Saying YES to Adventure

by jack steward

What makes for a great adventure? I had always thought that beautiful scenery, a physical challenge and great company were the perfect equation. Today, I think there is much more to it than that. You can try to plan adventures but I think the best ones find you when you least expect them. Great adventures are like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs, but you're in it for the ride. If you embrace the highs and the lows, you come out of the experience with a further appreciation of what it means to be alive. It's about going off the beaten path to find a new understanding of the world we live in. But how do we know when these adventures are looking for us? I found a new understanding of what makes a great adventure on the backroads of Nevada.

We had just finished up another couple of weeks of filming Rock the Park and I needed to drive home to Los Angeles. I love a good road trip so I was looking forward to the drive that was ahead of me. It was pretty simple - just hop on interstate 5 and take it all the way down to LA. For whatever reason, this wasn't the experience I had in mind. 

Something was telling me that I needed to find another route, but the only other "logical" route would take me six hours out of my way towards Idaho, and then travel south through the middle of nowhere in Nevada. The road traveled through mountains, desert and towns that were so small, they are listed as living ghost towns. The route was surrounded by public land that had backcountry roads, hiking trails, caves and even lakes. This would truly be an adventure, but could I really add four hundred extra miles to my trip?

Uncertainty is the first sign of a great adventure. Anxiety creeps into our minds when we put ourselves in situations that are foreign to us. In this case, I thought that I couldn't possibly drive an extra six hours for the fun of it. When uncertainty creeps in, you have to weigh the positives and negatives of the situation. This is a very important step. Without fully thinking things through, you could hurl yourself into an adventure that is beyond your current limitations. For me, I was only looking at extra time on the road which would get me home a day later then I was expecting. Not life threatening, but still I couldn't make up my mind at all. 

This is the part of the process where you have to say YES to adventure. It is through the uncertainty that we know something is worthwhile. If we only did things we were confident in, we would stop growing as people. There is no fun in a "been there, done that" attitude. I had looked at the possibilities, and all of them told me that I needed to go for it. The desert was calling me. 

It was my first day on the road, and I woke up to find out that my crew had already gone to the airport. I said goodbye to Colton, who was going to visit people in Seattle for the weekend. Anxiety crept in again as I realized that I was going at this all by myself. This is another lesson that I had yet to learn - there are some experiences that you just have to go through alone. 

Part of what makes exploration so transformational is the ability to get to know yourself in a profound way. Part of the problem with today’s society is that we constantly feel the need to be connected. We always want cell phone service so that we never truly feel alone but it is through solitude that you become more confident in the person that you are. You must spend time alone to obtain deeper understanding of who you are and how you fit into the world. I was ready for this journey ahead, but had no idea how much it would teach me. 

My first day of driving was great! I made my way through the mountains outside of Mount Rainier, then across the desert of eastern Washington and Oregon. Finally, I had reached Boise, Idaho - the jumping off point for the next leg of the trip. As I sat in my hotel room, I looked at the route for the next day. I planned to drive seven hours, which would give me about three hours to explore along the way. As I looked at the map, I realized that there weren't many places to stay the night. Anxiety crept in again as I searched for any town that might have a recognizable hotel in it. The only place that made sense to stay in was the Overland Hotel and Saloon in Pioche, Nevada. 

Pioche was known to be one of the deadliest towns in the Old West. It has a rich mining history that attracted people from all over the country. It was a kill or be killed kind of town where only the toughest, most ruthless people survived. Pioche was so rough, that seventy two people were murdered and buried in the Boot Hill cemetery before one person ever died of natural causes. Times have changed of course, but staying alone at a Hotel and Saloon in a living ghost town made me uneasy. 

Great adventures are like a roller coaster...but I had yet to embrace this idea. I called my Mom to tell her about Pioche and my plans to stay at the Overland Hotel and Saloon. I think deep down, I was hoping for her to say not to go there and help me find somewhere else to stay. When I told her about my route, she said, "That sounds like fun! Go for it." 

As I was packing up my car, I got a call from my mom again. She proceeded to tell me that the Overland Hotel and Saloon was considered extremely haunted. So much, in fact, that they did an entire episode of Ghost Adventures there for the Travel Channel. Regardless of whether or not you believe in that sort of thing, it's uneasy knowing that where you're sleeping is considered haunted. My mom jokingly asked if I still wanted to stay there. A wave of anxiety hit me like a stack of bricks but I knew there was only one answer - yes.

