25 May 2009

Plowed, Argentina

When the snowplow broke down, so did I. Its vice was a fallen tree. Mine was laughter. The hilarity of trying to cycle, fully loaded, on a road buried under shin-deep snow caused me to forget desperation and buckle with chuckles. Had I considered the situation from a survivalist´s point of view rather than a humorist´s, I might have panicked. Soaked to the bone, body and gear alike from days of grinding through pounding rain threatened to sieze me in a gauntlet of hypothermia, trenchfoot, or frostbite, but the novelty of the situation kept me warm with laughs. For awhile.

Soon, the survivalist in me kicked in. Laughing wasn´t going to build a roof over my head, and camping was out of the question, given the compounded cold induced by the treacherous pattern of a hovering phase change. But with nothing open in the off-season, where was I supposed to find shelter in the middle of a national park? Neither I nor the snowplower knew, so I did the only thing I could think of: frantically run through the snow, pushing my bike in the frozen tire track until I found something. Adrenaline was on red alert.

Earlier that morning, as the tent grew a lighter shade of gray, I had no indication that the rain had turned to snow overnight because the beachside spot I had chosen was comfortably tucked underneath a giant coihue tree that filtered the solidifying precipitation, sending it splashing onto my tent. So, when I finally managed to peel myself from inside the cool, damp confines, I was surprised to find a bleached beach. Just as things were packed, the snowplow went by, so for the first few kilometers, I was able to warm myself by spinning a few hundred revolutions. But then, the damned thing ran into a tree and my wheels became a burden.

Fresh footsteps leading through a gate left slightly ajar was my ticket to salvation. There, knee deep in galoshes, hunkered by the fire under six sweaters was Miguel. Astonished to see anyone out and about, much less on a bicycle, he sprung into action, seeing my convulsive shivers. There, tucked in a clearing, deep in the forest stood a huge dining room used by the flocks of campers in the summer. He threw the doors open, cranked on the heaters, pulled a picnic table in front of one, and sat me down. There I thawed myself and my regiment. For two days.

At what point will I reach my capacity for adventure? Each thrilling episode is somehow outdone by the next, feeding itself in a self-stoking cycle. As of yet, no challenge has been too great to overcome, but when that event presents itself, what then? Every time I demand the most of myself, I emerge feeling recharged to the degree a drug addict could identify with. Is this a healthy exploration of limits or am I in need of therapy?

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