Written by Alex Showerman
“Oops” was the first word out of my mouth, as the dust settled and the side by side I was driving came to a rest on its side in the remote desert of Utah.
We were off in the middle of nowhere Utah, scouting some freeride lines, in a little known area. It was a hell of a fun adventure, but the quiet remoteness soon triggered a wave of anxiety due to our predicament.
My first thought was worrying about Emily, the badass adventure photographer who was buckled into the seat, now above my head. Then I noticed oil dripping from the steering column, wondering if it would still be drivable. Then the question became ‘how the heck are we going to get this thing right side up?’ Ultimately it came down to, if we can’t get it right side up or it isn’t drivable, how are we going to get out of this remote desert back to our trucks?
While I was processing my anxiety (AKA freaking out), Emily stayed calm and served as a grounding presence. We took stock of the situation.
1. We have our bikes so we can at least pedal back to our trucks since we were still within pedaling distance.
2. The cooler has plenty of water, and snacks so we can stock up and hydrate beforehand.
3. We had a little bit of service so we could try to call the rental company.
As we started drafting our plan of action, a couple of friendly dirt bikers swung over to check in and see if we needed help. Not going to lie - as a queer woman, I was a little nervous, but they seemed nice enough. So we huddled up and examined our options.
We determined that with four of us, we could likely get it on all four wheels again. The side by side was surprisingly light and we were able to get it on it’s side with ease. Success! We’ll be out of here in no time.
Then we discovered the front tire had come off the bead. Crap. And for some reason, the side by side didn’t have a spare. Double crap. With no spare, it meant we weren’t driving this thing out, so our new dirt bike friends offered to give us a ride back to our trucks, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, having always wanted to try riding one!
Once back at the trucks, we were able to get in touch with the rental company, drive our Tacomas most of the way out to our crash site, recover our gear and show them where the side by side was for recovery. Turns out “we did a good job, and laid her down gently.” They gave us the all clear and we were on our way to explore, this time by bike, foot and pick-up truck on BLM roads.
While I had a mild freak out immediately following the crash, both Emily and I were chatting at camp that night about what a fun adventure that it wound up being; how it just added an element of fun and adventure to an already incredible weekend in the desert.
It got me reflecting on the past couple of years, and how I have gotten so much more comfortable with the idea of things going wrong, and how it has unlocked my full potential as an athlete, an adventurer and a person.
Prior to 2019, I would describe myself as paralyzed by fear. I tried to live life perfectly - I had the perfect house, the perfect job, I had never broken a bone; I wouldn’t do anything unless I knew it would go perfectly. It was so bad, I would rather walk out with a flat tire than try fixing it trail side, as I was worried I wouldn’t do it right.
While I was living that perfect life, I had all of these dream adventures planned out in my head. I wanted to road trip across the country, ride new trails and sleep out of the back of my truck. I wanted to buy a snowmobile for backcountry ski/snowboard access. I wanted to try freeride mountain biking in the desert of Utah. With all of those dreams came the nagging questions of ‘What if something goes wrong? What if it breaks down? What if I break the sled, What if I get injured? What if I simply don’t know what to do?’ That anxiety and fear kept me from pursuing those activities and paralyzed me from the very things that I wanted to do.
This fear of the unknown wasn’t just keeping me from adventures, but had invaded my everyday life, keeping me from doing the very core things I needed to do for myself - coming out, changing jobs, moving to a new community. That fear of what if kept me stuck.
As I take stock of the last few years, some of my best adventures, and best growth opportunities have been the ones where things maybe didn’t go according to plan. The first example that comes to mind is a hut trip where one of the snowmobiles we used to access the hut simply didn’t start the morning we were all supposed to ride out. It left me, with no mechanical experience, working with one of my fellow hut mates to improvise an exit plan. We had to remove the drive belt (which is how you put a sled in neutral) so we could tow it out with the other sled. It made me feel like I could possibly do this snowmobile thing on my own.
It also made me think of the time I smashed a rock early in the season with my new-to-me snowmobile and more or less broke the right ski off. I was able to limp it back to the trailer, and even managed to repair it all on my own, gaining a level of confidence and independence I didn’t know I had.
Or even that time I broke my neck, and had to recover from that.
Every single one of these mishaps has taught me lessons about myself. Trying motorsports like snowmobiling and four-wheeling taught me I can be resourceful and independent. Breaking my neck taught me resilience and self care, and even love of my body. Four cross country road trips gave me a comfort level with big journey’s and improvising along the way. Most importantly, all of this taught me that you can’t avoid adversity in life, and sometimes it is adversity that becomes the most memorable part of any adventure. It's through overcoming the adversity that you find the most growth.
I look back on all of these misadventures, and I would not be the person I am today without them. I wouldn’t be taking on these new adventures, and having the faith that I can handle what comes my way. I’ve learned that the imperfect moments are the very essence of adventure, and as long as you prepare ahead of time, you can embrace it as part of the journey.
From things not going as planned, to imperfections that have driven me crazy about my body, I’ve come to realize these are the very parts of me that make me unique and who I am today. That they are not to be avoided, but celebrated as growth and acceptance.
Now back to our side by side crash - we didn’t let it derail our day. We made sure we were safe, and our gear was recovered, then went on with our adventure. The irony is that even though things went completely sideways, we wound up finding absolute perfection at the end of the day.