Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On My Way

My bags are packed and sitting next to the door- a backpack and two duffles are filled with gear, goods and my passport. I've been planning for nearly two years and yet I'm still in disbelief that the trip is going forward. Back in March, I lost my job and hoped to launch a writing career. While I've written a lot (and am expecting publication in Rider magazine sometime next year), I've come to realize that writing regularly requires the safety of a steady income. My dream of freelancing is tempered with the reality of supporting myself; maintaing my home and world travel on a motorcycle take an income that writing alone doesn't yet provide. As a result, I've returned to working as a nurse- most recently as an instructor for a nurse aid program. They agreed to my vacation upon hiring me and the supplemental income that provided made the trip feasible after all.

Tomorrow Joe, Lars and I fly out of Grand Rapids to Arequipa, Peru (via Chicago, Miami and Lima). We'll arrive Wednesday and have a few days to adjust to the altitude while taking in the local scene. The rest of the group will be here by Friday and we'll begin riding on Saturday. We plan to  cover about 1800 miles over 15 days through Peru, Bolivia and Chile. One of my favorite things about riding is the new landscapes that I get to explore and this trip promises that with views of the Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, the Andes, the desert salt flats and active volcanos. With all the cameras and Go-Pro video recorders between us this will be a well-documented trip!

 Despite all the preparation, I can hardly believe I'm going.

This trip is special because unlike other goals, I've put so much time, effort and money into making it happen.  I set up a savings account, listened to Spanish language tapes, and researched health information related to travel. I've visited the Health Department for my immunizations, AAA for my International driving permit, and Walgreens for more over-the-counter medication than I'll probably need. I've purchased merino wool shirts and socks to help regulate my body temperature while travel pants keep my load light and versatile. I researched gear options for months before deciding on rugged waterproof riding jacket, pants and boots. I'm bringing along my heated jacket and gloves to help deal with low temperatures we'll see as a result of early morning rides and high mountain passes. A backpack with a hydration pouch will function as my tank bag loaded with essentials such as earplugs, gloves and aerosol-free faceshield cleaner because cans won't like the altitude fluctuations built into our trip. Guidebooks and Google images have detailed the places we'll be traveling.  Despite all this planning, I've found myself fearing that the trip would get derailed. I think it's because there's so much about this trip I can't really imagine- the lodging, the food, the riding conditions- and what's more, there's nothing else I can plan for. It seems that all my efforts have brought me to this point but now I must let go of all expectation and just see what happens. There's always an element of being out of control on a bike- the road conditions, weather, fatigue- but in this case, being immersed in differing cultures, amid peoples speaking a different language and along routes that often have poor roads (or none) make for a level of uncertainty I've never encountered on the bike.

The seed for the trip was planted when a group of RIDE members went to South America 5 years ago with the same tour company we're using- Peru Motors. I told myself then that if the trip was ever repeated, I would go. I vowed to improve my skills and life circumstances so I could go. When I think of what's come to pass since I made that promise, it's hard to take it all in. So much is different that I hardly recognize my life. I've divorced, had several fascinating jobs, bought a Triumph Bonneville, found new friends, started a blog and ridden- a lot. Despite the uncertainty of so many factors related to this trip, I know that I've already done the unimaginable and come through it with vivid memories, great stories and more confidence in myself. This challenging tour is possible because of what I learned riding my Bonnie. At 32, 584, both the odometer and my life are a clear indicator of just how many miles I've traveled in the last 5 years.


  1. It's now only a week after this post and you'd have anyone guessing whether you're riding through mountaintops or working your way through a mud patch, but that's livin! I'm in awe, glee, amazement, support and love for what you're doing. In just a few paragraphs, you've touched on every major aspiration I have in my life... and you're living it, in one story, right now. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the wind always at your back. Ride On, Sister.
    -Lindsay Merlihan
    (Barbs daughter;)

    1. Lindsay- I don't know how I missed your note- but finding it now is as sweet as ever! Thanks so much for taking the time to ride. Riding fills me up in so many ways- I'm glad to be sharing the journey. If you have any questions about how to get started on any of your aspirations- reach out...I'd love to chat. Heck- I'd like to meet you! You mom was a huge inspiration to me growing up!