Holy shit. I guess it’s been about a year since I’ve put my fingers to this keyboard and so so much has happened. I live in Alma, Colorado now a little town at 10,600ft. I live with my girlfriend Danielle and our two dogs Echo and Lily. I’m currently working at Aurum Breckenridge a pretty damn good restaurant in the epic ski town. Moutain life, it is safe to say is for me.
But more than mountain life I’m also discovering life a new if you will. During my first week living in the hills, I went out for a bike ride with a crew at RMU. a bar/ culture hotspot in Breck. Halfway home the rider in front of me went down breaking his collar bone.
I’ve volunteered with search and rescue in Park County where I live and so far just trained with the team only a dozen or so times.
Today I saw someone I happened to know, have a severe wreck while snowboarding.
What do all these things have in common? They point me in a general direction. Medicine has been a thought for a long time. And after just a year of working in clinics and hospitals as an aide and a tech I knew it could be my forever gig. I just had to find a way to make it sustainable.
I’ve found a way. It is going to be a long road. there is more school, long hours, long nights, and hard times ahead but to say the least, I’m stoked to chase it.
My my how time seems to slip away from us. COVID 19 is still in full swing and my foray into health care is still in its infancy. The USA is report 4,000 deaths daily and Colorado still recommends that the public is safer at home. 5% of the us population is vaccinated which means of the 300,000,000 who call this country home only about 15,000,000 vaccines have been administered. While substantial, its a woefully small portion of our population. To be counted in that 15 million is also a remarkable experience. I completed my COVID vaccine series over a week ago which according to the Moderna manufacture of my vaccine that I have acquired as much immunity as I’ll be getting from that stiff poke in the arm. According to data from the CDC the vaccine is approximately 94.1% effective in folks who have no history of having had COVID. Compare this to the flu vaccine which is evaluated every year and which usually ends up being around 40-60% effective. The effectiveness of the Moderna and other available vaccines is quite remarkable. However, while this is all good news I have to ask myself what this really means in terms of my daily life in and out of the hospital.
I’m no longer working on a hospital floor and instead working in a trauma and wound clinic off the main campus at Boulder Community Health where I predominantly see immune compromised individuals which chronic wound issues and a few trauma based wounds. At work our practice is the same, we take temporal temperatures (off the forehead) as people arrive and ask a few questions to help insure the folks we are seeing are COVID free. The questions while important in narrowing down possible symptoms aren’t nearly as important I think in knowing whether or not folks are maintaining social distance and being mask compliant. The things that work better than anything are washing our hands, staying six feet apart, and wearing a mask when in close proximity to other folks.
To have achieved individual immunity feels great, however it doesn’t quite relieve my COVID stress. There is a vaccine and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But, people who are inline for the vaccine will get COVID and some will die before they have had the chance to reach a point of meaningful immunity. Folks who knew about the vaccine have already died. Family members are watching preventable deaths on a daily basis. The tragedy of having a solution and yet still falling victim to this virus cannot be understated. However, there has been other solutions this entire time. Hygiene, masking up, and social distancing. This solutions are just as important to saving lives now as they were last March when life changed in the US. They might even be more important now simply from social perspective knowing that medical help is just around the corner.
Life moves on, the vaccines are rolling and people are feeling a sense of relief from this whole plagued episode of life but it is far from over. I urge you as someone who is working in health care, tended to COVID patients, has friends who are on the front lines everyday to STAY VIGILANT. There is no need for further loss of life.
Front lines don’t just count as emergency rooms or COVID floors in hospitals, they are grocery stores, gas stations, schools, restaurants, gyms, they exist any place where a person comes face to face with another person outside their immediate circle. We put ourselves in harms ways more often than not simply because it so easy to slip up. I’m not asking you to change your life in a dramatic way. But I will ask and urge you to be vigilant about washing your hands, wearing your mask, and staying six feet apart whenever possible. The end is insight, lets not lose anyone else. Especially those who have made it this far with us.
If you have questions about the data that I used or information you can find answers:
I would like to interrupt our regular scheduled blog post for a quick update on my life.
