How it all began


Five years ago I made a motorcycle trip in the northwest of the US with my husband. In three weeks we travelled from Colorado to Washington State on a Honda XL and a Yamaha XT. These bikes gave us the ability to go anywhere, there wasn’t a road we couldn’t take. Everything we needed on a day was right there on our bikes. Camping gear, clothes, some tools and a credit card, that was it. This feeling of absolute freedom was something I wanted to experience again. And it was obvious to me that this trip I was thinking about had to be in America, that beautiful country I was, by now, quite hooked on.

When Anne, my husband, (it’s also a boys’ name where we come from) was offered a job in Boulder, Colorado, the dream of another motorcycle adventure in de US came a lot closer. Slowly the plan arose in my mind to ride the Oregon Trail, the trail of migration thousands of Americans took in de mid-eighteenth century on their way to Oregon, to meet their new future. It was something that fascinated me, and in a way I felt related to these people. After all, I was an emigrant too, and was leaving everything behind to start a new life in a far away country.

There was one big difference between this trip and the previous one : this time I was determined do it on my own. Could I do it, ride a few hundred miles every day with probably a few interesting off-road challenges on the way? The (mechanical) problems I may encounter, will I be able to fix ‘em, or would I need to call for help? Facing the elements every day? I saw it all as a big challenge.
Of course at times there were doubts, but they where pretty easy to dismiss. Camping on my own? Well, done that before. Problems with the bike? I’m taking the repair manual, and if that doesn’t help, we’ll just have to wait and see. A solution will come up, America isn’t that empty. Letting the 330 pound bike with luggage fall and having to pick it up on my own? In the worst case I would have to take all the luggage off, then it’s doable. I could always ask a passing bear, I was promised there are a few of those on the way. And things might get stolen. Yes, they may. But then again, they may get stolen at home too.

It seems there was always a fitting ‘solution’ to the problems I could think of. But the one thing that I just couldn’t get around, was: how am I ever going to pay for all of this? At the moment, my income as a free-lance illustrator was hardly enough to keep me afloat. There certainly wasn’t enough financial room for an expensive motorcycle trip.

One night I sat down and made some calculations. It turned out that, if I used a fairly old and affordable bike and went camping a lot on the way, things where pretty feasible. If I kept it really cheap and simple, I should be able to go on the road for about a month, enough to get me from Boulder, Colorado to Independence, Missouri, from there to Portland, Oregon and then back to Boulder again. But of course I hadn’t taken into consideration that there were a lot of other expenses to cover: parts for the bike, new tires, maps, tools, a good camera. Oh boy. ‘Maybe..’, I thought, lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, ‘…maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all’.

Then something happened that would have a profound impact on our lives. Aged only 65, Anne’s father unexpectedly passed away. An active and healthy man, and a kind man, is suddenly gone. It all feels very unfair.
Besides the feelings of grief and loss, it also makes me think about my own life. Have I done everything I ever wanted to do, lived my life ’to the max’, so to speak? We all think we have a long and healthy life ahead of us, with plenty of time to do all the things we ever planned to do. But those are just our expectations. Who says it’s ever going to be like that..?
All this made me realise that I have to make this trip, I have to go. What’s money compared to the feeling of regret that I will probably have a few years from now when I realize I had this huge opportunity to do something I really wanted…and didn’t do. Live your life today! a little voice inside is saying, tomorrow it may be too late.
My plan is to start on June 3, 2013. But before I’m ready to go, I’ll still have about a million things to do. On this blog you can read all about the preparations and, from June on, about the trip itself.