Wild creatures rise with the sun.
I pack up my gear in near darkness, sit again to listen to the canyonwind lullaby, watch the sky lighten. I realize I want to spend weeks here. I need to spend weeks here. This whole part of the world, it soothingly overwhelms my wanderlust with its endlessly layered wonder and beauty. I feel love for the earth and the world that surrounds me, empty of tainted minds and petty desires.
Sometimes you just need to be alone in the natural environment to be reminded of the beautiful simplicity of being; shed the layers of abstraction placed on the daily imitation of life.
I have lots of time to hone these thoughts – inflating my tire back to 32 PSI takes about 375 pumps with my tiny handpump. I’m doing this after escaping Point Solitude the easy way. There’s frost on the fields, alpine flowers covered in crystals ablaze in the morning sun.
I had originally planned on passing through here in a day. It’s going to be a hard ride to California, but apparently Nevada is just endless desert and no cops. Might be a fun place to play on the way back, but at least getting through quickly won’t be a problem.
Ah, I can be such an optimist.
Racing past the majestic Vermillion Cliffs, the gut-wrenching sound of grinding metal announces the next chapter of my adventure – mechanical troubles in the appropriately named Bitter Springs. I had adjusted my chain before leaving the Grand Canyon. Guess I overtightened.
A native lady happens by in her truck and tells me I need to go to a town called Page for a new chain.
Too many people lead lives directed by default – unexamined fear of the unfamiliar. Grotesque serpents lurked in ancient maps, “Here Be Monsters” at the edges, where lazy cartographers insisted the world ended so they could declare their work done. It seems this attitude has survived the test of time, where people see monsters lurking in any unknown. Maybe this is an ancient survival instinct, back when there really were monsters in the dark.
You find yourself really trying to get into the heads of people when hitchhiking.
I sweat next to my lamed steed with my thumb out. Occasionally a car will pass by, and I try to flag it down – no dice. In the intense heat the minutes feel like hours as car after car plays it safe and decides to speed past me. I’m less perturbed by the fact that I don’t get a ride than that nobody even stops to ask if I’m okay. I knew this would take a while, but it wears at my faith in mankind that self-concern keeps anyone from making the barest of efforts to extend at the very least an offer for a cell phone call to a tow truck. Then again, I am in a state where regular citizens carry firearms to protect themselves from one another.
Whatever, I’ll hike if I have to.
Fortunately, as I’m considering unpacking the bike to switch gear for just such an event, my ride arrives. I’m glad to have sweat it out to run into Troy. He’s going to what he claims is the most desolate and untouched part of the United States, a confluence of canyons, days into the wilderness by foot. He gives me his card, on it a quote by Everett Ruess, whom he calls my kindred spirit:
“Though not all my days are as wild as this, each one holds its surprises, and I have seen almost more beauty than I can bear”
I’m glad to have had to opportunity to meet this fellow wanderer on the road; he kindly takes me right up to the moto shop where they hook me up with a new chain that I slip into my jacket before heading back out for the next Trial of the Indifferent Highway Travellers. Remembering the previous attempt, I pick up some hydration at a gas station and decide to start walking in the direction I need to go. Should I hold my thumb out the whole time or just try and shoot out my hand when I notice cars coming? It would be easiest if I walked backwards but that’s so slow. If I face ahead I can’t try to make contact and guilt them with my eyes. You’d think I’d be better at this by now…
After a walk that probably wasn’t nearly as long and tortuous as it felt, a sweet girl named Aquilla picks me up. When I tell her where I need to be she takes me to her mom’s so she can meet me and approve. It’s a welcome respite from the road – next thing I know they’re serving up some delicious home cooking and showing me her mom’s fossil collection. They identify a cool rock I found in Moab as a jellyfish fossil; I decide to leave it for her. What am I thinking, carrying rocks around anyway? They come to the conclusion that if I want a ride I’ll have to cough up $40 in gas to cover the distance and suggest I hitch to save money – no hard feelings. Aquilla makes a cardboard sign for me that reads “Bitter Springs”. Apparently that’s what all the cool hobos are using these days.
Aquilla leaves me out by the road and in no time (relative to the last couple) a native couple in a large pickup offer me a lift – the lady says she saw my motorcycle already when I tell her where I’m headed. She and her son Alex tell me about Dine, The People, as the Navajo call themselves. They try and explain their philosophy, living under the ideal of “walk in beauty”.
We talk about native art and its influences. They confirm that the famous geometric weavings are indeed a reflection of the world around them, and as such a skilled eye can tell where a weaving is from just by the pattern. Their idea of the “spirit line” intrigues me – once finished a weaving, they will weave a line through it, breaking the pattern. This is the spirit line, the catharsis that allows the energy that goes into the creation of something so consuming to be passed back out from the piece. Keeps them from going crazy, Alex tells me.
Bob, an older gent on a DR650, stops by as I finish putting on my chain and offers to help. I think I’m done, but the engine refuses to turn over. He helps me try to pushstart the bike several times, and we pore over the damn machine until for a couple of hours until by a stroke of luck my good man Jimmy stops by and loads the bike into his truck. No photos, as it was his employer’s truck and he’s technically not supposed to be helping people out like that, but that’s just how awesome this guy is. We shoot the shit out by the dealership, which is of course closed; talking bikes and listening to Bob unravel the strings behind the housing bubble. The United States is fascinating, so many layers to consider.
Eventually Jimmy heads out and my good friend Bob offers to camp out with me overnight – I think he is getting a kick out of this. I get a can of salty edible stuff from the gas station across the road and he gets a sandwich. The stars are sharp and bright from inside my hammock; life is good.
The next morning Bob heads out after sharing a banana with me. Good man, I definitely appreciated the company. The garage lets me roll in my bike and says it’s cool if I store it there and fix it up. Top notch, guys! The kind lady across the road lets me use her computer and the KLR forums lead me to the culprit – the chain cut the stator wires. I walk into town, musing my options.
I’m surprised to discover couchsurfers in this small town, and even moreso to secure a shower and place to crash for that same night. On my walk in from the outskirts of town a car driven by some native ladies stops and a really pretty girl gifts me a water bottle and tinfoil wrapped “Navajo Taco”. I’m touched by the unexpected kindness. Thank you just doesn’t cut it, doesn’t come close to describing how good it feels to share food, how relieved to meet people concerned for others after withering under the indifference of the highway and the sun all day. Also, the taco is delicious.
That evening I meet with Korey, who is awesome enough to not only offer me a place to crash but feeds me succulent baked salmon with sweet potatoes and spicy tangy mayo. I shower off the accumulated grime from my latest adventuring and uncover the skin above my ankles, raw and cracked from the abrasive grit on the road getting in my boots. I smear it with polysporin and get some welcome rest on Korey’s couch.
The next morning he has to head out, he’s going on a trip with his girlfriend and I’m ever grateful for his generous offer to let me stash my gear in his shed while I sort my situation out. I fail miserably at fixing the bike by pigtailing the sheared stator wires together, proving once again that enthusiasm is no replacement for experience in the world of motorcycle repair. I’m not going to make it to California on time to get Lost’s oil burning problem fixed. The only important plans I had are in shambles.
The motorcycle community comes to my rescue once again; thanks to endorsement by the exemplary Wyman Wynn I shortly have the entire project organized to take place at another community member’s garage in Flagstaff. All I have to do is wait for a replacement stator to arrive. I’m feeling enthusiastic, as bad as these past two days could have been they turned out into excellent learning experiences and I’m not doing too shabby, all things considered.
So begins my week in Page and the unexpected adventures in this tiny town.