The year is 2020. COVID-19 as you all know has been wrecking havoc on the world now in the public eye for just over seven months but possibly as long as a year. I began to feel the social effects of COVID in early March when the restaurant and bar where I was working slowly started loosing business and then ultimately shut down. By March 14th I was jobless. I had just moved into a new apartment with my younger sister Emma who I had planned to live with for a year while she was in beauty school. She also lost her job at a local spa. All of a sudden I was supporting the both of us out of my savings account while fighting for unemployment. It took me two months, until May 5th, too finalize and begin receiving unemployment assistance. I, like always, was pretty optimistic about the situation. A friend of mine and I had both agreed that by March of 2020 we would both leave the restaurant we were working at in favor of moving on the careers that we desired more. We wanted to leave the easy for something of more substance. Inadvertently and by way of COVID, we both did.
The day I knew I wasn’t going to have a job for a while I packed up and left for the desert with my dear friend Parry and her girl friend Jenna. Accompanied by Jenna’s dog Odeza we toured the south east of Utah for just over a week. Biking and hiking to our hearts content. In March the desert south west of the United States is perhaps at its most beautiful. Lite and infrequent spring rains change the smell of the sand. The days which are marching steadily towards the summer solstice are growing longer and longer providing warmth enough to take our coats off by 11 in the morning. The nights still have the bitter chill left over from the winter nights and necessitate puffy coats and down sleeping bags. And then the country shut down.
I came home. And I like millions of others across the planet sat in my house for the better part of the next two months. However, my time was far from unproductive. From my first week back at home I knew that if I was ever gonna get my foot in the door in health care now was my time. I was seeing the need everywhere COVID was overloading the system and everywhere people needed help. Two years previously I had earned my EMT-B with the National Outdoor Leadership School with the intention of volunteering with Search and Rescue here in Boulder, CO. While that dream fell apart I knew that health care was still a viable next step for me to take on my personal career path.
With motivation and passion I spammed out 25+ copies of my resume and accompanying cover letters. The first one I sent out was to Boulder Community Health for a position working as a nurses aide in the oncology department known as 1North. By the end of March I was interviewing with them and by the beginning of April I had been asked to come into the hospital to meet the manager of a different department where I was thought to be a better fit. I was offered a position as a night time PCA, or patient care associate and I began training. Having now worked as a PCA for the last six months think I have to say that those who are career PCAs are the unsung hero’s of health care. Nurses aides work the same 12 hour shift as nurses and other professionals but they are on deck house keepers and medical assistants. Cleaning and emptying bed pans, cleaning patients who are unable to care for themselves, monitoring patient vitals, helping patients meet health and ambulation goals, working on respiratory therapies, helping to restrain, empower, and inspire their patients are what nurses aides do more than anything else. My opinion of nurses aides is the same opinion I hold of bussers and barbacks at restaurants; the work would simply not be possible with out them and its gross, hard work that no one else typically wants to do or feels they graduate out from after a certain amount of time in the industry or field. By no means am I trying to say I think of myself as a hero. I don’t. I worked the job for six months. But the women and man that I worked along side impressed me every single shift. I could go on about nurses and house keeping as well but perhaps this is not the place for me to praise all the people who have impressed me.
So I began working as an aide. Adjusting to clinical work was surprisingly easy for me as the primary function of my work was the same. Its person centric. Instead of making drinks I was checking blood pressures and wiping asses. But maintaining dignity and inspiring confidence and hope became the primary focus. Like bartending I still spent most of my time listening to stories and injecting personal anecdotes where needed or requested. It was mid June by the time I began working shifts solo finally feeling like I had stepped into the roll fully but knowing full well I had plenty to learn. And learn I did. Nurses are bottomless resources of knowledge and endless taps of stories. With out the ability to administer any real aid in this clinical context I found myself watching, asking questions, running and grabbing supplies, and transporting patients more than anything else. I tried my best to take full advantage of every shift to ensure that I knew what a career in health care might actually feel like for me. I tried my best to never say no to an opportunity and more often than not found myself doing the things that no one else wanted to do; cleaning and placing patients who had passed away in body bags, dealing with catheters, confronting aggressive individuals, engaging with confused patients, and listening to those who had no one else to talk too.
