There are 59 national parks in the United States comprised of 51.9 million acres in 27 states as well as the territories of American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The National Park Service was founded in 1916 through the Organic Act during the Woodrow Wilson administration "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
Although there are many famous and well-visited national parks such as Yosemite, Great Smokey Mountains, Zion, Everglades, Grand Canyon and Denali, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was the first tract of land in the world to be set aside as a protected National Park.
Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872 and is made-up of 2.2 million acres which is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
It is home to pristine old-growth forests, breath-taking rock formations, countless rivers and streams, and famous geothermal features such as "Old Faithful".
The abundant wildlife in Yellowstone includes black and grizzly bears, bison, elk and mule deer, moose, bald eagles, and grey wolves.
This past week I’ve spent a lot of time exploring Yellowstone and the surrounding area... a total of 515 miles of it... while traveling at roughly 15 miles per hour... on the seat of a bicycle...
While gazing at the incredible scenery, I’ve had a lot of time to think about several things... thoughts that I’d like to share with you...
Small Town People
I live in a very large fast moving city. People are cordial... but rarely go out of their way to say hello or help one another. I suppose that they are too busy trying to get from one place to another to give courtesy and hospitality much thought.
People in large cities are typically strangers to one another so there is little personal connection.
During this past week, I’ve had the opportunity to chat a bit with some of the local residents of some towns along the way... towns like Ennis, Livingston, Gardiner, Cook City and Silver Gate.
These are people that seem to me to be very hard working... but a bit slower and more meticulously than many of my city friends.
They appear to have a certain pride in their work... whether it’s making acoustic guitars in Bozeman, MT (Gibson Guitars) or making sandwiches and fresh lemonade at the Silver Gate Café. The people I met want to do whatever it is they do in the best way possible... a job worth doing is a job worth doing well...
There were several times during my rides when cars would wait patiently at a stop sign (or simply at a corner) allowing several cyclists at a time to pass. Often they would wave and wish us well with our ride. Never once did I hear a car honk its horn or try to intimidate others on the road...
Just not things that you might experience in a large city...
I’ve been to a lot of different places in my life... but it’s rarely the places I remember... but rather the people I met along the way.
It might be hard to imagine in 2013, but there are actually entire communities in the U.S. without cell-phone or internet service.
Most of us have grown so accustom to our electronic "leashes" that the thought of losing service for a few days causes terror among seemingly rational adults.
There were several times on this tour where riders pulled off to the side of the road to check e-mail or make a phone call, just because they happened to catch a random cell site signal for a few feet. Many of the riders, unfortunately, just couldn’t allow themselves to be out of touch with the digital world.
I actually found it to be very liberating to be completely devoid of news, email, and phone calls for a few days.
It seems that the people who got the worst of it (in my small world) were the people who expected an immediate answer from me (I forgot to add an out-of-office message telling people that I was unavailable for a few days... so I suppose I only have myself to blame).
Perhaps it’s because we are so wired today, that people become highly annoyed when their calls and e-mails aren’t returned within a few hours... or perhaps that says something about the level of customer service we try to provide... allowing people to have those high expectations of fast answers.
I’m certain that I’ll have a lot of apologizing and explaining to do once I return to the office.
Finding the Meaning of Life
Maybe it was the majestic beauty of Yellowstone or the solitude of riding long days on roads-less-traveled, but I talked with several people this past week who seem to be on a personal quest for the meaning of life.
After pondering the thought for several miles it became very apparent to me that life isn’t about finding a meaning...
We were all born onto this earth... and one day we will eventually leave it.
Our meaning is simple...
Make the world a slightly better place than it was before we were born.
Yes, we can change the world in big ways, such as inventing great technological advancements or donating billions of dollars to philanthropic organizations doing good works...
... or we can leave our mark on the world one step at a time by being kind, courteous and polite to others.
... we can offer up our time to help those less fortunate or those who have been cast into the shadows of society (elderly, people with special needs, or those suffering from illness or affliction).
... we can set good examples by being a trustworthy friend, loving spouse and/or parent, or teacher to those who are willing to learn.
... we use some of our valuable time to listen before speaking, ask lots of questions trying to understand other people’s perspective, and take a moment to really look at the world around us looking for ways to help.
When we were children... we were taught "Stop... Look... Listen" when crossing a street... funny how this seems to apply to more things in life than street crossing...
The meaning of life isn’t found in the mountains of Nepal, the great plains of Africa, or the valleys and vistas of Yellowstone. We don’t need to trek to all ends of the earth to find meaning...
The meaning of life is mostly found in our own communities, in our own homes, and in our places of work.
The answers to living a fulfilling and meaningful life are found between our own ears... and in our hearts.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse, as I apologize in advance if you were trying to reach me this past week...
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