5,000 Miles To Now: Staying Present Amid Epic Adventure

‘Each morning our bike seats are covered in ash, our lungs scorched and raw from breathing burned air.’

Packing It Out Montana Trees and Smoke

5,000 miles is a long way on a bike. Now, our end goal of Seattle is in sight. But for the moment I am sitting in Missoula — hot, dry, and surrounded by forest fires. I couldn’t feel farther from the lush reaches of Washington state.

We’re in the heart of the Rockies still, in the heated, wildfire-choked end of a summer I’ll never forget. Smoke layers the mountains and obscures the trees.

Would-be blue skies are overcast with plumes. And each morning we ride west, into the haze, toward a foggy goal far beyond.

Right Here, Right Now

As different as this place is from the rest of our journey, it would be too easy to look past and at the nearing finish. Reflecting on the last five months, I’m struck by how much lay ahead and how important this place, right now, is to the adventure.

Packing It Out Montana Rock

Days ago someone asked if I felt the end was in sight. I struggled to answer. In some ways, yes. I’ve been making arrangements for after the trip — attending weddings, visiting with family, purchasing a ticket to get back home.

In other ways, the end is not in sight. I’m not sure it will be until I’m over Steven’s Pass; until we’re on that long coast down to sea level; until I’ve thanked the last people for coming to our presentations; until I dismantle my bike and put it in a box marked for Georgia.

To be honest, I’m trying to keep it that way. The hardest thing on a long trip is the mental game. I’m trying to stay present and savor things exactly as they are right now — not spending the day dreaming about what is to come.

Once we think about the future, we lose the present. Over the length of this trip, I’m aware of the exchange made when we try to pinpoint or collect memories.

Packing It Out Montana Seth

When we capture an experience, we give up some of the moment. I can’t claim immunity to this. Before this trip on so many levels I suffered from FOMO (fear of missing out). Who doesn’t at times?

I catch myself steeping in these feelings of “what if” or “what next.” I then try and take a step back, consciously listing the things I appreciate about the journey I am on right now.

Miles (And Pounds) To Go

It’s been over 4,000 miles traveled so far. My legs have grown freckled, muscled. We have removed trash at dozens of stops, and met amazing people along the way.

The kindness given to us all across the country is the same kindness I’m enjoying now as I sip coffee our host made for us in Montana as I write.

We will arrive in Seattle, Wash., in two weeks if all goes as planned. My bicycle trip might almost be over, but my legs have to carry me another 500 miles. I have more state lines to cross and people to meet. There is more trash in beautiful places for me to clean up. I am sure my lungs have more laughs to give, and my eyes have tears to fail at holding back.

In two weeks, I’ll be in Seattle, but right now, I am in Missoula. I intend to keep my sight limited to my current view.

Packing It Out Montana Mountains

I’ll leave with some wise words from Margaret Storm Jameson. I try to remember these and live by them at home and when on the move.

“I believe only one person in a thousand knows the trick of really living in the present. Most of us spend 59 minutes an hour living in the past, with regret for lost joys or shame for things badly done (both utterly useless and weakening) or in a future which we either long for or dread. There is only one minute in which you are alive: this minute, here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable minute, which is exactly what it is — a miracle and unrepeatable.”


– Our 2017 ‘Packing It Out’ coverage is sponsored by REICheck out the crew’s 2015 and 2016 efforts on our ‘Packing It Out’ page. Connect with Abby and Seth on InstagramTwitter, and their blog.

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