Jun 01, 2013
Vancouver - The road is a funny proposition. It can come in many forms - day tripper, weekend warrior, littlest hobo. Regardless of the method, the concept is almost always the same: tearing oneself from the comforts and security of home to experience something out of the ordinary, hopefully to return home a little wiser. But no matter the duration, travel is a divisive subject. Those of you from a small prairie town as I am (Gladstone, Manitoba for myself), will know what I mean. Approach the subject of leaving the homestead and you will hear every response from the admiration of the small business owner dreaming of a Mexican retirement to the cattle farmer's disbelief that a night away from the ranch is even possible. These responses are, of course, something one becomes accustomed to once a taste for travel has been developed. Something family and friends may not be prepared for however is the "next trip". There is always a next trip and, if done correctly, it will eclipse all previous trips in length, difficulty and distance. From my latest experiences of raising the topic of the next trip to friends and family, I found the following responses more or less universal: First, upon first mention of a trip, be ready for some raised eyebrows. Then, when you say South America, prepare for the sharp gasp. Finally, as a sign of good faith it's usually best to sit them down before mentioning the motorcycle. After they regain consciousness (or stop laughing, depending on your family's level of sensitivity), then come the questions. Aren't those countries dangerous? Do you have enough mechanical knowledge? Are you ever going to get your life together? Of course, the answers for these questions are not really, no and probably not, respectively. This isn't to say that I was willfully ignorant about what I was proposing. A motorcycle trip from the Arctic to Argentina is after all, worth a little research. I learned a little about the Central and South American countries (which aren't nearly as dangerous as everyone thinks), read up on motorcycle travel and mechanics (which isn't nearly as dangerous as everyone thinks) and bought a book of Spanish phrases (by far the most ambitions of my plans). Aside from the research, the trip's preparation came unexpectedly easy. The motorcycle was purchased from a writer in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta (a 1981 Yamaha XJ650 Maxim for the bikers out there) and after the regular fluid and filter changers, I found it more or less road ready. My gear, of which there is little, was prepared over several months and contains nothing more than a change of clothes, camping and cooking gear, tools and spare parts, writing supplies and a troublesome book of Spanish phrases. Of course, my preparation and gear are far from perfect and I do not doubt that when the bike and I are seen together, there are many doubts regarding my arrangements. I have no spare tire, my rain gear is worn, and so forth. While much is made of a traveler's preparedness in terms of material goods, such comments would belong among the error of putting the gear before the grit, as it were. For when in it comes down to saddling up and hitting the road, there are three things I have found: Help Will Always Come, The Sky Will Always Clear and Never Give Up. While the first and second of these have proved reliable enough, they are still beyond the individual's control. And so, the mark of a traveler's worth can be found in their desire to never give up or in other words, the way they deal with fear. It's always a hell of a thing to leave behind the warmth and security of home and find yourself alone facing an uncertain day, week, month or year. The days when you have just set out and rain is pouring so hard your boots are full and your clothes are sodden and your body shivers so hard it's a wonder you are able to stay on the road are as difficult and fear filled as anyone can imagine. But the only way to beat it is to keep on and to guard the warm thoughts of home and loved ones with you and the images of the welcoming destination that waits for you at the end of the road. To forge ahead is to beat the fear and to go ahead with it all is the only way to discover nothing is ever as bad as we imagine it will be. For, as all good Canadians know, when the crowd's in the grandstand and the bull's in the shoot, the only thing left to do is ride.