The Drive

We talk about drive a lot in outdoor sports—the drive to train, to get better, and to get faster in order to accomplish our often audacious mountain-related goals. It’s that drive that gets us up early on weekends when others are sleeping and sends us to the mountains to test our physical and mental limits when many of our friends are puttering in the yard, watching the game, or doing whatever else “normal people” do on the weekends.

While this drive to succeed and improve at our craft is what fuels our early morning runs, skinning laps at the local mountain, and trips to the rock gym, there is another type of drive that has become a significant part of my outdoor experience: the literal drive, in the car, to the mountains. While some of us are lucky to live in a mountain paradise, many of us—myself included—live a few hours away, and any trip to the mountains involves some serious time in the car. In fact, the car ride can often be the crux of the adventure, as there is nothing more difficult at the end of a long day, when the adrenaline has faded and overworked muscles have grown stiff, than keeping your eyes open and your focus on the road.

The time in the car can also make trips feel daunting. A few weeks ago, a friend and I felt like we made good time up and down Mount Washington’s Henderson Ridge, going from Pinkham Notch to the Summit and back to Pinkham Notch in roughly six hours. However, when you figure in the three hours in the car each way, the trip was twelve hours overall—and that’s a pretty big time commitment. It’s trips like these that leave me conflicted about my feelings on driving to and from the mountains. Often, I bemoan the amount of time spent in the car and will often pass up trips like Henderson Ridge for objectives closer to home that involve less driving time.

The car ride is an adventure obstacle and, like other barriers we encounter in our outdoor pursuits, the challenge is finding means to overcome it. When I first started backcountry skiing, I loathed the uphill, but the fresh snow and solitude I found as the result of grinding uphill led me to accept the upward movement as part of the experience. Strangely, the more backcountry skiing I did, the more I began to like going up, and at some point skiing uphill became as satisfying as skiing downhill. With that in mind, I continue to try to turn the car ride from something that I loathe into an integral part of the experience.

In today’s busy world complete with email, text, Skype, and many other ways to communicate electronically, sitting down face-to-face and having a conversation is becoming the rarity, not the norm. When many of my friends do get together to talk in person, it’s over coffee or a drink—in a bar, in a backyard, or in a coffee shop. I have begun to try to think of the car ride as a time to catch up and have those personal conversations that have become less frequent in my daily life and hard to have when separated by a rope length or trying to catch your breath while trying to keep up with your fast-moving friends. Even better, rather than just meeting for conversation, we also ultimately get to share an experience and recap it on the way home.

By thinking of the car ride in this way, the drive has become satisfying in an entirely different way than the activity, and trips have become more meaningful and enjoyable. While I would love to live at the bottom of my favorite crag or ski hill, driving is my reality, so I am working on making the most out of it, and putting another type of drive to work for me.

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