TO THE LAND OF THE RAJAHS
It's been one year since beginning RAGBRAI, my 500-mile bike ride across the state of Iowa. You may be asking yourself what crazy adventure does Campbell plan this summer now that he conquered one of biking's Mt. Everest's? You guessed it; I'm going to Mt. Everest. Instead of flying to Omaha to begin RAGBRAI, I'm flying off to the rooftop of the world, the snowy lands of the Himalayas. Even though the topography is changed, I will be facing many of the same problems that I faced while pedaling the rolling hills of Iowa. Last year, I was concerned about acquiring food and finding toilets on my bike trip. Nothing has changed since last year. Finding suitable food and toilets will be a constant concern. Perhaps I am a little anal, but I like cleanliness whether in kitchens or in bathrooms. My wife plans to bring vast amounts of granola snack bars, which solves the food situation a bit. However, toilet facilities are still a problem.
While on RAGBRAI, I wondered where I would put my head at night-same thing this summer while spending a month in India, Nepal, and Tibet. Having always wanted to travel to Asia, I co-opted my wife for this adventure of a lifetime. We have spent most of this year preparing for our junket to the Indian sub-continent. While our expedition doesn't rival that of the great explorers of the 19th century, you can't believe the preparation involved. The computer aids greatly in getting ready. I first got on the Internet to find the cheapest airline rates for our 16,000-mile excursion to and from Asia. Then off I went to the Centers for Disease Control's website. Being slightly obsessive-compulsive about diseases, I wanted to be prepared for any eventuality. After browsing the CDC's site, I was relieved to find out that I didn't need shots for yellow fever or the bubonic plague, but I didn't want to leave any needle unturned or rather unstuck.
However, we had to take several shots: hepatitis A, tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria, and anti-rabies. The latter isn't so much for dogs but monkeys. Then there were the pills that we have to take: altitude sickness medication allows you to breathe at high elevations; I thought that would make the trip more pleasant. Speaking of pleasant, before leaving the US we had to start taking anti-malaria medication and will have to take it regularly even after returning home. When I told the doctor that we were visiting India, Nepal, Sikkim, and Tibet not building the Panama Canal, he looked sternly over his glasses, he said, "You do not want to get malaria." Then he added, "You'll want to fill this script for dysentery also. You can take as a prophylactic."
When my wife returned home from her first series of inoculations, it took me a while to coax her back into being excited about the trip. She muttered something about wanting a nice cruise free from typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, and leprosy. I told her that, when she got there, her fears would soon subside. I didn't believe a word of my reassurance. This trip to Shangri-La will surely cost me a cruise sometime in the future.
During RAGBRAI, my son and I flew into Omaha City and biked out of the airport to begin our race; this summer, my wife and I are flying into Delhi airport at midnight after nearly an entire day in the air. Thanks to cyberspace, I logged on to every Delhi hotel and clicked my way through every hotel bedroom, banquet hall, and restaurant. The pictures looked fine, but bacteria and disease don't pixelate well.
Last summer, I worried about biking across Iowa and being hit by a car. Now, I am worried about driving across India and hitting a sacred cow.
This is a business trip for my teaching and writing. Therefore, I'm bringing my laptop, digital camera, tape recorder in addition to the normal things needed for being away for a month. I can see my wife lugging the luggage around while I am snapping wonderful digital shots of temples and interviewing holy men. I put her on a strength-training regimen with her personal trainer, and I think that she is up to the task.
While, we are away researching material for up coming columns, I would like to have your prayers, Lord knows, we will need them. In addition to your oblations to the Almighty, I want you to also follow your dreams. Granted it, they might be less dramatic and safer than mine, but mobilize your efforts to obtaining them. Imagine your future. Plan for it. But above all, enjoy the ride. I have wanted to accomplish this goal for most of my life. Finally, I'm on my way to realizing it. While winging our way to Shangri-la, I will set some new goals. What will happen next summer? Last summer was RAGBRAI, this summer Asia. What will next summer's adventure be?