I was riding my bike across the desert, heading for Beal Well. I had made the trip to the well several times. I had to climb 10 miles up an alluvial plane, trying to stay on top of the thin crust caused by flash flooding. The trip up was always kind of a grind, gradually gaining altitude the entire way. I have come up with many a good idea while slogging up this stretch.
Anyway, about half way up I heard the roar of some jets, and looked up to see two black fly specks coming at me from the north, growing in size.
Just as they we’re above they dipped a wing and made a hard left turn, the sound of their engines doubling as they flew directly away from me. One more hard left and they had completed their u – turn and quickly disappeared. As I watched them turn back into fly specks I said to myself, “God that must be a lot of fun!” Then, for some weird reason I was struck with sorrow. I gasped at a breath as tears rolled down my cheeks. Why was I so sad?
After searching through my thoughts I mouthed this sentence, “That is just one of many things I am going to miss out on in this lifetime. I will never experience flying a jet plane.” Then I began to think of other things I would never get to do. I will never play professional baseball, as was my constant dream as a kid. I will never win the Indianapolis 500 … another childhood dream The NBA? Forget that. I thought of a few more but can’t remember what they were.
So, here I was in the middle of the desert, grinding up the gradual incline of a desert wash, with tears in my eyes. I, of course, was feeling sorry for myself. Left out. Feeling indignant. I should be able to do everything I want to do in this lifetime, especially something as exciting as flying 400 mph in a jet just a few hundred feet off the ground and feeling the g-forces as I catapult out of a power turn. Why do those guys get to do it? Why not me?
As I pedaled around trees, cacti, and patches of soft sand my mind wandered. I forgot about the military jets and all the things I would like to do, and after another couple miles I reached Beal Well.
I took yet another photo of the windmill (I have several in my Dropbox files), gulped a couple swallows of Skratch, and headed down the canyon parallel to the one I came up.
Just after starting down I found I had a smile across my face. Sure, it had taken 10 miles of grinding to get up to Beal Well, but now I had 10 miles of downhill waiting for me!
As I zinged down a dry wash, dodging ocotillos and chollas, and ducking just inches under the thorny branches of the mesquite trees, I thought about the jet pilots. How did traveling at 400 mph feel at 100 feet off the ground? Was it as exciting as weaving between the deadly cacti at 25 mph wearing just a light weight jersey, thin shorts, and ankle high socks? Could those pilots even see the ground? Did they have to make decisions as fast as I had to … tree in front … cactus on right … patch of deep sand up ahead to the left … boulders beyond the sand … Did they feel the absolute glee I had been feeling? More excitement?
I felt my heart pounding in my chest when I stopped for a breather, and slowly realized my mind was shifting. I was no longer feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling lucky. Sure, maybe riding a mountain bike down a desert wash was probably not as exhilarating as flying the jet, but damn, it was still a lot of fun!
I know people who have made bucket lists. I have not. There would just be too many things to put on a list. As long as I am riding on the edge, feeling an occasional adrenaline rush, and can experience a few more sunsets like the one above, I will be happy.
But then the jets came around for another run!