Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's about time

Only 5 months and 30,000 miles on the odometer but I made it to Ushuaia. Took me long enough. And what an ignominious arrival it was. Not the glory, emotion and fanfare I anticipated. Well that wasn’t the expectation but frustration and embarrassment was not the way I envisioned it all those years ago. Although oddly enough Ushuaia is almost exactly how I thought it would be. It’s obvious the ongoing discontent between Chile and Argentina no longer involves land mines and militarized borders but it’s more subtle than that. You mention to a Chilean that you are headed to Ushuaia and they get mad and tell you Punta Arenas is a far better destination. I told my hotel clerk I was planning to ship out of Punta Arenas and you would have thought I just called his sister a whore. Part of what I assume is just more passive aggressive disharmony (can I really use discontent and disharmony in the some paragraph? Wow I need a better vocabulary) is the island of Tierra del Fuego. It is split between the two countries and the Chilean portion is flat and ugly and full of sheep and rye grass. The Argentines have the mountains, glaciers, the ocean, lakes, and forest. So what does Chile do? They allow their portion of the highway to fall into utter embarrassment. For a country with such splendid highways and scenic back roads the condition of Ruta 257 has to be intentional. It is the worst road I have seen outside of Baja or Bolivia. Dusty and potholed with a huge crown and awful ruts down the sides. It was a brutal 75 miles. And ugly too. Take northwest Utah/southeast Idaho and press it flat as a board. Yep that is the northern half of Tierra del Fuego. Brutal. Within 10 miles of crossing the 30k mark on the odometer I get not only my first rock chip of the trip (a miracle in and of itself I lasted this long) but the second also. Both quarter sized. So now I have an excuse to replace my leaking windshield. Cross the border into Arg and smooth as silk pavement. I stopped for a pizza last night and thought I heard a grinding noise coming from the rear end of my truck. I found a place to camp and this morning woke up full of excitement for the sunshine and the hour long drive into Ushuaia. Put the truck in gear and heard the noise again. It got slowly worse down the winding canyon road to the ocean. I pulled into town, took a pic of the Ushuaia sign and went in search of a hotel with a parking lot. Found two, both too expensive. By now the noise was a loud screeching metallic sound. I rolled out west of the city, parked on the side of the road and began my search. It sounded like a driveline so I took out my rubber mallet and started smacking things. Nothing. Figured it might be one of the rear brakes or ebrake. Hadn’t swapped rear pads all trip so I began that project. I needed it. Then the rookie mistake. My dumb ass forgot to chock the front wheels. There I am basically hugging the rear driver’s side rotor taking the caliper off and then Ruby decided to roll off the jack. I managed to get out in time but I was a bit rattled, and even more embarrassed because the foursome on the tee box next to the road had just asked if I needed help and I told them I was totally fine and had it under control. So then I had to get out the hi-lift jack, which because of the amount of travel in my suspension was maxed out getting the bottle jack back in place. Let’s say 4 hours to rotate all 6 tires and change brake pads. Oh and it rained the last 90 mins of that time too. That project in a garage with a floor jack and air would take 45mins – 1hour at the most. Never did find an issue so I climbed back under the truck. Now that the truck had rolled forward I could see that the cap on the rear ujoint on the rear driveline was cracked. Sweet. By this time I was sick of the rain and mud and being cold so I drove back into town, ignoring the stares, waves and points at my howling rear driveline and found a hotel. Ruby is sitting parked on the street below waiting for me to go down in the morning and pull the rear driveline. It’s 2wd from here on out. Should be fun going back through the Chilean fiasco they call a road. I had a wonderful dinner of steak and potatoes, some excellent ice cream again and now, finally, it is starting to sink in that I am here. And with that a new paragraph.

You all might be expecting some ‘follow your dreams’ rant tonight but that’s not going to happen. There are plenty of books you can read or seminars to attend for that spiel. What I am going to talk about is what it was like to fulfill mine and I’ll hold off on the emotional confusion I have from being here for a later date.The hardest thing to explain or have someone else fully understand is the factor that J brought up in his guest post. I mentioned a few months ago of how it felt like this trip has lasted years. I mean that in a good way. Think back to the last vacation you went on. After a week you can’t believe how fast the time has gone by but it also seems like the previous weekend was months ago. Now extrapolate that over 30 weeks. Only 3 or 4 times have I traveled the same road more than once. Essentially every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month for five months has been a new experience. It is no wonder my mind is tired and I have a hard time processing what is going on. It’s been inundated with new information nonstop since I left home. I was not a sedentary person before my trip. I lived a pretty active life. I still feel like I’ve learned and experienced more in the last 5 months than the previous 10 years. Hell I’ve been surviving using a language that is not my own. That alone has wrought a huge change. But what about these experiences? What are they? Why are they so impactful? Fairly simple actually.

