Monday, 2 April 2018

Chapter Complete


Raindrops slipped between the well-used visor and the duct tape that held it in place, dripping onto my nose and forming a thick layer of mist that was almost impossible for my eyes to penetrate. The clouds obscured the sun, leaving a greyness that I had failed to recall during my ‘nostalgia for the rain’ moments in the sweltering desert stretches of Iran or Sudan!

What was it I always said? Oh, yes, ‘Riding a bike allows you to see and feel everything around you. It is wonderful to be open to the elements and vulnerable to your surroundings’!  I must have written that back in the days of warm summer breezes! The sky was now in full sarcastic mode and beating a tune on my helmet that said, ‘Welcome back, SUCKER!’. Still, four years on, despite the ‘Beast from the East’ flicking its nonchalant wet tail in my face, it was good to be back in Europe! I was finally closing the circle I had set out to draw all those years ago, having ridden my ‘silly little’ 250cc on all seven continents. It felt good! It was soggier than I had imagined – but it did feel good!  

My parents, Dani ‘the leg’ and ‘Smilie’ Steve came and met me at Motobreaks. Pete ‘Bog’ met us the following day. They all rode through horrible conditions to keep a promise (despite my best efforts to stop them under the circumstances), and after a few beers and cake, had to do it all again in the opposite direction the following day.

By now I was in a lot of pain and only managing a couple of hours at a time on the bike.
Smilie Steve, me and Mum - suddenly feeling no pain (at Motobreaks)! 
Moral support was what I needed to get through this last section, and I got it in bucket loads. From the ‘old’ friends and family who came out to ride in with me, to the new friends I’d just left in Cairo who were messaging me with places to stop, to the Facebook messages of support, and of course Motobreaks who put on a great party for me in France and gave us all a roof and a garage (not to mention a massage and a facial) for a couple of nights while we prepared for the last push.

With the weather warning in the UK, it was touch and go to the last minute as to whether we would make it to the Ace CafĂ©. Snow covered the ground that morning and the riders from all over the country who had planned to come and meet us at Newhaven had no choice but to pull out. I even put a message out telling people not to come as I didn’t want anyone risking these conditions. It was a shame but there was nothing else for it. A couple of friends had made it by car to see me in with a pint (Calum and John), but one man had made it all the way from Ireland on his bike the day before. Again, I had told him not to risk it. The conditions were terrible, but James (an old riding buddy that I hadn’t seen for 10 years) was determined to deliver his promise. Four years ago, he had promised he would be waiting for me at the port with a bottle of Middleton Extra Rare whiskey. As I had pulled into the freezing cold and dark car park of the hotel that night – there he was, holding the bottle, and saying something inaudible in a drunken Irish slur (he had been waiting a while!)! What a guy!


Dad leading us out of the hotel at Newhaven
Despite the freezing conditions and snow covered verges, the roads were clear between Newhaven and the Ace Club, and so our small posse of die-hards went for it. We were joined on route by a couple of bikers and then by my cousin, a Met police officer, who escorted us in to the Ace on his police bike. That was very cool I must admit! A police escort is a sure-fire way of making a girl feel special (or in trouble. Depending on your conscience!)!  J

Arriving at the Ace was lovely, although I was not as emotional as I had expected. I was
really just looking forward to thawing my hands on a nice cup of tea by then! Paddy, the editor of Overland Magazine, made that happen very quickly. After greeting me, he quickly ran off to get me a bacon butty and a cuppa (without me even telling him what I needed!). Now there is a man who knows the score!

It was lovely to see some familiar faces there, and many who had been quietly following for the whole time. One surprise was seeing a couple I had met way back in Namibia. I had been camping behind a petrol station and hanging around in the hope I could hitch a ride into the national park where the petrified trees were (bikes are not allowed). I put Tatiana and Wagner (who live in London) right on the spot by approaching them, but they took it in their stride and agreed to let this scruffy looking woman join them in their 4x4 the next morning. We got on like a house on fire and it was so lovely to see they had made it to greet me here at the Ace! What a lovely surprise. Another lovely surprise was the bagpipes that Andy (a blog reader and facebook friend) had brought along to welcome me in! It was freezing, his hands were numb, and bagpipes do not do well in the cold (apparently) BUT he did an amazing job! It was very special.

The crew (and Dani's hat!)
Thanks to EVERYONE who braved the cold that day to give me a warm welcome. It really was a wonderful homecoming - disorientating - but wonderful! 

Thanks also to the people who supported me throughout the trip. Really, it has been one hell of a ride – but not a solo ride by any means. I cannot tell you how much it has meant to me. Every gesture (big and small), and every comment fuelled my motivation to keep going during the tougher times.

