The Notiers Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
For us, there's nothing better than crossing some border to a distant land and discovering unique cultures that welcome us to their awe-inspiring landscapes. But sometimes that's just not possible to do, and we occasionally find ourselves back in the Midwest. Back at home.
Some people are fortunate enough to have mountains and fire roads and heart-pounding twisties right at their doorstep. But here in Chicagoland, that's not really what we're known for. More like flat, flat, and more flat. Corn, corn, and more corn. That's the type of nature you find out here.
But since we both grew up here, we've discovered that being stuck in the Midwest with a motorcycle doesn't have to be a drag. And pretty much anywhere on earth you can find beauty and fun roads to ride. So this week, we'll introduce you to our two personal favorite spots just an hour and a half from Chicago, both of them free to visit.
I've been coming here since I was a child and always thought it was pure paradise. And I still think so. The views from the cliffs overlooking the Illinois River from "Starved Rock" itself are pretty impressive by themselves, but then you throw in the beauty of the canyons, and Starved Rock becomes so much more than just a pretty view of a river. It takes you into another world.
The heat and buzzing humidity of the forest faded away as we entered the sandstone cliffs of the canyon, and listened to the echoing trickles of water dripping down the rock faces. In the distance, a waterfall slowly came into view, and the sloping curve of the beige-colored rock walls unveiled a peacefully falling cascade of water that spilled into a glittering pool beneath it.
As we entered LaSalle Canyon, reflections of water danced on the rocks surrounding us, creating twinkling diamond patterns. Children played on the natural slip-n-slide rocks that the stream flowed over, and their voices carried across the stones, melding with the chirps of swooping sparrows.
Sand filled the banks alongside the lazy stream that created the canyon, and the walls were pocked with nooks and caves to explore. It's not just a perfect playground for children, but a peaceful retreat for anyone to go to.
LaSalle isn't the only canyon at Starved Rock. There are several more, each with its own shape and character. It's a bit of a hike to get to these canyons, but that just makes the destination that much more rewarding.
And the road to Starved Rock isn't half-bad either. It may be one of the only places in the area that has a few real twisties, cliff edges and all. Plus, coming from Chicago, you can take rolling country roads to get there, some of which pass through quaint historic towns such as Ottawa.
Matthiessen is one of our secret "hidden gems" of the region. Most people flock to Starved Rock because it is so well-known. But as stated earlier, most of the canyons are a long hike to get to, and once you're there, they may be filled with people. But Matthiessen doesn't have these problems.
Paths from the parking lot lead straight down to the main canyon (you can also hike around in the forest as well), and from there you can go on personal adventures where few others venture by following the river to ravines that branch off from the main one. Sometimes you'll find waterfalls around every turn, sometimes not. But you'll always find a waterfall at the main canyon where there is also a bridge that overlooks.
We took two days exploring these sites, and camped at Starved Rock in between. It was a great introduction to our summer of adventures here the US (and hopefully Canada too). But most of all, it reminded us that we don't have to be in Africa or South America to have an incredible time.
Happy Father's Day everyone! And I hope you find yourself able to go out and enjoy the scenery with good company wherever you find yourself.
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The Notiers Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
Coming back to a sedentary lifestyle has been wonderful, don't get me wrong.
It feels good to be back in a world of familiarity and predictability. Besides just seeing the people I know and love, there's a comfortable rhythm to life here that I missed. It's that sense that everything is under control.
I can eat the same thing for breakfast every day if I want. I can fill up a hamper with dirty laundry without having to worry that I'll run out of clean clothes in just two days. And there are some comforts of American life that I used to take for granted. I can turn on a faucet, and water will come out. And better yet, I can even drink that water. I know that the electricity will stay on because the infrastructure of the power grid is maintained. I know that if a fire starts in the house, I wont be trapped in a room with bars on the windows with only one fire escape through a padlocked door. Society more or less functions on autopilot. But while on the road, nothing is nearly as predictable.
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
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One thing is for certain - traveling is not just a physical journey, but a mental one too. We've been on the road for years on end, but it still never ceases to amaze me how sometimes my worldview of what I thought was true can be shattered to pieces in a matter of moments. Or I realize that I had once been so naïve to think a certain way, and now a new place has taught me differently.
But perhaps the strangest of all these epiphanies are the ones that happen when I come back home. This is our first week back in Chicago after having been in Africa for more than a year and a half, and not only are things here strange due to the changes from the pandemic, but some completely ordinary things seem very weird to me now.
By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
Getting ourselves from Africa to America during a pandemic is hard enough. Getting our motorcycle across continents is even harder. But we were fortunate with the people who helped us, even though the entire process really tested our patience, and certainly emptied our wallets.
Starting with the motorcycle, there's a lot of things that can go wrong. When it comes to flying a motorcycle via airfreight, you don't actually know how much you're going to pay until the bike is crated up, has passed customs, and is ready to go on the plane. This is because the cost is based on the final dimensions of the crate which is hand-built around the bike. So we could only get estimates beforehand, and the numbers that people were getting back to us varied by thousands of dollars. Sometimes even the same clearing agent would change his price by a couple grand overnight due to some "unforeseen" cost.
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.
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.
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