Sunday, January 5, 2020

LINK TO FIRST POST: A Texan in Tibet - My Motorcycle Journey to Mount Everest Base Camp 1

It's about damn time I wrote something.  What am I up to now?

Many know In 2011, I rode my Harley to the Arctic Circle in Alaska.  I rode alone for 22 days, camping up and down.  I was an unhappy man when I left, but I returned with a refreshed outlook, a renewed enthusiasm, and a heightened confidence in my riding prowess and camping skills.  I released a video a few months later that illustrates the good, the bad, and the ugly from that trip.  In the end, it was probably the greatest adventure I had experienced up to that point in my life.  You can read about it on my Alaskapade blog or watch the video.  That’s the happy story.

In 2016, I rode a Suzuki DR400 dirt bike across the Australian Outback from the Pacific Ocean at Airlie Beach in the northeast to the Indian Ocean at Fremantle in the southwest.  I camped under the stars in the outback for 17 nights.  Having learned on the Alaskapade that life is better with company, I took this trip with the company of eight strangers from Australia and New Zealand, and a support truck/guide.  Unlike Alaska, I did not experience any life-affirming epiphanies.  I did learn just how determined I was to finish what I started despite sustaining an injury on the third day that should have sent me packing for home.

I did not return from Oz triumphant like I did from Alaska.  Instead, I hobbled home with a foot broken in three places and my left arm dangling uselessly from my shoulder.  If I had a tail, it would have been tucked tightly between my legs.  After four rotator cuff reattachments and a cadaver graft, I started my recovery with my arm completely immobilized for three months and riding around a knee scooter.  I was miserable.  I was broken.  And, I was addicted to the prescription pain killers I had taken with me to Oz just in case.  I quit the pain killers cold turkey and recovered over the summer.  While I could be proud that I made it across some of earth’s toughest terrain despite my injuries, I was saddened by the fact that those same injuries prevented me from attending the annual Shark Week event with some of my closest (albeit geographically distant) Harley riding friends.  Despite taking copious notes on each days' events, snapping hundreds of photos, and shooting hours of video, I never produced a post-trip video and I deleted the Wizard of Aus blog I had been writing for months. I feel like I let people down because expectations for another Alaskapade level production were high.  The cold hard truth was after two years of planning and a year of physical conditioning, when all was said and done, I had spent fifteen of my eighteen days in abject pain and misery.  All I wanted was for each day to be over and in the end, I had little to celebrate with a video account from the trip.

"An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory." - Millard Fillmore
I stewed on the Oz trip for almost five years and eventually came across that quote and have since let it go.  Then, two years ago, I started thinking I might have one more such adventure left in me.  Let’s face it; I’m not getting any younger and staying in shape is tougher than ever.  I’m also on a very disciplined five-year plan to be financially able to retire at age 62.  Even if I were the picture of health, trips like these aren’t cheap and I need to maintain my financial priorities if I plan to realize my retirement goal.  Still, I can’t shake the sting of my Outback experience (Fillmore notwithstanding) and the fire in my belly to get out there again - just one more time - burns like a ghost pepper making its exit in the bathroom.  I got one more in me.  Now, where to go?

Few know that I’ve had a near life-long secret semi-desire to climb Mount Everest.  I knew I never would, but man would it be a cool accomplishment.  The only climbing I’ve ever experienced was Ayer’s Rock at Uluru in Australia and I was able to accomplish that with a destroyed shoulder and on a broken foot.  Everest is another dimension in climbing that requires years of training, conditioning, and costly specialized equipment.  All those facts notwithstanding, trips to Everest have become so commercialized these days that literally anyone who can afford it can show up on the mountain and have a go at it.  And apparently, there are plenty who can afford it.  Fatalities are at an all-time high as climbers wait in line for hours to ascend the final few feet to the summit, only to savor the experience for a few minutes, and then descend to make room for the hundreds of other climbers beneath them awaiting their precious minutes at the top of the world.  It’s not as if I have the finances, much less the physical capabilities, but I believe that even if I had both today, I would forego climbing Everest and find some other thrill that has less potential to be ruined - or even fatal - due to the incompetence of others.

Motorcycling is what I do best and what I enjoy most.  Since I am at one of my happiest places when I'm on a motorcycle, I decided to seek out another interesting motorcycle ride.  My desire to ride to Ushuaia is no secret.  After all, I rode to the top of the world so it makes sense that I would want to ride to the bottom. Given the turmoil in Mexico and Central America, that dream will likely go unfulfilled.  I take these trips to satiate a sense of adventure; not to take unnecessary risks.  There are some risks I just can’t mitigate and those are the ones I choose not to take. 

I’ve ridden Hester to 49 states.  I can’t ride her to Hawaii, but I could ship her there and be the only guy I’ve ever heard of who rode the same motorcycle to all fifty states.  Mmmm…maybe someday.  That’s not what I’d call adventurous; just logistical. Over the years, I’ve seen YouTube videos of guys riding adventure bikes over insane terrain in India, Nepal, and Tibet.  Where were they going?  How did they get there?  What did it take to put a trip like that together?  I was intrigued enough to investigate it.

Europe and Africa hold no interest to me, but Asia does.  I came across a video of a guy riding from Nepal into Tibet and up towards Mount Everest.  EVEREST!  There’s an adventure I can relate to!  I did some research and found a guy in Kathmandu who can set me up with a suitable bike, help with permits and visas, and sort out lodging.

Fast forward a year later and I’m now four months from my departure.  I’ll fly on May 2nd to Kathmandu via Atlanta, GA and Doha, Qatar.  The roughly 36 hours travel time should land me in Kathmandu at 2:00am on May 4th.  I’ll have May 4th and 5th to rest and get over the jet lag.  Kathmandu is ten hours, 45-minutes ahead of central time.  45 minutes?  Why couldn't they just round up?  I'll also have time to catch the Kathmandu sights and acclimate to the 4,500-foot elevation.  After entering Tibet, my journey will take me above 16,000 feet, so I’ll have to prepare for that before I depart.  More on that later.  Time is short and there are logistics to sort out.