First days in Africa

I left the blinds open in my hotel room so the dawn would wake me up. All I could think when I saw the view was “beautiful”. I got dressed, wrote a note for A&L and went downstairs for coffee and breakfast.

I can’t lie, it’s very strange to walk into a room and not see another white person but everyone pretty much kept to themselves except for a few good mornings exchanged in the elevators.

I had only been downstairs for about 10 minutes before A&L made it down and got coffee. They hardly ate any breakfast and Andrew was chomping at the bit to get going and find a “real cup of coffee”, so I finished up and went upstairs to pack my few things since my bag didn’t arrive.

I took a few minutes at the window again, this time with Franco and just tried to absorb the fact that I was actually here. It still feels so surreal.

We managed to find a Mug n Bean, get the team some caffeine and we started driving to Tzaneen, where we would be staying with some of their friends names Alta, Gerrit and their son Boeta.

The country side was beautiful. Brown but with gnarled trees everywhere. Some parts were very lush and green and reminded me so much of California, where my family is from.

The driving is very aggressive. People will just move to the side of the road to let you pass. There are people walking everywhere and lots holding out their hands almost like hitch hiking. There is a van that drives around and stops to pick people up for just a little money but anyone can choose to make a couple bucks (rands) by giving people rides.

The towns seem laid out similar to the US where there is the poor neighborhood with houses that look more like shanties and lots of trash everywhere and neighbors that look more wealthy with brick/stone and glass windows. Everyone has a fence with barbed/electric wire running across the top and bars across the windows.

We managed to find our way after a few wrong turns. After a brief stop at a grocery store and a butcher for dinner supplies, we arrive at the house.

The house has a huge sliding metal green gate and it is a huge property. The house is made primarily of wood and runs on solar and battery power. They have 3 smaller cabins that they have started renting for Airbnb and it runs right next to a beautiful river. There is a really pretty wooden staircase that leads down to the water and a floating dock. They tell me that sometimes Hippos come up the river. Crazy.

Since Andrew was anxious to pick my brain with a problem on the R1200GS. I dropped my bags and went to work. The rear brake light was burned out and they had gone in and bought a new bulb so we started there by replacing that first, no go. I started working systematically and eliminating known good parts and we finally realized that the front brake lever was not hitting the brake switch fully. We decided to wait until Gerrit got home to solder a mm or two onto the where the lever hits the switch.

Alta, Gerrit and their son Boeta surprised us by coming home a day early, so Andrew made a great dinner for us and we had a dessert coffee made with amarula (?) it’s a fruit that grows native to South Africa and tastes very similar to Kahlua.

We got to watch the videos from their time in the Bush. It’s pretty much like camping but they get to see much better wild animals lol.

The next morning I slept in very late, till almost 10:30am and A&L got to experience first hand how not pleasant I am before coffee.

Then it was back to work going over the bikes to zip tie any loose parts and tighten all bolts

I have to admit that I was not as helpful as I should have been. I was too busy having fun with Boeta and filming him riding his KTM. He is such a nice kid and we laughed a lot.

It was also nice to walk around their property and see their animal Jessica. I forget the official name of the type of animal she is.

I finally had to break away and start helping.

It was nice to be around their family and the interaction made me miss my own.

We finished up for the day and went down to the dock so we could sit and watch Boeta and some neighbor girls swim. It was nice getting Andrew to relax and take some time to enjoy the stillness. He has a very restless soul and wants to be constantly getting things ready for us. I don’t think he realizes yet how much our casual conversations in the quiet times are soothing my soul.

After dinner, we all kind of went our own ways. I am reading in my cabin and reflecting on a beautiful few days.

My bag arrived this evening so tomorrow the real fun begins with actually riding the bikes. I’m nervous to say the least. Especially since it is Gerrit’s bike and it is pristine. I really don’t want to mess it up.

I just have to push the fear away and get out of my own head and just ride.

