Coming Down The Mountain, Excerpt from the forthcoming book, THE HERMIT by Gabriel Roberts

My poor bike was covered in ice for days on end and it took some time for it to warm up.  I had moved it before the first snow into a shelter that was being used to dry out the weed.  Before I could even get to the road, I would have to travel three quarters of a mile through foot deep untouched snow up a hill.  Trying to do this with my motorcycle alone, packed with a fully loaded bike and 50 lb backpack was simply impossible.  My boss pulled their quad up to my bike and wrapped a car towing strap around the front forks of my bike.  In what I can only characterize as the most brilliant and dangerous backwoods towing job I’ve ever come across, we inched up the hill, essentially being dragged and sledded by my boss riding in reverse.  Miraculously, I had made it to the top and said goodbye to my kind employer.

I was told that the road I was accustomed to was still snowbound and not even trucks could make it that way, so I had to take a road I had not tried before.  I turned on to the bare, but wet road and rode down around the corner, out of sight from the entrance to the place I had called home for a month and a half.  To my utter disbelief the road before me raised and shone white with compacted snow with only single lines of black where the asphalt was visible.  I opted to ride along the line wherever the asphalt was.  One hill at a time passed in this manner, sometimes with sections that arched up and over around corners with only compacted snow.

My bike was top heavy with myself and all of my gear and the road was downright deadly for a sportbike.  It was only a matter of time before I pushed my luck too hard trying to rally up a steep and iced hill that I first dumped the R6.  I can’t explain the desperation I felt, was I stuck?  Stranded for good?  I knew nobody would be around to save me and being out in the elements at night would be just as dangerous as riding, so I did everything I could to keep going.  I lifted the bike and let it slide backwards on the ice into the ditch that for the most part followed the road the whole way.  Using the debris and twigs and roots as traction, I managed to break free from the steep hill, only to find another and another and another of the same situation waiting for me.  It was absolutely exhausting.  The trip itself would have taken an hour and a half to get to regular highways, but in these conditions, I had only traveled a handful of miles.

As I made my way down a steep hill riding over the patches of dry asphalt and ice, I saw a long hill up ahead, a good 8th of a mile long with a steeper turn to the left at the ridge.  Before attempting to take the hill, I walked up it to assess what was at the top.  To my relief, it was a long dry patch of road as far as the eye could see as it dipped off into the distance.  I carefully walked back down the icy hill in my flat footed cowboy boots and did my best to try to map out where I would ride.  There was a dry patch about 6 feet long that if I could run up to, could get a boost of traction.  Then and there, I had no choice but to try.  I found that the magic speed for the bike was 11mph, at this speed I could dump it without too much risk of personal injury to myself or the bike, so as I began my ascent I put it to 15, knowing that my grip would exponentially decrease without anything other than compacted snow underneath me.  As I made my way up the bike began to slow to a halt and then slide backwards.  With my backpack and gear, I carried about 290lbs on top of the 413lb bike.  This meant I was now sliding backwards on a compacted ice hill with flat footed boots trying to hold it all up with my two feet.  I was full of terror.  By grace, dumb luck and sheer ‘what the fuck’ I was able to bring the bike tenuously to a halt.  I stood there in a panic knowing that even a slight change in weight balance, the whole thing would keep sliding down the hill backwards.  It was the ditch to my right, a mere 8 feet away that again was my salvation.  I painstakingly inched my way backward with the front brake gently letting out until I was able to put the bike in the ditch.  Now I still had that dry patch 20 yards ahead of me and I aimed to find a way up through the ditch.  I got off the bike which stood on its own in the deep and skinny ditch and gathered sticks, rocks, debris of any kind that would act as traction for the Gnostic Rocket.  I laid sticks out like railroad ties for a good ten yards.  It now came time to get this fucker up the hill and I went for it.