I let out a deep sigh as I turned onto U.S. 93 southbound. I made sure to stock up on food and water as a precaution for heading into the desert. Services like gas and food are few and far between so I was prepared to survive should I breakdown somewhere. The signs of civilization soon disappeared as I made my way into Nevada. 

My first stop, was a small gravel road through BLM land. The Bureau of Land Management has some of the most incredible land in the country. There are countless backcountry roads to explore and the possibilities are truly endless. As I made my way further from the highway, I started to smile. This feeling of freedom and solitude was what I was looking for. I got out of my car and took some pictures of the rugged road, mountains and desert landscape. This is one of the highs on the roller coaster of adventure. I felt truly happy.

Soon after, I made my way further south towards Ely, Nevada. It began to rain as I pulled out on another backcountry road. I just stood for a while as the rain came down, listening to silence of the desert. I thought about all of the good times in Montana when I would do this very same thing. Rock the Park has been a blessing that I never thought would have been possible. Now, as I stood by myself in the middle of nowhere, it felt like I had come full circle. These moments are where it all began. It's that feeling of curiosity and wonder that I found through exploring the unknown years ago. 

All of a sudden, a loud rumble of thunder shook the area. Completely startled, I got in the car and made my way back towards the highway. I drove another hundred miles or so, and was now headed straight towards Pioche. I would soon be facing the reality of the Overland Hotel and Saloon. 

As I pulled into Pioche, I could already sense the deep history that hovers over the town. Abandoned mine shafts and old homes lined the street as I made my way towards the main drag. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the Overland Hotel and Saloon. This was it; I was finally there.

I walked into the front door to find a classic western saloon. The bar was wood carved and the front desk for the hotel stood right next to a long row of bar patrons who looked at me like I was crazy. I felt like a fish out of water. 

I picked up my key and made my way upstairs through the creepiest hallway I have ever walked through. It was dimly lit and old photographs hung from the walls. I finally reached my room and gave out another deep sigh. As I entered the room I felt deep anxiety. I thoroughly examined the place and realized that I needed to make myself at home. As I sat on the bed, I decided that I couldn't just hide out in the room all night. I needed to go downstairs for some peace of mind. 

As I got a bite to eat, I began to talk to a man who has lived in Pioche for thirty five years. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. I asked him about the history of the town, the hotel and why he ended up in such a remote town. He told me that there is no place like this in the world. What he loves about Pioche is the beautiful scenery, amazing people, and the fact that he has everything he needs right here. As I made my way up towards my room for the night, I was perplexed at how I could have been so nervous to stay here. I just had an incredible time getting to know some new people and now I am spending the night in an incredibly historic old hotel.

This experience was the icing on the cake. My perceptions of this place led me to believe it was something to be afraid of but once I dug into the experience I learned that it not only isn’t scary, it is an incredible town! I spent the next morning exploring the old mine shafts, the Boot Hill cemetery, and historic Main Street. This was a place that I wanted to get to know a lot better - a hidden gem out in the desert. 

As I got back in the car and made my way towards Las Vegas, I reflected on the experience. I had no idea what was in store for me when I set off on this journey. Looking back at it now, I realize that all of the anxiety and uncertainties were essential parts of the fun and taught me not to judge a book by its cover. Something drew me to this part of the country and I think it was life trying to teach me a lesson about what it means to live to the fullest. You have to take chances, go outside your comfort zone, and not be afraid to face your fears. I learned what it means to embrace being alone. You learn what you're made of and find ways to push your boundaries into new discoveries. Not only did I find a new favorite spot in this country but I now have the desire to show others how amazing the backroads of Nevada are! 

Adventure can’t be reduced to an equation. Some of the greatest adventures aren't things you can plan for. It takes a willingness to listen to yourself and say YES, even when you're feeling anxious. The best adventures push our boundaries. These don't always have to be physical boundaries like climbing a mountain or running a marathon. They can be mental boundaries like putting yourself into a situation that is unfamiliar to you. For me, it was exploring the desert of Nevada and learning that there are good people everywhere. The town of Pioche embodies what this whole adventure taught me. After digging in deep, I wasn't sure I liked what I found but by sticking with it and not turning back, this adventure became an amazing experience that showed me the beauty of the desert and genuine kindness of those who call it home.  

Soon I will be hitting the road for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. How will I be getting there? I'll go where the spirit leads me…only time will tell.