I’ve been able to talk about Franco more and tell stories. I showed his keepsake to Laura and she said she may know someone with a boat that could help me when I go to bury his ashes in the sea. I know she was just being helpful but it made me tear up. I was able to choke out that I wasn’t ready to let him go yet and when I was, I was planning on organizing with anyone who wanted to drive or ride down with me as a final send off.

The idea of letting him go is terrifying. Even though it’s not really him, just his ashes.

I joked with my coworkers that I would be back at work after the trip, unless I met the heir to the diamond industry and he whisked me away on his yacht.

Honestly, I don’t know if I will ever want to be in a real relationship again.

Unless a person comes into my life and completely knocks my world off orbit, I’m not going to bother.

I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t know if there is a person out there for me again but I’m willing to live my life without waiting for them to arrive.

Tomorrow will be coming soon and I must be sure to wake early since I know Andrew will be foaming at the mouth to get going.

Grand Adventure

The day went by really fast at work as I worked a short shift and spent most of the morning rearranging show room set up. Mary came and picked me up, grabbing the last minute items before driving to Atlanta.

Traffic was terrible. I swear, every person that lives in Atlanta was on the road today. It was gray clouded but luckily didn’t start raining.

I got to the airport about 4 PM and through security at about 6 PM. Just enough time to get a snack and charge my devices before my plane started to board at 7pm.

We ended up sitting on the tarmac for about two additional hours and didn’t leave till close to 10pm. The storms have made other plans late so we had to wait for the arrivals coming in for their connecting flight. The airport actually shut down the flights after we left since the lightning was too bad to take off. Bags had to be taken on and off the plane for people that weren’t going to be able to make the flight.

I had a window seat and was lucky enough to have the middle seat empty so I had more space to move and stretch. I tried to chat with the man sitting at the aisle but he was completely rude to me so I ignored him for most of the flight. He started warming up at the end of the flight after he was about 6 shots of scotch in.

I saw a few movies and then took a natural sleeping aid. It looked like a five hour energy drink but it worked amazing. I just put my earplugs in, eye mask down, travel pillow in place and I was out.

I woke up a few times but I kept the mask in place to sleep long possible. I finally woke up and stayed awake with about three hours of the flight left, just working on getting the kinks out and waking up.

Going to customs line was a breeze. The line itself took maybe 10 minutes and the process when it was my turn about 30 seconds. Apparently I don’t look like I could cause any trouble.

Trouble happened when I went to collect my bag and they notified me that the bag had never left Atlanta. It is going on tomorrow’s flight but I won’t get it until Sunday. They’re going to deliver it to the home that I will be staying at for the next few days.

So I will need to stop by a store and pick up necessities likes more underwear and socks. Right now everything that I was wearing got hand washed in the shower and is hanging up to dry near the vents. Hiker trash style.

It was great to see Laura and Andrew at the exit waiting for me and I’m so excited to be here with them.

There was an issue with the parking ticket pay meter so we were stuck for a while in the parking lot. The drive to the hotel was very interesting and I will have to get used to the left hand side driving. There was only one or two moments that I was actually scared while Andrew was driving. I just kept hitting an imaginary brake pedal. The highway has really tall bright lights that make it look like a long snake that goes forever.

We grabbed some yummy pizza and sat talking in my hotel room until they got sleepy. I gave them some gifts, small tokens of my enormous gratitude. I had coffee cups made with the Uuzilo logo and had matching necklaces made with their initials.

I’m sleepy and missing Franco tonight as I hold his keepsake and look at some of the pictures I brought with me.

Alyson, my boss Staci and my team at work all signed cards for me. Alyson also made me a necklace and bracelet for protection. Mary gave me a bracelet for my chakras. I felt very loved and blessed to be surround my all these loving people

Tomorrow will be the first day in this adventure and I can’t wait to see what each new turn will bring.

Reality

The day has come. I’m actually getting on a plane tonight and flying to South Africa. What a few short months ago sounded like a email scam is now my reality.

It’s been a very busy last few weeks. I finally finished getting 3 ring binders created for my mom, Frank’s mom and myself. I put all of our important documents in it.

If you don’t have a binder or a file, I urge you from the bottom of my heart….start one.

