In The Land Of Beyond
“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” – Jack London
The North American Epic Cycling Tour has finished riding the Dempster Highway all the way from the Arctic Ocean, arriving in Dawson City, the centre of the Klondike gold rush from 1896 to 1898. I, however, have had the pleasure of being in Dawson City, or to be more exact in a hotel in Dawson City, for six days and nights. To read about the experience of cycling the Dempster Highway you will need to read other blogs. My blog is more about ‘playing a poor hand well’.
I have been in a Dawson City hotel because, on the 3rd day of the tour, I developed an itch in my throat and asked our medic for a COVID test. The rest is history. Another rider and I had to arrange a taxi that drove all day along the Dempster Highway to deliver us here. At least we had the pleasure of seeing the scenery from the window of our cab! And thus, I joined millions of others around the world in experiencing the joy of this virus.
After several days of being stuck in a hotel room, I went for a walk with a couple of other riders who had also arrived here early for the same reason, to get a feel for the spirit of this place. One of my favourite writers from my younger days Jack London, lived and wrote here for a period of time, so my destination was the cabin in which he wrote his stories. Dawson City is small, so it was not difficult to find the cabin, rebuilt from the original logs.
Jack London lived a short life. He died at 40 and left behind ideas and thoughts that speak to me. Perhaps you may also find that they speak to you. Here is one: “Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes life worth living!…Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now, that’s something! And then go home again after three hours of it…and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!”
Jack knew a thing or two about life; “The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” “And how have I lived? Frankly and openly, though crudely. I have not been afraid of life. I have not shrunk from it. I have taken it for what it was at its own valuation. And I have not been ashamed of it. Just as it was, it was mine.”
Another individual who lived, wrote and was inspired by this place and whose cabin is situated close to Jack’s, was the poet Robert William Service who penned this:
Have ever you heard of the Land of Beyond,
That dreams at the gates of the day?
Alluring it lies at the skirts of the skies,
And ever so far away;
Alluring it calls: O ye the yoke galls,
And ye of the trail overfond,
With saddle and pack, by paddle and track,
Let’s go to the Land of Beyond!
Have ever you stood where the silences brood,
And vast the horizons begin,
At the dawn of the day to behold far away
The goal you would strive for and win?
Yet ah! in the night when you gain to the height,
With the vast pool of heaven star-spawned,
Afar and agleam, like a valley of dream,
Still mocks you a Land of Beyond.
Thank God! there is always a Land of Beyond
For us who are true to the trail;
A vision to seek, a beckoning peak,
A farness that never will fail;
A pride in our soul that mocks at a goal,
A manhood that irks at a bond,
And try how we will, unattainable still,
Behold it, our Land of Beyond!
I have had a rough 18 months. There have been recurring health issues, there have been crashes and injuries that don’t heal and then there are the everyday challenges of a world. To quote Jack London again, “Intelligent men are cruel. Stupid men are monstrously cruel.” But I thank God that there is always a ‘Land of Beyond’. And that I will seek it until the end of my days, even though it may mock me.