Through the unglamourous and morbidly boring yet miraculous form of transport better known as the airplane I find myself sitting at my dining room table in Dubai; thousands of miles away from the west coast of america where I was less than 48 hours ago.
When I embarked upon my solo bike adventure across the USA I made a promise to my biker friends not to write a sentimental and mushy blog which I believe I have held myself to……thus far. However it is now summary time and I am afraid there might be some remarks that verge on the gooey side of things!
For those of you following my trip closely you will note that the last entry I made was from San Francisco where I was staying for a few days with my family. From there I started my final leg of the trip which would take me down to San Diego where I was to meet with my oldest friend in the world who I have known since I was 6 years old. Now I am not sure if it is because subconsciously I knew this was my final leg that I felt it was most special time of the trip or actually because it simply was…….let’s settle and say it was a combination of both.
Having traveled up and down the Pacific 1 (a road from heaven that you must do once in your life) 3 times already during my time in America I thought I would carve out a different path down the spine of California through what I like to call “back country”. As usual I planned my route by using Google Maps and then dragging the path line in different directions through small and unknown towns. I said goodbye to my family who caught a plane back to Dubai that same day and I headed south to complete the final stint of my trip and boy was I in for a unique experience. The weather was perfect and the scenery was perfect too as it was most of the time in California if I’m being honest. I stopped off for lunch in a town that had a population of 12 people apparently and had some healthy avocado salad slathered on top of french fries……I enjoyed the irony I guess. I continued on through wonderful mountain roads and as the day was drawing to a close I found myself running low on fuel and there was not a petrol station for at least another 30 or so miles. As a result of this predicament I ended up meeting two wonderful people who I will never forget and for me the experience I was about to go through encapsulates all of what was great about my trip across the Continental United States.
Running desperately low on petrol on the Coalinga road I stopped when I saw a gentleman on the side of the road to ask where the nearest petrol station was. He took a few moments to work it out in his head and it was 32 miles away (I later discovered by using GPS he was only 200 feet out). He headed off in his car and I thought nothing more of it. I put on my helmet and gloves and continued down the road hoping I would make it to the station without the bike collapsing on me in the middle of nowhere only to be eaten by mountain lions and coyotes. But 5 minutes later I had caught up with the gentleman and I thought I would hang back and not overtake…..I was not in the mood of burning fuel anyway. He slowed down and indicated to turn right into his farm and as he was doing so he stuck his hand out of the window and signaled for me to turn in as well which I did. I was invited for a cup of tea and being part English I thought it terribly rude to say no so I obliged. I shared an excellent cup of tea with Ed and his wife Jeanette and just as I was ready to say thank you and excuse myself they asked me where I was staying for the evening and I told them it would be next hotel I found with a vacancy sign out front. They then informed me that I was more than welcome to stay with them for the night if I felt comfortable doing so. I took a moment to consider and all the while I am having flashbacks of the Texas chainsaw massacre and hostel in my head but I said yes………and it was one of the best decisions I made the whole trip. Ed and Jeanette were the kindest and most hospitable people I have ever met and they told me stories of their lives across the different decades while we dined on food that was almost entirely grown on their property. The next day before I left we exchanged contact details I very much hope that our paths will cross again in the future.
So I guess you are now asking yourselves why this experience I had summed up the whole adventure? Well it is because this is how I perceived America. 99.9% of the time I was treated with kindness and hospitality and had nothing but positive experiences with all the people I encountered across the 30 States that I visited. Everybody I spoke with in the street was polite and interested in my trip, all the patrons of bed and breakfasts I stayed in treated me like their own child and wished me well on my onward travels, all of the bikers I spoke with in restaurants and bars treated me like their buddy and gave great advice on where to ride next…….the list goes on and on. No I know a lot of people who will tell you that this is all fake and superficial (especially my English friends) and that Americans lack depth of character and a sense of humour but quite honestly even if that was true (which it isn’t) I don’t care because it still has a overwhelmingly positive effect. For me it boils down to common courtesy and if it were a currency the American posses by far the largest amounts of it out of the all the countries I have ever visited. Please and thank yous are a must in any encounter as is the obligatory “have a good day” which may at first seem cheesy but I actually like it and would like to think I might start using it more often too.
While I am on the subject of bigging up America let’s talk about the abundant natural beauty that is present there. I read a statistic many years ago that only 14% of Americans have a passports and it is only now that I understand why. Every conceivable landscape you can imagine is in America and not only that, it is pristine and looked after to the degree you would think it was sacred. Every National Park or Forest I visited had public restrooms and camping facilities and info centers etc etc…….it is just done so well there. So from a nature perspective I honestly see no reason why an American would need to leave the USA and considering the average worker only gets 2 weeks of holiday it would probably take a lifetime to visit all of it anyway because it is so vast. Don’t get me wrong though I am not endorsing the fact that most people in America have a narrow field of vision when it comes to global affairs but I think I now understand why. Everything is on their doorstep and done so well and their news media is so painfully American biased and convinces you everyone outside the USA is a terrorist that they see no reason to leave……I wouldn’t. But nonetheless when you are in their country they are incredibly hospitable and curious about where you come from which is highly endearing.
So I’ve given a very brief rundown of what is great about America and it’s people so I should now mention what effect it has had on me. Taking a trip on your own was something new to me but something I would now encourage anyone to do, not necessarily for such an extended period of time but just get away on your own as it gives you space and time to reflect. I feel like a much more calm and relaxed person after this journey and have realized that there is no point holding onto anger or ill feelings as it is just a waste of energy and gets you nowhere. Doing such a trip also allows you to better understand how to deal with people from different walks of life as you find yourself in many different situations and meeting with all sorts of people. I don’t want to say it makes you a better human being or anything like because that is cheesy beyond belief but it certainly grows your confidence in being able to talk with different people and as a result I guess you understand yourself a little better. I think it is true what they say that travel is good for the soul and it certainly beats the office! But it’s a catch 22 isn’t it……you first need the office job to save up enough money to embark on such a trip and goodness knows this trip cost me a penny or two but it was worth it and more and I would do it all over if I could.
So now for the hardcore and manly facts you have all been waiting for:
Distance Traveled = 12,000 miles
Equivalent to the following – Across the USA and back 5 times / Dubai to London and back to Dubai again / down the spine of Africa and back up again / London to Beijing / Alaska all the way down to Cape Horn
Fuel burned = 1,500 liters
States visited = 30
And countless memories of course.
I am humbled by the fact that so many people followed my blog and I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventure. Whenever I got lonely it kept me going knowing that so many people were tuning in and if it has inspired you in any way please drop me a line as I promise I plan on doing more trips like this in the future and it would be great to have some company!
For those wandering what the 0.1% was that was bad……………..well that’s easy……………….USA airport immigration