Start having conversations with the ones you hold dear about your wishes. Yes, it’s super morbid but this life is so precious and fragile. Take the time and just do it. It only took me $80 and 20 mins to do my Will and final wishes created and expedited to me. Get life insurance, even a small policy. Make a medical directive in case you get hurt. Make a list of accounts and passwords. The more detailed, the better.

Do I think that something will happen to me on the trip? No. Not in the slightest bit. But I’m prepared for it.

I wrote in a blog awhile back that I was done reaching up to God and it was up to Him to come and find me. Maybe He took it as a challenge because suddenly Uuzilo came into my life and it is exactly what I need.

When I told my mom that I was looking into doing this trip and of course she freaked out and was totally against it. Until I told her this:

“This non-profits mission has been hand crafted for me. I am the perfect fit to help them and for them to help me. If God wants me to go, then it will all fall into place. So I am going to do what I need to do so I can be ready for it. Cause I don’t want to be the reason that I don’t go. I am getting out of my own damn way and trusting this is part of His plan and I am supposed to do this.”

Andrew and Laura have been working their tails off to get this trip ready for me and I will never be able to thank them enough. From emotional support, to bringing in light and laughter, prepping the motorcycles and continuing to reach out and tell the world about Uuzilo.

I am not scared or nervous about the trip. I’m scared and nervous about being alone with my thoughts for hours at a time. I’m afraid to strip away my distractions and be left bare. I’m afraid that the emptiness will overwhelm me.

I took 2 weeks off work after Franco died, that’s it. I’ve been working non stop since then. It has been a blessing and a curse. I am away from home all day and busy. I don’t have to think about him being gone even though it is never far from my mind. I can pretend that everything is ok.

I want to find peace. I want to find my joy again. Find the song of my heart, cause right now I hardly remember the melody and I am singing off key.

I am taking the step of faith and seeing where if takes me.

The Rumble

It’s been a rough couple of days. I’ve been super emotional and raw.

I have been slowly finishing up the things I need to before I go but I keep delaying going into the garage to look for gear.

I’ve only gone in a handful of times since Franco’s bike came home. It’s hard for me to look at knowing he was riding it when he died but I can’t bear to let it go. He loved the bike, sometimes I think, more than me.

His other Harley is sitting right next to it but I haven’t even started it since Neal rode it for his service in February.

Four months ago……

Four months that went by in an instant.

Four months with days that were never ending.

I still forget that he is gone sometimes, that I’m alone and all our plans for our future are gone.

I just feel like taking a huge swig from the liter of Jack Daniels sitting next to his picture then throwing the bottle as hard as I can against the wall. Watching the shards of glass shatter all around me, just like my life did.

I spent a couple of hours with Neal the other day. He offered to take the other Harley and ride it while I’m gone. It kills him that it just sits and rots but I just can’t touch it.

He text me on Father’s Day that he was going to come by when I got off work to pick it up. It was a shit day at work, everything going wrong. I got off late and was running behind for a bbq I was invited to but still had to assemble my dessert. My dad called while I was prepping and I tried talking to him but just broke down and started crying. Tears just streaming down and of course Neal and his family walked through my door.

I’m sure they weren’t expecting me to be crying or for my house to look like a bomb exploded but that’s what they got. Neal just hugged me and I just apologized for my mess.

I finished up the dessert while he went out and started the bike. I could hear it rumbling in the garage. The motor stuttered and rpms kept bouncing since the gas was so bad in it.

He got on it and backed it out the garage while I watched with tears streaming. I just turned away and hit the garage door opener. Sobbing as the door closed behind me.

I miss that rumble. Standing at the kitchen sink and hearing it coming down the block then into the garage. That sound let me know he was home safe.

I miss that sound and him more than ever.

Prisms

When I was growing up, we would go over to my Granny Mac’s house every Sunday after church. The whole family would be there. She and my Grandma Barbara (her daughter) would put us to work in her garden before we had lunch.