I have loved every second and every opportunity that I have had working on BCH’s 2West Progressive Care Unit: Cardiology and Telemetry. The men and women I have worked with are as inspiring as they are brilliant. Although I will say I have never been a part of an industry with such insidious gossip and complaining. From whats written above I hope that it’s obvious that I’m moving on from 2West. Next week I start a new position working as a clinical medical assistant in a out patient wound care clinic affiliated with BCH and I’m thrilled to start. I’m thrilled to gain even a little more experience in health care because I’m fairly certain that this is the field and career path I want to follow in one way or another for the rest of my life. I’m an ambitious guy and often times bite off way more than I can chew. However, I tell myself that if I stay in health care I want to; I need to go to medical school and work as a doctor. As of now there are no plans to even apply to medical school in fact I’m probably closer to being a teacher than I am a doctor. But the idea is in the back of my mind and there it festers- grows, feed by every experience inspired by every question, every patient, every experience I have all adding to my desire to know as much as possible and to be able to make real consequential designs in the pursuit of helping those who need it most.
More than anything else in the world, I love people. I get my fire from conversation and I’m inspired by interaction. Medicine is inherently a person centric field and there is a simple joy in working in medicine that comes from knowing that every action you take is in the service of someone else. This more than anything else fuels my desire to pursue an MD. But my life might not be that conducive to that most illusive goal. I’m dating someone now. She lives in Breckenridge, CO away from academia and a life that makes medical school less inconvenient that it already will be. But I guess the old adage is true, where there is a will there is a way. I will find away.
So 2West, thank you. Thanks for taking a chance on a 29 year old bartender with no clinical experience and giving him the inspiration to purse something that he never considered. Thank you for teaching me and thank you more than anything else for showing me that medicine more than anything else is about people.
Over two years ago I got off a motorcycle in a suburb of Perth, Australia having just ridden 4,200 miles down backroads and coastline. It’s 2020, the corona virus pandemic is in full swing; and I’m working in the local hospital trying to keep me head afloat after getting financially demolished.There is a puppy that follows me around now and my sister and I are living together for a year. And I want to be a doctor. The number of changes, adventures, people, and beautiful moments have been uncountable.
Kununurra! Holy Shit! Gibb River Road prep packing in the AC of Georgie Chisms house in Kununurra. Last night she took us out on her boat, went freshie spotting with a big torch! Saw first freshie! Swam in beautiful warm water, crushed beers on the boat. Grilled out. Got new boots @ shelf supply store, kinda a ranch apparel store.waiting on a chain slide to be flown in for Axel’s bike should arrive on 1pm delivery. Killer breaky of acai bowl iced latte. Drank w/ Australian Cowboy last night. Aussie bars are funny as hell. Biking is rough, I’m terrible. Bought 20L jerry can to make the 400km+ trip to Gibb River Station. Should be fun afternoon!
There are somethings about this trip I wish I could forget. Like how I complained way more than I should have about being a terrible motorcyclist. I also wouldn’t mind forgetting a few of the crashes I took. But something I never want to forget is the feeling of diving head first into the warmest lake water I’ve ever been in knowing full well that there are crocodiles in the water. That being said, they were just freshies. On Georgies boat we cooked steaks and hot dogs, chugged beers, and for a brief moment forgot all about the road. Kununurra was a beautiful small town with a pretty rugged vibe. Poised at the north eastern mouth of the Gibb, it acts as a gateway guarding the path. The town people took the roll seriously and we were told not once but at least 10 times about the same two deaths that had occurred out in the Kimberly on the Gibb in recent weeks. This only seemed to embolden Axel and Mia’s sense of adventure while I become significantly more nervous about the whole prospect. Driving off into the Australian outback felt more and more like driving off the edge of the world.
