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Santiago, Chile
January 17, 2005

North to Santiago Ė Part 1

Of dreams and goals

From the comfort of a pleasing hotel room in Providencia, an upscale neighborhood in Santiago, sadly itís now possible to write about this journey in the past tense. To be sure, I will be in Chile until the BMW ships home in a few days, but my travel will be limited to taxis and subways, and perhaps the occasional bus ride. Quite frankly, itís hard to accept that after over five years and 22,000 miles, itís over.

Owners and bicycle riders at cabanasIím not even totally certain how it all got started. I donít remember a defining moment when I said to myself, ďI think that Iíll ride a motorcycle the length of the Americas.Ē In my mind it was more of a progression, but Janís known me for over 20 years and says that Iíve always talked about completing this quest. Perhaps sheís right.

Certainly I wanted to ride to the Arctic Ocean at the top of Alaska for a number of years. Thatís very clear. I recollect Jan and I discussing the possibilities of that ride, and then Randy Hanson and I talking about him joining us. It wasnít long afterward that Eric and Julia Buckland signed on, and in July 1999 we hit the road. It was truly a month in paradise. Toward the end of that journey I remember the five of us discussing a continuing ride on to the Panama Canal.

The timing didnít work out for all of us to continue, but I completed the segment from San Jose, Costa Rica back to Seattle in May 2001. As I recall, it was on the road somewhere north of Guadalajara or Mazatlan in Mexico when it occurred to me that I would like to continue this trip on to Tierra del Fuego, and so complete the ride across the Americas. If there was a defining moment it was then, although perhaps that was just when the dream turned into a goal. Once the seed was firmly planted, it was just a matter of marking it on the calendar and executing the logistics.

And so I set the wheels in motion, as it were. It was first scheduled for December 2002; then moved to spring 2003. Neither of those dates worked for a number of reasons, but Jan and I did manage to rent a small bike in San Jose, Costa Rica in February 2003 and complete a loop south to the Panama Canal and back. By the summer of 2003 I was already working on dates to complete a ride to Tierra del Fuego in late 2003, but I came face to face with some logistical problems.

Originally my itinerary laid out one nine-week ride through South America without a break, in order to eliminate the cost of shipping the bike back and forth twice. However, several issues immediately came up. I still work (although there are those who disagree) and taking off nine weeks consecutively would be a major hardship. Second, my friend Grant Johnson (www.horizonsunlimited.com) suggested that I might be able to cover the ground in that time period, but would see little. Based on the mileage required to achieve Ushuaia, Iíd need 50 days at 200 miles (300km) per day. Of course thatís feasible in North America where you can grind out some 600 or 700 mile (1,000 Ė 1,100km) days on the freeways if necessary, but virtually impossible given the roads in South America. The third reason was even more practical.

The Carretera Austral, ChileSouth America is a huge continent with varied topography and weather conditions. With one straight ride Iíd have dry weather in the Andes in our (North American) late summer and fall, but frigid temperatures in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Alternatively, I could have moderate temperatures during the South American summer in the south, but be slogging through mud in the Andes. After consideration and discussions by phone and e-mail with other riders who had made the trip, I came to a logical conclusion. I needed a minimum of 10 to 12 weeks, broken into two segments. The trip would have to be split somewhere, with the bike left in South America to mitigate the shipping costs. The next dates in which that would be possible were late-summer 2004 and the winter of 2004 Ė 2005. The dates were entered into my PDA, normally an inviolable commitment.

Still, as the time to arranging shipping and buy airplane tickets approached, I wavered. It wasnít a good time. My Mom was sick. Our business had still not fully recovered from a convergence of events that had been affecting us for about two years: the high-tech crash (Microsoft and a slew of other Seattle-area companies), the post-September 11 impact on Boeing which shuttered several plants in our area, and an onslaught of new competition in spite of the other issues. I had other, much more important things to do than ride across South America.

But this I remember well. At one point in early-2004 Jan said very matter-of-factly one day: ďif you donít make this trip this time, thereís a very good chance that you wonít ever take it. Youíve already delayed it at least twice before.Ē That sounded like the truth hitting a little too close to home, and I considered the situation philosophically. First, the difference between dreams and goals is the setting of a time certain; a date on which action commences. In my experience, if the date isnít written down the goal never turns into reality. I had made this a goal, but it was rapidly slipping back into dreamland. Second, there is never a good time to complete a goal that is this time-consuming, difficult and yes, expensive. Something will always get in the way. At the end of the day, then, life slips away one dream at a time. All the things that we hoped for, planned, and scheduled from dreams to goals, fade into distant memory if not acted upon. Done with frequency, it leads to an unfulfilled life. Jan was correct. I needed to get this goal back on track.

So thatís how I find myself in Santiago, Chile, waiting for two hours now (Latin-American time) for Wilson Freightís driver to come by the hotel and escort me and the BMW to the warehouse. This is the end of a dream realized, and one of the most amazing journeys that Iíve ever undertaken. But before I give up my bully pulpit for at least a couple of years, I want to encourage you to dust off just one of those dreams that has long been shelved as life got in the way, and put it on the calendar.