Flaming Gorge Utah, United States 14 Sep 05
Odometer 8,198 m 13,193 km

United States President Ulysses S. Grant was a visionary. Not only for the way he wielded his sword in command of the Union Army, but for the way in which he subsequently wielded his pen. On March 1, 1872, long after the end of the Civil War, he set aside the world’s very first national park: Yellowstone.

Eventually, more places that most Americans now consider equally hallowed ground, like Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde, were all preserved for the present and future benefit of us all. While many Yankee cultural exports come under fire abroad, nearly every other country has embraced the idea of national parks. One legacy for which we, as Americans, can all be proud.
Moving south from Canada I felt good to be back in the good ol’ USA. Just across the border I climbed over the high and wild Going to the Sun Road through Glacier National Park, where cloudbanks roll over flowered mountainsides like a wedding veil spills over a bride and her bouquet. Then it was on to Yellowstone, dropping into a vast and ancient caldera full of spouting geysers and primordial wildlife as though trekking through Jurassic Park. In the Tetons, standing like a gendarme above Jackson Hole, I stopped to gaze up at the summit of the Grand, where once I climbed and looked down on the tiny ribbon of asphalt that now provides my passage home. Durango is within striking distance, tonight--my last under the stars.

Camping within the Flaming Gorge, a desert canyon full of water, I enjoy a skinny dip under the warm setting sun to rinse the sweat from my aching body. This proves to cleanse my mind as well, and helps distill what I’ve learned since the start of my journey in Prudhoe Bay. Soon, I’ll be back in the hustle and bustle of the city; this moment of silence feels sacred.


Though the trip thus far has been enlightening, the trek south will prove far more demanding. I’ll transit 16 foreign countries getting to and from Tierra del Fuego. En route I will have to speak their languages, convert their currencies, grapple with their customs and traffic, and with any luck--make a few friends. I’ll then dine with them and drink whatever they’re having, in a testy game of digestive Russian roulette. And who knows, I might even get lost, break down, need parts or just run out of gas.

Sounds great.

While hurricane season abates I’ll have just a couple of weeks in Durango to regroup, retool and rethink every last piece of my plan: from route to itinerary, from clothing to equipment, from mindset to motorcycle. Indeed, from the tiniest nut and bolt to include in my repair kit, to the weather patterns of an entire continent, every detail must be exhaustively analyzed.

Once I push off, there’s no turning back. Yet I know, and secretly cherish, that no amount of preparation can anticipate all that is to come.

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