Last week was what has become known to my family and friends as my annual Camp Bike Think week.
I go somewhere by myself with our family’s pop up camper for a week. It is not really a vacation as much as it is a change in environment. I still have my e-mail open every day and help my clients and my IAG team members, but I spend lots of time reading, working on special projects, and, as the name would imply, biking.
This year my biking goal was to explore the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, The 400 State Trail which runs from Elroy south to Reedsburg, and the Omaha Trail which runs from Elroy north to Camp Douglas. Being by myself with no one to pick me up at the other end, this naturally means I planned to bike these trails twice — there and back.
The Elroy-Sparta State Trail is well known for its three tunnels which the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad blasted out in the 1870s. I had no issues walking my bike through Tunnels 1 and 2. They were dark and a little wet, but relatively short and straightforward.
Tunnel 3 was a different story. I was intimidated.
Tunnel 3 is 3,810 feet long (roughly ¾ of a mile). There are no lights except for the small LED headlight on the front of my bike. On a normal day, they tell me that you can see the light at the other end of the tunnel which serves as a beacon of hope. But last Wednesday was not a normal day.
The high temperature that day was 102, but thankfully I had planned my 28-mile ride that day to avoid the heat of the day. It was only 96 degrees by the time I reached Tunnel 3. And it was humid.
The combination of high heat, high humidity, and cool tunnel temperatures created a fog that filled the inside of Tunnel 3, preventing any light from the far entrance to penetrate the darkness. The fog ensured I could only see two or three feet in front of me even with my bike light.
Compounding the fog, to see anything I had to remove my fogged up prescription sunglasses which added the distortionary blur of my natural vision. And then there was the constant sound of running water from the spring above me and the uneven slippery clay path. I will admit after the first 50 feet I hesitated. It was hair-on-the-back-of-my-neck creepy.
As I evaluated my options, I concluded I had only two. The first was to abandon my goal and not finish the trail. The second was to plunge into foggy, distorted darkness and hope I came out the other end.
I reflected on the number of people who have likely survived this tunnel in the past. The trail opened in 1965, and in my pre-trip research I had not read any reports of bikers or hikers mysteriously disappearing or being fatally injured in Tunnel 3. While past performance is not an indication of future results, I decided to proceed through Tunnel 3 by simply taking one step at a time.
Sometimes you will encounter uncomfortable obstacles while you are pursuing your personal or financial goals in life. Those obstacles may be fairly intimidating, but taking one focused step at a time can keep you on track.
Optimizing for your future financial well-being requires mixing your personal goals with the financial markets, tax law, estate planning rules, insurance protection, economic uncertainty, and family dynamics. That can seem like traveling through a long disorienting foggy tunnel.
When I reached Tunnel 3 on my way back to camp, I was much more confident. I did not hesitate to enter. I did not consider any other options. I just entered and kept going until I came out the other side.
At IAG, we are experienced at helping families through life’s tunnels. In our 38 years, it is very likely we have successfully navigated most intimidating tunnels you will encounter. We would be happy to help you or someone you care about take the focused steps that can help them when they have doubts about their path or reaching their goals.
Quote of the week: Vernon Howard: “Never fear to deliberately walk through dark places, for that is how you reach the light on the other side.”