When Paul and I arrived in Vancouver in April, we were introduced to a party of 8 year olds. They were told that we had just arrived with our motorcycles and that we were about to travel to Argentina over the next 2 years. I’ll never forget what one little girl said: “Two years?! Riding a motorcycle?! That’s going to be SO boring!” So, 10 weeks later I’m sure you’re keen to know…what’s it really like?
First of all, I can’t believe we’re actually here. It’s a year ago today that Paul ‘suggested we go shopping’ and surprised me with his-and-hers BMWs sitting on the showroom floor with our names on them. He said: “Marry me and let’s travel the world…just say yes!” That night I cried and cried because I was not able to ride my bike home, I was so terrified…I was feeling devastated and asking myself: “How could I possibly ride around the world when I couldn’t even ride my bike home from the dealership?!” As I think back to that time, I’m pleased that I have now clocked almost 14,000km on my bike, and that about 8,000km has been abroad on this dream journey.
We left Sydney on April 1st, not knowing what to expect or even if we would enjoy this journey. Open minds and very loose plans have served us well. Our travel plans for Canada proved impossible due to the severe weather and I found myself feeling a failure because of what we had planned and expected to work out. Seven weeks of incessant rain made travelling by motorcycle a constant nightmare and it was disappointing not being able to do the things we had hoped to, due to the unusually snowy conditions. Paul wisely said that we should focus on our own journey, our own reality and not try and emulate what others have done. This proved to be a major turning point in both my mindset and satisfaction and that’s when we really started shaping our own journey.
Getting dressed each day for riding is akin to dressing for scuba diving…you struggle into your protective gear and it feels incredibly cumbersome, until you’re on the bike…then it’s heaven! In Canada we purchased heated jackets and they’ve served us incredibly well, both in Canada and beyond. Even though we’ve come further South to warmer weather, we could be riding in the heat of the valley one minute, then ride up into the mountains and within minutes we’re freezing. We’ve perfected our packing routines – we’re packed and ready within half an hour and we also know how to keep essential items handy for quick changes of clothing at the roadside – either to cool down or get more warmly dressed. When travelling by bike you’re incredibly vulnerable to every change in the weather, which could be a number of times throughout a day or sometimes within an hour.
Our accommodation has varied – hotels, couches, a floor, a cruise, B&Bs, motels and wild camping. We were fantasising about bathing by the time we got to LA, as we’d only had 2 baths in 10 weeks – showers or the occasional river had been the norm. Our camping equipment has been superb! Although we haven’t camped as much as we hoped we’ve enjoyed our camping experiences the most. We’re considering not camping once we head into Mexico and further South as fatigue has been our greatest challenge. Riding all day, then setting up camp is exhausting. What he have learned to do is secure accommodation for at least 2 nights, which grants us time to explore and to rest, avoiding constant early starts and full days of riding. Hotel and motel stays are also an opportunity to wash our clothes and sleep in a real bed or have a decent meal, so we’ve made sure to include those.
We’ve learned so much already, through trial and error, through biker forums on social media and through suggestions from fellow bikers. We have learned to treat our travel weeks as we would normal ‘work weeks’…no more than 5 days’ riding with at least 2 days’ rest. We have learned to be honest with ourselves about fatigue, so for example we decided to stay another day at Shaver Lake, just watching movies and sleeping.
It has been challenging to try and eat well and to stick to healthy diets. ‘Crackers and cheese’ might be easy lunches but soon they leave us feeling awful and ratty and craving a good feed. At Shaver Lake I was craving roast chicken and vegetables for dinner. We asked around town and were told fresh chicken was a 20 minute ride down the mountain. It turned out to be an hour and half ride…and the chicken was frozen! All this at the end of a tiring, hot day’s riding, I was not in a good mood. Paul cheered me up during the tense ride back, sticking his elbows out like chicken wings, flapping about as he rode, making chicken clucking noises…helping lift my “foul” mood. I had to agree that it was just another “one of those moments which is only funny afterwards!”
Sarah observed that I seem to be crying a lot and it’s true that it’s been an incredibly emotional journey. Initially there were tears, longing for home and then tears of being simply overwhelmed with emotion at all the wonderful things we’ve seen and experienced. North America’s nature has touched our souls and made a lasting impact in so many ways. I’m constantly further researching so many things we got to see. There are moments it’s been particularly tough being away from home, such as when Sarah mentioned her Australian Citizenship Ceremony date, Cait messaged that Charlie is really ill and Paul shed a tear when his daughter Charlotte recently got engaged.
We’ve eaten some interesting things: stinging nettle quiche, pumpkin pie, pumpkin and peanut butter soup, ‘biscuits and gravy’ for breakfast and salmon candy jerky. Paul has been gifted brownies and a peanut butter cookie. We’ve sampled local craft beers along our travels, Spruce Tip Beer in Alaska being a particular favourite. Another ‘local delight’ was cedar infused brandy cocktail in Tofino.
So what’s it really like? It’s certainly not like a holiday, as there is no pre-determined end, no job or home to go back to. It’s much more like a new way of living with it’s own “daily routines”, goals and things needing to be done. The planning and organising of ‘where to next’ is hard work, as is the riding. It’s tough on our bodies, our backs are getting strong and we wake most mornings with hands aching from operating the throttle and clutch levers on the bikes. It’s a very physical journey in every sense and we constantly need our wits about us, as we ride.
We are very open on this journey. Open to learning, experiencing, feeling, listening and seeing with fresh eyes. Open to changing, growing and open to sharing with honesty what the journey really is like. That having been said, there are aspects of our journey which we have not openly shared (yet?) and Paul jokes he’s going to publish a second blog called “What actually happened”. Some things just need further reflection before we can adequately share, plus there’s the reality about being sensitive to the fact that most people we encounter on our journey also read our blog!
I’m overtly aware of what a gift this time with Paul is, how remarkable a journey it already has been and that it’s a journey that’s just started…