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When I was a girl, I saved up all my money to buy a beach cruiser. Shiniest of blues, coaster brake, cushy grips. She and I labored up massive

hills, bombed down steep pitches, plowed into the desert brush looking for jumps that would help confirm we were more than alive--that we were indestructible. In the afternoons, the wind always picked up in our desert town, pushing me in all directions, my eyes and nose filled with grit; lungs and heart wondering if I'd ever make it to my destinations. Seemingly impossible, but somehow I always made it, grinding the gravel and earth below me.

That sound. That crunch of rubber rolling over the earth. I've been hearing that sound a lot wakes me in the middle of the night, which is why I'm writing at 1 am on a Saturday morning to see if I can't shake the sound free. Last month during the Steens Mazama 1000, I got myself into a little trouble. Four words: Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge. In between the magic that is the Steens Mountain and Crater Lake, there's a place filled with washboard gravel and sage brush who only know how to be muted hues of brown and drab green. Not even birds flutter over the landscape--I suspect they proclaimed it a lost cause long ago. This was the place my neck decided it no longer wanted to support my head (my neck was fed up with me and my insistence to wear a hydration pack--the muscles gave in to fatigue and my head began to droop uncontrollably). Bottom-line: I couldn't ride my bike through the washboard. So I got off and began to push. Just me and my thoughts and the desert for miles and miles and miles.

As I pushed forward, the wide open desert sky began to shrink. My water was gone. No cell connectivity. The hot air closed in on me. Left with my thoughts--all of the disappointments, the deep sorrow, the conflicts I have not been able to resolve. The bike--the vehicle I use to exhaust myself--to outrun the things I don't want to face or to seek resolution and freedom--was inaccessible. I was truly on my own.

And there I was. With the stories we tell ourselves--true and otherwise. I had to simply hear them all out--the stories that reside deep inside me. There was no running away.

And there I was with the deepest craving to live; to feel; to see everything. More than the usual craving. A deep, guttural call to action type of craving.

In time, volunteers from the Antelope Refuge found me and provided much needed water. Tom from Tall Town Bikes in Lakeview had been watching my dot and realized something was not quite right and called the refuge, insisting that they check on me. (Tom, you are incredible). I refused a ride as it would disqualify me from the race and kept moving forward. Eventually I was reunited with my friend, Lee, who had very patiently been waiting for me. My guard down, I crumbled into him and began to cry...for all the stories we tell, true and otherwise...for all that we can see and love and hold close.

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