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.
But after 20 months of riding throughout North and South America on the back of a motorcycle, I got used to the unexpected. I got used to eating whatever we could find at roadside markets, to always be drenched in sweat under my motorcycle jacket, and to be constantly fighting off stomach bugs and rubbing out aching bones.
And though that really sounds awful, I can tell you, it's worth it. When I wake up in the morning to the sound of exotic birds and a distant waterfall, I think to myself, “Where am I? Oh yeah. I'm living out my dreams." And I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's that feeling you get when you open your eyes and wonder what that day will bring, not knowing where you'll go, what you'll see, and who you'll meet. There's nothing like it.
It's a great life, but by the time we got to Buenos Aires, we were ready for a break from the road, and to see our friends and family. But most importantly, the bike was ready for a break too, as it needed some new gaskets, coolant, an oil change, new brakes, tires, wheel bearings... yeah, it was time.
So we took the advice of fellow travelers, and used Dakar Motos to fly our bike back to Chicago from Argentina. It cost us nearly $1800, but having the bike arrive the day after we did was phenomenal. Javier and Sandra helped us out with all the customs paperwork, and told us what we could keep on the bike (our panniers, helmets, boots, empty gas canisters, some camping gear, we even got to keep our sheep skin!). Then with the windshield off and mirrors in, they shrink-wrapped it all up on a palette and sent it away.
When we arrived back home, everything seemed to slip right into place as if we'd never left. Since we have no official residence anymore, we've been staying with family for the past few months, which has been wonderful. But I must admit that I had a tiny bit of culture shock coming back to the States. It wasn't a lot of culture shock, since Chile and Argentina are both very “Western" and modernized (and expensive), not too different from what we're used to. But I found myself ordering food at restaurants in Spanish by accident, or saying, “Disculpe," whenever I bumped into someone.
And then we went to Costco, which if you don't know what that is, it's a huge store, like Walmart, but bigger and where everything is sold in bulk. And I must have looked like a cave man walking around (ok, cave woman) who had just been unfrozen and plopped into the modern world. The place was massive, and most of all... excessive. I felt lost and dazed, because after having lived a minimalist lifestyle of two rolls of toilet paper is too much to carry, I suddenly found myself in 21st Century America, where the TVs are as big as walls, muffins are the size of my face, and now there's not just milk, but there's also almond milk and coconut milk and rice milk and flax milk and hemp milk... what is hemp milk?
But the perfect remedy for feeling like an out-of-place nomadic cave woman was going to the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff, Arizona, where we met tons of like-minded travelers and aspiring overlanders. Unfortunately, the bike was still under the knife, so we had to take a car there. But as it started to snow out there, I was secretly thankful to have a vehicle with... can you believe it, windows!
We spent 3 days camping at the Expo, gave our first major presentation in the States, and were part of two round-table events. We met up with old friends (Greg and Jess, who saved us in Guatemala from a bad situation, and now have an awesome charitable dog-collar company, Ruff on the Road), and I even got introduced to some of my adventure motorcycle idols, Ted Simon, Sam Manicom, and Simon and Lisa Thomas.
We also got to visit our friends Dana and Bill from Utah along the way, and then came back through Arkansas to see other long-time friends who first helped Tim get his off-road skills. The expo couldn't have gone better, and I only wish we would be around to attend Overland Expo East this fall in Virginia. But we'll hopefully be in Southern Africa by then.
Having once been absolutely terrified of public speaking, we've given three presentations this summer (about to be four) at a local library, a motorcycle dealership, etc. and I think we're over our fear now. As Tim once said to me the night before we were to present at the Expo, “Who knows? Maybe I'll die in my sleep and won't have to present." Talk about morbid. So we've come a long way, and I foresee us giving lots more presentations as we traverse the globe.
But somehow I'd thought that at least after the Expo, we could rest, sit around and drink tea, and get to watch a bunch of Netflix. But then we decided to get married, and relaxing went out the window.
We planned the event to be in a friend's backyard, and we wanted it to be low-key, intimate, and stress-free. Well, we got the first two. But unless you elope to Las Vegas or a courthouse, I think there always has to be a little stress involved in planning a wedding.
I bought my dress tailored to my measurements from Amazon, (yes, that's a real thing - take that, hemp milk! I'm still with the modern times!). But of course, something went wrong with the online order, so that was a stress (once things were fixed, the dress turned out perfect, by the way).
Then the tent company canceled on us, and the catering fell through, and the weather was supposed to be 93 degrees (34C) with high humidity and thunderstorms... ok, the point is that everything worked out and the day of the wedding was so perfect, it made all the stress worth it (and the weather was lovely). It was certainly the best day of our lives, and what made it great was not just each other, but the effort, love, and support of our good friends and family who made it all possible. We even had some friends that we've met in our travels come from afar, including Craig and Michelle who we traveled with in Ecuador!
And the best part is that I'm married to the man of my dreams. I know everybody says that, but I'm serious. It had always been my dream to be whisked away on the back of a motorcycle and brought to see every beautiful corner of this world. Well, of course it didn't include helmet hair and sweaty boots and riding through hailstorms, but it's still a dream come true. And I couldn't have picked a funnier, smarter, and more loving man to do it with. And most of all, he has a good heart.
Ok, I got really cheesy there for a second. But when am I supposed to be cheesy if not when I get married?
Now that the wedding's over, we can set our sights on Africa. We plan on going to South Africa, stopping in Namibia, then riding along the eastern side of the continent up to Egypt. But there's a lot of paperwork (Carnet de Passage), bike repairs, and other preparations that need to get done before we can buy any tickets.
But maybe our next post will be from across the sea! So stay tuned...
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