Friday, December 8, 2017

Fear Factor

The number one comment I received from people, once they learned I was driving alone around America, came in three parts. In eight weeks, I must have heard it a dozen times or more. And it was always the same:

              1 - Oh, my God!
              2 - I could never do that!
              3 - I’d be too afraid.
In hindsight, I wish I’d asked myself a few questions before embarking on my journey, starting with, “What reaction do you think you’ll get from people?” If I had, I probably would have answered that particular question with something like, “I’ve always wanted to do that, but haven’t had time.” In the end, THAT response was a distant second.

Specific reasons varied: never been out of state; can’t travel alone; don’t like to drive; aversion to heights, bridges, strangers, trains, bears, pigeons…; don’t know enough people (as in places to stay); don’t have enough money; wouldn’t know what to do if something went wrong; and so on, and yatta yatta. Ultimately, the number one thing holding people back was fear. Simple. Primal. Fear.

So much for “home of the brave,” huh?

Somewhere on Pike’s Peak, on one of the towering rock piles alongside the perilous, switchback-riddled highway to the top, I secured a foot-hold in a crevice, pulled myself up to the next tier, and thought with surprising curiosity and wonder, “Wow, this is the perfect habitat for rattlesnakes!” Only the thought didn’t materialize all at once, like it did just now when you read it. Instead, and instantly after thinking the word for, my body and mind froze. Several seconds went by before I allowed the words rattle and snake to clearly form and combine in my head. I shivered and looked around. Then, I took a deep breath, chuckled, and muttered to myself, “What a dumbass.”

Had I attempted that Pike’s Peak climb on the first leg of my drive around America, I believe my reaction would have been different. As a matter of fact, I think I might have reacted pretty much like so many others did after they learned what I was doing. When I took off from Florida on July 1, I didn’t like snakes. Still don’t, if you want to know the truth. Thing is, something happened to me in the seven weeks that led up to Denver. Somehow, I wasn’t afraid of them, anymore. Granted, I still considered myself a dumbass for climbing to the top of a cliff inhabited by – at least – rattlesnakes and mountain goats. But, after my brain did some quick figuring, the worst possible things that could (really, statistically) happen simply didn’t outweigh the rewards for besting that pile of rocks.

(by L. Barringer)
I'm that little green dot in the middle (by L. Barringer)

I have back trouble, a bad knee, weak ankle, and sinus problems. The joints in both hands are full of arthritis, I’ve got a nasty case of carpal tunnel (or some damn thing I’m busily pretending isn’t there) creeping into my left arm, and menopausal hot flashes regularly kick my ass. Most seriously, if I’m not careful with my diet, I can set off a colitis attack, and those are neither pretty nor fun. Believe me when I say: I have my share of reasons to NOT drive 15,000 miles alone. But, I saw the Grand Canyon. And Yosemite. And Yellowstone and Gettysburg and Mt. Rainier. I stood inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. Plucked an apple from a Johnny Appleseed tree! (With permission, of course.)

I also literally climbed Pike’s Peak. Sure, it was a relatively small, nearly inconsequential portion, and I can’t in good faith recommend you do it, too, given my later discovery. But, I’m totally not sorry I did it.

"the climb"
"the view"

People without guns are afraid of them. People with guns are afraid of losing them. Single people are afraid they’ll never get married. Married people are afraid of being single again. Conservatives are afraid of gays. Gays are afraid of Christians. Christians are afraid of black people. Black people are afraid of the police. And so it goes. In a nutshell, Americans play a never-ending game of avoidance and denial with pain, loss, and discomfort, all while – ironically – being simultaneously awash in pain, loss, and discomfort. Why we don’t break up with denial is a matter of debate, but what I find most disconcerting about the whole business is the possibility that we no longer have enough souls brave enough to step forward and defend our interests as a Republic comprised of UNITED states. Now, THAT is some scary shit right there.

So, what are YOU afraid of? And what are you doing about it?


The things that keep us away from the things we want are mostly within us, and our reasons (or excuses) are largely rooted in fear. Some of that fear is, of course, logical and worthy of attention. But, fear can also be a helpful motivator. For example, I had all sorts of concerns and apprehensions about my trip. Stories abound of hard to imagine consequences happening to women traveling alone. So, I brought a road atlas, a cooler, and a phone charger, and I prepared to the best of my ability for whatever contingencies might arise. At the end of the day, I chose to have faith in my instincts and skills, and I placed my fate in the hands of the road gods. The end.

Fear didn’t stop me.

Don’t let it stop you.

~ Dawn

#AmericanTrip #MLCRoadTrip © 2017 Dawn Scovill

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