Forest gumption – Introduction

I had this vague memory of a man sitting on a park bench. He was good at ping-pong and running. There was another vague image in my mind of him running through Monument Valley or somewhere similar. I also remembered that he turned out to be influential in history somehow, and he ended up buying a shrimp boat.

But in 2010, those were really my only memories of the movie Forrest Gump . The movie came out in 1994. I think I saw it in 1995. Once. In the intervening 15 years, many things had happened in my life and the finer details of that movie had been lost.

However, many people seemed to remember that Forrest Gump went for a very long run in that movie. And many people seemed to think that my upcoming 2010 bike tour from Indiana to Colorado was a lot like Forrest Gump going for a run. Quite a few people made such comments. Not really remembering the movie all that much, I just sorta thought, “Okay. Whatever.”

Angst-ridden, teenage Em and her bike, Lil’ Demon, a couple years before the movie “Forrest Gump” was released. No Forrest Gump here. This bike got a huge makeover not long after this and I upgraded the rims and a bunch of components. It was my transition to ‘serious biker’.
On the road in Illinois in 2010. Do I remind you of Forrest Gump?

Fast forward to 2013. That summer I went for a much longer tour than my 2010 ride. Again, I got the “you remind me of Forrest Gump when he went running across America” comments. I still thought, “Okay. Whatever.”

But lo and behold, one night in Casper, Wyoming, in the midst of my 2013 tour, I stayed in a motel. On TV that night, at a touring cyclist-friendly viewing time, was Forrest Gump . The motel had popcorn in the afternoons for incoming guests. I trundled up the stairs, got a couple bags, and then flopped down on the bed in my room ready to finally make some sense of all those Forrest Gump comments.

I enjoyed the movie. I’d forgotten it was a tear-jerker and had cutting-edge special effects for the time. But when Forrest Gump went for that run? It was so disappointing. Forrest had a whole lot on his mind. He’d had a lot of bad things happen in his life. He was basically running from his problems. He even says, at the end of the scene, something like, “Mama said you have to put the past behind you before you can move on. I think that was what my running was about.”

Maybe most people just remembered the scenes of him running through iconic American landscapes and that is what reminded them of my ride. But maybe, just maybe, when people had been making all of those comments, they were thinking my rides were an attempt to escape from my problems and the reality of life.

I began to wonder if I had misread the magnitude and nature of the comments that people had been making over the years. I never felt like I was riding from problems. I wasn’t trying to escape reality. I just really, really loved riding bicycles. I loved travelling. Combining those two seemed like a great way to spend my free time between study and work commitments and between job contracts. I certainly felt my motivations for riding were different to Forrest’s. I felt the same way in 2014 when I did another long-ish tour.

On tour 2013 – the 18th mountain pass of that trip. Do I remind you of Forrest Gump here?

Fast forward to July 2015. The rumbles of significant change were reaching my life like soundwaves from a storm on the horizon. It was obvious that big things were coming but not so soon that I could immediately duck for cover or have an idea of what to put in a disaster plan. Oh no, this was the kind of major change that you get to fret and worry about for a few years before you can take any action.

And so fret and worry and cry and whimper and despair I did for a few weeks. I still do on occasion. I only work part-time (full-time work is very hard to come by where I live). This means I have four-day weekends. It gives me plenty of time to fret and worry.

Yet, when I’m on the bike I don’t fret and worry. I just ride. It is one of the reasons my 10-year-old bike got the name ‘The Wizard’ so long ago: it magically transports me from hell to happiness any time I go pedal.

So I’ve been going for lots of overnight rides every weekend for the past few months. I’ve done more than 1,000 miles of pedaling on overnight rides in that time. For the first time, I feel a little bit like Forrest Gump. I enjoy the rides because I just love the bike, but I also ride to forget… at least temporarily.

Feeling more like Forrest Gump now. Overnight ride in Northeast Victoria – November 2015.

Now fast-forward to December 2015. I am forced to take some time off work over the Christmas holidays when the office shuts down. It scares me to have so much idle time to fret and worry. So I’ve loosely planned a tour that will take me further from home than I can manage on a weekend ride. I plan to ride up into the alpine ash and snow gum forests for a teeny bit.

Even though I’ve built some fitness through my weekend rides, I’m not sure if I really have the fitness to do a couple of the bigger climbs. However, a couple weekends ago, I met some cyclists on the road who thought I was a pretty tough chick for going out touring every weekend on my own along backroads out of mobile phone range. One cyclist guy said, “I don’t care if you say you aren’t tough, what you are doing takes a hell of a lot of gumption.”

Well, given my present fitness and rock bottom iron levels, it is going to take a whole lot of gumption to get up into those forests . And for the first time ever, I’ll be doing a Forrest Gump. At least for a week or so.

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