Life and adventures from a high school perspective
An avid cyclist, rock climber, and all around adventurer, Francis Davis is taking to the internet to share his stories of cycling, climbing, and adventuring.
I've been fortunate enough to have a four day weekend to commemorate the end of the semester and prepare for my intensive (journalism). After an absolute rollercoaster of events the last few weeks, I was looking forward to slowing down, enjoying coffee instead of just drinking it, and spending some quality time in the garage.
Yesterday was my day. Waking up fairly, early, I completed just enough of my homework to smother some of the guilt before I went outside. Today's task was rewiring the moped. Admittedly, I'm not great with electric so I watched a YouTube video to brush up. The journey started with the cliché run to the parts store, AutoZone. Except in this case it wasn't just AutoZone. It was two AutoZone's and a Home Depot stop later that I finally got to work, and the rhythym set in. I wanted to replace every single 40 year old wire. I worked systematically, starting with the ignition wiring and moving onto lights. The system is actually quite simple, just like everything else on that bike - easy to learn on. Every single connection went through a process. Strip the wire, flux, crimp, solder, dielectric grease, and heat shrink tubing. I enjoyed the process, the fine dielectric anti-corrosion and waterproofing electric grease permeating my hands, creating a fine film that I just could not wipe off on my jeans. I maintain that things are going well if your hands are dirty.
I stopped for lunch, driving a few minutes to our favorite neighborhood hamburger bar, Stevenson's. I hadn't been there for a while, and it was abolsutely fantastic. I replaced the dielectric grease on my hands with other grease, and all was well with the world - and yes, I sat at the bar.
With an end in sight, I carried on with the wiring. "I'm stopping at 4:00" I told myself. 4 came around, and I decided to wire the rear light too, reasoning that I should just get it all done. 9:00 rolled around, as it always does, and the bike was done. I wheeled it outside, and the new ignition cables worked quite well. The bike was quite literally - brilliant. Eagerly, I dashed back into the garage and grabbed a helmet, ready to feel the cool night air on my sweaty face. just for a quick spin around the block. I had the throttle pegged, the bike emitting its patent weedwhacker noise. The lights got really bright, then - pop, pop, pop, pop. All 4 bulbs blew. The engine still ran. One more thing to replace.
In bed, I smiled. Success always comes with failure, and now I have something to do this weekend.
This trip has been a lot of fun so far. Seeing new sights, eating good food, and relaxing in the car; all great outlets. On Tuesday night, Mom and I stayed with some old family friends outside of Portland. It was a truly excellent evening, with food, fire and company. It was also our first home-cooked meal on the trip, and that made it special. Unfortunately our visit was too fleeting, and early Wednesday morning (following a breakfast of bacon and eggs) Mom and I had to bid farewell to our friends and start the commute into Portland. Wednesday mom and I toured Reed College and Lewis & Clark University in Portland, Oregon. Both were nice, but I thought that Reed stood out with its academic rigor and unique approach with the honor code. Yesterday, we looked at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. Apparently, they don’t offer information sessions over spring break; that was very disappointing. Nevertheless, I got a good taste for the campus. Founded in 1963, it’s the newest college that we have looked at. The buildings are really beautiful, and environmental sustainability is a core of their mission. They also have a really cool dedicated bicycle workshop. Today, Mom and I are headed towards San Francisco. We are about to look at UC Santa Cruz, then University of San Francisco tomorrow. It will be really nice to be in San Francisco again as well. I should be meeting up with my friend, Matthew, for lunch, or at least coffee while we are there. Going from college to college is getting a bit routine for my taste, but I am starting to see some of the larger opportunity emerge.
Sometimes when I’m in bed late at night, just about to fall asleep, I think about the wonder of it all. In a bit over a year I could be going to school on the West Coast. In some ways, this is a really big step. In others, it seems only to be a natural continuation. I think about how independent I already am, and how I have benefitted from this independence. Spending so much time planning and executing bicycle trips and rock climbing escapades really helps me to feel confident in my abilities and in many different surroundings. In that respect, I am not at all concerned about going to college. Some of my peers are concerned with not seeing their parents or being away from home for such a long period of time. Or even having to make decisions, even easy ones like where to get food or what to do in the afternoon. Fortunately, I’m not so concerned with these aspects of going away. Concern isn’t really the right word, anyway, I think it’s more of the finality that I am in awe of. I’ve long been going on adventures, exploring the boundaries of childhood, and I think that all of it was in pursuit of a greater preparation. A preparation for the real world and all that it had to offer. Now, on this trip, the eventuality of access to the real world seems to be coming within reach. It’s tough, because I know that I’m not going to be leaving for another year and a half. And yet, seeing these colleges, touring the coast, and exploring each city, I can start to envision myself here. It’s really exciting. I’m not even sure how much I’m looking forward to it, at least now. I feel prepared, I feel excited, but I think it’s too early to really want the change. For now, the trick is enjoying the rest of it. The rest of high school, the rest of Cleveland, the rest of childhood. Ultimately, the trick is not to let the rest of these moments pass fleetingly. As good as it is to look forward; it’s just as important to enjoy what is now and enjoy what will be later. I’m not sure if that makes sense.
