Philosophical formulation and the joy of a petrol pump.

With a black smear of road surface under toe and the swirl of engine noise humming within my helmet, Mavis pulled me west away from Denver. Split emotions churned in my mind as I left new friends and the city behind. It felt as if ten thousand elastic bands were attached to my back, pulling me off Mavis and back to Denver. With each mile we traveled west, another band would snap until finally all that remained were loose ends flapping in the breeze.

Unplanned yet on a mission to reach Alaska before the falling snow, we raced over the Rockies towards Utah. Rolling through the Rocky Mountain National Park, Mavis’ electrics started to play up. First the indicators, then the brake, then the front headlights. I stopped and fiddled around. Finding an alternate solution to the faulty headlight switch, I rewired the headlights direct to a 12V source that came on with the turn of the ignition key. The indicator fault was due to a loose connection and with a spray of WD-40 and some tape, came up trumps. The brake light just seemed not to work, but after much deliberation as to the problem, resumed functionality.

First night away from Denver in two weeks, I sat amongst wildflowers by a lakes shore high in Grand Mesa. Staring at the reflection of a full moon glistening on the smooth surface I delved deep into thought, searching for the motivation to submit myself to such an adventure as the one currently taking place. Having met such incredible people along the journey and seeing such magnificent places, the recurring questions I ask upon myself is why keep moving on? In pursuit of what? But within the questions lay the answers, as if one stays stationary and enjoys the surrounds and comforts of the familiar, the foreign is never found nor experienced. And without the exploration of the unexperienced and foreign, new sensations would not be obtained, nor felt and the power of the familiar would be lost. I throw a rock in the lake and watch as the ripples disperse outwards to the waters edge making a faint lapping sound on the rocky bank.
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Waking the next morning to the sounds of a park ranger “knocking” on my tent fly. “Anyone home in there?” he asks. I roll over and pretend no one is. He persists and eventually I open the tent door. As I’d ‘forgotten’ to pay the required campsite fee, the gentlemen was just trying to obtain payment for the night. Fishing around in my wallet, I produced some scrunched bills and hand them his way. We spoke a little and he asked where I was heading. A look of horror glazed over his face as I told him I was on my way north to Alaska. “It’s a bit late in the season for that isn’t it? You’re going to freeze on that bike. You know where you should be heading?! Lake Apache in Arizona. I used to work down there. There are two sisters, the Schuster sisters. They own the marina, just tell them I sent you and I’m sure they’ll give you a job.” The heat of Arizona verse the cold of Alaska did have a considerable amount of appeal.

Browsing the map I contemplated the potential shift in direction. Fixing some breakfast thoughts bounced around my head like a rubber ball in a glass sphere. Should I stay close to Denver? Was Arizona a place for me? Would Mavis and I actually make it to Alaska? All valid questions, none of which I could answer satisfactorily at the time. I packed up camp and got back on the road.

Rolling down into Delta just south west of Grand Mesa, I found myself torn as where and what to do? Alaska was such a distant reality, obtainable only by self realization and inventive uses of limited resources. $300USD in the bank, a maxed out credit card and a thirsty motorcycle eager to go the distance. The sun was gleaming on that day as I came to an intersection. Head south back down to Arizona and call it quits for the winter, or turn north and brave the unknown and the unexplored. As these thoughts crossed my mind, to my right a Union Pacific freight trundled along, mustard yellow box cars trailing behind brushing past corn fields swaying in the light breeze. A maroon pickup truck overtook me on the left as a cattle dog in the tray, one blue eye, gazed into mine. A bumper sticker on the rear of the cabin window read “Think positive thoughts”. Alaska was my destination, and no matter how poignant the distractions I was to encounter along the road, Alaska was the goal, and nothing less would do!

