The Important Things in Life

(Disclaimer: If you're not in long, rambling stories, hit your Back button now.  Also, this isn't meant to be a ripoff of Jeremy Anderson's The Finer Things in Life page, despite the similar title and the fact that I work with him.)

Once upon a time, I used to think that the only important thing in life was work.  Well, maybe not the only important thing, but it was highest on my list. In fact, I thought it was so important that after I graduated from the U of M, I moved from Minneapolis to Dallas to take a job with EDS.  I had initially resisted the idea of relocating after I graduated, and I probably had the right idea because I never liked Dallas.  So, I moved back and got a job with Health Risk Management.

In August of 1995, I took a vacation to Lake Tahoe.  I wanted to try mountain biking out there, as well as doing other things like hiking, taking a boat ride, and renting a jet-ski.  I rented a mountain bike and checked out two trails on the west side of the lake: the General Creek Trail, where I came within about 100 feet of a black bear cub up the trail, and the McKinney-Rubicon Trail, which I later found out is a famous four-wheeling route.  At the end of the day, I returned the bike, and the guy at the rental shop suggested I try out the Flume Trail, on the east side of the lake.  It's a good thing he did, because if I hadn't followed his suggestion, this page may not have been named The Information Singletrack.
Photo by Jeff Moser/Bike Carson It was a long, tough climb from the parking lot to Marlette Lake.  I was thinking, "I'm not very physically fit!  I don't think I could even walk a mile at sea level!"  When I got to the lake, I waded in to cool off (which wasn't hard to do; the water was cold), and then continued on to the main part of the Flume Trail.  To describe the scenery as "beautiful" would be understating things severely.  Being 1500 feet above Lake Tahoe, with its perfectly blue water, the clear air, and the surrounding mountains was a transcendental experience and one I doubt I'll be able to repeat. Unfortunately, nobody told me to bring a camera, so I'm adding a picture from Flickr.

Picture by Jeff Moser/Bike Carson, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works license.
About midway through the ride, I stopped to take a closer look at the lake, the scenery, and the greenish water of Emerald Bay.  I thought to myself, "This is what's important in life.  Not work, not management toady politics at work, but getting out and being able to enjoy life's experiences."  That revelation was astounding -- for the first time, I realized that I had to make life matter for myself, not take direction from everyone else and keep living up to everyone else's expectations.  It also means that while work is worthwhile and valuable, I can't use it as my sole purpose in life and my entire sense of self-worth.  Besides, I had heard the expression, "You've never heard anyone on their deathbed saying, 'I wished I had worked more hours.'"

Picture by Jeff Moser/Bike Carson, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works license.
Picture by Jeff Moser/Bike Carson
It might sound pretentious to say that I came back from that vacation changed for life as a result of trying mountain biking for the first time, but it's hard to explain it any other way.  It wasn't a difficult decision to buy a mountain bike later and start riding it all around Minneapolis-St. Paul, nor was it difficult to decide to devote more of my time to enjoying life and less time to working simply to look good to others.  After all, you have to achieve some sort of balance in your life.  If you spend all your time trying to climb the corporate ladder and you forget to experience life, sooner or later you'll be at retirement age and saying, "What happened?  What did I miss?"  Of course, if you spend all your time doing recreation and don't try to improve your career skills, you won't be able to afford mountain bike parts.  The key word is balance.

Why am I writing this now, on January of 1998, rather than after this happened in August of 1995?  Two reasons: First, because I didn't realize this would be the result (and because I didn't have a decent Web page at the time).  The second reason is that I'm currently working on a long, drawn-out project at work with a rather strict deadline that can't be moved, despite the fact that I keep getting interrupted to fix the latest critical problem.  My co-workers (who I respect a lot, and I'm not just saying that because I'm telling them about this page) are also working on another project with a rather strict deadline that can't be moved.  We're all being asked to work long hours and overtime, mainly so we can convince our customers that we're responsive to problems.  (Or, does it have something to do with company politics?  Hmmm... think think think.)  So, I'm putting this page together to remind myself that I'm sane, that there's more to life than work, and that somewhere out there, there's a scenic singletrack with my name on it.

Of course, if my manager ever sees this page, he'll go apoplectic and start questioning my loyalty to the company.  If I could wish him one thing, it would be this: The company isn't going to fold and go bankrupt if we don't get everything fixed right away.  (And no, I'm not trying to make a case for sitting around and goofing off while customers have critical bugs that need to be fixed.)

Links:'s description of the Flume Trail
Ross Finlayson's page at Stanford's page

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