It’s very early in the morning the day before the July 4th weekend and I’m heading out on my road bike for some “Alone Time”. I’m going to pedal up to the top of the Boise foothills to Bogus Basin, our local ski hill. It’s a fairly brutal climb: 16 miles of nothing but uphill switchbacks with over 3000 vertical feet gained from Boise’s 2950 to the resort’s parking lot shortly after you pass the Elevation 6000 sign. Starting in April when the ski resort closes and the cars are gone, it’s tough for me to even make it to the top after a winter of hibernating at the gym. My first couple of rides usually take about 2 hours. By the end of the season, I’m under 90 minutes. (For perspective, it takes Olympic gold medalist (and Boise’s favorite daugther) Kristen Armstrong under an hour to do it).
Since falling in love with cycling a few years back, riding up Bogus Basin Road has become my favorite way to be “alone.” Because there’s nothing at the other end of the road besides the ski resort, there’s virtually no cars on the road from April-November and the climb is so tough that the only folks I see out there are the handful of knuckleheads like myself bent of proving something to themselves. Essentially, you own the road. It’s one of the most remarkable stretches of asphalt you’ll find anywhere. I believe that the Boise foothills are largely what differentiates us as a city. In the spring, they’re bursting green with sage brush, the sweet smell of sage overwhelming you as you climb. They’re also teeming with wildlife. I’ve seen countless deer, foxes, birds of prey, snakes (even rattlers, yikes!) and other varmints on my rides.
But what I love about riding Bogus the most, is being alone, and I mean really ALONE. The workout is the bonus. It’s one of the few times in my week that I get to participate in creative thought. “What the hell does a VC need to have creative thought for Mark?” I’m glad you asked. I think about a ton of things. I think about our portfolio companies and what more we can be doing to help them. I think about Highway 12 Ventures and how George, Phil, Glenn and I can build it into the very special firm that we envision, while the rest of the world seems to think that our industry is doomed. I don’t think just about work though. I think “creatively” about my family and what new things I can introduce into our lives to make them more fulfilling. For 90+ minutes up (believe me, the ONLY thing you want to be thinking about on the 20 minutes down is the bike and the road!), my mind seems more fertile than at any other time during the week. I know that my partner Phil (a lifelong pilot) has a similar experience as he glides over Idaho’s remarkable landscape.
It’s not lost on me how incredibly privileged I am to have both the time and the geographical pluck to be able to do this. As a matter of fact, I never ride that hill without drinking in the beauty around me and thanking my personal higher spirit for what he’s given me. (I happen to be cursed/blessed with an internal 4:45am daily alarm clock that allows me to accomplish this, usually before my family is stirring).
However, I do think that everyone can find time to be alone, away from all of the noise in our lives. Away from the computer, away from our families, away from twitter and facebook and all the other input in our lives. The July 4th weekend is a great chance for you to start this routine. Sometime during the next three days, find 30 minutes to be completely alone. Take your dog for a long walk. Go run a couple of miles away from your usual route. Go to an art museum by yourself and reflect. It takes 30 days to form a habit. I promise that if you commit to creating “alone time for yourself” you’ll start coming up with more ideas than ever before about how to make the rest of your work and personal life richer. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!