We were thinking of writing this post for a while now, how six months on the road felt and what our days were like but then our beloved dog Ducati died and the idea got shelved. There is now two parts to the trip, the first six months of road life with Ducati and now the continuation of the trip AD, After Ducati.
The first six months
The first three weeks of the trip in the United States we covered ground relatively quickly and did not stay for more than two nights in the same place. We mastered the art of setting and breaking camp but we were driven by the excitement, anticipation, and nerves of the first border crossing and getting into Mexico. A sense of “let’s get there” pushed us along. The spell finally broke for us in Urique Canyon, Chihuahua State, Mexico where we made camp and then stopped for eight nights, recharged and slept. We were now far enough from home to feel the gravity of Seattle wane; we were now adrift and into the bosom of an around the world trip, errr……anyway, we were into Mexico and sleeping in a tent, good enough for us to count the trip as fully underway.
Relaxed from our week plus stay in Urique we now needed to alter our tune a little, “shit, how does this work now?” Unlike every other motorcycle trip we had done previously, this time we didn’t have to turn around and get back to work before the clock struck midnight and, unlike a vacation, we no longer had a house or a job to return to. This is our life now and wrapping our heads around the concept is what we did all through Mexico.
We also learned to slow down and learned new priorities and tasks that did not exist in our previous life of careers and stability. But some things never change and Ducati stayed where he always was, essentially the center of our world. A significant portion of our daily energy was spent making sure everything in Ducati’s world was as safe and comfortable as we could make it, taking into account we were all motorcycle gypsies and standards had changed. Lap dogs are not welcome in a lot of places in Mexico (museums, hotels, and restaurants to name a few) so we learned to sneak Ducati around in his green shoulder bag when needed and he learned not to make a peep while inside. Ducati started many conversations when that darling head popped out of the shoulder bag or motorcycle carrier to look around, people smiled, sometimes took pictures, and always had questions.
As we became more familiar with our new life on the road we started spending more time at each stop and covered fewer miles each week. Three nights per stop quickly became a week on average. We started to meet other like-minded overlanders, in all types of vehicles, making the same general trip (going South) as us. We met a few of these cohorts online or by random chance on the street, but most we have met while camping where it was the norm to share food, information, and laughter. As the months pass these fellow travellers have become an extended family network and we are often bouncing messages around via Facebook or email. The countries change, the food changes, the weather changes but the friends that are traveling South like we are have become a welcome constant in our lives. Over the first six months we lost sight of some people moving faster than us and some others have lagged behind but overall we are not lonely for company. We have met others with dogs and Ducati found a friend (Blaze) that he saw repeatedly through Mexico and Central America.
Our day-to-day is often surprisingly busy. Deciding where we are going, looking for a place to sleep, finding and cooking food or going out to eat as well as trying to maintain the website, learning Spanish, and watching Ducati, setting and breaking camp, doing laundry, maintaining the bikes, and correspondence with family and friends. One wonders how we ever had time for a job.
Setting up and breaking down camp takes us a fair bit of time. Granted, we have a pretty comfortable set-up but comfort comes at a price. It generally takes us 1.5 hours to set up and about 2 to take down and pack up the bikes. We can do it faster if we must but not by much. Everything has its place and the order in which it must be packed. The first couple of months we worked out the kinks at what goes where. We also jettisoned some unused things and added others (a 9-foot extension cord was our best add). We carry a lot of food for cooking. If we didn’t camp or cook we would be carrying considerably less gear.
The longer we are on the road the more comfortable we feel in our tent and we now prefer it to most other sleeping arrangements. Hotel rooms are a novel change but we are always happy to get back to the tent. Our camping mattresses have proven to be more comfortable than hotel mattresses most of the time. In our first six months we camped about fifty percent of the time.
Life on the road worked well for us and we liked it. Ducati thrived. He loved us being together all the time. He especially loved the tent but sometimes we weren’t so sure about the actual riding on the motorcycle though he never seemed upset over it. In Seattle, Ducati was often nervous just sitting with us in public places – like eating at a restaurant outside, he would never relax – this totally changed on the road. Now when we sat down, he would eagerly relax and lay down. If he felt over-stimulated he would worm his way into the green shoulder bag and chill out. A very joyful little pup overall.
We have little to fear living this life and we are exposed to kindness, curiosity, and an overwhelming sense of live and let live by the people we meet in the many countries we have passed through. We have developed a sixth sense that tells us when we are not welcome or should move on. Situations that would have been frightening a year ago (being mobbed by “fixers” at a Central American border crossing for example) has become a novel encounter that barely rates a mention. We feel safe and well looked after while always knowing that there are hazards around us and we keep our wits about us at all times. It sounds like a lot of work being “on” all the time but it has become second nature and is mostly automatic now.
Although we have been married a long time we have never been together every hour of every day for months on end. Some minor irritations and peeves have sprouted where few had existed before. Mike is messy Shannon is not, Mike likes to wing-it Shannon likes a solid plan, Shannon likes to talk when Mike is reading and likes to do her own thing when Mike is not reading. Alternately, we are absolutely comfortable spending this much time together and we have learned to quickly forgive and move on after a disagreement or spat. We laugh a lot.
Life on the road is good and the first 6 months of this journey have been fantastic.
Now is time 1 month AD – After Ducati
We haven’t quite found our new groove yet but there have been some fellow travellers that, unbeknownst to them, have helped us move forward and heal (thanks Mick and Chris from Intrepid for 10 Minutes and Azure and Roel from My Ticket to Ride). We have just left our second country without Ducati and are still working out how and where to pack things. In most ways it is easier to not have a dog on the road and then we have pangs of guilt when we acknowledge this fact. Of course, we remind ourselves that we would immediately accept all the difficulty and challenges to have Ducati back.
As we arrive on the shores of South America, a continent we have never traveled, we are beginning to feel the optimism and excitement we had when Ducati was with us. We loved Central America but are glad to have it behind us. Now is the time to find our new groove, continue to travel slowly, and to find a different way to use the love we poured into Ducati. The AD portion of the trip will be different but fantastic nonetheless.