Wednesday morning, my bicycle and I are leaving town, bound for Florida and a week-long ride across the Sunshine State. Far from intelligent design, the timing is lucky coincidence. But, there couldn’t be a better day to be shut off from the world by travel, nor a finer week to be pedaling the soft shoulder of some dusty Florida backroad.
Unless, of course, all hell really does break loose Tuesday night. What if we ride into a riot? Our Daytona to Clearwater route is eerily close to the infamous I-4 corridor of Bush v. Gore lore.
But, that one small risk aside, I can’t wait to get out of Dodge.
We need a little perspective these days. With 24×7 access to anyplace and everybody in the world, you’d think perspective would be at an all-time high. We live in a time when the view of Earth from the International Space Station is only a click away. Yet, somehow, we’ve never been more dialed in on one thing – the 2016 Presidential Election — to the exclusion of everything else.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond dismayed at the prospect of President Trump. And, regardless of how it goes, certain ongoing bickering, political maneuvering, and endless recriminations leave little hope for a workable government anytime soon.
Still, the world isn’t coming to an end. It’s a matter of perspective.
Two summers ago, my wife and I joined two other couples for an 11-day Alaska vacation. After four days on land, we finished with a seven-day cruise from Whittier to Vancouver. If you need to be reminded that the drama of our personal lives, our work lives, or even our body politic is not the entire world, go to Alaska.
Before we even touched down in Fairbanks to start our adventure, my perspective was transformed. Changing planes in Minneapolis, we flew into Alaska over the Canadian Rockies and the vast, uninhabited wilderness of the Yukon Territory. For hour after hour, gazing out the window, I was awed both by the natural beauty and empty desolation passing below. Peak after peak, valley after valley, with nary a road in sight.
It was that way for most of the trip – by plane, train, river boat, helicopter, bus, and ship. Across one of Mother Nature’s richest landscapes, you could find but few small fingerprints to signify mankind’s still insignificant presence in this space.
On the cruise ship, through the inner passages of the Alaskan and Canadian shorelines, we saw eagles, elk, whales, dolphins, otters, seals, and the like – but seldom people. I’ve never felt so small and insignificant. And, man, did that feel good!
We had no internet access or live television. Early one evening, on the ship’s recorded TV, I caught a snippet of the news story that a Malaysian airliner had been shot down by a Russian missile over Ukrainian territory. It sounded faintly ominous – WWIII-type stuff. But there was no opportunity to Google more info and no connection to see the news was trending on Twitter or Facebook. So, I stepped back onto our balcony where the calm seas, emerald green shoreline, and magenta sky looked no less beautiful than before I stepped inside. Whether by ignorance or consciousness, the moment was true bliss.
We arrived home late on a Saturday, and I went back to work on Monday. My boss couldn’t wait to tell me all the painful crises she and my team endured while I was away.
“I guess you heard,” she said. “Our world blew up last week!”
I smiled – you can get away with that on the phone. I didn’t dare tell her the world did not blow up last week. I was sitting on my cruise ship balcony immersed in that awesome world all week. It was anything but blown up. It’s a wonderful world, and I quietly hoped someday she’d actually get to see it.
This year, an Alaskan cruise is a little beyond the budget. But, a bike ride across Florida is still my chance to rise above the narrow confines and artificially pressurized atmosphere of this election. It’s a moment to once again find that larger world out there. It’s perspective.
I can’t see Russia from my bike, but I can sure recall Alaska.
If you travel the backroads of central Florida next week and come across two guys on fully loaded bikes, don’t bother breaking the news to us. But, should he win, please just point me towards Canada.
That reminds me… Better pack my passport.