Something snapped over the last few days. There's this distinct point when idle musing starts to become something else, something dangerous.
I've been sitting here at my desk in front of this computer for hours on end working on the software that runs this site. I really want to get the tagging and mapping software done because I think it would be cool to have especially for the next Deal's Gap trip. But as the hours turn into days and weeks my mind begins to wander.
The last time I was at Bob's BMW having my bike worked on to fix the heated grips I noticed a flyer on the wall about a presentation by a guy, Allen Karl, who had ridden around the world. "Ah, another Long Way Round.", I thought as I considered attending. It's the kind of thing I never do and I thought maybe I would learn something. Maybe I would meet some interesting people. Maybe I would have a chance to talk to the guy.
I went home and forgot about it until an evening or two later. I decided right as the registration deadline approached to sign up.
Later that week, while getting my hair cut the woman said, in her thick Vietnamese accent, "I read about your trip". I was floored. I think I had mentioned it to her after I got back. We got to talking about it. A guy walked in who, coincidentally, wanted to get into motorcycling. A few minutes conversation turned into 45. I talked about Deadhorse and the road. "So where are you going to next?", he asked me. I mentioned I didn't really have a Next. I described how I had toyed with the idea of South America. Could I make it down to Tierra Del Fuego? "That's really dangerous", I think he said. "Naw, you should ride through Eastern Europe", he said.
Less than a second later when I realized the full implication of what he had just said I replied, "Awww, man. I wish you hadn't said that!". Of course, this is how I got myself into trouble the last time. Really, it was only supposed to be a trip to Victoria, British Columbia to see my buddy Ian. But of course if you're in Victoria you might as well jump across to Vancouver. And if you're in Vancouver, well Frazer Canyon is just up the road. Well, Prince George isn't too much further, where, as an aside, you have to stop at the Twisted Cork restaurant. From Prince George the Alcan Highway isn't so far. And so on. Before you know it, you're in Deadhorse.
"You know, if I make it to Eastern Europe I'll be too tempted to keep going ...", I explained.
Europe. I heard that Danny the Real Adventure Rider shipped his bike to Europe. It's probably more doable than I imagine. I began to daydream about riding through Europe. Maybe I could do that next summer or the summer there after. A friend of mine here in DC is moving back to Europe for a while. I could ride by and visit her. I could visit my family in Ahausen, Germany. I could visit Henrike outside of Frankfurt. Then there's Andrea and Thomas in Zurich, who did a huge year and a half long trip through the Western Hemisphere. I just heard from Andrea and they are considering new trips. I could ride to Berlin and visit a friend there. Then there's riding through former East Germany. I even have friends farther east.
I let myself idly consider a trip through Europe as I wondered what route Allen Karl had taken. "Around the world?", I thought. In my typical fashion I didn't read up on him or look at his website. I wanted to leave myself free of any preconceptions before his presentation.
Since I've gotten back things have been very different. I'm continuing to meet new people. The Nightmare is really beginning to feel like it's over. My mom has finally put Fort Lamers on the market and once that property is gone, the last physical vestige of the Nightmare will be past tense. I'm working like a madman on a new project that I hope to be able to do something with. I want to combine motorcycling, software, writing and business. Slowly, I'll turn this site into the vision I have for it. But questions of what I'm going to do Next with my life still loom large like some kind of ominous cloud. Eventually, I will have to start making money again, a fact that weighs on me more heavily as the days pass.
But something's not right. I'm not the only one who feels it after having come back from being Out There. I heard from Richard Giffin, the epic bicyclist I met on the Alcan highway. He described a feeling of emptiness since he's gotten back. Maybe that's the right word. Something's missing here, but I don't really know what it is.
The feeling of the road is gone. I feel more closed. Darkness has been finding it's way back inside. Maybe it's this house. Or is it this area? Or is it simply the fact that each day I wake up in the same place and go through the same ritual looking forward to nothing other than getting out of the house very late in the day to go grab dinner and a drink out somewhere. Most days here, I spend entirely alone.
I asked myself a dangerous question. "What am I living for?". I have no epic Nightmare to consume all of my being. I've been tempted to try to save ones in need only to face the harsh reality that I don't have the power to do any good. Maybe impulses like that are an excuse not to focus on the bigger question.
"What am I living for?"
The people I know on the standard plan live for their kids. Some others I know live for work. Some live for their spouses.
I fear most don't live but instead just exist.
I've done the workaholic thing for most of my life, where by most I mean since I was 8, but it was all tied to the Nightmare. I've built businesses, none of them terribly successful but I've learned from each one. Anatoly and I have been working very hard on a new business concept which might actually become worth something. Can building something like that be a reason to live?
