Slowing Down

This bus is not for going fast. I say that as if you know what I’m talking about. Some of you very well may. The rest of you I’ve left in the dark. The bus is my home. It’s a 1998 Ford E350 Club Wagon that I bought off of a construction company in Pennsylvania and spent the COVID-19 year turning into a mobile home. The idea was to have a home that I could take to trails and mountains all over the country. A world of trails out my front door — that was the dream.

Slowing down with Zach Miller

Zach Miller’s bus parked for the night. Photo: Patrick Cook

It felt like it took me forever to launch the bus. In fact, I wrote about it in last month’s essay. But finally, after failing to meet many a deadlines, we hit the road. The start was a bit unconventional. It was around 3 a.m. one morning when I put the bus in drive and rolled out the long stone driveway that leads to my parent’s home in Pennsylvania.

It seemed a bit crazy, but I was determined to launch the bus that night. I told my mom that it didn’t matter if I only got an hour down the road before pulling off to sleep, I just wanted to start. In the end, I got all the way to Maryland before stopping. Not that Maryland is that far from Pennsylvania, but hey, I put four hours or so between me and the homestead.

I woke up in Maryland well rested. I ate some breakfast, and searched the maps on my phone for a place to run. Realizing I wasn’t far from the Laurel Highlands Trail in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, I jumped back on the highway and pointed the bus in that direction. A few hours later, I was on the trail. I ticked off 11 miles or so, and then returned to the bus, grabbed my towel, and headed to the river for a bath. In years past, I might have forgone the river and rushed back to driving, but with no real agenda, I took time to enjoy where I was at.

Always in search of a good training spot, I asked my Instagram audience for tips on where to go next. Word on the street was that there is good gravel biking and pizza in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, so I pointed the bus in that direction. I made my way into the gorge and pulled my bike out for a ride. My followers were right: this was a fantastic spot. I spent the rest of the day riding and made it to Miguel’s Pizza just in time to grab a pie and an Ale-8 before they closed.

Slowing down with Zach Miller

Zach taking time to slow down his training and take in the sights on the road. Photo courtesy of Zach Miller.

Rather than jumping back on the road, I spent the night so that I could run some trails in the gorge before leaving. Like the gravel biking, the trails did not disappoint. As I hopped on the road and continued my trek to Colorado, this trend continued. Rather than rushing through and blowing past everything, I found myself taking the time to eat, sleep, and explore my surroundings. As a person who typically employs a near non-stop death-march driving technique, I felt like I was discovering a whole new way to travel.

As I continue traveling, my mind drifts to how this type of travel applies to the rest of life. In training, it’s easy to rush, not just in the pace of a workout or a training cycle, but also in the mentality of it. Training itself is beautiful. It’s a journey of self-improvement and an exploration of self and nature. When we rush through training with our head down, we’re like a westbound car tearing across Interstate 70, we blow past so many small towns filled with wonderful trails, gravel roads, and mom-and-pop diners. We run a trail thinking more about the numbers on our watch than the beauty of our surroundings. At times, this is ok. Other times, it’s too much. We may run only with the people at our fitness level, because sharing miles with anyone else is uncomfortable or not according to plan.

In life it’s often the same. We plow through work, school, and even play. Intentions are good. We want to reach our destination, in my case, to get the bus to Colorado. It’s understandable, but the towns we blow past are the people we love. The trails we miss are the new things we could explore. The diners we skip are the tables and meals we could share with friends new and old.

Slowing down with Zach Miller

Zach’s bus in the woods. Photo: Patrick Cook

As I continue my life in the bus, I want to embrace the slow nature it affords me. I want to take in the sights and to explore the trails and gravel roads. I want to sleep and eat, to sit at my table and share food with friends. I want to hear stories and laugh. I want to be fed and to feed. I want to set goals and train hard, but with room for all of the above. Writing this sounds ambitious, but when it feels like too much, I will remind myself of one thing: slow down and live.

Call for Comments

  • Have you ever had a period of life where you intentionally slowed down?
  • What came out of that time that you took back to the rest of life?
Zach Miller

is a mountain runner and full time caretaker at Barr Camp in Colorado. As caretaker, he lives year round in an off-the-grid cabin halfway up Pikes Peak. He competes for The North Face and Team Colorado. Additional sponsors/supporters include Clean-N-Jerky, GU Energy Labs, and Nathan Sports. Follow him on Instagram.