This photograph has jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, gone ice climbing, won bike races, lost bike races, seen the birth of my daughter, been intoxicated in Dublin, bought hash in Amsterdam (sorry mom), and joined the Army.
It’s been on the worlds hardest bike race, inside the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, ridden the Eurostar train underneath the English Channel, climbed Mt Rainier, and was once lost in the mail.
This photograph has skied powder in Steamboat, bumps at Mary Jane, back bowls at Vail, weathered the arctic cold in Wisconsin, the incredibly ridiculous slopes of Austria, and the “don’t fall” runs in France.
It’s spent a month backpacking through Europe. It’s been sea sick off the coast of Ireland. It’s attended a taping of Letterman in NYC and has visited almost every state.
It’s seen the Redwoods, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Great Salt Lake, the Aurora Borealis, the Louvre, Mont Blanc, Stonehenge, the Statue of Liberty, and the splendor that is Kansas.
Twenty years ago today, the man in the photo told me all about wanting to travel and that his greatest wish was to spend as much time as possible in the outdoors. He commented that nothing made him feel more alive than to be outside and that nothing scared him more than the thought of living a normal, routine life. He talked reflectively about the time he had spent in Europe and how he felt he had taken it for granted but vowed to return as soon as he could. We were 19, fearless, and had it all.
We were taking photographs as we chatted, high on a cliff band overlooking a valley. It was a very warm December day with a gentle breeze, and I’d walked a short distance to climb out on an adjacent ledge. I snapped some photo’s and walked back to where we’d split up. It annoyed me that he wasn’t there…that maybe he’d found something cool to look at and hadn’t included me. I sat on a stump and waited. After maybe 10 minutes I got increasingly annoyed and gave him a shout, “Jeff!” There was no response, so I got up and walked out onto the cliff to see if he was walking on the game trail that we had seen in the woods next to us. Still no Jeff. It was only when frustration kicked in and my head started swirling in all directions that I crawled out to the edge and looked straight down.
There he was.
I so wanted him to move…or shout…or something, but he didn’t.
During all of my crazy exploits over the past 20 years, I’ve made it a habit to stick this photograph in my pack, in my pocket, or stuck behind the visor of my car. It’s the one thing that goes with me on every wacky adventure, every trip abroad, and every foray into the unknown. It’s my constant reminder to take the chance, to push the boundaries, and to experience things that make people gasp, shudder, and flinch. I know that he would approve and honestly, he would of been right next to me anyway.