Tag Archives: two wheels

Day 26: Homecoming

There are various reasons why I delayed writing about this last leg of my ride. Sure, returning to “real life” meant less time to write, but it also appeared to mean more time for Netflix binges and staring at screens. Perhaps, I wanted to prolong the journey and relish in the suspense. But, really, it was a simple act of avoidance.

I realized I sort of dreaded this day. The day I had to sum it all up. Try to make it tidy. Offer up my final wisdoms from the road. Tell you something profound.

I mentally chewed on my homecoming regularly for the last three months. What comes up is neither tidy nor wise nor profound. It is none of these and all of these. It’s a mash of lumps in my throat and tears in my eyes and feels in my gut. It’s grief and joy and sadness and smiles and endings and beginnings. It’s all of this all at once while also being just a 26-day motorcycle ride over 5000 miles with little adventure at all.

Part of me feels like the action and drama along the road was merely embellishment. There was awesomeness and quirks and fun. But, the ride was generally safe and uneventful. On the other hand, part of me knows my mental shifts were siesmic and intense.

I guess this last day of 2017 is as good as any day to button this all up.

I wasn’t meeting my lunch date until noon and the cool autumn weather meant I was afforded the opportunity to relish in the luxury of a king bed until close to 9am. Coffee, bagels and cream cheese fueled me as rode away from West Hartford on the last day of my ride across America. I was headed toward Charlie’s Diner in Spencer, Massachusetts.

Exactly thirteen weeks earlier, I left Massachusetts on an airplane. Although I had no return ticket, I did have a crazy plan to return on two wheels. At that time, I did not know the circumstances of my return. For those of you following along with my journey, you know my marriage, my livelihood and whether I would stay in Massachusetts only long enough to pack up and move on were all in question. And, if you followed along, you know the cliff hanger about my marriage was on it’s way to being resolved…er reunited, as the case may be.

Somehow, in the span of 5000 miles, we found a way to heal ourselves, overcome the hurt between us and return to each other.

We parted with enough respect, love and hope between us to makes things salvageable later, but it wasn’t the 5000 miles, it was the thirteen weeks that mattered. I don’t know exactly how this happened, but I doubt it would have if we remained in the same house during those thirteen weeks. And thirteen weeks is a blink compared to the 42 years of mental plaque I needed to sort through. I can’t speak for what he did in that time, it doesn’t matter.

As I wound my way through the New England countryside, only a tiny speck of this philosophical reflection was on my mind. New England was sparkling and the air was crisp. I was taking in the moment and relishing in this last day on the open road. I meandered through Windsor, crossed the Shenipsit State Forest and skirted around Stafford before breaking northward toward the Massachusetts border.

Since the day I rode back to Massachusetts, I’ve had time to sort through some of this. On this last day of 2017, through this post, I am able to only put some of it in context and out to the world in a way I feel okay with.

Four years ago my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The end was predictable; the journey and time to get there was not. My anger at her illness unearthed things in me I thought I had long ago shed. Twenty-four years ago, I walked away from my abusive father with little more than my wits and raw determination. The anger and self-loathing I buried beneath my hard, prickly exterior sizzled to the surface in eruptive and unpredictable ways and grief intensified it.

Thirteen weeks before I found myself closing in on the Massachusetts border, I left Massachusetts to escape my failing marriage, my failing midlife crisis, and my seemingly failing life, but mostly, I left to escape myself. Being alone with myself is a funny way to escape myself. No, it wasn’t a reprieve. It was only a way to deal with myself and nothing but myself.

So, as I pulled into Charlie’s Diner in Spencer, Massachusetts, it was an uneventful moment. The perfect riding weather, the nondescript diner, the “last day of a 26-day, 5000-mile ride” was all just another day like the last 26. Uneventful, yet profoundly different than the day I boarded a plane thirteen weeks earlier.

Happy cooking and happy New Year.

Day 24: Ferry to Cape May, NJ – Kindred Spirits

Meet Margo Pellegrino, my Spirit Animal. No, she’s not the bird, that little f*%ker attacked me. Margo is the amazing and awesome woman who inspires me to do amazing and awesome things. If you think my solo adventure where I learned to ride a motorcycle, flew off to California, bought a motorcycle then rode across the continent in a span of less than 6 months sounds a bit nutty, then you can look no further than Margo as my inspiration for such solo adventure feats.

In 2007, Margo took her first solo adventure from Maimi to Maine. She didn’t do that on wheels though, she did that on water, along on a 25-foot long fiberglass outrigger canoe. Since 2007, she’s completed solo adventures from Seattle to San Diego, Long Beach Island to Washington, DC, Maimi to New Orleans, Cape May to Montauk, New York to Chicago,  and Chicago to New Orleans.  Next, she will paddle from her backyard dock to DC to lobby congress to protect one of humanity’s most precious resources – clean water.

She has paddled solo on the Pacific, on the Atlantic, up the Intracoastal Waterway, in the Gulf of Mexico, up the Hudson River, up the Erie Canal, across the Great Lakes . She moved alone among vast expanses of water, some polluted, in sweltering heat, and hypothermic cold, over crashing waves, through crushing chop and along raging surf. She’s paddle in downpours, sunshine and everything in-between. Alone. Solo. One Woman.

Along the way, she raises money and awareness about the importance of one of humanity’s most precious resources – water.  Some of her causes include the National Resources Defense CouncilGulf Restoration Network, NJ Clean Ocean Action. Along each of her solo adventures. . . neigh, each of her solo one-woman-on-a-mission missions, Margo spends time with coastal communities giving talks, advocating for action and recruiting communities to take action. For each of her trips, she relies on a network of hosts recruited through the Surfrider Foundation, and The Blue Frontier Campaign to support her along the way and provide places to stay.

In my telling of my own solo adventure crossing the continent, if I told you I encountered a few hairy situations, rest assured, they pale in comparison to what Margo has encountered. There was the landing in Northern California that nearly snapped her tiny craft in half. There was paddling up the Hudson wondering about the rainbow sheen on the surface of the water. There was the encounter with a certain ex-president out on a motorboat in Maine. Shout out to another bad ass lady and solo adventurer, June Bernard (Salty Blue Designs) who drove a van supporting Margo’s whole West Coast Trip and helped with some of those crazy beach landings.

If I sound like I have a bit of a girl crush on this amazing woman, well, it is because I do.

While I met some shady characters with questionable judgement and unguarded not-so-witty commentary who made me feel uncomfortable on the road, I rarely felt the danger that comes with being isolated, on a vast puddle of water and totally vulnerable. Not in the way rendezvousing with your next support host in open water to find out it is a guy on a pontoon boat already several beers in. Then, although everything turns out for the better, your first encounter with said host sets your neck hairs on end as he greets you, who is sitting perched on a tiny fiberglass boat in the vast, vast ocean, from his pontoon with a freak you the fuck out  “Well, you got pretty blue eyes.” Seriously guys, shit like this is not cool.

Given all that, I found it laughable that when I arrived at her doorstep in New Jersey, she proclaims my self-indulgent motorcycle ride of self discovery to be a crazy adventure.

Despite my morning crossing the Cheasepeake Bay into an insane head wind, then cruising the entire Atlantic coastline of Maryland and Deleware and catching the Ferry from Lewes to Cape May where a captive audience queried me on my own adventure, it was really the compliment from a queen of adventure that made my day.

Happy Cooking and Happy Solo Adventure!