It seems to be a natural first reaction to my announcement of solo travel: tell me what to look out for, what to fear. Most of the time, its bears. There was a fleeing fearful moment, before I researched the reality of attacks. But yesterday, during a conversation with my sister, a fear stuck. Of Water, or more specifically, Rain. Now at first, it might not seem like it should make one tense with the idea, but to a motorcyclist, its not something under control. Especially not when mixed with dirt, which provides a nice slick mud. My concern of this trip, is the assault of mother nature and her whims, more so than wildlife who are as scared of me as I them, and avoidable with a little care.
Apparently this has been a bad year for motorcycles in Alaska keeping upright on rainy days. It’s been a good year for a lot of rain. I am aware that there are some rough roads to traverse in AK, and so I will take the best precautions I can. Tires are key. Big, knobby tires. Knowing my limits of toleration and abilities each day. I can hope when I arrive in September it’s a dry week. On days like today, when I am sitting at home in 94 degree heat, it’s hard to prepare for the expected cold and rain. I will be leaving Los Angeles, which got 20 inches (more than usual) of rain last year, to places in Alaska which get that much in their 3 months of summer. Plan and plan as I may, I am still at the whim of what nature wants to provide that day.
Last summer, over half of my days on the road were rained on. Monsoon season in the southwest prevailed. I had to turn tail on some back roads of Utah due to flash flood warnings. I have had pink lightning crack the gray sky before me, as I enter a box canyon in Arizona. I was hailed on along twisty alpine roads in Colorado. I have been blown sideways in the open grasslands of Wyoming. I remember the intensity of weather, under no cover but my nylon shell, white knuckles encased in wet leather, wondering if there was relief around the corner. Sure makes for a pretty picture, but this is where my fear comes from.
It was three weeks into my journey last summer before my first call for help because of a breakdown. My bike was just fine, it was me that was in need of repair. Having such an independent personality, it’s hard to ask even when necessary. I reached out to a friend I met on the road, a dirt road, or as the day would have it, a mud road. He opened his doors to a stranger just a week earlier, yet now a kindred traveling spirit in need of a warm shower and hot meal. We joked about the easy 60 mi trail with only one difficult mile turning into a 60 mi difficult mud slick once the rain started. We both made it threw it with very few fallings. But day after day of rain and cold and wind showed my skin is not as thick as I thought it was. It’s good to know my own weaknesses.
Fear can and has stopped me in my tracks. It has kept me from hopping on my motorcycle. Some days, even from going outside. It can be hard to push through since our minds can be a greater force to overcome than the reality of what’s outside.
So, what do I do? Today, I swim. I embrace. I stick my head under the waterfall. Cause rain, you may slow me down, but you will not stop me from going. I still enter willingly into the vulnerability of wilderness.