Epilogue to Adventure

Posted on December 13, 2015


Looking at Vancouver on the map when we were in China, it seemed so close to home. The reality of riding a thousand miles in the rain at near freezing temperatures made it feel a whole lot further away. The immigration official at the Canadian border seemed confused as hell as to what we’d spent the last two years doing. He wanted me to write down every country we’d visited since last time in the U.S. on a form inside a box the size of my thumb. They weren’t all going to fit in that box. He gave me some extra paper and when I finished writing them all down, there were 85 countries on the list.

The bike was riding like crap. The brake rotors were scored, front tire wonky, carb needle about to break off in the slide, and the chain had stiff links in it, but this is all to be expected after a long journey. The chain and sprockets had been rolling since Sweden! After nearly 60,000 miles zigzagging across three continents, she was ready for a break.

We still had no idea what we were going to do when we got back and already feeling unsettled. There was Christmas music playing everywhere and everyone around us was speaking English in an accent identical to our own. It was strange. The supermarket shelves were filled with an avalanche of choices for breakfast cereals, cheese, and shampoo. It was paralyzing. The television streamed endless voyeuristic entertainment between advertisements of cures for several ailments that I’d never heard of, and sound bites of Donald Trump trying to alienate the Muslim world. Motorbikes have to drive around as if they are cars, following all the rules. We can’t even park on the sidewalk. Even the Germans allow that, and they are very fond of their rules. Jamie had returned with some food in comically gigantic proportions. The hotel bed was superbly comfortable, but as I lay in the dark, my stomach was fluttering. It’s a strange thing to have the most familiar of circumstances provoke feelings of anxiousness and bewilderment.

I wasn’t in a particular hurry to leave home in the first place. I didn’t hate my job or have a need to make my world larger than it was. I loved my job, the people I worked with, and I couldn’t imagine a nicer place to live. I had a brand new niece born just before I’d left and a new relationship in full bloom. But I also had an idea burning a hole in my brain (fellow motosurf wanderer Matty Hannon might call it a slow burning dream). It came down to an honest assessment of whether I wasn’t leaving because of what I feared to loose, even though I knew how my time could best be spent.

We rode for days along the coastlines and through the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It was so cold and the storms so fierce that we could only manage 150-200 miles each day. Sometimes we were shivering cold and others the wind had convinced us to get of the road before we were blown off. I’d never been on the stretch of the coast and we savored the few occasions when the sun broke through the steely sky.  I arrived home unceremoniously squishing in my boots as I got off the bike to go hug my mom. She said I looked taller. She always says that. A couple days later, we all said goodbye to my dad. He was an adventurer at heart too.

I drove a car for the first time in more than two years. I wandered all over the lane and couldn’t seem to tell how fast I was going without staring at the speedometer. In my steel cage I was isolated from the world whizzing by outside and disconnected from the machine that propelled me. It felt like I was driving around on a whale in jello. I hated it. Except that I was warm and dry. That was very nice.

Our time getting wet on two wheels would have ended for me long ago if not for Jamie’s spirit which spurred us forward when my resolve had long since worn through to the steel belting. While I let the bumps in the road rattle me, and the world we ride through wind me up, she just bends to what comes, taking all the madness in stride. She still thinks that I brought her on this trip, but in the end, she’s the one who pulled me along.

As always, the kind folks that we’ve met along the way truly made the journey and helped keep our stoke alive. You fed us dinner, helped us fix our bike, gave us place to rest, wrote some encouraging words, and rode alongside us. Our hearts spill with gratitude to you all.

I was a mess of apprehensions setting off on this trip, but mile-by-mile, they all slowly melted away into the sands of the Sahara. It bends my brain to know that the days of wave hunting in the desert, mud puddle diving in the Congo, making friends in Sierra Leone, elephant dodging in Botswana, gorilla tracking in Uganda, gasping for breath in the stratosphere alongside Kilimanjaro, and hunting visas in Nairobi all happened on this trip. In my memory it feels somehow like it wasn’t really us, as though events that happened two continents away were just scenes from a movie we saw. We knew the moments we wanted were out there, but didn’t know what they looked like or where to find them. They all happened because we decided to just go for a ride anyway.

Henry David Thoreau explained his own drive towards adventures in the wilderness simply enough:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I like to think that with the oddly appropriate combination of motorbikes and surfboards, and a long path ahead of us, we found our own way to move deliberately. We’re back home for now, and pretty happy to be amongst friends and family once again. There’s a whole world of coastline to ride with plenty of waves to find if you’ve got the time to look around and don’t mind some dust in your teeth, grease on your hands, and bugs on your board. There’s plenty of rad stuff along the way that you’re not even looking for. I imagine we’ll go for another two-wheeled wander at some stage and we hope to see you out there. Get moving. 😉


What Others Are Saying

  1. Janet December 27, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Very nice ending…for now!

  2. Aunt Shirley December 27, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    This is a wonderful summary to a wonderful life experience. Welcome Home!

  3. Jill Landis December 27, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Welcome home to both of you. It’s going to be a big adjustment. Thank you so much for letting us have a greater glimpse into this beautiful and painful world we inhabit. It was an honor to share a wee bit of your ride. Hope to see you both in person. I hope your blog covers your stateside adventures. Have an awesomely beautiful life ahead.

  4. keith December 27, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    You went away talking about nuts, bolts and sprokets and came home a philosopher. Most importantly you became a fleeting part of scenery along the way.

  5. Hugo December 28, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Excellent Gary,
    I’m jealous of your trip, maybe one day but without the surf board 🙂
    I think you need to start preparing your bike for Central and South America, there some waves to catch there hahaha
    Best wishes and all the best
    Hugo Sousa

  6. Gonçalo January 18, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Home! BRAVO, i can not stop looking to the map!!! It is possible!!! Unbelievable, you guys are my heroes….
    Hope to see you again!
    Keep rolling

  7. Ryan January 28, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Wow! Welcome home friends. We’ve enjoyed all your adventures vicariously, missed you, and are happy that you have returned safe and healthy with a lifetime of awesome experiences and stories……Check out that John Wayne photo of big Gary….what a movie star cowboy!

  8. Casey February 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I’ve been following your blog since you were just arriving in Africa. Your journey is an inspiration to travel, but more importantly, to live life by your own terms. I appreciate your candid style of writing and all of the unique photographs. I wish you both success in your future adventures!


  9. garnaro March 1, 2016 at 5:29 am

    Wow thanks so much for all of the kind words everyone. I’ve been out of touch in the Baja desert for a couple months now riding the best El Nino has to offer and Jamie is in California taking a couple classes in preparation for nursing school.

    It’s a little sad to know that the whole thing has finally come to an end. Somehow being able to share it with all you folks along the way seems to have helped to crystallize it all in my memory. Hope to see you all here when its time for the next adventure. 😉

  10. garnaro March 1, 2016 at 5:32 am

    @Casey That sounds like mission accomplished to me. You’ve been on board a long time man! glad to have you all the way to the end with us…

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