WHEELBARROW TRAVEL PIONEER By John Watts

wheelbarrow

For all of us brave consumers and beneficiaries of this modern world, our innovative advantages surely must make us feel smug and sophisticated compared to our stay-at-home, unenlightened ancient ancestors.  Am I right?

Because while our predecessors were severely limited in their range of motion, we can, with the navigation of a few buttons and the recollection of the correct passwords—circumnavigate the globe in a dizzying variety of ways, and 3 times faster to boot!

When you really consider it–how could anyone possibly stack up with the current “us’s” in all of history?  The modern us who travel so instantly via virtual reality on our computers and quick swipes of our credit cards as we select our fine-tuned transportation options.  The enlightened us who can go to the furthest city in the third world while remaining buttressed in some 3-star chain hotel with little inkling of the ancient culture going on outside of our air-conditioned confines.

So what if most of us are bogged down with paralysis on how to operate our internet options correctly?  So what if we are too set in our ways staying at home watching TV and have long ago given up the fight to advance our freedom enough to get a passport?

The overriding point is, as long as we happened to be one of those charmed select winners that happen to be successful and upwardly mobile enough to attract offers to travel; well then, we would conceivably be living in the best time ever—as explorers and tourists.

But deep down, no matter how convincingly we try to foist up this “got our act together” image as urbane, world travelers, we quickly fall victim to the unworthiness and guilt of never measuring up to the harder conditions of our ancestors.  Not even close.  No matter how many fit-bits we document our steps with or how many live cam visitations around the globe we click to.

Still the latest word on us as worthy inheritors isn’t all bad.

You know that standard old geezer macho lament, “well when I was your age, I walked to school in bare feet through drifts of snow in the winter.”

Well at least we can still dubiously get away with that braggadocio syndrome thanks to the relative softness of the cyber generations that have proceeded us.  In fact this may be the ONE geezer macho lament we can still fall back on and have some degree of truth in employing.  After all, we were raised with much cruder communication and entertainment options back in our day, compared with the POST baby boomer generations since, right?  We can fondly remember walking up to our TV to turn the channel as well as actually hand cranking our car windows to get some manual cool air relief.  We also knew the uncertainty of driving in our cars across the country with only pay phones and word of mouth for communication (REAL face time, right?).

Nevertheless, here we are, still stuck smack dab in the middle of what Alvin Toffler called “Future Shock,” in a post-industrial age where exploration to the far reaches of the globe have pretty much been spanned and mastered over and over again.

Indeed, we are at such an over saturation level of daring deeds that one must do very NOVEL things like play paddle ball while bicycling across continents or swim backwards across the ocean to get any serious press time.

And this is why so many social media diehards just simply give up the ghost and opt to ALTER their reality–and feel successful anyway.  Why?  Because the very nature of social media means that EVERYONE can submit their work and clamor for attention REGARDLESS of the merit.  And in many cases, regardless of whether one even garners a hint of real interest or not.  It’s a PERSONAL event–every submission.

Complete self-absorption allows for said person to submit daily blogs on their Starbucks orders or their kids little league schedule and hopefully find a niche of followers.

And so this where I come into my story.  Because this “born too late” condition and lack of room left for meaningful self-aggrandizement had me very puzzled and perplexed as to what goals were left to conquer.

And I was unwilling to just pour my gut out on a blog site unless I felt it had some redeemable characteristics that would warrant the effort.  (like this essay, right dear reader?)

Simply put: I made the bold decision to become a wheelbarrow traveler.

I think it was the guilt more than anything else.  The guilt of appearing so leisure and carefree while out on my dog hikes; as I traipsed past all the landscapers and construction workers all doing back breaking work and who didn’t smile back or care how at peace I was.

I just couldn’t reconcile their hard edged, slightly resentful stares while I hugged trees and communed with my pet dogs.

I mean who was I to claim such leisure time for transcendental thoughts and poetry while these laborers only had to time to dig holes and lay out mulch all day in the hot summer sun?

Even though the animal gave me FUNCTIONALITY out in public, and reduced the frequency of suspicious stares, I needed more.

So, I figured I would kill two birds with one stone.  I would travel in a more practical, working class manner, while also earning honor and distinction as a traveler operating in a less crowded mode.

This is where the wheel barrow came in.  What else could have been a more perfect choice?

It is the ultimate agrarian symbol of labor and toil and moving heaven and earth in order to reach one’s goals.

Plus, now that I was in my mid-50s, I knew that I was only declining in terms of my straight forward hiking prowess.  It would give me that edge I so dearly needed.

But first, I had to do research on wheelbarrow travel.  Once I did, I quickly learned, like everything else in the internet, I was inundated with the unwanted company of others vying for attention in the same category who also thought that they were originators of the same idea.

There were pages of pages of wheelbarrow records to peruse.  Why reinvent the wheel?

“The longest wheelbarrow push was one of some 14,500 km (9,000 miles), from 24 April 1975 to 6 May 1978 by Bob Hanley (Australia), starting and finishing at Sydney and pushing through Townsville, Mt Isa, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, the Nullarbor Plain, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.”

“Dang it,” I thought to myself, “Leave it to those convicts from down under to be extra proficient in pushing wheel barrows.”

The other high-water mark for the sport I was quickly reminded, happened during the Gold Rush and homesteader’s movement on the Oregon Trail.  Families packed their gear on wheel barrows and bounced their way slowly westward.

Not only were their plenty of wheelbarrow records to ponder with the real wheels and metal etc., there was also the strange category of human beings pushing OTHER human beings as makeshift wheelbarrows.  Yes indeed.  Straight from the Guinness book: “The fastest 50 m by a human wheelbarrow team is 14.87 sec and was achieved by Josh McCormack (the wheelbarrow) and Arjuna Benson (the pusher) (both Australia), at the Sports campus of Carey Baptist Grammar School, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on 9 September 2008. During the same event, the record for the largest human wheelbarrow race was broken. Josh is 16 years old, and Arjuna is 15.

Cranky!  More Aussies with wheelbarrows!

Reading about all the stiff competition, forced me to add another twist to my wheel barrow travel brainstorm.  Forget the LOOPHOLE record setting angle, I decided if I was going to feel truly working class, I needed to develop a more practical working goal, no matter how convoluted.

So, I decided that with my travel time, I would also haul dirt from the HIGHER end of town and deposit it in the LOW end of town where everything sags and is off kilter.

In this manner, I would not only traverse with my wheelbarrow, I would also be doing something to help my community too, all while lifting weights and doing cardio.

Bottom line:  I would be helping to keep my town more balanced in the process.

Now that I have my wheel barrow, I feel like a new man!  A man solidly tied to his past and proud of it.  No longer am I just a nature worshiping journal writer on foot.  No trail has seen the likes of me.  I may not break records like the Aussies but I break new ground every day!  Literally.

My dog may not like staying at home.  And my journal pages are less filled.

But I can look blue collar workers straight in the eye as I pass and feel more GROUNDED!  Finally.

Beat that Australia!

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About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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