When Disaster Strikes
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
As with anything in life, traveling by motorcycle can sometimes test your patience. There are times when Tim and I feel like the world is plotting against us, and as if everything that could go wrong does go wrong.
There are times when we scream and shout and end up upset with each other for no good reason. There are times when if we could watch a recording of ourselves a day later, we'd be completely ashamed of how childish we'd acted.
It's in these instances that we know we are truly being tested, but of course, we always forget about how poorly we're failing the test when we're in the moment. Only when we take a step away and look back at what has happened, can we appreciate how with every miserable break down, and every seemingly insurmountable obstacle, something marvelous was just around the corner. If only we could have known.
But this time, on our way up to Chicago after our visit to Florida, and something went wrong once again, we didn't curse the road gremlins for making our lives miserable. We didn't shout and scream (ok, Tim let out one loud expletive, but that's forgivable), and we didn't turn on each other, which is an evil tar trap that we all-too-often fall into.
We actually tried to solve what we could, and accept what we couldn't.
We had just had one of the most remarkable weeks of our lives. We had reached the southernmost point in the US by motorcycle at the Florida Keys, we'd then had an unexpected private flight to the Bahamas with an old friend, and then on our last day in Florida, the state had an extra surprise in store for us.
We were visiting one of Tim's brothers who lives in the Daytona Beach region of Florida, when we noticed an interesting picture on his wall. It was of a gorgeous old tree with crooked, gnarly, wizard-like branches, matched only by the Spanish Moss hanging from them like wispy wizard beards. We were told that this tree was not too far away, and it was estimated to be about 2,000 years old. It was called Fairchild Oak, and there was a scenic road around the area known as "the Loop" that we could take if we wanted.
Well of course we wanted to take it!
It may have been as hot as the surface of the sun as we rode around, and as humid as the bottom of the ocean, but that couldn't dampen our good moods as we took the Loop around Fairchild Oak and the surrounding forests. We saw a friendly tortoise crossing the road. He blinked his reptilian eyelids at us, pulled himself out his shell once he felt safe, and dragged himself through the dirt like he couldn't be bothered with us.
When we got to the tree, we realized that it was truly a couple millennia old. A plaque by it read, "This live oak has withstood hurricane winds, fires, droughts, wars, and all the follies of mankind for centuries." And for some reason, the expression all the follies of mankind really stuck with me.
I kept pondering the idea that this tree had seen generations of people and animals come and go, and yet despite all the changes that this world has gone through, if the tree had a brain, it probably wouldn't think things are too different now than they've ever been. It lives in its little grove that now has a wooden fence, but is still mostly just forest. Squirrels, birds, and lizards live in its branches, along with thousands of insects, like they always have. And it made me smile.
I'm not really sure why, but the thought of the permanence of this tree really comforted me.
We left the Loop in high spirits, taking the oceanfront road that ran along the Atlantic. We rode north to Georgia, stayed in our favorite little RV Park along the way, and even had a wonderful night at a family member's cabin. But it was after Tennessee that our blissful journey suddenly flushed down the toilet.
We were on the highway going at a pretty high speed, and Tim and I could both feel that there was a strange wobble to the bike. Some construction on the road made us slow a bit, and the wobble seemed to worsen. The right side mirror trembled like it was frightened, and Tim told me, "There's something wrong with the front tire. I'm pulling over."
Though I could see nothing wrong, Tim immediately diagnosed that it wasn't the tire that was the problem, it was the wheel. And to be more specific, one of the front wheel bearings blew up, completely pulverized to smithereens.
Normally when something like this goes wrong, we go into freak-out mode. We both pace back and forth in disbelief at our incredible misfortune before we can collect ourselves enough to start problem-solving. And sometimes we don't ever even get to that point.
But this time was different. Tim let out that one roar of a scream, but then proceeded to explain to me how this wasn't good in simple motorcycle terms that I could understand. But he was calm, and that made me also calm. And we looked at each other, and gave each other that knowing expression of, "We'll get through this, just like we always do." It's the confidence I guess you get from being on the road together for so long.
We were able to get the bike off the highway, and we pulled into a country church parking lot to reassess our options. Since this exact same thing had happened to our friends, the Adventure Haks, when we were in Bolivia, Tim immediately gave Brendon Hak a call. He did his best remote diagnosis, and although he confirmed that damage had definitely been done, he also said that since the wheel didn't have any side-to-side movement, riding the bike at low speeds to where we needed to be that night was probably doable, and our best option.
In some ways we were lucky. Tim had another family member who lived about an hour away. I had a family member come and pick us up and bring us (and the messed-up tire) back to Chicago. And since then, we've been able to get new bearings, and with the help of our friend Aaron, get them properly installed. So now the front wheel spins again, but like all things in life, with the good luck comes the bad. There's a short somewhere that won't let the bike start sometimes. And when removing the tank, Tim accidentally stripped the fuel line... this past week has been quite the roller coaster.
Even so, we need to get ourselves and the bike to the Overland Expo in Colorado where we'll be giving speeches in just a week. So despite all the problems, we're going to have to push on.
But I'm proud of how this has all gone, not because we've been unlucky with all that life has thrown at us, but because we've taken it all in stride. We've reacted to it all with a clear mind not overcast in frustrations, and with the knowledge that just like that old oak tree. hurricanes come and go, followed by plenty of rainstorms in between. But that the sun will shine upon us soon enough.
We're leaving tomorrow to head west, so wish us luck.
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