Although 2021 promises hope of a vaccine and a return to life as we once knew it, the COVID pandemic and civil unrest in the nation are still raging. A recent memoir by Del Cerro resident David Reed harkens back to a previous time of political strife and also highlights a safe and healthy way to keep fit — both physically and mentally — during what will hopefully be the waning days of the pandemic.
“Uphill and Into The Wind” chronicles Reed’s cross-country journey by bike from New Jersey to California in 1974. At the time, President Nixon’s administration was under investigation for covering up the break-in into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building.
“It was the ‘70s. I was disenchanted with a whole bunch of things — not the least of which were the national politics, which ties into today,” Reed said. “I was inspired by a group of people written up in National Geographic who had ridden their bikes from Alaska to Montana. I thought, ‘Gee, I can do that.’”
Reed eventually teamed up with future friends Rusty and Susie, people he met after starting to plan the trip and asked them to go. The trio traveled 5,420 miles, over a five-month period — two months of which were spent backpacking in National Parks. The group crossed the Continental Divide 11 times. In the days before cellphones and GPS, the trio at times had to find each other after separating and along their journey they faced extreme weather and the occasional run in with menacing wildlife. But the greatest challenge — and reward — from the trip, was the riding itself.
“To ride your bike over a big hill, that takes a little effort. To ride it all day, every day, you just get into this rhythm,” Reed said. “The big takeaway for me from the trip was that if you think of long-distance runners after they run for an hour their brain waves enter theta states and it's a different level of consciousness – it’s more primal, not a lot of thinking, just being. And we were in theta state all day, every day, so our consciousness changed because of that and we became more in tune with each other.”
For Reed, he found solace in the physical exercise of the trip and being outdoors — activities he recommends for COVID-weary people who need a boost from the mental and physical fatigue the pandemic has wrought.
“There’s this calm and inner peace that comes overt you from both the endorphins, and separation of body and mind, and the wonderful environment,” he said.
Reed, a landscape architect, said he believes that “nature is in our genetic memory,” and that experiencing it has extraordinary benefits. His descriptions of the places he saw on his trip demonstrate the awe and reverence he still has for the natural world today.
“That to me is one of the great takeaways. For instance, Kansas was one of the most transformative places I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “We hit the prairie when the wheat was turning from green to gold. I will never forget the color. It was as if you mixed emeralds with gold.
“And then we hit the Rockies,” he continued. “Basically, it was still winter. We got snowed on — that was one of our backpacking parts. We climbed the longest peak in Colorado — and the sky is so deep blue up there. I can only imagine what it’s like on Everest. You’re closer to space and it shows.”
All along his journey, which ended in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and then south through “the most regal of forest kings — the redwood trees” and The Avenue of the Giants in northern California, Reed kept a journal and also chronicled the trip with a 35 mm camera with Kodachrome film. When his father passed away seven years ago, Reed discovered his father’s 13-page memoir about WWII, which inspired him to write his own memoir. He transcribed his journals over a two-month period before writing his first draft and then polishing the book for four years.
“Uphill and Into The Wind” is Reeds’ debut memoir, although he points out that he has been published before in a San Diego Writers Ink anthology and throughout his career in various landscape architecture trade publications. But this memoir is special to him.
“It’s a really interesting story. I’m so glad I put it out there,” he said.
The book is already gaining some recognition. In November, the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project awarded Reed its Local Authors Community Arts Award. As part of the award, they purchased a number of books for local distribution through the Little Free Library at Surfing Madonna Park, located at Leucadia Pizzeria and the intersection of Highway 101 and Encinitas Boulevard. Hardback versions were gifted to The Cardiff Library and the Encinitas Library.
For more information about the book, including a video trailer that features many of the photos Reed took during his trip, visit uphillandintothewind.com.
—Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.