Big thanks to my sponsors of course - Honda, Halvarssons, Giant Loop, Kriega, Racer Gloves, Motobreaks, Baja Works, Bike Trac, Infineum and Auritech. 

I have now been home for two weeks. How does it feel? Hmmmm! I'm not quite sure yet! 

I guess I have been waiting for some big 'thing' to hit me. Everyone has been suggesting that I will feel strange and possibly quite down once I have landed. I expected it myself. Perhaps it is too early, but I think I'm doing just fine! My trick has always been to keep busy if ever in any doubt, and it seems to be working.

Once again, it boils down to perspective. If you look at it one way, I am coming home to no job and no house in a slightly used and broken body with an empty bank account! But none of this is a surprise to me. I said 'to hell with it' four years ago and I am still very happy with my decision. I did it, and 'it' feels good! I feel like I have just left school (only far less confused and a little less hairspray). I have no worries. After four years of winging it, I worry a lot less than I every used to. I love the fact that I am going into another chapter, and that the book is far from over. Who knows what is to come, but that is down to me. My choices are endless! My energy is returning with every visit to rehab (the gym) and I feel, well - light! There is no burden on these shoulders. The world feels like a much smaller and friendlier place since I got home and the true value of friendship and positive thought is stronger than ever. I have always been on a roller coaster, and that will not change, I'm sure, but the direction is yet to be determined. I am making no sudden moves until I have had time to decompress and enjoy my time in my little caravan in Wales. Bring on the dog walking in the rain. Bring on the Sunday dinners and cod liver oil tablets! Bring on the DRESSING GOWN (yey!). Bring on catching up with friends and drinking too much Tequila. You can even bring on the hangovers! I really don't mind! For now, here is home, and for now I am going to enjoy it without feeling like I am tied to it. I feel free, and THAT was my whole motivation in the first place! 

Rhonda on the other hand, has been banished to the garage (apart from a quick outing for the cameras). I have barely looked at her since I got home. Give me time. I just need a little longer before I begin to miss her. That and a little sunshine would be ideal! 

Of course freedom does not actually come for free! I still need to earn a living, and I am still working on that one! Until then, I would love to keep sharing my story (at least this part of it) for as long as people will listen. I have been lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Nick Sanders Mach 3 event in May, the Adventure Film Festival in July, and The Overland Event in August. Come and see us there if you can. All are likely to be great events and will at least keep me in bacon butties and petrol money that week! Enough fuel for us both to be able to get out amongst the community that I love and drink beer anyway (yehaaaaa!). 

I will also be riding Rhonda around the UK in June and speaking at clubs and events wherever they want me (let me know if YOU want me in your area or at your club. I am route planning as we speak)! 

My next big adventure is planned for September next year (see https://www.nomadicknights.com/girls-on-top-everest-base-camp), but I hope that I can squeeze a few little adventures in between! There is no settling down in sight just yet! 

Will there be a book? I'd like to think so, but watch this space! You have all probably had far too much of me by now already BUT, if only for me, I would like to write one. And, if only for my granddaughter who might read it one day (when I'm dribbling in the corner) and say, 'Wow! My Gran is actually pretty cool! Maybe I can do something crazy one day too!' :) 

A girl can STILL dream! Isn't that what it's all about? 






















9 comments:

  1. Excellent. Very well written Steph & an inspiration to many. Chris.

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  2. Full circle for this trip, many more to complete. A trip that had everything plus some extra. Welcome home, Steph!

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  3. Congrats Steph nice to meet you in Chiang Mai Thailand Great work by you and Rhonda!

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  4. Well done �� I look forward to the book (with plenty of photos!)and dvd? Pete (CRF 250 rider also, but mine has just 160 miles on the clock, so a little bit less than yours haha)

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  6. I’m so proud of your amazing accomplishment and I was glad to meet you and be able to assist you. Remember Thumper’s donation and the muffler transplant that did three continents.. Stay in touch ❤️����Dennis & Thumper.j

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  7. All I can say is "Well done - you lived the dream we all have!" I look out for the book now.

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  8. Well done Steph! Welcome back to Blighty, hope the sun comes out for you soon!

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  9. Usually I spew out too many words, BUT as I sit here with my eyes welling up, all I can come up with is thanks so much, Steph, for taking us along with you. I only picked up your blog near the end of year one, so one day soon I'll start at the beginning and fill in the blanks. I bow deeply to your accomplishment and, especially, your "no fucking way I'm giving up" attitude. I hope my daughter grows up with the same. You also have an open invitation to visit us in Vietnam, since you slighted us the first time 'round... ;-)

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