Thursday, June 01, 2006

Who is Rick Gunn? or Why you should head for the horizon

About a year ago this month, Andrea and I graduated from law school. Before starting our bar studies, we did a bicycle tour down the Pacific Coast from Eugene, Oregon to San Francisco, California. Along the way we met some interesting characters and managed to travel with various other bike tourists along the way.

Our last night before hitting San Francisco, we camped at Samuel P. Taylor State Park just outside the city in Marin. We had stopped in Olema to pick up groceries for the night and met two guys outside the grocery store who were doing an overnight tour of Marin. One of the men was Rick Gunn. Rick was riding a Haverty touring bike that his friend Matt Haverty had made for him and he was doing a "kick the tires" ride before starting on a tour that would circle the globe.

We camped with Gunn and Haverty that night and said goodbye in the morning, anxious to finish our almost 800 mile tour. We both kind of forgot about Rick and his crazy bike tour plan -- to be honest, neither of us thought he would make it beyond the U.S.

Well I emailed Rick the other day (almost a full year since we met him) and he is in Turkey after having rode across the U.S. and through Europe. Rick is calling his ride the "Wish Tour" (he is raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation). On his website, Rick says he was inspired to do the tour by his mother's death at an early age:

I spent a good portion of my youth in hospitals with my mother, who suffered from a degenerative kidney disease. As the disease progressed, she had made one last attempt to see the world by traveling to Europe.Unfortunately, when she arrived her health declined and was forced to return to the states where died shortly thereafter. I learned two powerful lessons.The first is to appreciate every moment of this incredible gift we call life, no matter what it brings.The second, to live your dreams despite your fears.Twenty years later, on July 1, 2005, after much hard work and deep personal sacrifice, my dream of seeing the world is coming true.This journey is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Carol Ann Gunn, who was taken from this world far too early.

Granted, there are no shortage of people doing life changing things, inspired by life changing events. It is a sad comment that in this world of extreme sports and media drenched super adventures, these stories of personal adventure start to feel somewhat banal.

But the reason I am writing about Rick is because of how impressive it was to meet him. He was so totally unpretentious and personable; he was on the edge of a huge adventure and you got the sense upon meeting him that he had no idea what he was getting himself into while at the same time you were infected by his faith that he would accomplish his goals. I am much more moved by Rick's adventure having met him than if I would have just heard the story.

Looking back on this year since law school, I have dona lotot of the things that I promised myself I would do. I have spent more time in the mountains, I have skied a TON, and there is still an Alaskan summer waiting out there. I am enjoying what I do but making sure I check in with myself often just to make sure I am still happy with my job and the way my life is running. That's one of the beautiful things about Rick's trip -- he saw something was missing, and he turned his life upsidedown.

Rick is still a long way from the finish with the hardest parts still ahead (his last email mentioned all kinds of troubles with visas). But he is out there doing it and I guess that is the best part: he took out a second mortgage, put his life on hold (well, or you could say he started living his life), packed his cameras and gear, and took off. Its the ultimate expression of freedom -- your entire life packed in bags and balanced on a bike. We should all be so free...

Rick's trip diary is here.


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