As Good As It Gets

Remember, you’re here to have fun. 

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results. —Willie Nelson

It was a beautiful evening up Stone Creek—the kind of night that practically demands an after-work ride. The switchbacks were a sweaty grind, as always, but the wildflowers were in bloom, swaying in the evening breeze, and the air tasted sweet and cool. When my partner and I reached the bench, there were two other riders slouched over their bikes—so we stopped to chat and have a drink before continuing to the ridge.

As we rolled to a stop, however, our trail mates gave us a withering stare—what people cooler than me call mean-mugging. It was an unexpected reaction, but I decided to parry and thrust.

“Howdy guys, beautiful night, eh?”

The sourest-looking one grunted, but it could have passed as a scoff.

“Everything okay?”

Sourpuss responded flatly, without making eye contact. “Yep.”

They were both decked out head-to-toe in new (i.e., clean) gear, and their bikes were spectacular examples of carbon-fiber art—the kind that could cover a few months of mortgage payments. They looked young and fit—they probably climbed the switchbacks much faster than me. One had a sleeve tattoo of the garden variety—some mash-up of graphics and color intended to impress girls—and both carried themselves with the apathetic swagger of 20-somethings who have it all figured out.

My partner quietly suggested that we bring a saw up to take care of a small tree across the trail, and that’s when Sourpuss chimed in. “Yeah, that tree’s bullshit.” His buddy nodded in agreement, and added “There’s a bunch of bullshit on this trail right now—trees everywhere, snow up top still, it totally sucks, man.” There was aggressive emphasis on “sucks.” Then they stood there, unsmiling, as if they’d made a profound conversational contribution.

And here I thought the night was pretty amazing and riding bikes was fun. Silly me.

When did being pissed off become cool? When did apathy replace stoke? When the hell did perfection become the standard, with everything else falling into the “bullshit” category? There appears to be a growing number of “very serious recreationists” who don’t seem to be having fun unless everything is perfect. Unexpected weather? Bullshit. Dusty trail? Bullshit. Wet trail? Bullshit. Too many people? Bullshit. Low blood sugar? Bullshit. Negativity seems to have become the way to prove how serious one is about the very unserious business of outdoor recreation.

There’s really no such thing as a bad day if you have the time and resources to be exploring a trail in Montana. You’re playing—nothing more. Know who’s actually having a bad day? Homeless people. Prisoners. Sean Spicer, probably. Vegans. Quit your whining and enjoy your ride. Or your hike, run, paddle, or climb.

Please, put the mean-mug away. Say hello and smile with your friends. Life is good, and if somehow you need proof, quit gazing at your naval and take a long look around. It’s summer in Montana—time to let the negativity go, and enjoy the good life. Because being mad totally sucks, man.