Highway 70 took us at full tilt for 360 miles from Denver, Colorado to Moab in Utah, the start of our ride home. A long day for us but it was worth the effort ten-fold. It seemed sacrilege not to take advantage of Utah’s sweet spots. Hiking up to the red rock wonders of the Delicate Arch, just one of two thousand natural sandstone arches, my heart was pounding at the top. And not because I found myself in a world where the sun gleams over a shadowy, giant world of rock. I’ve just become unfit.
Ahead of us lay open country, reddish-grey, studded with cacti. Arizona was the first place I have been for a while that turned out to look exactly like I’d pictured it. As we rode along the blindingly bright highway, I felt happy and charmed. Nestled at an elevation of over 1,500 metres amongst the State’s biggest offering of ponderosa pine forest, Prescott became our next ‘Go to’ base. Usually boasting perfect weather at around room temperature, we rode into an uncharacteristic heat wave for the autumn—amongst granite mountains and all the worthy accomplices of lakes, streams and rolling meadows. Perforated with historical landmarks, you’re hit by the rich history of the Old West. Cowboy style saloons dotted along Whiskey Row fused with the more modern aspects of the traditional town, there’s nothing not to like.
Wheeling up to the US border at Tecate was more of a ‘Triple Whopper with fries but better make that a diet coke’ drive-thru experience than the usual cacophony of queues—left, right and centre—about the Latin American customs and immigration offices. The familiarity of my old, comforting Latin American life was about to leave me for a strange and first world new one. A civilised US border official greeted us formally at the barrier. Plenty of pleases and thank yous but no warm pleasantries to which I’d become deeply accustomed.
Intense light fell from a vaulted powder-blue sky that offered here and there a cloud so fat and dense-looking, it might have been full of milk. A monied seafront gleamed as much as the ocean. The coastline was lined with an assortment of majestic marine figurines, spotless sidewalks and restaurants with menus on which we couldn’t afford to dine. La Paz reeked of money but didn’t seem unwelcoming although to be fair, there was hardly a soul about. “Oh my gawd, Lisa!” Jason uttered, disbelievingly. “What?” I barked eagerly back. “There’s an osprey! Up there, sat on top of that lamp post.” And so it was, a yellow-eyed raptor known as the sea hawk ready to hunt over the water. Welcome to off-peak Baja California.
The morning after the night before Mexico Independence Day was akin to Boxing Day in a rural corner of England. The highways were deliciously quiet, deserted even and the streets had become all but bare. Riding down the empty roads gave rise to revelling in a deep quietness. For a moment, I imagined what it would be like to be a ghost—to walk forever through a silence deeper than silence. There was something agreeably frightening about it all. The sun was a fiery orange ball in a smooth blue sky where not a single cloud blemished or blotted it.
How soft the jungle air at Las Pozas was, after the molten lava of Mexico City, as soft as dusting powder, the coat of a puppy. The night sky was a sapphire blue and strewn with stars, a shower of gold dust. The pristine purity of the rambunctious, wild place that was Edward James’ secret garden was a vaccine against harm, the urban nasties coating the lungs with god knows what. May be the locals here were more clear-headed than the rest of us about what’s important: natural beauty, safe streets, clean air, the wild wood—not the wide world beyond it. Not to hustle and hassle with life.
The snaking road was silver in the morning sun. It was a perfect day for riding a motorcycle. And the moment we got going, the miles ticked away under the wheels. “Feels good to be back on the bikes, eh Jase?” I uttered down the helmet’s intercom enjoying the normalcy of a moving life. And in my mind’s eye agreeing with Robyn Yong who said, “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us”. “Yahp,” came Jason’s response.