On the Road: Trial by Trial

May 5, 2014

Batopolis – Durango

Under the Mexican Sky
Under the Mexican Sky
Credit Skippy Mesirow

I barrel down the highway at 110. The music in my ear buds is screaming, the bass heavy, and my eyes laser-focused on the horizon. To my right, the sun sets over the mountains. Wispy cotton candy skies of orange, pink and purple beam out from the layered blue-green mountains and permeate the heavens. But I don’t have time for that.

I’m racing the sun to try to get to my new destination before nightfall. I’m 30km from Durango and the Sun’s almost set. The blood courses through my veins, my face is static, menacing, it feels like I’m racing god. As I approach the car in front of me, he fails to move over, I have to slow, he moves. As I pass I extend my leg out landing a Jet Li style kick just 2 feet from the blue mico-cab’s rear door.  It’s in jest yet helps to relieve tension. Whoa! I just miss the carcass of a dead goat, need to focus. The light is almost gone and once it is I will have to drop my speed to 50, perhaps 40.  I don’t have the patients for that, not now.

Rough road
Rough road
Credit Skippy Mesirow

I rose at 5:30, pitch black outside. On the road by 6. I am immediately confronted by a fork in the road, no signs, no maps, and no service. I choose. I drive up; it’s a rocky dirt road up the canyon wall. There are no people, no signs of life, the definition of desolate… yet, eerie. This is still Copper Canyon. I find myself in a burnt out pit that serves as the town dump surrounded by barley-perturbed cows, curious. Back down. Two more wrong turns, a crash in a riverbed. Lost in drug country, the beating sun. I get Kuzko stuck in river rock and two foot deep sand; it takes an hour and a half of blood, sweat and toil to free him. Exasperated and with time waning I backtrack, a full 320km, braving construction sites, blast zones and active landslides. Once I hit highway my GoPro flies off my bike smashing the car behind me. Ironically now I am the foreign non-native-speaker trying to explain I have insurance. I run out of gas, outrun the Federales, and then drive an additional 13 hours to get to a town 200miles shy of where I originally intended. It’s been a long day.

Yet, as I careen down the highway, though my brow is heavy, my expression piercing and my muscles tense, inside- in my gut, I’m grinning from ear to ear.

The view of the road ahead.
The view of the road ahead.
Credit Skippy Mesirow

These are the moments that make you. I know, one day in my not too distant future I will sit in a board meeting, or an investor pitch, or a strategy session. Someone will question how I intend to find the time to do X, or have the fortitude to accomplish Y or the resilience to make it through Z. I’ll smile; give a polite response, something about finding synergies in backward overflow through vertical integration to drive upward market capitalization (that’s a business joke for all not paying attention). But inside the story will be different, filled with calm and a quiet confidence. I’ll smile not naively, not curtly or dismissively of the task.  But rather I’ll smile form the assurance that comes from knowing I’ve overcome much more, dealt with much worse. It is in these experiences and triumphs that I build the emotional fortitude to do what needs to be done. To climb whatever, come what may.

I’ll remember the time I was stranded in a snow storm on top of the world’s highest road, the Kashmiri Military trying to kick me and my motorcycle out as the temperature plummeted. I’ll remember having stones and flaming tires thrown and rolled at us as out bus attempted to escape the West Bank on the Nakba. I’ll remember falling down a manhole at 2am in a bad neighborhood in Panama City, alone. I’ll remember backing my car into the militarized boarder fence between Israel and Lebanon just days after a deadly clash. I’ll remember being in Egypt during the revolution. I’ll remember being stuck on a tuk-tuk in Thailand trying to talk down a crazed Saudi bent on finding drugs and hookers in a country where the penalty can be death. I’ll remember gingerly stepping around a field trying to avoid the plethora of active land mine in Laos. I’ll remember the tears in people’s eyes in North Korea as we drove to the DMV. I’ll remember running down the hall and locking the cabin door as giant, drunk, violent Russian men chase in hot pursuit on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I’ll remember trying to dissect the dark Haitian streets and alleys of Port-Au-Prince trying to locate a missing friend, totally exposed. And, I’ll remember today.

Fellow travelers
Fellow travelers
Credit Skippy Mesirow

And when I remember, I’ll look up, smile broadly, confidently, and my team will see that confidence, and they will feel it as well. They won’t know where it comes from, but they will know that it’s genuine. That it comes from a place of depth and understanding and truth. And together, we will accomplish great things.

Today was a long day. Today was a good day. 

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Skippy Mesirow is Chair Next Generation Advisory Commission Aspen, CEO Real World Reporting, AVSC Big Mountain Coach, Enthusiastic Community Member and Friend.