One Week Until Lift Off

I’m starting to panic. Not an all out “the world’s coming to an end” panic, more a gentle feeling in the pit of my stomach. In a week I am getting on my motorbike and driving to Vancouver. Then Phil and I are starting a 35,000km adventure. I am not ready!

The racks that will hold my panniers onto my bike have not arrived. I don’t have a mosquito net. I have not yet attempted to change a tire on my bike. The lid of my tool tube fell out and I have not yet figured out how to stop that from happening again. I just sent my seat off to the middle of nowhere to be rebuilt. The list is endless.

I met Phil in Sicamous last week. It was the first time our bikes had been together.

Cricket, meet Phil’s bike.

It gave Phil a chance to ride my bike (who I have now named Cricket), and gave both of us the opportunity to ride for 5 hours each way and get used to our bikes on the long haul. I was riding on a borrowed Corbin seat. I wasn’t comfortable. This is why my seat has now been sent away for improvements.

Before the trip I did quite a lot of work on my bike, and I will do a separate post soon about all the modifications I have completed. This has been how you’ll find me a lot of the time.

Rocking those coveralls. And yes, I have a cushion in my workshop.

I also learnt how to make vinyl stickers.

Look at all those beautiful stickers! (Thanks Silvana for the great design!)

It’s the 100th Calgary Stampede at the moment, so there’s lots of fun distractions to be had around here. I’m trying to balance that with the need to put my new steel brake cable on, and find time to change my tires, sprockets and chain.

My friend Trish came to visit with her husband so this weekend the Stampede won.


I have to admit, I am enjoying juggling between being a mechanic, a friend, a cowgirl, a sticker producer and a world adventurer. Those butterflies in my stomach are a good thing – will help me prioritise getting myself and the bike ready for the Ultimate Ride. (Even though procrastinator is my middle name…)




Magic, Horses and an Overnight Adventure

The first sign of the magician was the series of loud thuds as he fell down the stairs.  He ended up in the doorway to the kitchen with a cloud of cards fluttering to the floor around him. It took a moment for anyone to rush to help him as everyone was laughing so hard. What an entrance.

This week was my first overnight motorcycle trip. I was invited to Kate’s house in the English countryside for an evening of drinks and magic, then we were to have a meeting the next day. Little Bookham is 30 miles from my house, although it seems further because the riding through London is very slow going.

I stopped on my way to Kate’s at the Hein Gericke in Chiswick, where I bought a magnetic tank bag with a clear plastic top so that I can have maps and/or directions in front of me. What a difference that makes. Now I can quickly check that I am on course without having to pull over and get papers out of my pockets. I purposely take unfamiliar routes when I have time, to help become accustomed to not knowing where I am going, and to learn to keep an eye on any and all road signs. It’s difficult enough when they are in English – it’s going to be more challenging when they are in Spanish!

Kate’s drinks gathering was really lovely, about 20 people came and went over the course of the evening, the wine flowed generously, and the magician caused constant exclamations of surprise and peels of laughter. There was an older couple, Jill and Peter, who live across the road from Kate. Jill was a bit nervous of the magic at first, but when the magician made a foam ball in her hand turn into two, she was delighted. I started speaking to them and found that their story was full of twists and turns. They granted me a fascinating glimpse into their lives, which had I just looked at them, I would never have guessed. They had owned a local hair salon in Bookham, and lived on that street for more than 30 years. (Although they did move to the house next door at some point.)

Peter is ten years older, and when he was 26, he occasionally caught sight of Jill walking down the street. He followed her in his car, and one day offered to give her a lift. They started going out together, and then one day Peter decided to drive to Spain. He told of having to ask Jill’s father and mother for permission to take her to Spain. Pretty controversial in those days, but they were allowed to go.

They told me about their son, who had worked as a musician on cruise ships for six years, until he met his now wife, who was a dancer on one of the ships. I asked about their other children and immediately regretted the question. They had a daughter, who in her early twenties, died very suddenly of meningitis. These tragedies in people’s lives come about so unexpectedly, and the effects are so very profound. I floundered – not really sure what to say after that revelation.