At first rev, the engine died, not enough juice to keep it from seizing.  Second rev took the rpms to 8k and the speedometer to reading 40mph, slow it back down till it kicks up a stick and lunges forward a foot.  On to the next one with my right foot pushing against the embankment ad I scraped for every inch of forward motion with the bike seizing and screaming back and forth.  I had gained a certain momentum and rhythm and was determined to make it work.  I lunged to the dry patch and lunged again a long stretch up and thought I could make it to the top so I gave it all I dared to give it.  Just then, a large old brown Ford pickup truck came down and around the corner and I had to decide whether to be struck head on, or to dump the bike in front of the truck.  I dumped it.  I had been struggling along for over 2 hours and had not seen a single vehicle and it just so happened that the first one I would see was the one that nearly took my life and squelched my conquest of the hill from hell.

Without missing a beat, I got up from my crash and walked over to the window of the truck where the shocked mannish woman sat.  “How does the road look ahead?” I asked as pleasantly as a person in shock could ask.  “It’s worse than this ahead, you need to go back the way you came.”  I thanked her and without an offer to help, or a word of any further pleasantness, she drove off around my bike as it lay there on its side on the steepest part of the hill just 10 yards from the crest where the sunlight had carved through the snow and into the now dirt road.  There in my helmet I began to scream, FUUUUUUUUCK! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK! FUUUUUUCK!  I came to my senses as best I could.  I asked myself if this was the part of my story where I sit and cry like a little bitch, or where I do something extraordinary and carry on?  I resolved to not be defeated by this goddamn hill, but I need a moment, I was now freshly wrecked and warned by the brown-trucked harbinger of doom that things would get worse.  I lightly limped in my boots to the crest of the hill, took off my pack and just sat there, leaving the bike in the center of that icy road.  I sat for 15 minutes just trying to be still, to be optimistic, to not worry.

The bike was closer to the oncoming side of the road than it was to the proper side, but the ditch was shallower and had an ok run to complete the journey to the top.  I tried to lift the bike, but in the position it was in, it kept sliding down on its fairing and I could get no grip with my flat-footed boots.  I tried again and again, worrying I might throw out my back from the strain.  The bike wouldn’t budge.  I stood back and stared at it, full of frustration and agony, wishing I was somewhere else, wishing I could see my kids, wishing for anything but this, but here I was not in any other place but there and I needed to do something.  I walked to the embankment and found a busted tree branch as big as my arm and wedged it underneath the back tire.  I resolved that if I could just get the tiniest amount of leverage from the fixed position of the branch, I could prop the bike up and deal with the next issue of making the rest of the way up.  With everything I had I was able to lift the bike up enough to wedge my slipping foot and knee under the fallen side of the bike.  I had just that moment to adjust my hands positioning and try to prop up further and I did.  I was relieved to be upright.  Having mastered the art of janky backwoods snowbound sportbike salvage, I made quick work of the last ten yards using the ditch method and on to the dirt road I arrived.

I sat and rested for half an hour just sitting and staring blankly into the trees.  The sun began to fade and I was not close at all to any passable road.  I took a walk down the road to see how it looked and to my chagrin saw that it was worse than all roads prior, absolutely impossible to be trespassed by a bike.  I looked around and saw no suitable place to try to get help, there was no cell service, no nothing.  Moment to moment it got colder and I started to wonder if I would be camping up against a tree without protection from the elements.  I just sat there watching the sun slowly fall and cast the shadows of the tall trees over me.

Off in the distance I heard a tremendous racket like the sound of falling I beams and for a long time it persisted.  Finally up the road came an odd looking Industrial truck.  As it effortlessly crested the hill the jolly driver came to a stop and rolled down his window.  “Looks like you’re stuck there, friend!  Maybe I could load that bike into the truck?”  I looked at the truck and saw only a long metal beam too thin to even give a footing for my motorcycle tires.  “Yeah, I guess there’s no place to put it, huh?  Well, gee I wish there was something I could do for you.  Do you want a ride into town?”  The idea of leaving the R6 abandoned on a remote country road sounded like a really bad idea in a day full to the brim with bad ideas already hatched.  “I think I would rather just have you send a tow truck for me.  Would you be able to do that when you get to town?”  The town was still easily a good hour and a half from our position with the road travel conditions.  “Yeah, I’ll send them your way.”  I thanked the driver as he drove off.  The idea of rescue put my now fever pitched mind to ease, that is for the first two hours that I waited.

