My last kilometers in a beautiful country.
But first a short resume.
With the title super cycling destination I am saying goodbye to the land of unlimited possibilities.
The American West is a bewitchingly beautiful area, where cycling is simply fun.
The vastness, the different landscapes, the lonely stretches and the great camp spot possibilities are top notch. It is also a region where security was never an issue.
The Wild West has more than surpassed my expectations, and I am sure that I will pass the border area with a few tears in my eyes before finally getting to a new world.
I enjoyed more than 10 months not only grandiose landscapes, extremely superb rock formations, great trails, remoteness and cozy camp fireplaces, no I also enjoyed friendly and helpful people.
Americans are very pleasant, also extremely generous. Everywhere I went I was treated with respect and I mostly felt very comfortable, even if I could not always understand their spirits.
But it is also a country which through the eternal contradictions and extremes it offers it continuously creates an ambivalent feeling in me.
Don’t get me wrong, America is great, but America is also not easy to understand.
The US is the land of the rich – but also of the many poor. Americans are the world’s most obese population with on the other hand the most Olympic gold medals. Americans have the world’s largest meat consumption but also most vegans.
In America, there are countless missionaries, an extremely large number of believers, most volunteers and most donors – but a welfare state is not a favorite among many Americans.
America is a contradiction wherever you look and America is different and as I said, it is damn beautiful.
I used to think Americans were arrogant, because of their exaggerated, sometimes superficial friendliness upon just meeting. Also because of their partly cool style they try to embody even though many of them are super conservative in their heart.
And above all because of their patriotism. To describe one’s own country as the best in the world is still a kind of an antipathy, but I have been able to get to know the positive aspects of it, and I have noticed that the normal American is not arrogant.
The belief in one’s own country, the pride and support, the love the Americans give their nation and the cohesion created, have not only negative but also its good sides. And because my trip has taught me to think positive, I don’t want to talk about the negative sides of patriotism.
I, a German, who, even though I was born 30 years after the end of the war, grew up with the feeling that I am not allowed to be proud of my country, I am always staggering here.
On the one hand, I think the Americans are silly, with their ridiculous glorification of their nation. On the other hand, it impresses me and makes me even a little jealous. Envious to not have the feeling for my own country to be great.
Isn’t it a much more positive start in life when one is American with the feeling “we are the best” having already been tucked into the cradle? Unlike me, where I have grown up with feelings of guilt for a past I had no part in and for which not even my parents can do anything?
If you grow up in the richest, most powerful and supposedly the most amazing country in the world and you walk every day to school with the feeling how awesome everything is, you become automatically a positive thinking person.
In any case, this is what I suspect, because you can feel it in the country. People whine much less, don’t complain constantly, look more positively into the future, see things in a much more relaxed way, trust each other much more than we do in Germany. They motivate each other, support themselves and always say how great they find each other. Criticism is often avoided
Sadly there is also the other side of the coin, namely, extreme paranoia. Americans have a lot of topics where they seem to be extremely fearful. And that’s exactly what is so hard to understand – it is so often a contradiction and for an outsider a bit confusing.
And of course, there are those who don’t like their country but they are in the minority.
I don’t want to live in the USA. To me, too many of the people are superficial, it is also difficult to find interesting conversation partners, because the people often know only their own little world.
The distances are too big, the environment is too much in danger, and the people don’t seem to care enough about other parts of the world.
There is no perfect country, no best country and I will continue to roll my eyes when Americans think they are the greatest.
Nevertheless, the American West is and remains to be one of my top destinations. What the West in America has to offer in terms of expanse and beauty is hard to beat.
But it is time for a new chapter. Latin America is close at hand and I am looking forward to it, even though I have been fighting for a long time with myself if Mexico is the right country for me.
The final decision fell only recently. Before I finally cycle across the border, I would like to tell you briefly what has happened within the last weeks.
I met a German couple, alleged vagabonds, whom I actually expected to think openmindedly. They were traveling with a converted truck through the States. From the first minute they had nothing better to say than to complain about the American people.
In an embarrassing manner, with prejudices, in a way I haven’t experienced in a whole year here in North America. Everything was bad in their eyes even though they were in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, on the Colorado plateau surrounded by red rocks and pure nature.
The two were extreme in their attitude and certainly not the average Germans, nevertheless, I noticed exactly at this moment once again what some Germans have a huge talent for – creating a Grinch mood out of a supposedly beautiful situation.
Of course, it’s not all rosy here, and I also have my problems with the typical it is all “awesome, cool and great,” attitudes but the pleasant mood that prevails in the US is simply appealing. In the conversation with them I had for the first time ever the feeling I had to defend the Americans who had found a place in my heart and I even felt personally attacked.
I sat down at McDonald’s next to a man wearing a baseball cap with the inscription: Vietnam Veteran. A woman spoke to him and politely thanked him for serving his country. In Germany this would be completely unimaginable and to me this is simply totally American. Veterans often have a special position here.
In Fruita, Colorado I was allowed to spend two days at Penny and her husband’s home before I went to Utah on the Kokopelli Trail. They are warmshowers hosts, and have cycled a lot themselves.
As always, in the US everything is relative and statements you get from people, are always questionable. The same applied for the Kokopelli Trail.
Trails that are very simple are described as brutally difficult and the other way around. Actually you never know what to expect.
