It needs to be noted for anyone reading this who thinks I'm blogging on the road, I'm not. I write this four days after the fact and don't plan to upload it for a couple of days. I've been writing too much for it to go up in one go. Also, I've just not had the time or energy to write it all in the detail I want to. Today, I've got very important school work to do which is why I'm doing this instead. Besides, it's getting to the point where I'll forget bits, my memory not being what it never was in the first place. Also, Mum got the rest in advance and wants to know how the story ends. (I felt bad for shouting, “Sorry, you'll just have to wait,” before driving off and leaving her with the kids.) Anyway, here goes.
Tuesday 10th April 2012
This was the day that left Dan a bit gutted and I can see why as it was meant to be our last riding day. We should have been tearing up the Catskill Mountains on our way to his pad ready for celebratory shower, shave and sleep. So, it didn't work out that way. The road trip wasn't over though. Dan left Happy Acres alone early in the morning to collect a 14 foot moving van from U-Haul, a short ride away.
Relaxing alone, I enjoyed watching the news which focused mainly on the conflict between the Latin and African American communities after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. It really brought home how I was in a similar country but utterly different at it's grass roots. The adverts that came up every few minutes added to this. Two that stick in my memory the most would be unthinkable in Europe. The first, sponsored by the coal industry, attempted to convince the viewer that coal is our only hope, that without it our children would starve and that alternative energy sources were unamerican (sort of). Another, sponsored by the fizzy drinks industry of America, was pretty much the same sort of thing. They wanted credit for ensuring that school children have the option of low calorie fizzy drinks in school. How blessed American parents must feel, and how well informed. It left me wondering how people who live here and always have, would take this. Would they chuckle cynically? I can hope.
When I figured Dan would be setting off back with the truck, I was checking out of the 'Resort.' The lady behind the desk agreed to take me down to their souvenir shop, not usually open at this time of year. I picked out a flashing football, a pink t-shirt (for Beth) and a ratchet strap. All that was needed was my driver licence and I would be welcome to sign someone else's credit card charge slip. I loved the complete disregard paid to authentication everywhere in America, until that is I realised I had lost my credit card. It never crossed my mind that this would lead me spectacularly close to a full blown heart attack some hours later. (I'll come to that, some paragraphs later).
Lyrian wasn't finished being a complete star though. She wasn't letting us leave without feeding us. Over hot dogs, beans and potato chips we talked. A seasoned traveller, there was so much to talk about and the time flew, too fast. We had a huge distance to cover ahead of us and it was already getting past mid-day when we said our goodbyes and declared our undying gratitude. My one regret, we never stopped to get a picture of the three of us. I don't have a Christmas Card List but I will be sure to send something the Pine Creek some time soon.
The journey back to Connecticut wasn't bad at all. It had none of the excitement of the previous miles. In truth, it also had none of the aches or fatigue. A U-Haul truck doesn't lend it's self to attacking curves but it has things like cup holders and, well, arm rests. You just can't eat a burrito while riding the SV (though it's probably possible with plenty of practice and the right helmet on the RT). You can also take turns driving and even when you are the one driving, you still get to enjoy just gently passing through America. The fuel economy of what was in essence, a 75mph shed, was less impressive but that doesn't make you cry quite as much as you would if you were doing the same thing back in the UK. The final thing about that drive was, I've never gone cross country in a U-Haul truck. Now I've been there, done that and incorporated it into the t-shirt. In a way, the trip wouldn't have been complete without a challenge.
We completed the journey just over a single tank and two driver swaps (impossible on the bikes). When we arrived at our destination, a warehouse containing a gymnastics school, I needed something from my man bag. I don't recall what it was but remember, on this trip I had managed to loose my credit card, three pairs of sunglasses, neglected to bring several basics with me and had generally been an admin nightmare. We had a word for it, taken from sayings commonly used in the ARMY and thus unprintable. Still, we were back in Connecticut and I couldn't loose my eticket if I tried. All you do these days is present you passport. That's the passport in the same travel documents wallet containing my licence. (I told you I'd get back to it in a few paragraphs).
“F@@K!” etc and so on. I'm not proud of the language but when you suddenly think that the last time you saw your documents wallet was when you handed it to the lady to photocopy for checkout hundreds of miles back, less colourful language just won't cut it, especially when there are perhaps 20 hours before you need those documents to get home.
Thankfully, to cut a short story long, I at least had the presence of mind to check the carrier bag which contained; a flashing football, a pink t-shirt, the packaging for a ratchet strap and, thankfully, a document wallet. Eventually heart rates returned to normal and thoughts of having to jump in Dan's car and drive like all heck back to Pennsylvania came to nothing. It was, even on a motorcycle trip, the most scary moment of the whole journey. Finding unexpected gravel on the apex of a fast right hander with a dumper truck coming the other way just slightly on your side of the road has nothing to thinking, just for a minute, you've lost you passport. Something wrong there.
I loved that we finished by picking up Giovana (Dan's daughter) from her gymnastics class. That girl is just incredible. She does things on the high-bar I wouldn't be able to do dead slow in zero gravity. I'd be stuck at the point where you have to stand up on the low-bar. Crazy! It was great to see her dad swell with pride when the coach asked his little girl to demonstrate to the other children. That night the three of us slept at Dan's.
I'm not sure there's enough story for one more blog from there. I shall finish now.
The following day Giovana went off to school, excited to tell her teacher that her English uncle had taught her about alliteration (I can't remember for the life of me how that came up). We dropped the bikes off at Dan's or Dan's mechanic depending on just how kaput they were. Then it was time to return the truck to the U-Haul depot in Willimantic. Dan made us some superb lunch, the first cooking we had done in days. I showered before we headed to the airport. We stopped at Framingham to get dad a Kindle Fire and put me on the bus to the other side of rush hour. Nothing is quite as mechanical as doing what needs to be done to bring to a close that which you don't want to end.
The shared journey ends in truth at the point of separation. I like being pushed a bit for time in those situation. It had been such a journey that we shared so goodbyes can be hard. I guess, we both had a lot of our own lives to get back to. Dan would be at work the next day while I had my family and job to get back to. He needed to strip the gear box from the RT and I had to, well, there's other blogs for all that. We hugged, thanked each other and headed on our different paths. I just hope I can do the same for Dan one day, Scotland, Northern Spain. Perhaps the Balkans trip will really happen and we will be there hunting for clean fuel and good eating on our way up the Adriatic coast years from now. Who knows? I just know, I can't leave it at that.