Audrey's motorbike and our wall map showing our world travels at Audrey's Celebration of Life

Before Audrey passed away in November of 2020, she wrote a letter with some rambling thoughts.  The first thing she writes is, "My one and only love, Ekke. Your job is to travel out on your motorbike. What else?"  

In the summer of 2021, I flew to Germany as soon as fully vaccinated travellers were allowed to enter the country.  I had brought Audrey's F650GS home and my own 2007 R1200GS Adventure was still stored at Audrey's sister near Landshut.  I was welcomed with open arms by Helena and Willi.  After getting organized I rode to the Black Forest and met friends Peter and Inge.  We rode together towards the Netherlands where I then spent a week visiting relatives.  After attending Peter and Inge's club rally (I won the long-distance award!) I rode back south to meet Brian Dean, a friend from Calgary, who had rented a motorcycle for two weeks.  We spent a glorious couple of weeks riding the Alps.  After Brian headed home, I rode down to Slovenia and visited Ljubljana, a city Audrey and I had planned to visit on our Milan to Minsk ride in 2019 but a broken sidestand sidelined those plans.  After Ljubljana I rode to the MotoGP in Austria and then back to Helena and Willi's place to store the motorcycle and fly home.  It was a wonderful trip, in no small part because of the wonderful people I was with.

Riding the Stelvio Pass

I planned to ride to Panama after Audrey's Celebration of Life in mid-September.  This would be a true test; could I travel on my own, without my adventure travel partner?  I have been consumed with grief since Audrey's passing but this trip would be about more than managing the grief.  Audrey and I were perfect partners in travel, and I wasn't sure I could do a true adventure trip like this without her.  We were each good at different things with Audrey being good at the medical end of things, finding the perfect local restaurant, finely tuned Spidey senses for security issues and so much more.  Could I manage without those skills?  And would there be any joy in travelling alone or would it feel like "going through the motions?"  Well, my instructions from Audrey were crystal clear, it is my job to go out and ride my motorbike.  In 2016/2017 Audrey and I rode from Bogotá to Ushuaia and back up to São Paulo, Brazil.  We had intended to ride all the way back north through Central America but because I had broken my knee in Peru, we lost three months of travel time.  We ended up shipping the bikes from São Paulo to Mexico City and riding straight home.  So we missed riding through Central America.  My intention with this trip is to fill that gap on our wall map.

The gap between Colombia and Mexico City that needs to rectified

As I would be leaving the motorbike in Panama for an undetermined amount of time before returning to either continue to Colombia or ride back to Canada, I decided to take my old 1989 BMW R100GS.  The bike that I had ridden across Africa back in 2007/2008.  My new retirement gift bike, a 2021 R1250GSA, was worth too much to leave for a few months in Panama.  And the ideal bike for the trip, my 2007 R1200GSA, was still in Germany, ready for me to return next year.  It was a bit of work to prepare a 32 year old motorcycle that was already showing 260,000 kilometres on the clock.

Which bike to choose?

First up I needed to reinstall the aluminium luggage for some carrying capacity.  The Jesse luggage had been removed in order to use a high performance Siebenrock exhaust (matched with a high compression big bore kit) so now I needed to reinstall the stock exhaust system.  The rest was really just a thorough maintenance with oil changes, valve adjustment, new tires and so on.  I also installed the GPS I used for the South America trip as it still had Central America maps installed.

The bike is nicely set up for day tripping

Stock exhaust remounted, Jesse luggage racks installed, wheels off to get new tires mounted

Getting ready to check the valves

Mom supervises my work

Valves were all within spec, so button it back up

After the oil change, I overtightened this oil cooler banjo bolt.  Clarke gave me one from one of his bikes to use.  Nice!

Onno makes an unscheduled visit on his way back to San Diego

GPS with Central America maps installed

A turn signal wire had broken off inside the bulb holder so new turn signals installed

A ride out to Bragg Creek for a "smoke test".  There was no smoke, so ready to go!

As the land border to the United States was still closed, I needed to ship my motorcycle across and then fly to meet it.  After some research I settled on TFX International to ship my bike to Las Vegas.  The truck that showed up early Friday morning on October 8 was both beautiful and enormous.  I was Ian's first pick up and we backed the motorbike up the ramp and all the way to the front of the trailer.  He would pick up more vehicles and then swing south to drop them off.  The latest my bike would be in Las Vegas was October 17.  I booked my flight for October 16 and arranged with Vegas Motorcycle Storage (vegasmotorcyclestorage.com) to accept my bike and hold it until I arrived.

The predawn chill as we wait for the truck

What a rig!

Ian gets the transporter set up for my bike

Strapped down.  See you in Vegas!

I went to the Bowmont Travel Clinic to check for any medical issues or if I needed additional shots before travelling to Central America.  This is where I really missed one of Audrey's skills.  She had a good head for the medical issues and a good memory for what shots and medications we've had in the past.  I had a vague recollection of having taken a shingles vaccine and some rabies shots as well as that I had an adverse reaction to one of the malaria medications but not the details I needed for the appointment.  I also couldn't find my Yellow Fever vaccination certificate (though I found Audrey's).  Audrey and I had the same rounds of shots for the Africa, Asia, and South America trips so I knew that her vaccination certificate (and a printout of my Alberta Health records) should be sufficient to give the travel doctor my medical history.  When I described the psychotic episodes when taking the malaria medication in Africa the doctor knew which one it was and was able to prescribe the one that didn't have those side effects.  The doctor was thorough and professional but only after I returned home and found some more records did I confirm that I had the shingles vaccine and the full course for rabies.  I also found my Yellow Fever vaccination certificate in the bottom of the reinstalled motorcycle luggage.  It must have been left over from the Africa trip, along with copies of the Carnet de Passages.  The doctor recommended getting the flu shot before departure, so I arranged for that at the same time as picking up the malaria medication at the Co-op pharmacy.

On October 16 Debbie picked me up at Mom's house in Airdrie to give me a ride to the airport and soon enough I was jetting my way south to Las Vegas.  What adventures await?