I always say that the beginning of a journey is full of difficulties and obstacles, hurdles that you have to overcome before the real joy of the adventure can start. And the start to our African journey has been no different, though it's also been peppered with moments of joy and beauty.
I haven't written a post in a while, but that's because we're back home in Chicago for a break before heading off to Africa, and life here has been pretty normal.
The regular American grind used to be our daily reality: waking up to the sound of the alarm, getting the coffee machine brewing before our eyes were properly opened, running from an air-conditioned building to an air-conditioned car, then coming home to turn on Wheel of Fortune or some other brain mush show until falling asleep. It's not a terrible existence, in fact, there's something very comforting and lovely about it. It's predictable, controlled, and best of all, here in Chicago, our friends and family are always close by, and weekends are spent visiting one another with good food and laughter.
As our time in Mexico has come to a close, we've reflected on both the magic and the misfortune that we've encountered during our two and half months there (mostly it was magical).
Highlights (and a few not-so-nice adventures) in chronological order -
San Felipe, Baja California
By Tim Notier
As I sit comfortably in a house we are staying at for a couple weeks, at no cost, I am able to reflect on the last 3 months of travel. Our trip has already piled on more memories than I could have hoped for.
We rode through some of the most beautiful states in the U.S. We were able to fix the bike when things went astray, and I survived a bad case of poison oak that spread to my unmentionables.
By Tim Notier
The States had proved themselves to be as amazing and hospitable as we could have hoped. We met wonderful people, saw nature in all of its glory, and shook some excess bugs out of our gear, the bike’s load, and literally out of our jackets and helmets.
A big shout out to the people who assisted us and invited us into their homes along the way, Dana Dahl and her husband William (where we almost declared legal residency because we stayed for so long), Paul Sprague (who insisted on paying for our hotel room for a night), and Jim Piatt, along with his fellow riders of the Pokka Dots: Brian Small and Ron Hess. Jim provided us with a pair of passenger foot pegs that miraculously fit (with a little grinding). We have now dubbed the bike “Peg-asus” because now she has wings!
There are too many people to thank individually, but we are grateful to every individual who provided kindness and assistance, down to just good conversations.
But now we are in Mexico, having made it all the way to Cabo. Once past Tijuana, Baja opened its window to the wondrous views it has to offer. The nights were spent at a variety of playas, each seemingly more beautiful than the last. Eating at small family owned stands, constant swimming in the Sea of Cortez, and reading books while we lay in our hammock is how we spent the majority of our days. It was true relaxation mixed in with random bonus gifts, including our Texan neighbor, Captain Gunner, letting us use his kayak-a-maran in the Bay of Conception and having a whale shark swim directly underneath us. A truly once in a lifetime experience. In the same bay, bioluminescence sparkled in the water as we swam at 4am. Everything seemed magical. Almost magical, with a couple scratches to the flawless facade.
Northern New Mexico
Once crossing the state line, the pointed Rocky Mountains of the north immediately flatten into mesas, and the cattle pastures become delicate yellow scrubland. The tree leaves are no longer the green that I have known in more temperate climates, but have become faded silver in the relentless sun.
This place seems to slowly pulse to a distant drumbeat that is steady, thoughtful, patient, like the way the people listen to what I have to say, waiting until I come to a full stop before responding. Their tongues lag in their mouths, their stride equally paused and pensive. I think for a moment that maybe people don’t hear me, or they’re all on drugs, or their daydreams have taken over reality. Or maybe they are just listening to the drumbeat that I can’t hear, the rhythm still woven into the landscape from the Native Americans of old. It reminds me of the smell of freshly baked fry bread from the Taos Pueblos, and the men with long braids down their back standing at the reservation grocery store. It resonates in the symbol of the New Mexico flag, a sun with rays coming out in the four cardinal directions, an icon harkening to the first peoples, some of whom still call this place home.
But now a new culture has emerged. As I sit at a café, I notice the group of men at the next table all wearing spurs as they clink their way to their seats, then begin to rant about the government and how many heifers they have this season ready for breeding. How no politician can understand the moods and individualities of the cattle they call their livelihood.
By Tim Notier
As a guitarist, some of my favorite lines in 12 bar blues progressions are the turnarounds. Little personal licks of emotion, dirty and gritty as they can be, that lead back to the main rhythm and comforting progression of the song.
Marisa and I have recently experienced moments of our trip that seemed to have led to unknown, improvised directions of dirty, gritty, and truly blues filled trials that have eventually led back into the standard patterns of our trip that we are accustomed to.
Turnarounds, in my attitude, and the outlook of uncomfortable situations, have redirected me to the needed understanding of uncertainty. “Life is Chaos,” or more simply, “Chaos is . . .” I found myself repeating this to myself as if practicing Timism, a lesser known branch of Buddhism (please note this is not true at all). It's an understanding that the world is not out to get me, and that all things seem to settle back to normal if given enough time, attention, or realization that some things just will not change.
We had recently camped at Kolob Reservoir, and it was beautiful. We decided it would be a great place to set up camp and call home for four days.
On the third night we stayed at the reservoir it rained, then it hailed, and it did not stop for 15 straight hours. As we huddled in the tent, hail hammered the rainfly and the ground around us, splashes of water and mud ricocheting onto us from every direction. We were stuck, and filthy, and there was no way I was going to pack up the tent while God’s wrath hailed down on us.
This is the first part of our USA adventure, making our way from Illinois to Colorado via Missouri, Kansas, and we briefly skimmed Oklahoma and Texas as well.
Below are my personal impressions of a few of these states. Everyone's experience is different, so if you have been to any of these places and have your own thoughts about it, please comment below or through Facebook to further express the many outlooks we have collectively.
By Tim Notier
The last couple posts have illuminated the struggles we have had, but every problem has led to a better understanding on how to solve them as a team. We will be the only two members of this team for a very long time, and hopefully every so often be assisted by the generosity of others.
Problem: Started the trip without a driver’s license.
Resolution: Because the residents of the place I used as my mailing address were out of town, the neighbors watched the mail until it arrived, and mailed it directly to me. I am forever indebted to them, because starting a round-the-world trip on a motorcycle without a driver's license is not recommended.
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