The day leading up to our departure for the Gibb were perhaps some of my favorite of the trip. We heard more about salties the much larger cousin the freshie, both crocodiles, than we did at any point on the trip. Stories of 15-18fts haunting local docks and boat landings. Tails of idiot tourist getting grabbed after wadding into the rivers unsuspectingly. But although we heard all about them we never did see one, much to my chagrin. Something about a man obsession with the macabre and the deadly would fit nicely here but I think its easy to understand my disappointment with not seeing a salt water croc from afar. It was here in Kununurra were Mia and Ax both fit themselves accordingly with genuine outback hats made from kangaroo and were I copped Ax-Mans OR sunhat, once again, much to my chagrin.
The road was waiting and we were eager. Georgie set us off with clean laundry, a full belly, and a quick tour of the surrounding area before we were off and headed to the dirt track watching the bitumen disappear behind us. From this point on, for me, the trip became far more real as we slipped further and further away from what felt like civilization. For Ax and Mia I think this is were things just started getting fun.
On the Gibb River Road! And its hot as hell I’m pouring sweat while I write this the page is smudged w/ dirt. Road dirt for the first time these last two days, one big river crossing. One near fall @ 60kph, that was rough, I kicked the ground. Learned dhow to siphon gas out of a 20l jerry straight to my tank, all the water holes are dried up, headed to Cape Lavik tomorrow 300km on dirt.
Three days on the Gibb for me was summed up in a single entry. But it hardly does it justice. This was my first time riding on dirt, my first time crossing water, my first time seeing roos! On night one I was charging away from our river cross towards our camp for the night. The road cut through a forested area with a large clearing in the middle and in the middle of the clearing was a large bull. Cattle in Australia are all on the open range there are hardly any fences. So when I crushed through the clearing and stirred up the big bull he was all but furious when Axel came through after me. The bull charged Ax and Axel for a brief moment thought he was gonna be crushed under angry hooves. With a little luck he made it past and we found ourselves spreading out looking for a good space to make camp for the night. The air temp was up near 90 and 100% humidity. The ground was hotter than the air and made walking incredibly uncomfortable after the consistent breeze of being on our bikes. But clouds had started to gather in the sky above our heads and our hopes were raised and for a little rain.
But on the Gibb rain does more than inspire hope for cooler temperatures. It also sends chills of fear down your spine because one of the dangers of the Gibb is the rains. From November to May is the wet season in Western Australia and in this arid landscape when water falls it also runs. The soil doesn’t do much in the way of absorption which means that the rivers rise quick. So, once the rains start, the rivers that are peppered across the Gibb begin to rise and can trap unwitting travelers on islands surrounded by fast flowing water which may or may not contain salties. So when rain started falling that night cool us down, a bit of reality began sinking in as well, that our trip could get a whole lot longer than we planned.
As we all know, life never stops. Not unlike anyone who has tried to sustain a habit over years and years I’ve let my writing lapse here recently. But I’ve decided with the advent of a new job and a major shift in my schedule approaching that I should try and get back to something that I think makes my life better in every way. And that to be quite frank is just this. The expression of my experiences on a screen written for the anonymous few and perhaps one or two that I might know.
I’ve seen and experienced quite a bit over the last few years from returning from my trip down south to Australia to several nights spent under desert skies. I lost my job as a bartender due to Covid-19. I’ve started a new career as an EMT and have been working at Boulder Community Hospital since April of this year.
I’ve seen death a few more times up close and personal. I’ve been a part of the start of a beautiful relationship with an amazing woman. I’ve lived with my youngest sister Emma for the last year and learned that I have so much to learn about communication. I got a god damn dog. Her name is Echo and she is the fucking best thing thats happened to me. Even if she really pisses me off by eating my approach shoes and ripping up a potted plant on my bed while I work the night shift at the hospital. I’ve been able to climb, ride my bike, go running, and hike my favorite mountains regularly.
Recently I’ve witnessed the beauty and awful destruction of the wildfires ravaging Colorado. The sunsets have never been more beautiful or more terrible. The smell of smoke has for the last week clung to my clothes, perforated every inch of my living space, contaminated the hospital. The ash rains from the sky so much that my truck looks more gray than black. The flames glow orange over Boulder burning homes of friends and strangers alike. More people everyday are evacuating their homes taking precious little as they wait to find out whether or not they have to start part of their lives over.
