Still recovering from son's trip across 'loneliest road in America'
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, September 8, 2011

I just got a call from a reporter at the Deseret News; the location read as "Salt Lake City" on my caller ID.

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 environment.

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 map.



Lance on 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 Mexico.)

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 remote campground.

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 journal entry:

"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

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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