She had a huge lot with lots of different fruit trees and vegetables. My mom would send my brothers and I up the cherry trees with buckets. Telling us to eat our fill before we started filling the buckets. We would finish with wine stained mouths, hands, stomach aches and buckets full of dark red cherries. She canned and froze everything and we were always helping in the kitchen or at the kitchen table.

The kitchen table was small but it had slides where you could pull the ends apart and insert extenders since there were so many of us. It sat right next to a huge bay window that looked out onto the backyard.

In that window hung lots of prisms. Different shapes and sizes and when the light would hit them, they created dancing rainbows all over the house. They were hung with fishing line and we would spin them as tight as they could wind and let them spin out and laugh at the crazy colors all over the house.

That was a cherished time in my childhood, surrounded by family…..always. After Granny Mac died, my Grandma Barbara put the prisms in her window and the tradition continued. Along with family dinners.

When I entered the service and started making my way in this crazy world, I would find prisms and hang them in my house. I still continued to spin them and watch them dance.

When Grandma Barbara died, the only things I asked for from her estate was a prism and books that she had been reading. After we had the house built, I hung them up in the kitchen where they got the morning sun.

One day our good friend Neal came over and saw them in the windows. I explained what they were and the history. Not long after Frank died, I was sitting on the couch and looking at the walls where the rainbows were on full display and a thought popped into my head “You are going to be ok”……

Maybe it was God, maybe Grandma Barbara, maybe it was Franco. Even now, remembering hearing that thought causes me to tear up.

Weeks later, I get a text message from Neal that he found some on a job site and gave me a box full of different size prisms. It was the sweetest gesture. I just finished hanging them in all the windows downstairs. Now they are just waiting for the light to come through and when it does, I’ll spin them and think of all the people that I have loved and lost and all the wonderful memories that we made together.

But most of all, I know that I’ll be ok.

Mountains of paperwork

My days have been a whirlwind lately of paperwork and getting documents together for franks estate, mine and prepping for my trip.

I finished the inventory of his estate and he owes more in debt that what his assets are so I will have to wait and see how that plays out next year.

I decided to prepare my will paperwork as well. As I can’t take anything for granted anymore.

I received my passport, international drivers permit and Andrew/Laura booked my flight. It will be a straight shot to Johannesburg, South Africa. A 16 hour flight. I hope to sleep through most of it but I will just have to wait and see. I chose one of the aisle seats with the middle 3 seat row. I usually love a window but I figured I may need to stand, stretch, and use the facilities easier.

Andrew and Laura will be flying out about 10 days before I do so they can prep and do final logistics on the ground there in Africa.

I also received the glass art spheres that Crescent Memorial Art Glass created for me and I also bought a butterfly pendent for his mom since she was missing one. I plan on only taking one sphere with me, just in case. The other sits on top of his ashes and the colors are striking with the sunlight from the windows.

The orbs are much larger than I anticipated, I was thinking more like 3″ around vs 3″ across the top. It’s a little larger than a baseball and heavy. I’ll be traveling with it inside a crown royal bag. It’s actually the perfect size and really soft in the inside so less scratches. I’ll bubble wrap around it for safe measure.

I can’t explain how much of a comfort the orbs have been. Just to have something to hold on to or sit in my lap as I read a book or do paperwork. Having him with me helps me feel peaceful and more secure.

I have been having a good couple of days.

Staying busy as Work, hiring more staff and going to the gym a couple times a week. I even broke down and bought new work out/hiking shoes. My pinky toes were almost out of my old set. Stupid wide feet.

I also got my travel medical done, updated vaccines and got some prescriptions for stuff to take so I don’t get sick while I’m over there. I just went to the local CVS minute clinic. There is no way that I could have gotten it done as quickly with the VA. If I had been able to be seen that day at all since everything is treated as a triage when you don’t have an appointment. It cost me but I feel like it was worth it.

I had coffee with Mareli, the woman I met at the BMW course and she let me borrow 3 books by Lois Pryce. She writes about her solo motorcycle adventures. She road from Alaska to the tip of South America, from England to Cape Town at the tip of South Africa and also journeyed through Iran. The books were pretty good and informative about being a female rider. I won’t be going solo like she did and on a much larger bike as Andrew is getting a BMW 1200GS and 800 for us to alternate on. Depending on how well I do on the bigger/heavier bike on sand.

