Link 24: Let There Be Silence

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I am not going to make any further jokes about the weather, or seeing what mother nature has in store because let’s be honest, it is never good news! I kind of wish I had decided on that a little earlier than 2 weeks from the finish but hey, better late than never.

It has once again felt like a totally white wash week but when I look back there have been some pretty cool things happen. Least of which was making yet another new friend on the road. Riding from Arizona to Utah last weekend the sun was out but holy f it was cold. The desert certainly lives up to its reputation of being hot or freezing.

The colours in the rock of Arizona were amazing

The impact of the big rains were evident throughout the desert landscape with greenery and flowers in full bloom. Whilst it meant we weren’t going to be going off-road as planned it was still a nice sight to see. Even pulling off the shoulder to take photos was precarious with the soaked earth very soft and slippery.

Even though I didn’t even come close to doing what I had wanted to in Utah, the one thing I refused to let go of seeing was Monument Valley. Towering rock formations throughout the desert, straight from the scenes of a wild west. I made it to the start of the park late afternoon and with the cold air really setting in I decided to stop for the night and take it all in properly the next day.

Getting fuel so I was ready to go first thing, I found an elusive female rider! In fact, the ONLY other solo female rider I have encountered on my entire trip. I pulled up next to Esther and her little dog Oscar in their amazing Ural motorcycle and sidecar to say hi.

Esther and Oscar on their Russian motorcycle

Poor Esther had only been on the road a week, taking a west to east coast trip, her first one ever after only getting her motorcycle licence in July. She looked frozen. We chatted briefly, she told me how the evening before they had camped in the desert and how utterly freezing it was. I had already booked a room so I extended an invitation for them to join me and keep warm for the night.

Bunked down on the Navajo Reservation it was the first time I had a less than great vibe about where I was. In the 10 minutes we had been sitting outside on the bikes working out a plan, we had been approached several times by local Indian people asking for money. The country was dry, meaning no alcohol, however they were most certainly drunk.

No alcohol but of course there was a McDonald’s

For the first time ever on the trip I removed everything from Yogi and hoped for the best as he sat outside, I kept watch out the window. Esther and I managed to find the only restaurant in town and over a nice meal we chatted and learnt about each others travels. Having only just started out and encountering the same miserable weather I had been suffering through she had decided the night before to give up and turn back.

Her reasoning being besides it being cold and wet, her path would have to change. I had such empathy for her. It was honestly like looking into a mirror 6 months ago. I was in the exact same position, questioning what on earth I was doing, disappointed that my plans were constantly changing and just plain miserable.

I did my best to convince her that this was the journey, it didn’t matter which route she took. The adventure was taking whatever road made most sense at the time and being open to everything that comes your way. The following morning after a good sleep, I helped her to rug up and get on the way. She took my advice and although the last week has seen us both riding in slightly different directions through shocking weather, she is still out there doing it. Go girl!

Oscar ready to hit the road 🙂

It had been great fun to have some unexpected company and make a new friend but with our goodbyes done, I set off towards the Valley. It was brilliantly sunny but the wind was howling. The cold was bitter and I had to force myself out of my gloves each time a photo presented itself. Waiting at the top of the highway for a clear shot looking down towards the infamous monuments, I was glad I had made the effort to come.

It was worth the wait to get this great shot
The ground was covered by a thin crust but underneath it was mud

From there the rest of the week has had only one thing in common. RAIN. I know I know, we have seen plenty of it. But I can say confidently this week has been the worst so far. Riding in total white out conditions for days on end, barely able to see my foggy and wet visor has not been fun. Yogi has taken in totally in his stride, maintaining an amazing pace through some pretty horrendous conditions so even though they have been rough days we are still managing to make good miles.

Thank goodness for my new gear as all I can say. Being plugged in and keeping warm and mostly dry whilst it hammers down around me is certainly a novelty after the misery we endured our last few weeks in Russia.  This week not only has it rained, a cold front swept across the front of us and for one day we were kept off the road as it snowed. Not having any spare days left we headed out the following day in the hope it would be ok, nope. It snowed on us. Of course.

The only restaurant in town, complete with old gal serves and tunes on the juke box
Elvis anyone?

Yesterday my amazingly good fortune of not losing a single thing on this trip came to an end. Flying down the interstate at 130km, pouring rain, it suddenly went quiet inside my helmet. Annoyed that my music had turned itself off, I reached up to re-set my bluetooth receiver on my helmet. Fumbling around, my heart stopped. It wasn’t there. Ah COME ON!!!!!

It had somehow come loose. I pulled over with trucks and giant cars racing past me and sat there. What should I do? It was dual highway so any attempt to look for it would mean riding the wrong way back up the road. On the other hand I knew it had only just come off so maybe I would get lucky? I waited for a break in the traffic, did a U-turn and rode slowly back the wrong way on the shoulder. Trucks and cars flashing me, and spray all over my face as I had opened my visor to try and see.

It was pointless. At that speed it had most likely gone flying when it hit the road. I turned back the right way and continued. The silence in my helmet was eery. The bluetooth had provided me with a constant companion, whether that be with music or the sat nav commands. Now all I had was the wind noise and my own thoughts. I wasn’t exactly impressed as I had managed to keep that thing going for almost 10 years, all over the world.

Wet and cold I arrived in Oklahoma City and continued to fume over my bad luck. Not being able to sleep I tried to use my time productively and write an article for Adv Rider and that’s when it dawned on me. Holy crap I have been lucky. With less than 2 weeks to go I have barely even had a close call and nothing more than routine maintenance on Yogi. Sure he has eaten up a few chains here and there but apart from some wear and tear from huge km’s he has not missed a beat.

If losing my bluetooth; which although expensive, had more than paid for itself in use over the years, was the worst thing to happen I should be buying a lottery ticket. I love how a few hours of feeling sorry for myself so quickly turns into a reality check. There is something so monumental about this trip that is has a way of somehow putting things into perspective.

This week ends in the small town of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I think it looked kind of cool as we rode in but today as been hands down the wettest of any on the road. My gear is soaked, I have water in my sat nav and even my impenetrable goretex boots started to leak.

The picture does’t do this justice, everything was SOAKED

On the other good news front, I started a new section on the Adv Rider website; writing about food and cooking whilst on the road. I wasn’t sure what to expect as the people on the site are pretty hardcore bike enthusiasts, but it was met with great enthusiasm and got a hugely positive response. So as a result I will continue to give tips and recipes for other riders out there, building up a library of ideas for people to cook on their travels.

There are literally days left to ride as most of next week will be spent with good friends in Kentucky, some new and some that go back a long time. I can’t wait to get there. First though we are lucky enough to go through Memphis and Nashville which I am really looking forward to. Bring on the BBQ, lots of laughs and catch ups.

So with my new plan to say nothing about the weather, let there be silence both from me and in my helmet!

Love Kylie and Yogi x

Esther, Oscar and I

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