But thats fire. Thats always been fire. It burns what lies in its path, ravages whatever stands before it. And yet, oddly enough makes the areas it “destroys” all the better for it. Large forests burn completely to the ground only to be replaced by small shrubs and then small trees. Over time a healthier more balanced ecosystem begins to be recognizable as the pine forest or the from grasslands before. Homes can be rebuilt lives continued. But for a brief moment in time a scar is placed on the land as a reminder of the power and the force of nature. But in these particular times these dark marks left by fast moving fires are urgent reminders that what we have taken for granted really can’t be ignored anymore.
Life hasn’t stopped. Not for me and not for any of you either. The world keeps turning- keeps burning. Living life is just as hard as its ever been and also just as beautiful. I’m determined to continue to see the world and my life they way I always have and recognize that after every fire there grows a healthier more beautiful forest. I also am determined to write about it. So here in the next several weeks I’ll finish updating my stories from Australia, I’ll add some tales of around town and home, and then I’ll keep writing about whatever I need to.
Finally we were leaving Darwin, N.T.. Our bags were back on the bikes, water was filled, food was bought, and gas was topped off. The plan was to make for The Gibb River Road, a notorious but touristy 4×4 high way that runs for about 700km through the Kimberly. Our first day out was pretty mellow yet super efficient. We cruised down bitchumen (paved highway) making great time. We stopped every 100km or so to refuel my bike and its measly eight liter tank, but also just to have a break and chat.
Axel and Mia were greatly enjoying watching me get the hang of riding, let alone riding with a weighted down bike. According to them I was swerving, and rock and back and forth constantly. The best however is when I would start from a total stop, I’d almost hit the deck every-time. So with everyone in good moods and the landscape flying past we arrived at our first camp just outside of Nitmiluk National Park.
The original plan had been to camp inside the park but after realizing that would not be free we quickly turned around and started searching for a new home for the night. With in a few kilometers of leaving the park we found a dirt track that split off from the park road and wound out into the bush. Of course we only followed the dirt track for a few moments before we took off into the brush itself, seeking out a hilltop for our evening camp.
Through the brush we went, Axel and Mia paving a their own paths with me teetering along behind, unsure of how to negotiate non-flat/smooth surfaces. Coming up and over the crest of a final hill we discovered the high point we had been searching for. As we unpacked we noticed the fenced-off area and what appeared to be dump, that was not more than half of kilometer away. Choosing to ignore it and just stay there any way, we went about setting up camp. Distracted by the flora of our new surroundings we were all busy admiring a very white tree when from behind us came a voice.
The voice belonged to a young aboriginal man who was dressed in naught but a loin cloth or maybe a very small pair of shorts, I’m not entirely sure. He caught all of us off gaurd as we were all distracted by other things. He was quite slight in build, but of average hight. He carried a machete as well as fishing gear. He walked bear foot from somewhere beyond the dump. He told us a loud, but not angry voice that we were not allowed to camp there, but that he would permit it for the night. He also gave a warning not to head east towards his community least we encounter cheeky dogs. He also advised us to stay away from an area about 100 meters south west of the dump, he said, “And don’t go over there, thats were we bury our dead people.” We had no contestations or arguments to make and before any of us could really wrap our heads around his appearance he was gone.
That first night Axel and I were jammed into his two person tent, a mistake we would make only once. We slept well, but hot. It was still maybe 90 degrees after the sun went down. We all lost a few liters of water to the night air and our sleeping pads felt more like slip-n-slides than the comfortable beds we wanted. But I will admit it made getting out of bed at 4am at first light all the easier. Because Australia’s populations centers are often times so far spread out states like Western Australia have to make certain sacrifices in terms of how the states time zones are set up. Because the country is so large, the sixth largest in the world, the further north in W.A. you go the more absurd the zoning seems. And so to help us deal with the ridiculousness and ease us into a spectacular sunrise I played the 1980’s hit by Sheana Easton, Morning Train.
The first leg out our day was simple, we had to head down towards Kathrine. There we stocked up on food and water and picked up the gear that we would need for the rest of the trip. This included extra water bladders, a new tent for me, and a 20L jerry can to help us make it across the Gibb River Road. Apart from a pretty spectacular near crash in the early part of my day our ride was uneventful, that is until we got to camp that night.
