With few winter commitments to fret over, and a restless feeling to contend with, the road less traveled is calling.
What does one pack for a three-month trip? I believe it’s almost the same as one packs for a week. But in this case, there will be intense climate changes. Sound like global warming? I expect to be freezing! And then hot.
Planning a trip takes a lot of effort, and there’s stress involved. Most people buy a plane ticket or make reservations at a cabin in the woods, Saturday to Saturday. I do that too. But I’ve been planning this trip, vaguely, for nearly a year—in my mind. About two months, ago fear set in.
I ran smack into the Old Boys Club at work and the stress really knocked me down. I began to think that I wouldn’t make it. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch than to take a risk and seek adventure. That’s when I started telling people that I was thinking of going to Latin America, but there’s a big difference between saying what you’re going to do and doing it. And the couch is not invigorating.
Then I looked at the long-term weather forecast. Can you believe that’s what perked me up? It did. I saw a coming break in the weather that inspired me. My seasonal job ended, the snow fell, and I’m writing a list of things to bring or fix on my bike so we’re ride ready.
I find myself strangely free. The people who took diligent care of me when I was young needed care when they aged, and for years that was my primary reason for not traveling far. Friends would remind me that every time I made a plan to meet them, I would call just before to say I might not make it.
First it was my mother who cancelled a week away. She didn’t last long after that. Later it was my dad, often, who for one reason or another got sick— not planned for my weekends away, because I always managed to go. Let’s just say he scared me many times, always telling me not to worry because when your number’s up, it’s up, and when it’s not, it’s not.
I was lucky. My adoptive parents were excellent—all too often that is not the case. They put up with my wanderlust, which started when I was young and didn’t seem concerned when I’d ride my bicycle further than other kids. Hitchhiking to Mexico when I was 19 was an eye-opener. So riding a motorcycle at 20 didn’t shock. However, setting off on a trip around the world when I was 27 did.
So here I go again. Only this time, I’m not going that far. I’m not selling my house. I’m almost 57. I plan to return to work in the spring when my seasonal contract begins.
When the BMW Adventure riders invited me to a Beemer rally in El Salvador last year, my response was immediate. Excellent plan! It makes a great destination, and from there I can roam. Truth is, I’d better do it while I still can.
I’ve graciously accepted a ride to get me below the snow line. My best friend and chosen sister is driving here from New York for New Year’s Eve, with a “trailer in a bag.” We’ll assemble it, load up my bike and head south, somewhere. I don’t know where yet. It’s all weather dependent. If we get a break, I’ll just ride. If we get a blizzard we’ll be going slow, warm in a car. Maybe we can travel together as far as my friend in Tennessee? At some point, I’ll jump off and Cheryl can return home. Maybe I’ll make it to New Orleans for the first time. That’s definitely on the bucket list. Lucky for me I have a friend there too.
On the way home I plan to visit my other chosen sister who moved to Texas. I met her while traveling decades ago and stayed with her often while I explored New York. And in March, the weather should be better. Maybe I can even ride all the way home? Maybe not. But I have an excellent stop on my way. I might have lined up a ride up with a big-rig owner/operator through a website. Many transport truck drivers are bikers. One might have room in the back. Or I could be standing at a truck stop, possibly in snow, looking for someone to take me as far as Niagara Falls. It happened before. Only that time I was offered a ride by a trucker I met inside a restaurant in Georgia.
Having hitchhiked a cargo ship to Florida, I was heading back home in April, unaware of a big snowstorm ahead. You might see me pushing my bike over the Rainbow Bridge in a snowstorm—happy to be back home. If there is snow, there’ll be a friend with a truck waiting at the other side.
These are serious considerations that leave a lot of room for adventure. I know that others wouldn’t travel this way. But I will. I don’t want or need everything laid out before me like a book, with no opportunity to take the road less traveled. In fact, I want the road less traveled. I fear that in the 30 years since I did this before, the roads in Mexico have been paved by NAFTA, and there’ll be no adventure at all.
I plan to take a good road map. And back roads. There will be no GPS nattering at me, telling me where to go! No cell phone, no guidebook, though I will consult Lonely Planet in advance to look up Spanish schools and dive centres.
I plan to bring my snorkel and mask, but there’s no way my fins will fit. Also on the checklist are: bike boots, rain gear, a small sleeping bag, one pair of sandals, one change of clothes, and an iPod so I can email my friends back home. And they can email me.
I’m ready for an adventure. I’m ready for the kind of ride that will really clear my head. I had a brilliant last day at work. The guys gathered at Murphy’s Law after the seasonal worker’s last day. And the holiday parties had already begun. I’ll be with my friends until it’s over. So now to fit everything in two saddle bags, with one tank bag near empty to be available for road food and such, and an empty bag on the back to carry my winter riding gear when I’m done with it, until I need it again.
The road less traveled is already a road. And it’s been well traveled—just not by me. And if the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step, the first step is to decide to do it. Decide to do it!