The Ramblings of 4WheelBob
America's premier wheelchair hiker speaks.
A Funny Thing Happened On My Way Around The Internet...

Everything was fine before Al Gore invented the Internet. People got on the phone or wrote letters to each other, and planned hikes, trips, campouts, all manner of social events. Mail is almost a thing of the past; letters and cards almost anachronistic, faint remembrances of Emily Post's most sacred lessons. When was the last time you received a "thank you" note, for example? One guess - if you did it was probably written by a member of The Greatest Generation, that of my parents and their peers.

With this in mind, I've found a new kind of kinship with my fellow man, through the Internet. What I found was that while the 'Net is a fine place to find pretenders, schemers, offenders and sorry, sad wretches, it's also host to folks we may never have met or will meet, but who we (or simply "I" in this case) can call "friend." After two - and - a - half years of jabs, jibes, consolations and condolences in this brave new medium, I had occasion to meet in person (as was done in the old days), a group of Coloradans with whom I'd only communicated electronically. And I came away with a little more respect for the 'Net, because if we'd never crossed paths as we did on 'Net based backpacking forums - we might never have met. As I drove the 1200 + miles home it dawned on me how sad that would have been.

I watched a couple of weeks ago as a plan was coming together. A group of Coloradan backpackers and lovers of all things wilderness had an idea - anybody want to meet for a fun weekend at a group campground in the mountains west of Golden? The idea appealed to me instantly. These were people I'd communicated with for a few years, and they were offering to host a meeting of real people, in the real (and really beautiful) countryside of Colorado. For some Internet posters, this would be a highly risky endeavor - it could expose them as pretenders, frauds or just nattering nabobs of negativism (thank you, Spiro T. Agnew) who hide behind electronic camoflage as they post their alleged adventures. Of course, and mostly because of my respect for virtually the entire group who'd accepted the invitation, I took a few days off for a true Road Warrior - style trip.  

Here I am at home again, 2514 miles later, after spending the weekend at Pickle Gulch, perhaps the first of what could become Colorado's famed Condiment Campgrounds, a place to really relish life, or put a little mustard in your day....and all I can think of is the wonderful folks I met, the friends I made, the bond that ties us together in a small way. All of this because of a vaporous post on the Internet. A post created by a pseudonym, someone I could have wondered whether to trust or not. Yet trust I did, for reasons I can't yet explain. I've watched the "To Catch A Predator" series on NBC, as fake kids trapped Internet - based child abusers, criminals who stalked their prey pretending to be someone else.

If there's a lesson here, it's that as with most events in a life you have to trust your instincts. The same adages apply in electronic media as anywhere - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a story or tale sounds a little fishy, it probably is. Bad people will act out as bad people do whether communicating electronically or in person - they just can't help it. And good people's colors will shine through just as certainly as if they were opening the door for me as I entered my favorite coffee hangout.

So far I've met many people all over America because we got acquainted via the Internet. I took what some might consider a risky gamble and made arrangements to meet them in person for weekends of hiking, camping or charity events. Not once have I been disappointed. In fact, the opposite is true - I came away feeling all aglow, thinking how sad it would have been had we never shaken hands, hugged  or laughed around a campfire. Perhaps on the'Net, as in school, work, or around your hometown you gravitate to those with like interests. You become privy to the events of the lives of others, and feel just as close as if we were all neighbors in the same city. You find who can be trusted, and with whom to maintain a safe distance.  Just like real life. And if you choose your sites and topics wisely, you might find you've made new friends. You'll expand and possibly enrich your life. There's comfort in the Internet sometimes, a thought I'd not have dared to propose 5 years ago...

The twist? I bet some of us will exchange cards over the Holidays this year. Not e - cards, either. What goes around....

2007-09-26 06:53:57 GMT
Comments (1 total)
Hi Bob,
I was just reading on 'Best Hike' that you are thinking of Kili... Terrific!
Start writing the book now, Bob, because I would just love to later read it and be part of your journey...
I've sent a few other emails out myself that might support some sponsorship for you. Africa would be an amazing experience. It has been years since I was there. Some of my stones have been there more recently...
Glad to call you a fellow climber now too!
2007-09-26 14:06:00 GMT
Add to My Yahoo! RSS