Pushing on from Katherine and headed down towards Kununurra, we made great time flying down the unbelievably straight roads. As night fell we found ourselves somewhere in the middle between the two cities and very much so ready for sleep. After a hearty meal of spaghetti, our only cooked meal while camping of the entire trip, we were ready to pass out.
Our exhaustion was however not due to the road traveled that day, but more the offloading once we had reached camp. We had found and heavily used site not far off the road surrounded by a sandy creek bed. A dirt-bikers play ground. Axel and Mia were quick to ditch the gear set up camp and hop back on the bikes to go for a rip. This would be the first of my many crashes due to the sand. Instead of trying to recall the event in totality, I’ll just copy my entree from my journal that night.
Weather: Clear/humid/hot 31°C
Coordinates: 15.8457° South
129. 9082° East
Roadside having ridden 400km from Kathrine, headed to Gibb River Road. Bikes are running great. Took them into a sandy creek bed which was hard as hell, crashed and ripped right sd mirror off. Crashed again on a 2ft drop got thrown from the bike entirely. Big fire, easy sleep, spicy sour cream burritos.
As I approached the big left corner the smell of acrid smoke got stronger and the engine began to sputter. I was definitely running out of gas, but what could the smoke be? I had no idea. I kept calm as the engine died, pulling off to the side of the road 100 yards to the corner I’d been staring at. Swinging my left leg up and off the bike and through a cloud of dark gray smoke it became apparent very quickly what was wrong.
Dave, Lucas, Mia, Axel and I had set off from Holtze Rd, Dave’s house, that morning just shy of noon. The plan was for the five of us to ride from Holtze to Litchfield National Park do some sight seeing than part ways. But with all good days, it didn’t go to plan. Starting off our day was more of a joke than anything else, as I was still learning how to pack my bike and flat out ride it. Not only that but I didn’t even have boots. We spent a solid 45min of our morning zipping around the out skirts of Darwin looking for boots.
Finally right around lunch time we were on the road. Cruising down bitchumen at 110kmh. With in the first 5 minutes on the road I had more than three cars desperately try to tell me that my left blinker was on. (I still can’t figure out why they were all freaking out so much over a blinker.) We left Darwin heading south taking a more indirect route, more reminiscent of Dave’s childhood rides in the area. Corrugated dirt track and mellow highways. The road was open and we flew.
Flew, that is until I started breathing in gray smoke. Clambering off the bike, it quickly became apparent that the smoke was coming from the exhaust. A giant hole had appeared in the side wall of the exhaust pipe, which was supposedly carbon fiber, but clearly was not. The smoke however, was in fact steam. I had placed panniers over the rear plastics on my bike which had pinned the plastics onto the exhaust pipe cause it to melt the pipe, the plastics, and through my pannier bag and then melt the water bladder contained inside. The pipe was destroyed, the plastic melted but still usable, the pannier was also destroyed.
Half of what I thought was smoke, was actually steam and most of the truly acrid smoke was coming from the water bladder. Lucas was the first to notice I had fallen behind and in short order he was helping me to get the bike back into riding condition. Axel happened up on us moments later and between the three of us had my bike refueled, from a fuel bladder I’d been carrying; we also managed to rearrange the damaged bits to make the bike rideable for at least the rest of the afternoon.
Which of course we did, we rode another 75kms at least into Litchfield National Park and did that same distance again before we happened onto another bit of a mess. We had just finished exploring the beautiful Wangi Falls, which honestly felt a little to touristy for us.
Leaving Wangi we rode for about 30km down the road before I realized that Axel was no longer behind me. Catching up to Mia, I quickly without much speaking, relaid that Axel was no longer with us. Mia taking little time to evaluate the situation turned around and ripped down the road and out of sight. We had stopped at left hand turn to head towards another few waterfalls and watering holes, Dave and Lucas had continued down and around and were out of sight. After 15 minutes of waiting impatiently I decided to ride after Mia to see what the hold up could be. Two minutes down the road I saw Axel off the right side of the road gear off, tools out.
