After an unplanned and fantastic week in Santa Fe, it is time to move on but the weather forecast is abysmal. Massive storm cells, high winds and snow is forecast. A check of the weather radar decides our route and departure time this morning: it has to be an early start and no time to take scenic roads unfortunately. South then west is the way today. We get to Gallup, New Mexico, 320kms away, having dealt with strong winds, managed to squeeze between storms, and pretty much avoided the rain all day. Five minutes after arriving at our motel, it sleeted – the wind so strong it covered our bedroom window. So lucky.
That evening, through Facebook, I find out about “OE”, an event starting in 2 days’ time just south of Flagstaff. Overland Expo is a massive expo for travellers and seems too good to miss, with an extensive and varied schedule over 3 days. Not surprisingly, just 2 days out, the event is all booked out except for motorcyclists camping: that’s us!!! And the timing is perfect as we are 2 days away.
Weather radar check in the morning: we have a few more storms to dodge in the morning then we should be fine so we’ll be able to revisit the Petrified Forest National park and take small scenic roads the rest of the day. Once again we turn off the main road to rejoin the old Route 66 but for the third time, we have to turn back as it ends abruptly. What a pity as it means having to join the interstate and it is now bucketing. It is an absolutely freezing morning, 5 degrees when we left and decide to have breakfast at the National Park visitor centre. In the space of 30′, it seems the storm has advanced much faster than predicted and in addition to cold, we now have wind and driving rain. Too bad for those twisties, it will be for another time. Sense prevails and we take a different route: skip the park, head west, eventually leave the storm behind us then south at Holbrook on I80 until we turn west again and take small roads through quiet villages such as Snowflake. It is a lovely ride through the countryside, dodging a few storm clouds before checking into a motel in Payson, Arizona.
It feels so good to wake up to a clear blue sky!!!! Finally!!! And we have a magnificient day ahead of us. We had heard Sedona was beautiful but hadn’t expected this breathtaking scenery. What a joy today’s ride is. We feel rejuvenated. There is no better way to describe the area than with a few photos:
We get to Fort Tuthill County Park just south of Flagstaff for Overland Expo by mid afternoon. We find a great spot in the Motorcycle Camping area, without too many pine cones, to pitch our tent for the first time on this trip. This area is beautiful and it doesn’t take long to get chatting with our neighbours and passing fellow motorcyclists. This expo is massive. We have been to a couple of Horizons Unlimited gatherings (dedicated to mostly motorcyclists) in Australia and South Africa and expected something similar, but this is on a much bigger scale. The venue is cleverly designed to keep motorcyclists, camper vans, camper trailers and massive Recreation Vehicles with their respective vendor stalls together.
The atmosphere is fantastic. There is a palpable air of excitement in anticipation of the upcoming week end. I feel this is a place where dreams are made and experiences shared. Friendships are made and renewed. I meet friends I know through social media which is great. I meet Egle who published my first article a couple of weeks ago – https://womenadvriders.com/?s=Borders. We make new friends with our tent neighbours and people walking around, a couple sitting next to us at the bar in the evening. And then… after they leave, someone takes up the seat next to us… Ted Simon! THE motorcycle legend. Every motorcyclist has at least heard of him even if they haven’t read one or more of his books. I only have 10 books on my iPad and that includes one of his.
A bit of background on Ted: born in 1931, he abandonned a career in chemical engineering to move to Paris and take up journalism. Then in 1973, at the age of 42, he set of on a solo journey around the world for the next 4 years covering 64,000 miles. Wanting to see how the world had changed over the last 28 years, he set off again on a second journey, at 70 years of age, covering 59,000 miles through 47 countries over 3 years. His most well know book, Jupiter’s Travels was written in 1979. I remember distinctly backpakers talking about that book they were reading when we were in Khartoum in 1982!!
What a privilege to get to meet Ted! How can I describe our meeting? Luckily, Anthony had heard of his name but not much more. So the conversation was just like with any other traveller there for the Expo, both Ted and Anthony exchanging jokes with their dry British humour. After half an hour, he is called away to prepare for his film show tomorrow but he asks for us to wait for his return. An hour later, we continue our chat. Such an inspiring, open, genuine man. We bumped into each other several times over the next couple of days for more chats which was wonderful.
We saw a movie of the first part of his adventure which recounted his travels, and experiences through Africa in 1973. It brought back such strong memories for both of us when we saw the photos from Egypt and Sudan, nudging each other discretely several times: we travelled that route, not on a motorcycle but by public transport and hitch hiking, 9 years after Ted, in 1982. We must dig out our slides, or ‘transparencies’ as they were called from the days when film not memory cards filled our camera, from that journey when we get home… At a round table later, Ted raised the question of what ‘Adventure Travel’ is, given the proliferation of the use of the term today, often in the commercial arena. Ted thought that to be an ‘adventure’, there needs to be an element of change for the participant. My first thought when he asked the question was that it has to challenge the participant.
We have spent 2.5 days here, going to talks, presentations, talking to vendors, meeting various travellers, we could stay another night, join a number of them for a big party tomorrow afternoon, but we both feel it is time for us to move on – and get a shower after 3 nights’ camping!!…
Meeting Mary McGee, Sam Manicom, Ted Simon, Tiffany Coates and so many more, making new friends, chatting to all sorts of inspirational travellers and characters make this an unforgettable week end of friendship and laughter.
Just one last thing: I have a new love….
I want one…