Saint Petersburg - August 31, 2015
I am now in Saint Petersburg, with the bike happy and well in a secured place, and Bobblehead Bob (remember him?) here celebrating with me. I have an airliner sized bottle of Vodka that I will start on soon but will have to finish all by myself as Bob doesn't drink.
So Diane asked me during our morning Skype this morning, while I was still a day's drive away from Saint Petersburg if I was all excited about the prospect of finishing. I had to say.. not really. It just seemed all anticlimactic. Just another dot on the map. But I have to say that as I got closer and while I was at my last fuel stop about 30 km outside of town, it all started getting pretty emotional.
I was just doing my normal routine... got gas, hopped on and rode over to the corner, recorded my fuel, sat down on the curb and had a candy bar. That's been the routine now for the past several years on these trips. Many days, gas station stops were my only real breaks. But as I sat there and munched on my Bounty bar, I looked at the bike and remembered all the times it and I had done this exact same thing. So many places. And I saw how the bike has changed. It's not bright and shiny as it once was. The paint is scratched, the rubbers on the foot pegs are worn now, the rubber on the gear pedal is rubbed smooth and split. The sidecase racks have been mended, broken and mended again, the right case is dented and scratched from having fallen off and tumbled down a ditch in Turkey, the exhaust pipes still have bits of lithified Alaska road slime on them, the rear rack is broken and wired together from the road works in eastern Russia, and the seat is compressed and hard from all the miles. And let's not even mention the windshield! It can write it's own story! On the surface, the bike is worn with lots of battle scars to show for our travels and experiences together.
But today was a good day. The bike ran absolutely perfectly. I have rarely known it to run so smoothly. Maybe it idled so nicely because I had tweaked the mixtures just a little before leaving the hotel this morning. Maybe the front forks cushioned the ride better because the temperature was just right, and maybe the bike had a bit more zing because the last station had just received a load of fresh gas. Hard to say. But I can only describe the ride today as "glass". I know no one will believe it, but I almost think that the bike was trying to tell me that although its looks might have changed, that inside, it really hasn't changed at all. It wanted to show that it could finish the race just as strongly as it had started it, some six years ago.
I think the bike is merely a reflection of what is happening to all of us. One of the goals on this trip for me was to reconnect with many of you whom I had not seen for many years. It was part of my self-therapy! Not counting my family, some of you I have known now for almost 50 years. And during my visit with each of you, I'm sure it was obvious to both of us that we had changed considerably on the outside. But I'm happy to say, each of you has retained the essence and qualities I was drawn to such a long time ago.
This trip was conceived during an acute phase of a chronic depression and out of the need to break the pattern, get control and make life different... better. And to that end this project has been a great success. For the past several years, I have tried to work on this project at least a little bit every day... in some way. Do a little maintenance, read up on something, talk to another traveler, look up something on the internet, buy a little something at the store... whatever. Just to do something towards a goal. My friend Kathy, one of my very oldest friends on the list and whom I visited in Alaska way back when, wrote to me shortly after I got to Mongolia. Her typically brief email can be paraphrased as "Mongolia looks cool. I'm so glad you're making this happen for yourself." I thought about that for quite a while because frankly it struck me as a funny phrase... "making this happen for yourself." But yes that was the key to breaking the depression. Getting off the couch and making something happen. I absolutely recognize that it couldn't have happened without the tremendous support of those around me, and I will always be grateful for that. But getting off the couch is key. Others can help and will want to help, but nothing happens unless you make it happen.
So I'm going to have my Vodka now. I know that you're probably thinking that I've already been into it, but no I haven't. But I do want to thank all of you for following along, for all your help and for your emails. I have with me a group letter of encouraging comments that Diane solicited from some of you a few years back. It's here. Thank you. And thanks to Diane for putting it together. I know it took a lot of effort.
Anyway, Saint Petersburg is a beautiful city and a nice place to end this tiny little jaunt around the planet. I'll still keep writing until I get back home... then I'll take a rest until I get the urge (and need) for another project.