When he saw me coming he ran to the top of the ditch he was nestled in, waving me down. He explained Mia had blown right by him taking no notice of his attempts to get her attention. I’d later have it explained to me by Mia that, “If you’re not where you’re supposed to be, you’re dead or dying. I can’t just leave Axel while he’s dead or dying.” Hence the urgency in her initial reaction, however ineffective it was. A few moments with Axel it became clear is bike was unrideable without cause significant damage to the rear arm, part of the frame. On this rear arm is a small piece of black rubber about a quarter inch thick shaped like a very deep U. the U is about six inches long on each side with two little eyelets on the tips of the U for it to be screwed to frame. This had totally been eaten away by Axel’s chain and had fallen off somewhere further back down the road. At higher rates of speed, the chain would grind on to the swing arm and grind into the soft metal. Any significant distance and Axel would be looking at an expensive repair or maybe just a new bike.
When Mia finally turned around and the three of us were able to rendezvous with Dave and Lucas it was clear the day of riding for Axel was over. And considering the poor fuel economy my bike was experiencing due to over sized jets in the carburetor and not to mention the destroyed exhaust pipe, it was decided it was best if Axel and I parked the bikes at one of the near by water holes and waited while Lucas drove back 150km to get his ute to haul us out of this particular situation. It was our shake out run. And shake out problems we did. Lucas and Dave immediately began to slab it back to Darwin taking a more direct route while Axel, Mia, and I embraced our inner tourist and decided to go for a dip.
The water falls we found ourselves at were a little further off the beaten path but still very much so in the park. The thing was had going for us however is that tourist season was long since over, and the sun was slowly but surely setting. It gave us enough time to take a dip and even for Axel to do a bit of climbing about.
We were pretty exhausted after our first day of riding and exploring but not so tired we didn’t want to keep exploring the area. So after an hour or so of swimming about we started to venture back towards the bikes taking a different path. Getting back to the bikes we realized we still had at least an hour and half before Lucas would be back with the truck so in order to kill time we decided a fire was in order. Finding some benches in the parking lot was no problem, nor was finding wood to burn, and kindling to get it started.
Within moments we had a roaring fire, just enough to keep the bugs at bay. We really didn’t need to keep us warm considering it was still 90 degrees after the sun went down. Lucas finally made it back to us and we got the bikes loaded up in his ute (utility vehicle), pick-up-truck. The drive back to Dave’s house on Holtze road was largely uneventful, however I did learn that Axel, like many others, myself included, is a sucker for falling asleep in car that is just a little to warm and a little to cozy. Mia rode behind us, keeping close, but not too close to the rear of the truck. She later admitted she was worried about us hitting a kangaroo and spitting it under the truck back at her. Back at Dave’s house, repairs were made over the next two days and many beers were drunk. All in preparation for our real departure. The shake down run had been a success, we had shook ourselves proper and knew we were about to have our asses kicked.
I’d had my face glued to the window. Coming down in a broad arc the Timor Sea spread out in front of us and to the west. Darwin from the air looked as rural as Wyoming. The think dense patches of tropical forest were broken only by rich brown soil and the metal roofs of buildings. I’d been warned about the heat, told to brace for it, but sitting on the air conditioned plane I couldn’t prepare mentally for the humidity. Darwin is the kind of place that even on a cooler day still racks up to nearly 100% humidity.
Collecting my bags and heading outside I was met by a blast of sticky warm air and sights and sounds that were altogether foreign. The thing about the Northern Territory is that everything is so remote, even the biggest city, Darwin, is considered remote. Because of this people have to be self sufficient. And thus if there are cars in Darwin they look more like Americas pimped out off-road rigs. Bull bars, snorkels, and beefy tires were not just commonplace, I’m fairly certain they were on almost every vehicle. Paired with two 20L jerry cans for extra fuel and one 20L container for water the message was clear. Be self sufficient, and don’t get caught with your pants down. But by what remained the question.
Dave caught me with my pants down thats for sure. After being over whelmed by all the off road get ups around me a Toyota Carola roles up and out jump Axel and Mia Anderson. Separated by 10 years and two other siblings, these two might as well be my family. But the man who stepped out of the right side drivers door and slapped me on the shoulder exclaiming loudly, “Nice to meet you ya good cunt!” was not quite yet like family.
