One of the many good things that came out of Expedition Impossible was getting to reconnect with a number of old friends from back in the day that recognized that scrawny, tattooed redneck running around Morocco with a blind guy on TV.
Perhaps the most remarkable was hearing from my pal Mike Morgan…an instrumental person in my life. Mike and I just spent a couple days together recently and had a blast reminiscing about many of the countless situations we found ourselves in, back in the day. One event of chance though, was perhaps the most critical in who I am as a person today.
At the ripe age of 18, Mike and I were attending East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN with a number of other guys of our similar ilk. What is that ilk, you ask? Well, let’s just say that we spent a significant amount of our time that year in J. City pretending we were in some country music video…chasing the “Ws”…whiskey, weed and women.
Oh, and going to class? That was optional… at best. I followed my stellar 1st semester academic performance of a 1.2 GPA with a “is that really possible” 0.6 my 2nd semester. Needless to say, it was clear that ETSU wasn’t going to ask me back for my sophomore year.
As that underachieving end of my first year of “higher” education was coming to a close, the restlessness that I felt brewing inside was also felt by Mike Morgan, one of closest pals on “Team W”. We had discussed on many occasions the fact that we needed to get out of the south. That we needed to explore and adventure. That we needed to see what else was out there. We didn’t know what any of that meant in terms of how to execute, but our intentions were clear. We wanted to go and do something.
After a few weeks of discussion and a VERY small bit of research, Mike and I had determined that snow skiing would be the activity that would guide us to the promised land of adventure. I had been skiing since I was 13 (thanks to my parents noting my interest after a church group trip to Snowshoe when I was a wee kid). Mike had in fact been racing on a ski team in the rugged hills around Gatlinburg for almost a decade. We both loved skiing but knew that it was only a catalyst in getting us out on the edge of something we had yet to see and feel.
To that end result, we had narrowed our landing spots down to one of two places… Vermont and the northeast slopes Killington, where we would only be a day drive from the safety of our family network should we decide to tap out at any point. The other option was the vast unknown of Colorado and the clear umbilical cut that comes from moving ¾ of the country away from anyone you know. Just the thought of “goin out west” at the age of 19 to ski and explore was enough to stand the hairs up on our necks. I bet between us we had less than $500, a couple of vehicles held together with some duct tape and bailing wire and some ski gear. We weighed the pros and cons of both locations for what seemed like a fairly substantial amount of time (considering we were still very busy in our pursuit of the Ws, and clearly this was very time consuming). We were torn. Vermont vs Colorado. It seems clear now that the decision should be a no brainer… but at the time, it was tough.
Then, as all good life changing decisions do, it came down to the flip of a coin.
Heads = Vermont
Tails = Colorado
I remember it as clear as yesterday, Mike and I sitting in a fairly deserted cafeteria on a beautiful southern afternoon around 2pm (we had just woken up).
Quarter comes out. Mike flips it and I watched, somehow knowing that my future was very much wrapped up in which way the coin landed. He held his hand over it, painfully extended the delay. Both of us smiling at what would dictate at the least, a year of our life.
And there it was… tails. Colorado. Oh shit. Should we flip it again? See if we get the same answer. That’s a long way from here. Other than some guy Mike had met once from Gatlinburg, we didn’t know a soul in Colorado.
We giggled a bit and decided we had to listen to the coin flip forces that be.
A month later our cars were packed, our families were kissed and we began our drive west.
The subsequent 23 years have been eventful to say the least. Colorado is my home. Boulder is as a part of me as any place that I was raised. Clearly my career, my family and my happiness have been, in part, defined by Colorado and the proximity to these wonderful mountains and lifestyle that exists here. This venue has been instrumental in how it has sculpted me.
That quarter landed on tails for a reason. In my humble opinion, random chance doesn’t exist. We make our own paths and then we walk on them. The way we walk down these paths is entirely up to us.
Go ahead and flip a coin. Perhaps a roshambo …but I’m pretty sure that the result is not random. Hard sayin.