The West Coast Spring Break College Trip is officially underway. The first portion of the trip is in the Pacific Northwest. Mom and I flew into Seattle two days ago and made our way down to Tacoma for our first college visit at the University of Puget Sound. Yesterday we made the 4.5 hour drive inland to Wallawalla Washington to tour the campus of Whitman. Today, following our tour at Whitman, we are making the 4.5 hour drive back west to Portland. Tomorrow will be a fantastically busy day, with college tours at Reed and Lewis & Clark University, followed by a flight to Los Angeles. So far, I’m in high spirits. Unfortunately I have been quite sick the last couple of days, starting with our flight from Cleveland. I’m happy to report that I’m finally on the mend, and ready to get on with the rest of the trip in earnest. The weather has been absolutely unreal, it’s 60 degrees and sunny right now. I’ve been absolutely enthralled by the scenery, too. Yesterday we drove through right past Mt. Rainier and many other mountain ranges. Today we are following the Columbia river on our right, a chiseled mountain face on our left, and more hills covering the horizon.
I am getting really excited thinking about all of the outdoor opportunities out here. The hiking, mountaineering, biking, climbing, it’s almost endless. The ethos is really different out here as well compared to Cleveland. It seems as if being outdoors-minded is almost the norm, it’s really interesting to see that perspective shift. The location might be one of the biggest things that colleges in this area have going for it, and it’s definitely something that I’m keeping in mind. We’ve been eating a lot of good food too (would you expect anything else), but I think I’ll save that for another post. I’m thinking about doing posts every couple days, but I’m not quite sure yet. I think that’s just about all I have for now. As always, enjoy pictures below!
It was a truly beautiful day today, one of the few 40 degree bluebirds that Clevelanders have been graced with lately. There is a yearning for spring to begin, but the coldness of winter has not yet let go, even as the sun feels warm. It was a good day for a drive. Getting out of school early, I started with some of the usual haunts (Chagrin River, County Line, and Sherman) but quickly found some new favorites. Even though it was far too cold, I had the sunroof open and windows down, my hand tapping on the door even as the wind chafed my skin. Numbing, my hand retreated into the warm cabin, firmly grasping the wheel to tuck into a corner. The sun flickered on the windshield, dancing in between the trees. I smiled, enjoying the brightness, the woods, and the car. Thinking about nothing, yet everything at all. Driving has a knack for this kind of mental state, needing just enough brain input to keep the car on the road and within the speed limit, the active brain can wander, unwind. And unwind I did, I am starting to cherish the slow moments more and more. That first cup of coffee in the morning, the quiet late at night, and the occasional solo drives. As I seem to be busier and busier these days, the opportunities to reflect become less, but all the more valuable in their rarity. On the other hand, there is a lot to look forward to.
Mom and I are embarking on an 8 day “West Coast College Extravaganza” this Sunday, covering the distance between Vancouver and Los Angeles. This is my first serious foray into the world of college shopping, but I’m ready. I think that I remarked at some point earlier here about the college process, specifically in committing when I’m ready to commit but not before. Well, the time to commit has come. I’m really excited to start looking seriously at where I might end up in a couple years, it’s a big step. During the second week of Spring break, I am going going to visit my friend at University of Vermont, touring that school as well as Middlebury. The trip consists of a solo road trip, and an overnight stop in both directions with our close family friends in Buffalo. With fond memories of my first road trip to West Virginia last summer, I’m really looking forward to seeing UVM and having freedom on the open road once again!
I am also looking forward to the final challenge in my entrepreneurship class. With a team, we will be building a company concept from the ground-up with the opportunity to pitch to a local panel for real money to get it started. I’m really not sure what I would like to do, but I can promise that I won’t settle for anything that’s not interesting. That class is absolutely fascinating, we are wrapping up our third “business challenge” in which teams work with local businesses to solve problems and present solutions. It is also a macro course, meaning that 4.5 out of 7 of my courses are entrepreneurship. Several days of the week, it is the only class that I have, allowing us all to really dive into the work. We can drive around Cleveland conducting interviews, market research, and of course, getting lunch. It is a powerful opportunity, and one that is not lost on me.
Even as the opportunities seem to accumulate and my time as a high schooler starts to dwindle, I am keeping in mind the advice to slow down every once in a while. The sentiment is not lost on me that it’s nearly my last year in high school, and perhaps approaching my last full year in Cleveland. Even this summer is coming up, there may be more exciting opportunities that I’ll share with you soon. In the meantime, I am trying to extract enjoyment from even the mundane. And with that, it’s back to the homework.