Mak’n a plan

So we have our first break down.

The rear shock bolt that goes into the axle came out while I was riding on a shitty road. I felt the bike suddenly drop and knew immediately that the shock “broke”.

Lucky the angels were on my side, I wasn’t going very fast and the rear wheel kept spinning so I just pulled in the clutch and rode it till it stopped.

I flagged down a passing car and sent them up the road to stop Andrew and Laura who didn’t see what happened then waited.

Andrew dropped Laura off at the next town of Soliatire, only 25km away then came back for me.

A man in a truck named Gunther Heimstadt from Bateleur Helicopters stopped and we loaded my stuff and me into his truck and he took me into town.

Luckily Andrew knows the owner so he got a truck to come out and load up the bike.

If there is anywhere to break down, this is the place. Their mechanic Robert is an engineer who used to build aircrafts and is insanely smart. He is currently lathing a new bolt in case the BMW dealer that is close to us doesn’t have the parts in stock or if it will be too expensive to have them curriered out to us.

We are blessed.

Rough ride

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the past couple days and even though I have experienced so much, that it has taken many days to absorb it all.

We rode all the way (basically) across South Africa to the Atlantic coast. How is that even possible.

The roads were still very busy but it was the wind that was the most challenging. At times I thought it would blow me off the road and it was even worse when large trucks came from the opposite direction. I basically stayed in a constant battle with the bike, forcing to stay in line. On one curve, an oversized truck was so large that it came over halfway into my lane, I had no where to go. The yellow line had a 3” drop off then a guardrail, I just said “oh, shit…” and hugged that yellow line as close as possible. I needed to change underwear after that.

We saw lots of blooming flowers, and there were a lot of green bushes. It had rained the week prior and it was just carpets of purple flowers.

I crested to top of the hill heading into Port Nolloth and suddenly I could see the ocean. The beach town just looked so picture perfect. Miles of beach as far as I could see and the white caps from the waves were visible from miles away.

We stayed 2 nights at Bedrock Lodge, right across the street from the ocean. I must have talked to the operator Auriel and the chef Aunt Maggie for hours. They were so open and prayed over me and our trip and we had beautiful fellowship.

Auriel spoke some very key things about my healing that I couldn’t help but cry. She spoke about my fear of finding great love again, of starting over and she only knew that I lost Frank recently. She didn’t know about this blog. She too has had a lot of things happen in her life and is very strong in her faith. She said that pain speaks to pain. Even though ours was different, it is still the same language. She said that the people praying for us all over the countries were like little points of light that al connected to create a shield over me and our journey.

Aunt Maggie just let me sit in the kitchen and talk to her like I was a child. We spoke about family, kids, music and the problems we all face world wide. How we all worry about kids falling into the wrong crowd or their schooling. Young girls not respecting themselves and sleeping around and the getting pregnant. All the things that parents in the US experience. We talked about the racial problems in South Africa and classifications that are placed on them. It was very eye opening to see going to places like the market and seeing how everyone is treated.

Leaving Port Nolloth was the start of my off-road adventures. I was absolutely terrified. I could only drive 30km an hour and was death locked on the throttle and standing up most of the day. We didn’t make it very far that day and I was mentally and physically exhausted. The roads are dirt/gravel and sand and there are tracks from where cars have driven past but the hardest part is the corrugation. It just non stop small ruts that make you feel like you will be shook to death. The sand makes the back end get squirrelly so my quads got a work out from me popping up and down in the saddle when I felt it slipping.

We didn’t make it to where Andrew wanted to camp originally so we just found a tree to hide the bikes behind and camped in the bush. We had packed out some steaks and some Alfredo noodles packets so we cooked that over an open fire. The fire had to get down to coals before Andrew put them on so it wasn’t hot enough for the noodle mixture and it ended up becoming a clumpy, gross looking mess. It basically looked like brains. We didn’t have plates or knives. I just had a coffee cup so Laura gave me some but it had the consistency of cake batter. Andrew had the bright idea to put some beets we had brought in it and it did help the taste but it just looked like brains or intestines. It was so terrible that we just laughed and laughed until no sound came out and my side ached. We used the paste packets to wrap around the steaks and just tore pieces off like wild animals. I swear, it was the best steak that I had ever had in a long time. We brewed some coffee and sat talking and looking at the stars for a long time. I eventually got in my tent but kept looking at them. There were so many and the Milky Way was just breathtaking.

