Home felt so far away while I was in the hospital, but in just twenty-four hours giant metal cans in the sky delivered me. I’ve flown a ridiculous amount of flights in my life, but planes still boggle my mind. How lucky are we to be able to fly through the sky to any where on earth (as long as the country will take you in). A hundred years ago if I needed to get home from India it would be many months at sea and praying the wooden ship didn’t sink along the way. I was fortunate enough to have travel insurance which flew me home, and in first class the whole way. Because of the spinal headache the doctor told them I needed a seat that laid all the way back, and my leg needed to be raised (big thanks to my doctor). This was all a first for me and was pretty nice getting a peak at what the fancy pants travelers are up to. A few hour flight from Guwahati delivered me to New Delhi where I had a long layover. The moment the planes wheels lifted off the runway I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it was somewhere between relieved, a deep sadness, and excitement. The wild hospital ordeal was behind me, but also my dream was left waiting with my motorcycle. There was a slight taste of failure in my mouth, but I knew it was just an intermission and I’d be back. The great part about first class tickets with Air India is it gives access to their VIP lounge. What goes on behind those closed doors that I’ve tried to sneak into before is a beautiful thing. Free buffet of food and snacks, all the booze you want, nice guys that keep the drinks coming, wi-fi, and big comfy reclining chairs. I was kind of disappointed when it was time to go catch my flight. I had a wheelchair guy who dropped me off at the lounge and then showed back up to take me to the flight. I kept telling him five more minutes. Having a broken leg works to your advantage going through airports, and especially in India.
They wheeled me right to the front of the long security lines, the officers cracked a few jokes with me, waved a metal detector wand over the cast, and let me through. I could’ve had a cast or bags full of dope. The second flight carried me fifteen hours over Central Asia, Northern Europe, Northern Atlantic Ocean, Canada, and delivered me back to America. It was the greatest flight of my life, and I didn’t really want it to end. I had my own pod with an armrest full of seat controls, which turned it into a bed. I’ll now forever be extra envious of everyone in the front of the plane while I’m crammed into the back eating the gruel.
A rush went through me as my final plane got lower and the lush green hills of Oregon came into view. Nowhere is as beautiful to fly into than Portland with the snowy volcanic Cascade Mountains rising up on each side of the plane and the massive forests filled with lakes and rivers. I always get the same feeling on the drive home from the airport. It feels like I never left. Everything looks the same like it’s been held in place. Everyone seems the same, but I feel different. I spent nine weeks back in the states while trying to heal my leg. The first few were pretty chill. I spent way too much time on the couch, got pretty good at the adventure of showering with a plaster cast, and spent a lot of time at the beach. The first week I scoured the web and bought all the parts I’d need to fix my bike, along with a few extras things I’d been wishing I had. One of the first things I do when I return is go to the beach to daydream and enjoy the ocean air.
During my time back, little Blue Sailor jelly fish washed ashore covering a lot of the beach.
Within a few hours drive from the coast are the glacier covered cascade mountains dotted with alpine lakes and split by crystal clear rivers.
After these weeks at home I hit the road again for pretty much the rest of my time back. The road calls me. I flew around the country to see friends and family in Illinois, New Orleans, Dallas, and California. Throw in a trip to Las Vegas with my brother and it’s been a whirlwind of airports.
It’s always nice to get back and see the loved ones. I was able to spend some time on the family farm in Illinois and visit my grandpa who’s in a nursing home.
My childhood is filled with memories at the old house and farmland that stretches forever into the horizons.
