1.09.2009,9:37 AM
Pieces of Terlingua

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves - in finding themselves.” – Andre Gide

The travelogue of my two weeks in the Big Bend area will not be a ‘ride report’ per se. I didn’t go there just to ride a bike. I can do that anywhere. What I did was experience the Big Bend area at a deeper level off the roads to develop a sense of place, especially the Terlingua community.

It was an adventure. Well, what is an ‘adventure’? A dictionary defines it as:

  1. An unexpected undertaking or enterprise of a hazardous, risky or questionable nature.
  2. An unusual or exciting experience.
  3. Participation in hazardous or exciting experiences.

You can go anywhere for an adventure. Any time you step out of your routine or your own little box and out into the unknown can be an adventure. Riding to the next town or state, trying different foods, making new friends, taking up a new hobby, nearly anything new or different can be an adventure. Especially traveling.

Being a traveler is an active process: searching out or being open to new experiences, new people, and new viewpoints. When you stop to immerse yourself in new places, cultures, people and surroundings, you are an adventurer. When you expect things to just happen to you, when you drive or ride through without stopping to experience, you are a tourist, a ‘sight-seer’.

One of the reasons (second to lack of time) I stopped reading ADV is the lack of heart and spirit in many of riders’ adventures. Many times the reports are about how gnarly the roads were or the number of miles peeled away in a day underneath two wheels of rubber (knobby and smooth). The chest beating and peacock feathers become weary as riders try to outdo each other. That’s not what adventuring really is.

Anywhere can be an adventure. You don’t have to ride into Mexico, Central America, Europe or to the land of Frozen North to have an adventure. Anytime you go beyond your comfort zone can be adventurous. In our contemporary city lives, try turning the cell phones off for a day. You just might have an adventure.

One reason Alaska and Mexico are so enticing, often serving as the ‘reference adventure’, is the raw and wild land. The large gaps between concrete canyons and billboards are filled by land with minimal human impact and exploitation. We are so used to everything ‘humanized’ in our surroundings that we fail to see the surface upon which we live and draw our subsistence from. In fact, such Gaps make many people uncomfortable and fearful.

Another reason travelers seek Gaps is the people that live there. Travelers want to see how the ‘Other Side’ lives. Their lives lack the complexity, pressure and man-made ‘noises’ that we are so used to: ringing cell phones, yakking people, screaming car alarms, honking horns, blinding lights, blaring signs (do this, don’t do that, buy me, sell you, go here, don‘t go there….), ticking clocks and whining voices. People in the Gaps live uncrowded and simply. Most are friendly and helpful, sharing food, water and stories. They are simple people. But that doesn’t mean their lives are easy.

Many of us living in this country, especially in cities, search for that: simplicity. Perhaps not to live, but to experience from the perimeter; the outside looking in. Sometimes it helps us shed our own complexities, reminds us what is important in our lives, and slows us down a bit to refresh our own outlooks beyond the clocks, computer monitors, TVs, phones and emails. It may even recharge your batteries.

But you can't really experience different places unless you stop to let it happen. Driving in a car you are still cushioned in your own box, looking at life on the outside as if watching a movie out the windows -safe and cozy. On a motorcycle your senses are exposed: the myriad of odors and frequent temperature changes. But if you don’t put the kickstand down and get off the bike, you are still only a sight-seer riding through. You can’t know what it is like to really be in those new surroundings or what people's lives are really like. You are limiting your adventure.

Although I have lived for several years in Maine and Oregon as one of those Gap people, my intention this trip was to experience as much as I could life in the Big Bend Gap. I wanted to meet and spend time with the locals -those of the past and now- to learn how they lived in their Gap. Although only skimming the surface these past two weeks, I met many interesting people. I saw many similarities to the small communities in Maine and Oregon where I lived and felt at ‘Home’. Real Home.

The following posts will chronicle some of these meetings and describe pieces of Terlingua that most tourists don't see. So stay tuned.

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posted by Macrobe
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