The sun had all but dropped out of sight and I was freezing without shelter.  Then something extraordinary happened.  A flatbed truck with double back axles pulled up with two brawny country boys inside, both pink faced, checking tobacco and covered in grime, I couldn’t have been happier.  Without so much as a hello, they got out and assessed how they might load the bike into the bed.  They instructed me to ride the bike into the adjoining field that Stood a good 5 ft higher than the road.  They backed the bed of the truck to the embankment and I road the bike through the snowy field up to the bed.  The two men lifted the bike wheels and all into the flatbed, rolled it forward and strapped it down securely.  I hopped in and I sat there shoulder to should with them, feeling like a refugee rescued.

The boys explained with casualness I didn’t expect that they pick up stranded people on the back roads all the time.  It was just a part of the deal.  I told them that I had sent for a tow truck and they laughed out loud.  “Hah, yeah, there ain’t no tow truck that’s gonna come on a wild goose chase on a dirt road.  The only tow in town is run by this guy in his 80’s, who only tows on easy highways, and he goes to bed at 8pm.  No, you would have been stuck out there.”  I expressed my gratitude to the gentlemen and sat and listened to the howl of the wind and the breathtaking sunset that the winter dusk had prepared.  Through long s curves and stretches of icy road, the truck danced and slid around, making its way down, down, down the hills and through the peaks and valleys.

Across a tumultuous looking bridge we drove, passing a man who looked like Santa waving at us out of pleasantness.  He wasn’t waving for help, he was just waving.  Once across we bent and swept up and over till the truck stopped for another man with a dog who needed a lift.  “There’s no room in the cab, but you can sit in the back if you want.”  Without a word, the guy placed his dog on the bed and hopped on, wrapping his arm around the strap that tied my bike down.  It was in that moment that I stopped feeling sorry for myself.  No matter how bad I had it, this guy had it worse, but we were both riding together, this motley assemblage of strangers on a snowy road, partners for a time in a simple shared destiny called making it to town alive.  It was dark and frigid and the town only had one hotel.  The back passenger pounded on the back window to stop.  He hopped off and went on his way.  Without much more than a wave we carried on.

They drove me to their house on the only road the town had, propped a ramp against the back of the flatbed and out I went, free to ride the roads that only had black ice.  I went straight for the hotel and got a room.  They could have charged me five hundred dollars and I would have had no choice but to pay, but lucky for me it as only ninety.  There was a corner store next door with a burger joint and I sat and ate the shitty burger with thanks.  I grabbed a bottle of cheap wine and made my way back to the room.  I was absolutely filthy, cold, bedraggled and beat to death, wrecked and wind worn, but I was safe.  I got in the shower and ran it as hot as I could stand it, trying to wash off the metallic cold that ran to my core.  I had the red wine for the inside and the hot water for the outside.  I called my brother and told him I was safe.  Nobody had heard from me for over a week.  I slept hard and heavy and when I awoke, I felt like a new kind of freedom was at hand, until I walked outside.

*Gabriel D. Roberts is a theological scholar, researcher and public speaker that specializes in discussions about the nature of perception and belief. After 27 years of passionate searching and study, Gabriel stepped away from his long held Christian faith into a more expansive and fluid worldview.  The details and reasons are catalogued in his book, Born Again To Rebirth.  Like many others who have had an earnest thirst for the answers to the big questions of life, Gabriel was not satisfied to settle for not knowing more.  His latest book, The Quest For Gnosis explores the roots of belief, the power of the ecstatic state in one’s spiritual life and the means by which a deeply satisfying spiritual life may be achieved outside of the bonds of dogma.  Within The Quest For Gnosis, Gabriel interviews 20 of the brightest minds in this field of study, including Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, Graham Hancock, Daniele Bolelli, Peter J. Carroll, Hamilton Morris, Dr. Aaron Cheak, David Metcalfe, Dr. Rick Strassman and many more.

Gabriel writes for VICE and and is the author of three books. He is continuing his research at the University of Washington in his hometown of Tacoma, WA.