I just got a call from a reporter at the
Deseret News; the location read as "Salt Lake City" on my caller
I'm used to calls from national reporters
about Mitt Romney; but if this call had come last weekend I
would have had a heart attack — because by Sunday I was thinking
of checking the Salt Lake City newspapers online to see if a
campground had been attacked, as happened in Norway earlier this
summer; or if a lone bicyclist had disappeared in the
Nevada-Utah border wilderness.
I never worried about my son during his
rock-climbing period, even when he and a friend rock-climbed
their way across America after participating in an Outdoor
Leadership Program at Greenfield Community College.
This experience led to his early career as a
juvenile probation officer, creating a wilderness-challenge
course for at-risk kids. He was, I assumed, backed up by a
sheriff and tough Western cops in the law-and-order Nevada
I probably wouldn't have worried about this
year's plan to ride his bike across Nevada either — except that
Route 50 is called "the loneliest road in America." In the Pony
Express corridor, after the Reno suburbs, the only towns are old
mining communities marked "fewer than 100 inhabitants" on the
America's "loneliest road" in Nevada.
Click to enlarge
I know he's in shape to bike more than 400
miles; what worried me was that he was doing it alone, leaving
the California border at Lake Tahoe on Aug. 25, planning to
reach the Utah border by September. His wife and the twins would
take two days to drive across, then they'd all spend Labor Day
weekend camping at a remote campground in Great Basin National
Park, after he'd biked 10,000 feet up Wheeler Peak.
As he planned his trip, I started to do the
worry thing that I've tried to avoid most of our lives (not
counting recent concerns about the Baja vacations in drug-cartel
After I couldn't persuade him to carry a gun,
I shared my major concern: "If you're eaten by a cougar or get a
snake bite somewhere you can't reach to suck out the poison, I
can live with that. But if you are murdered by a sociopath on
the loneliest road, I'll have to find him and kill him, ruining
my golden years."
Touched by my maternal concern, Lance hummed
the sound track from a Clint Eastwood Western. Fine.
At least his father and I got regular text
messages, with photos of the fabulous lonely scenery, until
those ended Sept. 1. My daughter-in-law, who had kindly assured
me that Route 50 isn't really that lonely anymore, wasn't
answering her cellphone either. Naturally, we assumed that they
had reached a no-signal remote area. Or, they were all dead in a
Anyhow, Lance called Sunday night from home
to say he'd had a wonderful time except for someone stealing his
knapsack with his sleeping bag, tent and warm mountaintop
clothing at the end of the trip — so he couldn't camp out on
Wheeler Mountain until Mary arrived with more gear. The
10-year-old twins were excited about having explored Lehman
Caves in Great Basin, and discovering huckleberry ice cream.
Though my granddaughter attributed the trip
to "daddy's having a midlife crisis," the stated purpose was to
promote funding for mental health services. Lance and Mary are
partners in a business that specializes in substance abuse
issues involving adolescents and their families. In an interview
with the Nevada Appeal, Lance argued that "cuts to mental health
services end up costing taxpayers more in the form of
incarceration and increased medical costs."
According to the newspaper, "Crowley said he
approaches the funding question in non-ideological terms,
praising the late Nevada (Republican) Gov. Kenny Guinn for
protecting human services funding in past legislative sessions.
"'We should all take a moderate view. When
times are tough, those who need services most, the most
vulnerable parts of society, need to be protected,' he said.
'Nevada's tax structure needs more solid footing. Highway 50 is
the perfect metaphor for Nevada's unstable funding mechanisms,
once including silver mining, now gaming.'
"He argued that 'Whatever the solution, it
has to be structured in an equitable way. It can't just be a tax
on employers or the rich. All who can support the community need
to show willingness, not just blind refusal. Hopefully, all
sides can reach common ground.'"
My son put his energy where his convictions
are. Nevada is the most mountainous state in America, with 300
named peaks, several of which he biked up and down at an 8
percent grade, and with hairpins turns. Here is his final online
"Recovery. Like cycling. Can be really.
Really. Hard. But if we keep moving forward, despite headwinds
and high passes, despite tailwinds and fast downhills, we can
achieve our goals. In fact we already have. Wise man say
Recovery is not a destination, a place to get to. If you can
envision recovery, and move toward it just a little, you are
already there. If you can stay sober today ... give yourself
compassion in that space instead of criticism and self-doubt,
then in that moment, you are in recovery. You are already there.
There. Is. Here."
I'm in recovery from an overactive
imagination myself and proud for my son reaching his goal.
P.S. — Tuesday, Sept. 6: Lance just called to
tell me he wasn't eating pancakes at the nearby Carson City mall
where a gunman armed with an AK-47 killed three people today.
More photos and information on Lance's trip