I had dinner with Rachel recently as I had been thinking about these topics and I mentioned, "I think that cliche of live every day like it's your last isn't right. I think what was so good about my trip is that each day was the last in that place." To which she replied, "I think you should live every day like it's your first in a new place". Wise as always. I just don't know how to do that here, at least not yet.
I still think about fear a lot. I fear that the way I live my life is too irresponsible and will catch up to me. I fear what happens when I get older. My health is not the best but then again never has been. I fear failure. I probably fear success even more. In some ways I think I fear change. Rachel is moving back to DC completely changing her life. It's scary but she's doing it, a life redirected.
I have not been able to, in my day to day life, do what was so easy for me to do on the road. I fear I am still a coward in many ways, but maybe ever so slightly less so.
Because thoughts of fear dominate my thinking at times, I asked myself another question. "What am I most afraid of?". My mind wandered off topic and drifted southward as I consider Andrea and Thomas' trip.
South America scares the shit out of me.
What scares me even more than South America? Africa.
Being a masochist, I began to consider the trip that I would fear the most. I could ride South to Tierra Del Fuego, knowing full well I would not survive, and if I did somehow make it, I could ship the bike to South Africa and ride north. I'd never make it. Certainly anyone who tries a trip like that would end up dead. But if it could be done, how incredible of a journey would that be?
I put on my gear and headed out as the sun set to ride up to Bobs BMW to listen to this presentation. I wondered what route he had taken across Russia? Or did he maybe descend into Mongolia as Ewan McGreggor did?
I was surprised how many people had showed up. I think it must have been 50 or more. Surprisingly few people rode, but then again it was forecast to dip down to 34degF.
Bob had the thing catered. The shop was nicely set up to accomodate alot of guests and it was kind of a business party atmosphere. There was wine and beer. I got to talking to a few people around a table. A woman, Linda, had gotten into riding a few years ago. She was 58 when she started. She rode for 30 days I think she said and then went on a 2500 miles ride from Victora BC down the West coast. She got into motorcycling because, she reasoned, it was the most uncharacteristic thing she could think of doing. It turns out she had lived through her own Nightmare and turned to the motorcycle to gain some perspective when nothing else worked. She's in the process of writing a book about it and has a blog. I promised I would link to it, but haven't had a chance to read any of her writing yet. It's called Blind Curves.
I talked to another woman, but I did not get her name, whose ambition it was to ride a dual sport bike through third world countries. She was in her 50's as well.
I talked about my trip, the blog and what I learned. When asked how I could take so much time off, I alluded to the Nightmare. We talked for maybe an hour and I was a little embarrassed when they asked me what other adventure riding around the world I had done. They thought initially I was the presenter. "Nope, I'm just some random guy, but me being here is such a bad idea". "Why is that?", they asked.
"I might get inspired."
The shop had been cleared out and rows upon rows of chairs had been set up. They had projector. The rider and presenter, Allan Karl, started with multimedia presentation. A collage of photos and video put to music, in the fashion of what people suggested I do but didn't. Following an emerging pattern, Allan had run into life problems, sold all of his belongings and rode his bike 62,000 miles for 3 years through 35 countries. He's in the process of writing a book and wrote an extensive blog while he was Out There. Sound familiar?
I looked at the photos and the video and slowly I started to get this sinking feeling.
Contrary to what I assumed, he did not go East.
He went South.
All the way South to Tierra Del Fuego. Despite being warned not to, he rode through Columbia and ran into potentially life threatening situations but emerged not only unscathed but with new, albeit very dangerous, friends.
To make matters worse, he did not stop. He shipped his bike from Argentina to ... you guessed it ..
Allan is a good story teller. The stories he chose to focus on reflected themes from my own trip. Risk. Fear. Patience. Humility. Trust. Human connection. The kindness of strangers. He spoke for about an hour and mostly covered his time in South America.
Unfortunately, he made this trip seem much more doable than I could ever have imagined.
It has gone from idle musing to a Thought(tm). And Thoughts(tm) are very dangerous.
"What am I living for?" Could I live for a trip that could end it all?
I will not do this ...
Angela sent me a text, she's out running a Hare Scramble in the sunshine. I haven't ridden a dirt bike in years. I'm envious.
I've also, while writing, been chatting with Josh about taking the Total Control 2 course sometime next year. That should be fun. I had intended on writing about our trip to Deal's Gap and the many conversations we had there, but strangely I've found it almost impossible to write about.
Duncan just called. As I saw the number I knew he wanted to go for a ride. He's on his way over and we're about to head out into the chilly autumn air to ride through fall colors, so I'll have to cut this off here. I may come back to this later.