Groping for a change of subject, I remarked on the beautiful opal ring Jill was wearing, and that set us off on another set of stories. It was her wedding ring, an antique, which Peter had secretly bought for her after she admired it in a shop window. It cost more than a year’s salary at the time! Jill has almost lost it twice. Once on a beach, where a local beachcomer with a metal detector was recommended to them, and he found it the next day, and the other time the band came away from the stones, which were found on a seat in a pub. If ever a ring belonged to its owner, this would be the case. They are obviously not meant to be separated.

They were married just ten days after they decided to move to Jersey. It would not have been proper for them to go as an unmarried couple, so the tux and tails was hired, a church found, and that was that. No need for months of preparations or thousands of pounds. I wonder how many couples could manage that these days?

Another benefit of planning the Ultimate Ride is that now when I am faced with strangers and the need to make small talk, I suddenly find myself with something to say. I spent the evening explaining our plans, confirming that yes, it was my motorbike outside in the drive, and having everyone tell me how very brave I am.

After everyone had left, I showed Robbie the only card trick I know, which went a bit wrong because there was an extra 9 of hearts in the deck, and he showed me how to make a card I had chosen appear on his arm… I will certainly be using that trick whenever possible from now on. He ended the magic with a “trick” that involved me with a face full of water, and Kate falling over with laughter.

I awoke suffering from the night before, but a trip out to see Cobweb, Kate’s horse, and a very productive meeting over a delicious pub lunch set me up for the ride home.

Two things to remember from my first overnight motorcycle experience. Everyone has a story if you give them the space to tell it, and don’t get too close to a saucer of water if Robbie’s anywhere near it.

Jupiter’s Travels

“How can one anticipate the unknown? Preparing for the journey was like living a paradox, like eating the cake before I’d had it. More than once I realised the absurdity of what I was doing. The whole point and beauty of the journey was not knowing what would happen next, but I could not help myself striving to work it all out in advance.”

– Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

I am currently reading the perfect book. Ted Simon set out in 1974 from London on a brand new Triumph 500cc Tiger Hundred. It was his first motorcycle and for the following four years he travelled the world on it. I haven’t finished the book yet, but page after page I am inspired, amused and feel a constant sense that this man feels and thinks the same way as I do. As I feel such a kindred spirit with him, I will take the liberty of referring to him as “Ted” for the rest of this post.

An example of this likeness of minds is when Ted is in the first stage of his journey and he says, “I am learning, as I make my way through my first continent, that it is remarkably easy to do things, and much more frightening to contemplate them”. This is exactly how I feel when people tell me how dangerous our plans are, or how I don’t have enough experience or know my own limits. While I am hungry for advice from people who have travelled to the countries we are going to, or who have undertaken long motorcycle trips, I do take the constant stream of advice from armchair critics with a large pinch of salt. Yes, we are undertaking a difficult and dangerous trip, we know that, and that is part of the appeal. Nothing worth doing is easy and risk free.

Ted expands on the idea that the journey, as well as the destination, is important, “my entire philosophy depended on making the journey for its own sake, and rooting out expectations about the future. Travelling in this way, day by day, hour by hour, trying always to be aware of what was present and to hand, was what made the experience so richly rewarding.”

It will be worth it for the moments that take our breath away, the strangers who become close friends, and the difficulties that end up as stories to look back and laugh at. Ted tells of an encounter with a beautiful hummingbird in Brazil, “It was one of those few moments which I felt could justify one’s entire life. I made a note that ‘magic was simply experiencing something for the first time’. It occurred to me at the same time that my purpose should be to increase the number of such moments until maybe, one day, everything could be magic.”

I may post again about this remarkable book when I’ve finished reading it, but for now, I will take inspiration from Ted and make one of my aims for the Ultimate Ride to be to strive to make every moment be magic…

Ted Simon's inspiring book

The man himself with his trusty steed