of some type and is wearing a cloak covered with the images of fish, the symbol of the sprit, consciousness, and creativity.|
His helmet and feet are winged, a symbol of an active and creative imagination. This knight looks to his emotions to provide a map for his life direction. He represents someone who is ruled by his heart rather than his head when faced with a decision. The Knight will always go with what his heart tells him, whether it is logical or not. Decisions will be made without much thought and instead they are made drawing upon inner direction; with the experience of warmth, friendliness, love and the need to share these qualities with everyone. This card was and is me. It was the confirmation I needed and found.
Iím not telling you or anyone to hike or ride the Pacific Crest Trail because you will discover some greater understanding of the world. I can only say that we all need to have a journey, a journey that is as old as time itself. But the world we live in today has captured our attention and imagination. We are told we have to want more than we need, that the journey isnít how far youíve gone, but itís how much you have.
The truth I have found is simply that you wonít understand anything until youíve returned to the place that you started. Only then will you truly understand where you are going. Donít go looking for the answers to what you think will heal you. Follow the path we are all on and if you give it the time and space, you will see it. There is a Thief in us all, but more importantly, there is The Wild In Us. So donít let it steal your life.
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