A fierce wind was blowing the day I finally rode out of the Treasure Valley.
Fighting crosswinds over the high desert plain, through Bruneau, then slowly climbing up toward the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, where the late April cold finally made me cry “uncle.” Pulling in for a warm-up at the modest deli adjacent to the grocery store, and shortly after putting the kickstand down, a powerful gust pushed my overloaded bike over onto its side. A Native man rushed out to help me hoist it back up.
Maybe I should have taken the hint, but I pressed on to Elko. Perhaps emboldened by pent-up desire on first day of what may be a long adventure, I gassed up, then jumped off the pavement and onto dirt through Nevada’s mystical Ruby Valley. Rain was spitting; the late afternoon sky turned ominous, but my spirit was lifted by the sight of antelope jumping across the road, then a dozen deer, then some jackrabbits, and then, I would swear, four wild horses. Without a map, just going on overconfidence and dead reckoning, I plowed on into the dusk, the bike slipping often on the muddy surface, my aching cold hands barely able to hold it upright. At one point, the bike lost its footing, and I slid, clenched teeth, right into a shallow ditch, but miraculously the bike stayed upright. I am carrying everything I need to go into survival mode, to throw down into an overnight bivouac, but I pressed on into the darkness.
After some wrong turns, a real highway finally emerged. Surely Highway 50, “America’s Loneliest Highway?” The asphalt road felt like silk. I pushed on for another 30 miles through a rain-snow mix, over a summit at 7,600 feet, to a night in a cheap hotel in Ely. After all the struggles of the past 11 hours, that dry, lukewarm room felt fantastic.
Next morning, with the weather clearing, I continued south on smooth roads. After a long stretch on NV 318, and nearly out of gas, I pulled into a station north of Las Vegas, where I gasped to discover my giant yellow dry bag strapped to the back was gone. So: drive all the way back, searching, or just press ahead? I went forward to Vegas, asking myself how much I reallyneed that camping gear.
Later, a call came in from an iPhone repair store in Boise: “Ted, the police have your bag.” As luck would have it, a good Samaritan spotted that giant yellow dry bag, picked it up and turned it into the police, where some sharp detective work led to a receipt stuffed in my vest pocket, which was stored in the dry bag, which led to the iPhone store, which traced the transaction to my account, which led to my name and phone number.
After a hearty thanks, I rode off into the vast desert south of Hoover Dam, where I made my camp under the stars and pondered this universe of ours.
I have since arrived in Bisbee, Arizona, just 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, where I will rest and make important adjustments to the motorcycle. What lies south of here, I already know well. Years ago I traversed over land to the southern tip of South America, and back, alone, an epic journey of over 35,000 miles. I will do all it again over the months ahead, on ever more challenging routes, beginning with Mexico’s rugged Sierra Madre and on down through the Americas to Argentina, once again. Then, if all is well, ship over to South Africa, up to Cairo, ferry over to Europe, and then the long ride east, ending, with tremendous luck, in China.
Declaring “I will ride a motorcycle around the world” is a bit like saying “I will eat a mile-long hoagie sandwich.” It’s ambitious, even a little absurd. But there’s only one way to attempt it: Bite by bite.