I haven’t been sleeping well since I started to dream again so I am constantly dragging. I’ve been getting away from drinking coffee and anything with caffeine. Also eating healthier and trying to work on my leg strength as much as possible before the trip. Getting my quads and glutes ready for all day riding!

I’m not nervous yet but need to keep checking off things from my to do list so I can stay on track.

One major thing I checked off was getting an emergency gps device. I got the Garmin Inreach Explorer.

It has a two way messaging system that uses satellites instead of cell towers and you can post your status to some social media networks. I’ve been playing with it to make sure I know how to use it and have been customizing one button preset messages.

” I haven’t been eaten by lions or run over by elephants yet….”

“we are stopped for the night and safe. I love you and I miss you.”

So as long as I send my mom and limited few others updates fairly often, she won’t worry as much. Since I also enabled it to show my gps coordinates on a map so they can track my progress from the message. It wasn’t cheap but the emergency sos features sold me. What price can you put on being able to get help when your life depends on it?

I also reactivated my Instagram account and had Laura start one for Uuzilo. She doesn’t know how to use it yet but that’s what YouTube is for. So if you use it, look up Uuzilo or myself at teamdangercurves and follow our adventures.

So much to do and so little time…..back at it, i suppose.

Dreaming Again

I’ve started dreaming again.

I stopped after Frank died. It was like my mind partitioned itself and allowed me to have deep, black and effortless sleep.

My dreams have always been very real, complex, crazy amounts of detail and richness.

One of the biggest fights that Frank and I had ever had was because of a dream.

To borrow a lyric from Luke Combs’ song When It Rains, It Pours:

“Sunday morning….Man, she woke up fighting mad”.

I had dreamed that I had caught him cheating on me, red handed, he had smacked me in the face with it.

So I woke up angry at him and I took it out on him…….all day long.

Just being petty and making little comments.

Now Frank’s temper was like those packs of firecrackers. The ones that are all bound together that make lots of intense popping noise, flashes and smoke….then it’s gone.

My temper is like a tea pot. It takes me a long time to heat up but I once I’m there, I boil and then screech.

So, finally Franco has enough of my attitude and finally snaps.

Franco: “What the fuck is wrong with you today?”

Me: “Maybe you should ask that girl that you were cheating on me with last night!”

He gives me this look of shock and bewilderment.

F:…..What chick?! I was here with you?!”

M: “The one in my dream! You fucking cheated on me in my dream.”

Now he gives me his irritated face look…

F: “Well you need to get the fuck over it, cause I didn’t do shit wrong”

M: *roaring* “I KNOW!! I’m trying, ok!”

And that was that.

He moved on and didn’t say anything else about it and I did my best to calm down and eventually came over to get cuddles and apologize for being crazy.

It became one of our inside jokes whenever the song came on and that lyric sang out and he would look at me and repeat it. “She woke up fighting mad…” and I would just smile and say “…fighting mad.”

So of course, my first dream is of him.

It wasn’t anything special, he was just sitting on the couch, talking to me.

It was like when you turn the TV on mid movie, I was just there with him again, out of nowhere. It had that white lighting, the dream like feel they always have in movies.

I was looking in the third person initially, looking at he and I and I knew it was a dream.

I even said out loud, “This is a dream…..” and it immediately changed to the first person view. I don’t even know what he said, he was just in his super chatty mood. So my dream self, knowing that it wasn’t real, just held his hand and cuddled with him. Just focusing on the little things. How blue his eyes were, how the gray in his beard was streaked, how his hands fit with mine, how he laughed….just soaking him in.

He went to leave and gave me a quick peck but I stood up and just hugged him really tight, kissed him and told him I loved him as he walked out of the garage door. Stopping to do the feet stomp and growl that he always did to me and he was gone and I woke up.

It was beautiful.

I know it wasn’t a goodbye dream but he came to comfort me and make me smile. To let me know, he will always be with me.