Dave is loud, boisterous and smokes like a god damn chimney. He is an engineer and is very mechanically oriented. But more than that, Dave like many in the motorcycle community, is a genuinely great person. With no knowledge of who we were, before any of us had arrived in Darwin; Dave had rushed around the Northern Territory finding three Honda XR 650’s for Axel, Mia, and me. Not only did he manage to find three, two 650Rs and one 650L, but he also used his own money to place deposit on them so we could pick them up when we arrived a week later. Dave housed us, drank with us, ate with us, and even came out for our first lap down to Litchefield National Park which lies just south of Darwin.
More than that though Dave didn’t just do this for us, he does it for every wayward motorcyclist who might think the Northern Territory is for them. While we were there a young woman named Agnes, who was traveling alone across the country was also calling Dave’s Biker Bunker home. At 22 years old Agnes had just ridden up from southern Western Australia and on her way up had run into some tough luck! Yet Agnes was in high spirits and treating her time at Dave’s more like a retreat and time to heal than being sidelined from her trek. As it turns out, she is also a very accomplished group chef.
Time at Dave’s was primarily spent working on the bikes and getting them ready to hit the road. Oil changes, new chains and sprockets, fresh rubber, rack building, tank adjustments, and new jets in the carburetor in my bike. This dominated our first week but during all of this I kind of stood by with an all to confused look on my face. You see, I’d come to ride 7,000km across Australia with about 10 hours of previous riding experience. I’ll reiterate, I’d been on a bike long enough to know how to shift and not stall every other time. And so this week also meant learning as much about motorcycles in as short-amount of time as possible. A week was not long enough.
The last time I got on here I was wallowing in worry over taking a nationally registered exam for my EMT cert. I passed. No big deal. However, two days after that test I got on a plane and flew 23 hours to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. I’d been invited by my two good friends Axel and Mia a few months previous to our departure and seeing as I’d wanted to take a motorcycle trip with them for some time I readily agreed to go along. Over the next few weeks I will attempt to chronicle some of the adventures we had whilst traveling down under! I will attempt to do so in chronological order so as to give a more authentic feel to the trip cause like anything, the good stuff doesn’t just happen all at once.
I will happily end this post by suggesting that this trip was one of the hardest things I have done in a while and also one of the most rewarding. This is really the story of how I learned to ride a motorcycle in a different country, off road, with one eye. Kinda a recipe for some great stories. I also have to commend my friends Axel and Mia Anderson for being two of the most outstanding and hard working people I have ever meet. The world would be a better place with more like you. With that I’ll jump off for now.
Until next time when the journey begins!
My sympathetic nervous system is in full effect right now. My palms are slightly moist, my heart rate elevated. My eye twitches in response to small movement. My mouth is dry, and I notice sounds I didn’t realize I could. The sun is beating down through the cold morning air to the right side of my body. The light is obscuring the screen, and heating my fingers as I type. Music is pour into my ears attempting to quell the other stimulation which is mounting a full blown attack on my systems.
This is test anxiety. Crazy. I’m not one to suffer from anxiety and I have to say I’m pretty stoked I don’t because right now, its hard to get back to normal. I’m working on controlling my breath, fueling my body with good food and water. Making sure to not stress the small things. I know what I know at this point and no amount of last minute cramming will serve to help. I think the single most important thing I can do at this point is bring myself back down to normal. To get out of my head. And thats why I’m here, thats why I’m writing right now.
Everyone else is on edge as well, the instructors are freaking out about scheduling, other students are just as nervous as me, if not more nervous. But what can we do? Just breath deeply, assess whats bothering us, and carry on.
Right now I’m breathing deeply, listening to the sound of my fingers on the key board, the chit chat of my peers, and the deep hum of the air ventilation system. Some pretty angry rap is filling my headphones, the level of stoke is rising.
From nerves to ready to do what I do. I’m fun to get stressed and come out the other side, I’ll let you know how the test goes, until then. Peace.