With the recently publicized motivation found off the rear of the pickup truck, Mavis and I hurled along I-70 towards Moab, Utah. Not so much a direct link in the chain to Alaska, but a desired destination to explore. Arizona, Denver and all the alternative options were now a distant thought. Mentally drained with a sore bum to boot, we turned south off the interstate and headed towards Moab. Arches National Park was a priority visit after missing the opportunity to explore the rock formations on my way east from Las Vegas to Denver nearly a month earlier. Large red stained “flat top” formations encroached on the roadway as we neared the town. Within Arches National Park we rode, exhausted and lacking enthusiasm for it’s natural beauty. B-lining to the Delicate Arch, I parked the bike and walked over for a glimpse of the famed rock. The hype of the formation truly outweighed its splendor. “Snap” went the Canon and a frame was exposed. Getting back on the bike, I pulled the throttle back with force, Mavis roared and we sped off away from the park.

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Up Hwy 128 we blazed, along the Colorado river the road weaved and cornered. The 40 odd miles of the Hwy were amazing, with a spectacular 360degree Utah horizon view, something previously only seen and experienced in cartoons and images. The red cliffs leaned inward on the road and river as Mavis reached speeds of 100mph! Frustrated, but without reason, I slowly calmed and regained composure. Perhaps the feeling of the unknown and the formidable battle between want, necessity and desire to reach my set goals was taking its toll.

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Racing against the sun and the seasons, Utah brushed past as we headed north along hwy 191 towards Jackson, Wyoming. The chosen route was a perfect riding road, plenty of corners and not much traffic. The Sun dipped below the horizon and Mavis’s skull lights flickered on the road ahead. Tailing a car in front with the notion if a deer or other large game animal were to wander onto the road, the car in front would take the brunt of the force leaving Mavis and I safe to continue on. “Open Range” cattle proved to be the more unpredictable obstacle, as the car in front and I encountered on numerous occasions. Thankfully with only close encounters.

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Giving up on reaching Wyoming that evening, I choose to rest the night by a lake in northern Utah just off the main route. Eventually finding Starvation Lake State Park, we made our way in. Skipping the self paying fee box in the shadow of a lone street lamp, we bumped along the dirt road. Unable to find a campsite, due to the darkness of night, we circled around for some time. Turning off into what looked like a nice spot, Mavis’ rear tyre suddenly sank into the loose sand under wheel. I stuck both feet out to prop the bike up and shoved back on the throttle. Sand flew up and out the back, illuminated by the red running light. Gradually with an increased heart rate, we inched forward to harder ground, leaving a deep channel behind. Setting up the tent under yet another clear sky, I flipped back the tent fly and lay watching the stars above.

The following morning I woke to a beaming sun and a beautiful, crisp clear lake. Jumping straight in, I flapped about for a while before deciding to get on the road. Fixing a cup of green tea I packed up the tent and riding gear. In hurry to nowhere fast, we pulled into a petrol station to fill up. Mavis gulped up a few gallons of gasoline and I downed a fountain cola in a paper cup and a blueberry muffin. Within an hour, a sugar headache kicked in and my head throbbed and ached inside the confines of the helmet. Passing by the archaeologically rich fossil country in Utah’s north east corner, we crossed the border over into Wyoming.

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Having filled up the petrol tank to the brim back in Utah, and knowing I could get close to 200miles on one full fill-up I did some calculations and figured I’d not need to refill until reaching Pinedale, Wyoming some 190-200miles north. Across the blustery Wyoming landscape we raced. 80mph and we still didn’t seem to be making ground. 90mph and things started to feel progressive and upwards into the triple digits Mavis pushed. A recently constructed new road surface provided the perfect proving ground for Mavis to challenge the land speed record. Caught up in the moment, it slipped my mind our fuel economy was burning away with every mile. Rain and thunder clouds brewed to the north west and a headwind picked up force. A road sign read “Pinedale 10miles”. Oh boy it was cutting it fine, but I knew we could do it. A little further down the road and Mavis lost power! “Oh fuck” I yelled to myself. Simultaneously I glimpsed up the hwy. A petrol station seemed to appear out of nowhere as we rolled off the road. Mavis gave a last puff of power and the engine cut out. With the momentum we already had, I effortlessly pushed the bike next to the pump. I jumped off and smiled. The feeling of running out of juice just as you turn into a petrol station is a great pleasure in life.

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