Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Year on the Road

One Tuesday a year ago I woke up, had some coffee, pulled out of the driveway and drove south - a year later, I could go no further.

The Logistics:

  • Over 21,000 miles (20,960 from Seattle to Ushuaia).
  • Four complete tire changes
  • Six oil changes
  • Approximately 150 trips to the gas station
  • 14 different countries traveled
  • Three continents visited.
  • 20 border crossings (9 involving the Argentina/Chile border, and not including Antarctica)
  • Reached the most southern point of the trip (I think) at Longitude 65. 50'S.

March 10, 2010 marked my one-year anniversary on the road. If the plan sticks, I have four more left. On this particular day I found myself in Coihaique, Chile as I was navigating the dirt roads back up north. I have thought a lot about this date and what it would mean to me; what I have experienced since leaving, what I have missed, and how will I proceed. These are some of my "reflections":


  • I have not answered a phone in over 11-months.
  • I have not received one speeding ticket nor been harassed by the police. For the most part, they have been my biggest fans – always interested and wanting to help. It is almost disappointing.
  • I have ridden almost every mile alone (the exception being a week in Central America). I do not object to riding with someone, but do admit I like traveling solo. However, it would be nice to have dinner with someone after a long day.
  • Adventure travel is an odd beast; you spend time poking around looking for trouble, while at the same trying to avoid it. The saying, “It doesn’t get interesting until something goes wrong”, contradicts your actions of constantly trying to prevent things from going wrong.
  • My peripheral vision has improved. I continue to keep a diligent eye on my belongings and on myself, but it seems to occur more naturally now, taking much less energy and stress to perform. I believe it is another one of those natural instinctive reflexes that we lose living in a safe and secure environment - the reflex simply goes dormant. Although, a stealthy dog attacking from the side can still scare the sh** out me.
  • The writer Paul Theroux once said, “Travel is not a vacation, and it is often the opposite of a rest.” With this in mind and when the opportunity presents its self, a day spent in bed watching cable is cherished and looked upon with great admiration.
  • The odds of running into someone that wants to help you are far greater than running into someone that wants to harm you
  • Warm places beget warm people.
  • The laptop remains to be a tether to the “outside world”. Sometimes I think I am missing out on a greater experience by having it. At this point, however, I am going to stick with it. I am not convinced that holding on is such a terrible thing.
  • Physically, my low back has been my weakest area. I can usually stay on top of it by doing my basic routine of back and abdominal exercises, although, I could be more consistent with them. Nothing has ever gotten too bad, but I have had some slowing moving days.
  • No matter how tired I am at the end of the day, my mind continues to race at 80-mph after the bike stops. I need to stop and chill for a bit - a cold beer can help. It’s a time where I unconsciously process day - the thousands of images and scenes that have played out, the smells, the temperature, the faces – everything. Sort of like “viewing the dailies” in the movie business, but incorporating all the senses.
  • The trip itself has been infinitely easier than the two years of preparation before leaving. I believe that this is in part to my thinking that the preparation would be so much easier than it was, and in contrast, had visualized the journey being so much more difficult and troublesome than it has been.
  • I consider this past year a great success, in many ways, but nothing compares to what we have been able to do with Write Around the World. A small group of friends started this project from scratch, not knowing anything about operating a non-profit corporation, raising funds, or how to ship goods to a third world country – nothing. Yet we managed to ship over 1000-pounds of needed school supplies (duty free) to Guatemala this past year, and have established ourselves to do more this year. I have never been prouder of anything and owe it all to Amy, Erin, Michelle, Debbie, Kelli, and Ray back home.
  • I think of Africa almost everyday. For me, Africa is the trip. It will be my biggest accomplishment and my biggest challenge. Everything I have done up to now has been in preparation for Africa.
  • If I had to sum up everything to date in one sentence, it would be this:
    I have a long way to go.

What’s Next ?: My Social Experiment

Now that I have attained my goal of making it to the bottom, and with a trip to Antarctica as icing on the cake, I want the trip back up north to be a different kind of experience. I want to return to what I liked best about South America. I have enjoyed Chile and Argentina, but they are a bit too well off for me. I know it is incredibly selfish to say, but I miss the struggle of the countries up north. There is something raw and honest about life there and an energy that appeals to me, attracts me even. It's also where ancient cultures continue to thrive. It’s not as though I enjoy seeing the poverty, it is incredibly sad and I hope for its betterment, but I also feel that I could be somewhat useful there. Not entirely sure how I could help, maybe just being there will mean something. Therefore, I am making my way back up to Sucre, Bolivia where I hope to volunteer at Write Around the World’s second project, enroll in Spanish classes, get in shape for Africa, and find a way to become self-sufficient through some sort of employment. I will get an apartment and plan on staying for several months. I have proven to myself that I can move a motorcycle from “A to B”, but I want to see what happens when I stop. I failed miserably in Punta Arenas, but this will be on my terms. I want to try and be part of a community again.

Finally, I will leave you with this: Seldom, when I think that all this wind and sun, bad food and cheap hotels, road grime and exhaust may be accelerating the ageing process, I read this quote from George Carlin that I keep with me….

Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting ‘… man, what a ride!

1 comment:

  1. That was incredibly beautiful. We all miss you. Our lives have not gone on without you but have been enriched by your experiences and your generousity. Thank you and always know you are in our thoughts and hearts on a daily basis.