Post Maah Daah Hey 2016

Yesterday I helped a friend with the supply and gear during his 107-mile jaunt through the badlands of western North Dakota, on the increasingly famous Maah Daah Hey trail. It’s adventure recreational tourism, or even extreme adventure recreation. Bicyclists convene at the northern portion of the Maah Daah Hey trail head on a Thursday and Friday (taking up lodging at the Roosevelt Inn or campsites at the CCC or the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park), and prepare for an early Saturday morning rise to begin the ride.

I started situating this whole activity in the context of the world, and came to the agreement with the friend I was helping that this indeed is a 1st world activity. By that we meant that adventurers who partake in this extreme recreation have the resources to pay the admission fee and train and then take vacation to expend calories — a lot — to complete a 100+ mile mountain bike jaunt through rugged terrain during one of the hottest times of the northern Plains year. Compare that with, say, a country where inhabitants could live, perhaps, an entire year from the cost of admission. Or, when inhabitants of this other country expend calories, it’s toward agriculture, or raising and growing commodities — stuff that will continue to sustain life.

We then started recognizing this, and affirming the goodness of the race, since it was indeed that, and noting that it provided healthy outlets for hundreds of athletes to explore and push their bodies and minds to different stages of exhaustion. This is one of those common and collective experiences. We agreed that the Maah Daah Hey was a good idea. The views during this entire race were extraordinary. And it was fun in the morning to hear the Theodore Roosevelt re-inactor address the bicyclists. The TR actor recited the famous Man in the Arena, and told the bicyclists to continue to do good deeds and think good thoughts. This is simple yet powerful medicine. I enjoyed it.

3 responses to “Post Maah Daah Hey 2016

  • Mike Renner

    Indeed. Thanks for sharing your insights Aaron. As a participant in the race, I entertained similar thoughts when placing the race in a larger context. The big “why” question looms behind any event like this, whether its climbing a mountain or racing 100 miles. One take away I had was that our comfortable modern lifestyle doesn’t satisfy the primal urges for the unknown, danger, and adventure. In this American century, by and large, we aren’t exposed to challenges that test a person’s mental and physical mettle to the utmost (unless you work a dangerous profession). I like many American’s, spend most of my time in complete comfort and certainty – working in an office, transported around by my automobile, and living in a climate controlled home replete with a stocked fridge and running water. The survival muscle of first world people is in a state of atrophy. However, it is that challenge of survival which is the direct connection to feeling alive. I would guess through most of human history, just meeting basic needs entailed more effort, more uncertainty, and more risk than modern life demands. So we supplement our predictable lives with camping, with skydiving, with extreme sports, and crazy bike races. We willingly introduce the wonderful chaos that has been supplanted from our lives in favor of safety, convenience, and hollow entertainment.

    • Aaron Barth

      Totally. What you say, Mike: our conversation tracked down this line too. I had a blast just providing supply & gear for one of the riders. That in and of itself was an adventure. It’s great to have these outlets to reconnect with and get closer to the soil and nature.

  • Nick Kovacs

    Our first MDH and it was incredible. Everyone, no matter their level of experience or expertise was incredibly helpful. See you next year!

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