I’ve enjoyed my time back, but have looked forward to getting back from day one. Before the crash I was in a bit of a predicament. I didn’t know how I was going to get to Europe. From the beginning I had wanted to cross Tibet from Nepal to Kyrgyzstan, but had run into a lot of road blocks. The permits to ride through Tibet are time-consuming, very expensive, and not a guarantee. You have to be with Chinese guide and government official at all times, which means joining an organized tour. These had to be organized up to three months in advance. I spent hours emailing agencies and getting quotes and itineraries. The crossing would take around 18 days. Doing the tour on my own would cost a minimum of five thousand dollars or more. The way to do it is make a group, which lowers the cost dramatically since everyone is sharing the costs. I started a google group and got about ten people together off of forums who were planning similar trips. We found a great deal with one agency, but then we couldn’t ever agree on dates and it all fell apart. I had no idea what I was going to do because the Pakistan visa can only be obtained in your home country. A positive about having to go home is I was able to get my Pakistan visa and online found a group crossing China from Pakistan to Kyrgyzstan in early August. It’s a short four-day tour across the Muslim Xinjiang region, way cheaper than the Tibet crossing, and gets me past the last big road block between me and Europe. I missed the Indian doctor prices. For two weeks in the hospital in the VIP ward, all my medication, x-rays, CT scan, MRI, and surgery on the ankle, my total bill was $1900. In America I had to see a regular doctor just to get a referral to see an orthopedic specialist. He came in the room for two minutes, didn’t take one look at my leg, and put a referral into the computer system. Those two minutes cost me $245. The surgery they performed on my ankle in India cost less. Somethings not right with that.
On June 11th I started the adventure of getting back to my motorcycle in NE India. I still wasn’t walking without the boot and was in a lot of pain, but I had to get back. It was looking a lot better than when I first got the cast off for a soft boot. It’s crazy how much the leg wastes away when not being used.
Two fifty pound boxes full of parts, a big carry-on, a new helmet, and I made the almost three-day journey back to Bongaigaon. I had to custom build boxes that would fit the parts and held them together with crazy amounts of tape.
One of the boxes was a lot bigger than the limit for a checked bag, but the lady measured it in a way that it was exactly on. Maybe some crutches sympathy. I had flown to Dallas a couple of days earlier and started my journey from there. Four flights took me through Germany, Bahrain, New Delhi, and eventually to Guwahati where I had left from nine weeks previously. In those nine weeks I’ve been on sixteen flights and in twelve airports. Being on crutches isn’t the easiest way to get through airports. I used the wheelchair service a few times, but I like getting myself around. Coming to India straight from America, it always takes a couple of days for me to get back into the flow of the madness. It was late in the day when I got to Guwahati and I had no idea how I was getting to Bongaigaon, the city where my bike was being held for me. There was some miscommunication because of the language barrier and I thought I was being picked up at the airport. After a phone call in which I couldn’t understand much, I thought I was being picked up in the morning. At this point I had been waiting at the airport for around four hours. Being so exhausted from the traveling, I thought I’d just pass out in the airport for the night, but it closed at nine. I wheeled my cart full of boxes outside and contemplated what to do. As I walked out, two guys who were getting off work asked if I needed some help. I told them my predicament and they went into action. One of them went and found a bicycle rickshaw for all my stuff, and I hopped on the back of his scooter. They drove around to the few hotels nearby and haggled a good deal on a room. There’s nothing like Indian hospitality. They constantly go out of their way to help me however they can. I let my friend know where I was staying and hung out at the hotel expecting to get picked up in the morning. At eleven I had the reception call to see where he was, and found out that nobody was coming for me. What he was trying to tell me was to get the train to Bongaigaon and then he would pick me up at the station. I found a taxi driver, packed in my luggage, and zoomed over to the train station. Fortunately at the station there were a couple old guys who I paid a few bucks to carry my boxes to the train.
It would have been a hundred percent impossible for me. One of them had a hundred pounds on his head. They gave me a seat in the disabled car. Indian trains are a wild adventure filled with strangle people, smells, and situations. I had all eyes on me for most the trip. It was a pretty three-hour ride to Bongaigaon. The rainy season arrived while I was gone, and everything has turned to a lush green. The rainy season also brings the miserable humid heat. Biswajit, the man who saved me off the highway and helped me during me entire hospital ordeal, was waiting for me.
He really took me under his wing and I’ll never understand why he does everything he does for me. I was back in Bongaigaon and it felt like only a week had passed. Next on the agenda: Fix up my motorcycle to hit the road.