Thursday, March 5, 2009

Final Thoughts... The End of the Journey - March 5, 2009

This will probably be my last post on this blog. Tomorrow morning I fly to Santiago, Chile, for a few days of business and to visit some friends, then on Monday I return to Panama. As you can imagine, this final piece is being written with a great deal of emotion.

This has been an incredible journey. Four years ago this trip was just an idea of something that I would ¨kind of like to do someday¨. I remember sitting around a table at about 2am at my 40th high school reunion and telling some friends what I was planning. I got some looks that made me feel like I had probably forgotten to take my medications, or maybe just had most of my spinach salad stuck in my teeth.

Then the idea started to become a plan: A new bike, and some real research into how one actually goes about doing this kind of adventure. I had never taken on anything so extensive. My ¨practice trip¨ for six weeks through Central America last year was a good beginning, but the difference between six weeks and six months is not linear... it´s a difference of geometric magnitude.

The bike I selected for the trip, the Kawasaki KLR650, has proven to be an excellent choice. In case I didn´t mention it before, it now has a name: El Pinguino, in honor of the fact that a piece of her went to Antarctica with me.

The Kawi is not the best bike in the world, but everything is a compromise and this was a good one. Powerful enough, not TOO heavy, and simple enough that I could find parts and fix pretty much anything. I would select it again in a minute.

It´s currently in Buenos Aires waiting for the next phase of the trip. In some ways I don´t want to see it again for a while... I´m tired and I think we need some time apart. But I know that in 3 or 4 months when I return it will be waiting for me like a faithful friend, and I will be ready once again to climb back into the saddle to see where we end up together.

This has been six months of riding by myself through six countries plus Antarctica, 24,000 kilometers, mountains, deserts, cities, icebergs, and virtually everything else. I´ve gone from 9 degrees north of the equator to more than 67 degrees south (south of the Antarctic Circle). At times I didn´t know if I would make it. There were certainly times when I just wanted to throw the bike down and shout ¨It´s enough already. I want to stop¨. And then I would come upon a scene, a road, or a mountain pass and say to myself ¨Yes, this is what it´s all about. Life just doesn´t get any better than this¨.

I´ve often said that this was the ¨bipolar trip¨, periods of intense lonliness as well as great joy over the people that I have met. Balancing these emotions hasn´t always been easy, but that´s what makes it an adventure and a learning experience.

I have met some incredible people along the way, and want to express my gratitude to so many that supported in ways large and small. It could have been through advice on a road to take (or not take), or just being available for a beer. Also, I want to thank many of you who have been following this blog and wrote words of encouragement. It´s the people in our lives that make the difference.

In particular, I want to thank Karen. There are not too many people in this world who will tell their significant other ¨Sure, take off on a motorbike around South America for the next six months¨. I know that leaving her to deal with houses, pets, bank accounts, and the other minutia of daily life that I usually handle (in Spanish) wasn´t easy, and I appreciate it. This is also the woman who said to me a few weeks ago, as I was still debating what to do when I reached Buenos Aires (sell the bike?, ship it?, continue later?, etc.) ¨You haven´t finished the trip yet. Of course you have to keep going¨. What an attitude!

I really have no idea how to sum this up, and how to end this blog. It has taught me so much about people, places, and myself that I think it will take years of reflection to make sense of it. I´ll be returning to Buenos Aires in 3 or 4 months to ¨complete¨ the journey: Brazil, Venezuela, and probably back to Bogota and Panama.

In the meantime, I´ll leave you with my last view of El Pinguino, sitting at the Dakar Motos shop in Buenos Aires. I know it will be there waiting for me to continue the next adventure.

To Be Continued ...

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