Monday, September 3, 2012

Slovenia Journal X: The Vrsic Pass

At 1611 meters, the Vrsic Pass in the Julian Alps is the highest pass in the mountainous country of Slovenia. The road through it was built by l0,000 Russian POW’s in World War I. It’s composed of twenty five switchbacks up and twenty five down, which makes it an ideal course for bike riders who wish to simulate the conditions of a Tour de France style course covering 9.25 kilometers at an average 8.25% grade for an altitude gain of 761meters. There are no level spots or points where the climbing lets up. To traverse such a course on a bike is a philosophical commitment. It might be called Sisyphean, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s actually doable. You have to put the bike in the lowest or granny gear and simply be able to continue peddling for several hours. Though such climbing might seem to involve an act of will, it doesn’t involve the kind of willfulness that say goes into the l00 meter dash. Those who finish the ride must  live through long periods when they feel they can’t go on. The last lines of Beckett’s famous novel The Unnameable come to mind, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. In this sense the ride is ultimately not so much an exertion of will as expression of the willingness to endure. Even though it’s composed only of ups, it bears a familiarity to being able to tolerate up and downs that comprise any long standing endeavor like the creation of an art work, an illness, even a war. In order to succeed you have to be able to tolerate that fear of failure that lurks behind every carefully marked bend.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.