February 11, 2014
The Oxford Dictionary defines exploration as “the action of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it.” Just this last week I was reading through a special edition of National Geographic called "125 Years of Great Explorations: Adventures and Discoveries that Changed the World." It made me ask myself what the greatest explorations of my lifetime have been. The magazine poses the question in this way: “Why explore? What drives us to push the boundaries of what’s known?” The answer: “It’s often a combination of daring, curiosity, and sizable ego.” Indeed, I have found this to be true in my own life — mainly large doses of daring and curiosity, but ego can certainly keep you alive and afloat in a pinch.
So I’m reading on and I’m still wondering, "what has been the greatest exploration of my lifetime?" There have been several outstanding voyages that both challenged and humbled me, but the one that rises to the top as the greatest ever is an 18-day whitewater raft trip down the Grand Canyon via the majestic and mighty Colorado River. Memories from that trip continue to inspire me and fill me with courage and curiosity daily. In July 2001, my husband and I learned that our good friends Max and Julie, after waiting 11 long years, had been chosen by lottery and granted a private permit to raft down the Colorado with 13 other willing and adventurous souls. When Max and Julie called to invite us down the river, I knew this just might be greatest exploration of my life. With a mixture of fear of the unknown and an unbearable excitement to learn more and prepare, it was time for some serious research and planning. It wouldn’t be long before we would be off floating 250 miles for 18 days with no electricity, no ice, no cell phones, and no escape vehicle — just our giant coolers, our rafts, oars, our wits, and the combined ingenuity and craziness of our unique and adventurous group.
I kept a journal during the 18-day trip documenting my own trials and tribulations, while in awe of the natural beauty and grandeur of the Colorado River — it was an incredible journey. Looking back, here are a few of my three very best memories of this wild, beautiful, magical trip:
#3: The Stone Garden at Saddle Canyon — frolicking with my adult friends acting like kids (this is not a garden at all, but a set of caverns that you climb up and down through, with each level dropping about 10 feet to the next.)
#2: Living through the monstrous waves at Lava Falls on the second-to-last day, feeling quite sure that it really might be my last day.
#1: Flipping our raft at Bedrock Rapids, getting sucked under with the force of the river for a full-throttle, breathless, underwater toboggan ride, only to pop up and find that my husband was still trapped under the boat the whole time and still hadn’t come up for air. He was saved at the last second by our friends who rescued him expertly via their kayaks. Thinking back on it now, it all still takes my breath away.
So as a bicycle tourist, you might be asking yourself, what does this “greatest ever” rafting exploration have to do with my bicycle touring adventures? While you and I might not be among the ranks of the greatest explorers the world has ever known, what drives many of us to keep adventuring day in and day out, from bicycle tour to bicycle tour, from one trek and hiking trip to the next, is the lure to meet up with the unexpected and to embrace the thrill and the challenge of getting out there. We yearn to seek out the unknown, to try the unimaginable, to go where we have not gone before, and to do it with others that love the same. For many of us, it’s not so much about the vehicle by which we travel (although we do highly recommend bicycle touring first and foremost) — it’s more important that you get yourself out there. So with your next exploration in mind, here are my Adventure Cycling bicycle tour picks to get you out there in 2014. Go for it!
Post by Darrah Rogers
Top photo by Otto Mileti | Middle photo of Danforth Rogers and Otto Mileti; courtesy of Otto Mileti | Bottom photo by Otto Mileti
ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team — Lydia, Darrah, Mike, Mandy, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, covering all things related to the Adventure Cycling tours department. Check out our 2014 Guided Tours today!