When I asked Alex Newport-Berra if he would like to contribute a mountain sport post to DolomiteSport, I had absolutely no idea I would get a story about a shopping cart. Coming from Alex I can understand his seeking enlightenment, but through a shopping cart? Well… this is his genius and exactly why I asked him to write in the first place for in addition to possessing the strongest cycling legs I have ever had the frustration of being dropped by, he also has an equally strong creative skillset in photography, writing and general thought. I truly love reading what he has to say. More of his work can be seen at his own site: Building Boats.
I Like Firewood
Endurance adventure athletes pair enlightenment with masochism. The sweet with the salty, like the peanut butter and jelly sandwich stuffed in a rucksack for a summit snack (for all my Euro friends out there who don’t give PB its proper respect and don’t even stock it in your grocery stores, replace with Nutella). A typical outing can involve riding 100+ miles on the bike while maintaining the dignity to sport shaved legs and lycra shorts with a built in crotch-cuddler. Or maybe it’s a 4 a.m. start, swapping sunbathing weather for snow, omitting the Gucci speedo for a Pata-gucci shell and the electronic chic of an avalanche transceiver.
Yet for all the salt, sweat, suffering, and sacrifice we endure, there is always the luscious, mouth watering, jaw dropping, sweet reward: a day alone in the beautiful bosom of Mother Nature, perhaps exploring new roads with new friends, or the freedom of a simple focus on body, breath and movement, hour after hour.
It was on a winter afternoon when I found myself with the familiar taste of salt in my mouth, pushing an empty grocery cart, miles from its linoleum floored home, towards the local mountain. The previous week, at the end of a long road ride, an abandoned pile of firewood rounds in the ditch got my attention. What got my attention even more was noticing later the crumbs of bark that were the meager remains of Old Man Winter feasting on my firewood pile.
The intention to train for a specific race or adventure eases the lactic acid burn, and I have plenty more on my list of “things-to-do”. Justifying my idea of a shopping cart turned firewood hauler seemed perfectly logical and resourceful, and a good bit of cross-training. People whizzing by in their cars were obviously the “Gold’s Gym” type. Their confused faces blurred by as I loaded the cart to the brim, three miles from the nearest shopping center.
The trip back to my woodshed was mostly downhill, fortunately, since the wood was still pretty green, making for a heavy load. The welds of the shopping cart squeaked and moaned, my hair and smile flew crazy with the wind. Eventually I arrived victorious, bogging down the small wheels in the loose gravel driveway.
I unloaded and started savoring the sweet: winter fuel free of charge, bombing the last mile down smooth asphalt to return the cart, putting the cart back in the parking lot corral and imagining the story it was about to tell to all its metallic friends who were forced to spend the day under fluorescent lights and bar codes, a resourceful use of my body, sweet warmth to share with friends, food, and stories past and stories to be. And a moment, when, a few weeks later, at the end of a day of mountain biking, I stand in the middle of my driveway, wielding the noble mountain man phallic known as a “splitting-maul”, taking a deep inhale between focused, zen-like chops, to observe the mountains’ rugged silhouette standing in front of a golden ember sunset glow.
Don’t tell Igor Tavella, but I’m preparing for a Despar shopping cart assault on Dolomite switchbacks. Those Sud-Tirol folk are keen firewood stackers, and I imagine come summer there will be huts on the Sella ring in need of a few cords.
Feeding the beast, stoking the fire, fueling the flame, each adventure keeps the flame strong for the next. The mountains have taught me many lessons, one of the most powerful being the truth of balance. So with this, fellow bikers, hikers, skiers, and more, yodel loud and rejoice! Whether it’s a wintry trip to the market or a full-on alpine escapade, the saltier your adventure, the more sweet the reward.