The next day was a lot better, I just relaxed more and went a lot faster, which actually made the ride smoother. We camped at Canyon River campsites and after setting up the tents, showering and hanging laundry up to dry, I went for a short walk up a hill and just sat and had a conversation with frank and I think partly with God, just asking what I am supposed to do with this gift I had been given. I just cried and held his sphere and talked to him like I haven’t done in a long time.

After I came down, we went to Fish River Canyon which is like a mini Grand Canyon. It was pretty and I got to see a small herd of Oryx run across the rode in front of me. I just slowed down and let them all pass. We got back as the sun finished setting. The sky was pinks and purples and reminded me of driving through the desert with frank so many years ago and felt such a connection to him.

The next day was very nice and the roads smoothed out a lot. I got a lot better and could go much faster so we made great time getting to the next spot to camp.

We met a guy named Richard Baath who is 8.5 months into his trip from Sweden to the tip of South Africa. He is supposed to finish the same day I fly home, only he is riding a bicycle. He is the coolest guy and I talked his eye off asking questions and wanting to see pictures. We all had dinner together and are camping out. 3 tents all in a row. You can find his blog at richardbaath.com or Instagram @richardbaath. Some of his photos are incredible. I can’t even imagine what his journey must be like and to be doing it alone.

Rays

The first ride on the 1200 went well.

I struggled at first getting it off the property since it has brick tracks for car tires and then grass everywhere else but I managed to keep the rubber on the road.

We drove through a very nice road with some twists and then through town stopping to pick up supplies and meeting A&L’s friends.

We ran in Pepe and he invited us back to his house so we took our time and went up a dirt road so I could get used to being off tar roads.

I immediately popped up out of the saddle like the BMW performance rider training taught me and was able to handle the bike really well. I am so grateful for the training. I would have been lost without it.

The road into Pepe’s home was quite rough but his land is beautiful. Pepe and his wife Marie have huge dogs that are a pretty red brown color and super sweet. We just visited for awhile before we had to get back home.

We had promised Boeta that we would ride awhile with him but when we got home, I was spent. It was very hot and I had not snacked or drank any water so I chose not to go. Andrew and Boeta rode till almost dark and we had a yummy dinner again.

They call a bbq, a braai and they cook thick pieces of steaks, potatoes, beets and other veggies.

We took the next day off and spent the day packing the pannier boxes and checking the tents out. Alta and Gerrit’s grandkids were there so we played with them and they helped us set up the tents. They were super sweet but very smart since we can’t speak very much Afrikaans and they don’t speak English but hand gestures work perfectly.

We were invited over to Pepe and Marie’s house for a braai so we went over there in the evening and had a really good time just chatting and getting to know each other. They have travelled the world via boats and we really got along great. I gave Marie one of my bracelets.

I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up reading my kindle. I had thought about Franco all day, especially after his sister and mom both commented on my last blog and it just made me tear up. I showed it to Laura cause she saw me start crying but I couldn’t get the words out to tell her what they had written. It was just so kind, loving and beautiful.

I woke up early and got the rest of my stuff packed and loaded on the bike. We hugged Alta and I gave her one of the bracelets that I had made and couldn’t stop the tears from falling. She knew that I was scared, nervous and she did her best to calm me down and gave me a big hug. It made me feel like a little piece of home was hugging me.

We headed out to Mug n Bean for coffee and a small breakfast and Gerrit met us up there. He rode with us for a very long while. He is a phenomenal rider. He was doing crazy antics like standing up and waving both arms around, standing on one side of the bike and taking one hand and leg off. He gave truckers high fives, stole a puffs of cigarettes from random cars and was just dancing around the whole time. I know he really put the show on for me since he was watching out for me and trying to get me to relax. He is such a kind man.

The time came and we split to the left and he kept going on his own trip and we turned onto a stunning side road. It was very flat and almost no trees and looked identical to California.

The sun had been playing peekaboo all day with us and I just looked at the rays shining from behind a cloud and all I could think was “I see you Franco”. I know he was with me and making me relax.

I was very nervous on the main roads with all the traffic and everyone maneuvering past each other on a single lane road. I just took my time and was very careful when I passed people and made sure to get over to the far left of the lane so others could pass. We got up to about 90mph/140km on the straight parts but we were mostly cruising at about 70mph.

It got very cold as the sun got lower and I got very stiff and crabby. Luckily we made it to the hotel before the sun went down. Checked in then went for a quick bite of dinner.

The power was out so I am still waiting to take a hot shower and warm up properly. There is a lot of noise in this hotel. People, dogs and road noise.

We have about 600km to do tomorrow and will probably be tenting so time to get some rest and get warm!

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.