“When is your trip starting?” It’s the question I’ve been hearing several times a day. Great news: Our trip has already begun! Sort of… Let me explain our messy, convoluted exit from Normal and how life has a way of muddying up the best laid plans.
As many of you know, I did a little ride over the summer and won a thing. OK, I did a BIG ride and won THE thing. The Gerlach Winnemucca’s Revenge Mini Rally! I did win that rally, and I am quite proud of the fact that two of my three First Place finishes have been in George Zelenz-engineered events, but that’s not the only win to which I’m referring. I also won first place in the Iron Butt Rally.
It still feels weird to say out loud, I’m still grappling with imposter syndrome, but there it is. Some days I’m wading through some mundane bit of life when it hits me: I stop for a second and say to myself, “Holy crap. I WON the Iron Butt Rally!” I’ve used the word “surreal” in a lot of interviews – and there have been many – but there really isn’t a better word. It has been very surreal, very unexpected, and a wonderfully chaotic series of related events that had to get shuffled into our exit strategy. But I excel at shuffling, organizing, shimmying, juggling and coordinating. We can do it all!
Then, life. Death is a part of life, and it waits for no man, woman, or beloved pet. Most of us think our pets are the best, and Golden Retriever owners are right. Our Sprocket was among the best of the best. Sprocket, aka Skeeter, Sprockokeet, Sprocko Noches, and anything else we could think of on a whim, had 14 wonderful years full of adventure and easy living. She wasn’t exactly streetwise, although she did know better than to trust that weird-smelling people puppy we brought home 5 years ago. She enjoyed all the copious benefits of having a messy little critter throwing food all over the floor, without any of the gratuitous eye-poking or tail-grabbing that her brother Edison has endured.
She’d been slowing down, quite precipitously in the last few months especially, and we’d been mentally preparing ourselves for a while. I’d been away with Yamaha at the AIM Expo in Ohio and had bee-lined home just in time for Montessa’s birthday. Poor Sprocket had a rapid decline over the days I was gone, and by the time I arrived home we knew that tomorrow would be the day. The day after Monty’s Big 5, no less. We showered her with love and praise for being the most wonderful little dog and making our lives immeasurably richer and more entertaining, then waved her over the Rainbow Bridge. All I can say is that I’m glad my wonderful girl waited for me to get home.
I had to leave home again mere hours after leaving the vet because I needed to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a giant freak October blizzard. I was making my way to Nevada for, in an odd coincidence of sadness, a memorial event for the endurance rider community. I had temps into the mid 20s on my way over the Rockies, but made it to Nevada otherwise unscathed. Mike took a more northerly/frosty/snowy route in the SUV the following day and caught up with me in Wendover. The event was a blast, but it is not something to be discussed in polite company so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.
After the memorial event, Mike headed back to South Dakota to handle some final wind down procedures. I had an appearance to make at a fantastic NoPolio fundraiser the following weekend, so I opted to head south towards the sunnier skies and old friends of the Kern River Valley. From there, my riding buddy Kelly joined me on a lengthy backroads excursion back up to Folsom, California. The fundraiser was a huge success, I won more raffle prizes than I could haul back to CenCal, we had wonderful weather, a spirited ride, and tons of good company, so all in all it was a great weekend. Meanwhile, Mike was packing up Montessa and Edison and making a long trek east to Maryland, where our amazing friend Lisa had offered to spend the next 9 months spoiling two elderly Goldens absolutely rotten. It was with great sadness that we had to deliver Mr. Ed as a single gentleman, but we know he is going to be well loved and have a great time.
On the return trip, Mike and Monty hadn’t yet made it out of the Washington DC metroplex before life threw another little curveball: They were rear-ended rather enthusiastically by another car. Our hitch took the brunt of the impact, although our SUV did sustain a moderate amount of damage. The other car was pretty well totaled and barely made it to the shoulder. Information was exchanged and Mike pushed on, but the following morning both he and Monty were in pain so the better part of a day was spent in urgent care getting checked out. No major injuries, it would appear, just the standard whiplash damage typical of such events. So now they’re running a good deal behind schedule, in pain and in a somewhat compromised vehicle, heading into another blizzard scenario and having to juggle the vehicle repair situation before he and Monty can mount up and head south.
Just as a cherry on top of all of this craziness, lets toss in ailing family members in multiple states, a union meeting in Hollywood, doctors appointments for Mike’s various injuries, a kid who would love to spend Halloween with all her old buddies from way back in her preschool days, and a birthday girl who’s big surprise present is going to be her first trip to Disneyland (shhhhhhhh!). Did I mention that I got stung by a bee on my lip and half my head swelled up like some sort of hideous Macy’s parade balloon? Yeah, that happened. So the question remains: When does the real adventure begin? I’ve gotta say, if this wild and unpredictable life isn’t a real adventure, I don’t know what is! Stay tuned as that adventure meanders (slowly but surely) south.