I had previously changed my bike setup again because I was supplied by Rogue Panda with new bikepacking bags and thus came closer to the bikepacking style. The bags are awesome, but unfortunately the rear part of my bike setup was not really practical when I fought the single track on the Kokopelli Trail.
So it was clear that I would have to put more thought into creating a setup that could best manage the equipment needs of a world biker but enjoy the benefits of a bikepacking system by eliminating conventional panniers.
The trail was great, but quite tricky and as always with the heavy load not an easy task.
Not far into the trail my chain broke and jammed in the derailleur. Also it turned out, I had lost my spare chain links accidentally during my weight reduction efforts. It was hot and I had hardly any water left and I knew I had to push all the way back to the road.
I never had issues with my chain in 3.5 years, but exactly the first 20 km after sorting out and reducing my equipment the chain snapped.
Luckily the road was only about 5 km away and I was convinced that someone would give me a lift back to Fruita where a bike store was located. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. Meanwhile, it was pouring down rain and one huge pick-up after another shot passed me.
Finally a Mexican man stopped but somehow he had a look in his eyes I didn’t like, so I let him drive off by himself. Soaked wet and hours later I managed to get to the bike shop and the guys there fixed me up right away.
A little while later, a young woman passed me on the road, then stopped and invited me to her farm. When I asked her about the “no trespassing” sign hanging on her fence, she told me she is sick and tired of strangers senselessly strolling around her property shooting like maniacs.
I mentioned to her that it is not always easy to find a campsite or ask for water, because the signs always make me a bit fearful and hesitant to approach a house.
Back on the Kokopelli trail, I met a solo cyclist with whom I shared a camp fire. A great evening with an interesting, cosmopolitan American woman.
The next morning a storm raged. I had not strung my storm lines because I hadn’t expected such brutal winds. I lay in the tent, hoping that my little home would somehow survive. Spasmodically, I tried to hold the side walls until it finally calmed down again.
The landscape from that section on was nice, but not really breathtaking any longer and so I decided to hop over to the Scenic Byway, which led me directly to Moab. The Colorado River has formed a gorgeously beautiful canyon, through which I could cycle from curve to curve as the road followed the bends in the river.
In Moab / Utah I found a place for my tent in the middle of the night between some houses. Searching for camp spots in the dark is now my hobby. It gives me that certain extra and always makes for surprises.
The area around Moab was great but somehow I had to keep going. One morning I woke up and suddenly had the urge to leave the US. It was just time to say goodbye.
M & M, the two German ladies that I had met last year on Route 66, were as arranged at the meeting point in Bluff and we spent two great days together, philosophizing about anything and everything.
They spoiled me like their own daughter and the experiences they shared were really interesting. I can only tell everyone again and again that it is never too late to travel the world.
The two ladies are the best example with their 73 years. Open minded, interesting women with world views commonly encountered among travelers.
It wasn’t far any more to Monument Valley and I shared a super camp spot surrounded by immense scenery with an Iranian couple. Great rock, great starry sky, seasoned with Iranian music and real Persian tea.
After almost three years I once again came to enjoy warm Iranian hospitality. Most probably the best hospitality in the world.
Once again I met only smiling, friendly, cordial and attractive people in the Indian Reservation.
From there it was not far to Flagstaff, a place that I had already been familiar with from last year and in which I had won friends, with whom I wanted to say goodbye. In addition, I had to wait for my new bank card, which took unfortunately longer than planned.
The Election Day was on. Nervousness spread to my host. As so was I. The election had not yet been decided as the first tears began to flow and shock struck. Ron spent 12 hours lifeless in his room. Stunned and paralyzed, he came to the breakfast table and apologized to me from the bottom of his heart that his country had chosen such a miserable creature as president.
Ron is an American through and through. He idolizes his country and it seemed to me that he wanted to tell me that he had never been so disappointed by his fellow countrymen as in those morning hours after the election.
However, and this is exactly what makes America so fascinating. When Obama gave his speech to the American people on the same day and spoke optimistically to the nation, the first lively signs came back to Ron’s face. Thinking positively and believing in the nation, this is old style America. According to the motto, the nation will make it, we can do it. United we stand.
My bike setup was still a thorn in my side and I wanted to try not to return to the saddle bags, but I had to find a solution for the journey ahead, because the current setup did not work really well. It wasn’t easy to get access to the things one needs from time to time during the day.
I had actually thrown in the towel, given up I would put the rear panniers back on. But I couldn’t stop grabbing the bags again and again, I sorted out things many more times and packed everything back and forth. And finally made it happen.
I hope this is it the final version for the upcoming countries. A complete bikepacking setup – without classic saddle bags. Yippee.
You will get to see the pictures in my next blog post.
Now I am hitchhiking to San Diego, because my loop through the Wild West ended exactly in Flagstaff. Everything else would now only be a repetition of what I have already cycled.
The Baja Divide calls me – a brand new trail – 1700 miles through the desert of Baja California in Mexico.
I will see if I am doing the whole trail or only parts of it. I am not sure if I will follow a red line for 1700 miles again. I like my freedom and my own decisions, but I am also curious to do it.
A few days ago, I was still convinced to cycle in the interior of Mexico because I longed for a new culture and at the time I found it more important than nature. But as always, my opinion changes quite quickly.
You have to stay flexible.
Many thanks to all Americans for a wonderful time – God bless you 😉