I apologize to any female readers but the following analogy will be a bit more germane to the male audience. I made a comment to my friend Traske a few months back about spending hours on the road in Colombia and not remembering having any conscious thought. Just the other day in Torres del Paine I realized I’d been staring at a mountain for almost two hours with nothing going on in my head. So think back to when you were 11 or 12. If you struggle to remember back that far (paul) watch Stand By Me and the chat Gordy, Chris, Teddy and Vern have around the campfire. Annette from Mickey Mouse Club. Goofy being a dog. Cherry Flavored Pez. Then recall that time when you and your friends had no concerns. The time in your life when you could spend an hour or a week building a track in your neighbor’s field for bmx races. Or scrounging supplies for the jump on which one of you would inevitably hurt yourself or your bike. Or the time you and Chad Hawley rode your skateboards to all three 7-11s in South Davis County (WX, Centerville, Bountiful) to get Slurpees only to realize you covered about 20 miles that day. BB gun wars, baseball and basketball games, riding atv’s, building tree forts, playing Zelda, Metroid or Contra. When you would wake up, call your friends and whatever you did you did and it was a blast. No concerns of mortgages, time clocks, deadlines etc.

That has been my last 5 months. I can’t think of more than a dozen times where I actually had something to do. 6 of which involved friends and airports which was something I was excited to do. Some days I woke up at 6am (hot as hell beaches in Costa Rica or Mexico, bitter cold photo taking of Cerro Fitzroy) Some days I woke up at noon, just in time to check out of my $12 hotel. If I liked a place I’d stay far longer than planned like Huaraz, Peru. Some towns I got there and couldn’t flee fast enough like Guatemala City. Making decisions one at a time without concern for the next is a very pure process. When I got to La Esperanza the other day and there was no gas I decided to go to Rio Gallegos instead of Puerto Natales. I had no idea what was in Rio Gallegos except gas stations so that’s is where I went. Torres del Paine would be there if I took 1 day or 3 days to get there. The headaches of border crossings and petty policia are very minor in the grand scheme of life. They cause great frustration in a trip like mine because they are such a contrast to the contented bliss I spend the rest of my time wandering in. But it hasn’t all been contentedness. To paraphrase Everett Reuss I have been moved by the natural beauty I have seen to the point of tears. (he possibly killed himself over it) Or at least manly pseudo crying. Of course it also usually came after a few days of very little food or sleep where my system was just overwhelmed but again I’ll use the word pure because that is how I felt at those moments. There are many people who questioned my logic in quitting a job I liked and spending all my money to go on a ‘road trip.’ I appreciate their concern and practical approach to living. But that has never been me. If I feel like doing something I do it. If I feel like saying something I don’t hesitate. For 33 years there were always conditions or consequences to such an attitude. I’d need to evaluate my vacation time or arrange with my friends around their vacation time. Did I have the money or would I credit card it and pay it off later? As I got older it began to involve the school schedules of my friends’ kids and mortgage payments. That is the normal life and the one most of us live. I will not feel any guilt or frustration going back to that life. I was happy in that life. But for 5 blissful months I DIDN’T live that life. There were no schedules and no concerns other than ‘what do I feel like right NOW.’ And it’s 1 am again. Before this post gets even longer I’m going to call it a night.

I’m sure the mental and emotional turmoil will hit me even harder over the next few days and I’ll do my best to share it with you. Luckily I have the task of shipping to keep my mind occupied. Or is it preoccupied? It took until Ecuador to realize that I was on my dream trip. My guess is somewhere flying over Ecuador on my way home the reality of the finality will sink in. Until then I’ll just live moment to moment. Of course one of which means lying on the wet road and pulling a driveline tomorrow. Yep enough of this melodrama. For all my cube jockey friends I hope my bliss lifts your Monday morning spirits. Oh and just because it is that time of year and my mind is now looking toward home….


Anonymous said...

Welcome to Ushuaia Dave !

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!! Thanks for inviting 'us' along.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking you were going to get to the end of the journey and tell us you changed your mind and you were just going to keep going.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave!
I hope you don't mind, but your mom sent me the link to your blog...very cool stuff! I'm in awe at your adventuresome spirit! My life is quite tame compared to yours, but that's how I like it. I still work for Beneficial, but from home. I'm married and I just had my third baby (3 boys!) 3 weeks ago. Feel free to check out my I said, quite tame compared to yours!
-Carrie Sweet (formerly Clark)