WOW!!! Our first 10 days on this adventure have been nothing short of incredible. We left our house on the morning of July 3rd after waiting through a minor rain delay that kept us in our garage as the storm passed. No worries though, it gave us one last opportunity to enjoy time (and coffee) with Taryn. Thanks again for the coffee and bagels T! Now here we sit in Keystone, South Dakota on Emily's 30th birthday. Today we'll visit Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park before concluding our evening in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Life is good.
Here's a quick recap of our first 10 days on the road.
July 3rd: We left Ann Arbor down Dexter-Ann Arbor Road. From there we headed north to Pinckney and Owosso, along beautiful secondary roads. After picking up route 127 and I-75 north, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge around 7:00pm and spent the night at Castle Rock Campground in St. Ignace. We met some new friends (Mark and Betty - who were touring on their Harley; thanks again for the saw you two!) and enjoyed our first night on the road.
We finally got our bikes! Two Suzuki DR650s, which we picked up from Chip and Casey at Nicholson's in Ann Arbor. Mine has been out of the garage exactly 3 times and yesterday I dropped it....on a busy street...in front of a restaurant with a crowd of al fresco diners...and right as a cop was passing by. It was embarrassing. Here's my story:
I was riding home from work when the bike stalled as I was approaching an intersection. I coasted onto the sidewalk to get out of the traffic and quickly learned that while stopped on an incline, trying to support the bike on my downhill foot is NOT a good idea. In what felt like slow motion, the bike tipped and I was dumped into the street. Shaken and embarrassed, I heaved the bike up (with the help of a very kind bystander) and attempted to collect myself…but all I could focus on was the swarm of negative thoughts flooding my mind:
“You can’t even ride the bike around town without falling, how are you possibly going to make it all the way to South America?”
“Women aren’t supposed to ride bikes like yours”
“All these people think you are foolish, reckless, and shouldn’t be riding motorcycles”
“I knew you’d fail at this”
All my doubts were staring me in the face...in addition to a horde of curious and concerned onlookers. I badly wanted to escape the situation and go climb under a rock somewhere to loathe in my self-pity. I attempted to start the bike and…nothing. Enter a whole new string of destructive self-judgments:
“You don’t even know enough about bikes to figure out what’s wrong- you are NOT ready to go on this trip”
“It’s because you’re a woman…”
And once again….“I knew you’d fail at this”
As someone who prides herself on being a strong, independent woman this dealt a huge blow to my ego. I took a deep breath and called Jay, who luckily works only a few blocks from the scene of the incident. Being the remarkable, supportive husband that he is, he arrived on his bike a few minutes later. As I saw him riding toward me, I secretly wished he would have showed up on foot so he could ride my bike home for me. I clearly had no business doing so myself.
Jay, anticipating my fears and doubts and seeing beyond the distorted thoughts that had taken over my head was not about to give me an out. After shifting the gear lever back into place, my bike fired right up. “You’re going to get back on the bike, and we’re going to ride home together” he calmly and matter-of-factly stated. Trepidation running through my veins, I hoisted my leg over the seat and squared the bike. Glancing back at Jay, he shared a confident head nod and a look that somehow instilled in me enough poise to turn my wrist and take off…slowly.
While I still feel a bit apprehensive, my confidence gradually builds as the miles on the odometer tick upward. The reality is that we are going to fall- both literally and figuratively- on this trip…and in life. That’s what makes us the beautifully imperfect and vulnerable humans that we are. While the fall itself can be embarrassing and sometimes painful, the hard part is getting back on the horse (or motorcycle) and continuing down the road. Knowing that I am not on this journey alone and have others to lean on for support and encouragement quiets the skeptical voices in my head and gives me the confidence to ride on.
Yes, I will fall and yes, I will get back up!
On July 2, 2012, we sat down with the notes that our wedding guests created for us to read on our one-year anniversary. We came across many pieces of sage advice that others shared as the keys to
a happy partnership. Hidden among them were three simple words: Live It Right. We both stared at the phrase, re-reading, and analyzing what it means for us. It’s not that either of us
were unhappy with our comfortable lives working for the University of Michigan, spending lazy weekends with our dog, and puttering around our cute little house in Ann Arbor, yet there was a piece
within both of us that yearned for more adventure and longed to live the dream we had imagined years before.
At the time we read those words, we were actually supposed to be returning from a year-long motorcycle trip to South America. We had been dreaming about it for several years and planned to depart on this adventure after Emily finished graduate school in 2011. This plan was thrown for a loop though when Jay was recruited to work at the University of Michigan in 2010. Although the decision was not easy, we chose to postpone the trip and move to Ann Arbor. We took the safe, more traveled path and did not speak much about plans to reschedule…until that night.
So here we are, 1 ½ years, multiple hours of research, countless planning discussions, and maybe a few arguments later officially announcing our June 2014 departure on an epic motorcycle adventure from Ann Arbor, Michigan to the southernmost tip of South America.
This blog will serve as a platform for us to document and share the planning and preparation we will undergo in the next 7 months- followed, of course, by stories, pictures, joyful moments, and disastrous hiccups from the journey itself. Please help us make the most of the adventure by sharing your trip suggestions, becoming a sponsor (or connecting us to potential sponsors), leaving a note in our guestbook, or maybe even meeting us somewhere along our route! Thanks for joining us in the journey to Live It Right!
-Emily Flinkstrom and Jay Wilgus (a.k.a. the Flingus’s)