It was hot, piping hot when I started my tour around Utah.
A dream. Those bizarre rock formations are simply terrific. They shine in all colors and shades and can be found here around every bend.
The desert had me again and I was eager to experience it.
The desert had me again and I was eager to experience it.
Silence. You really don’t hear anything here, absolutely nothing. If so then only the wind, because unfortunately there is often too much of it in this corner of the planet. But it was heavenly, because I love this loneliness, this feeling, when the world belongs to me all alone.
Nobody, absolutely nobody was out here. I call this pure freedom. My greatest happiness.
When I can jump around naked and know that the only creature which might come across is a scorpion, but certainly not a human, then I can enjoy these landscapes even more.
I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to give an account to anyone for what I do, what I wear, what I eat, how I look like, or how often I talk to myself.
Whether I sing or dance, laugh or cry. Whether I comb my hair, wash myself or not. Whether my clothes are dirty, my jacket smells like a campfire or if my socks stink. When I get up or go to bed?
Here I am – all alone. Brilliant.
Collecting wood to experience a small campfire. Watching stars and trying to find the few constellations I know. Cooking, drinking tea and reading books are the things that I do especially in the evenings. And, of course, taking pictures, enjoying, just living and calling out into the world how very incredible it is.
I can spend hours looking at the landscape and never get bored. Crawling around on rocks, enjoying the sun and the warmth and searching for the unknown. Watching ants at work, spotting birds flying. Collecting stones and discovering flowers.
I was happy, as always out here.
John, with whom I came here from Oregon, had given me food, because if something is difficult here, then it is getting food and water. Unfortunately, I can’t really take much on board with my bikepacking set-up and with the strenuous trails out here, it would not be easy to have a lot with me anyway.
So, I knew, sooner or later I would have to restock again. But I wanted to postpone this for as long as possible. I didn’t really care about civilization.
Goblin Valley, a state park, was very close by. But first I wanted to explore the San Rafael Swell. A rather unknown area, so almost no people were there.
But on the other hand, there were enough people to ask for water and to get something to eat from time to time. Most were traveling with their big 4x4 jeeps and had the whole vehicle full of groceries and water.
Hikes interested me the most at the moment. There were several so-called slot canyons, so very narrow in which you had to climb in part to get thru.
There was also the Little Grand Canyon. As the name implies, it is the little brother of the Grand Canyon, but almost deserted.
The views were beautiful, the silence still great and the love I feel for the American West was getting stronger and the time that I had left, unfortunately, getting shorter.
I felt at home, I felt comfortable, I wanted to stay. I have often imagined what it will be like when I get home. Into the cold, wet and overpopulated Germany. I started to get worried, started to get scared, but I didn’t want to ruin my mood, after all I was looking forward to my people!
I wondered again and again whether the Americans are actually aware of what kind of natural treasures they have? How overpopulated my country is in comparison. Not to mention the noise there is in Germany. And the almost unlimited opportunities they have here, something I am even a little jealous of.
I also couldn’t really remember what it is like at home. I had simply forgotten, too long ago. I had lost the feeling for it. Many things just did not come to my mind anymore and I often wondered if I just remembered things wrong or if they really are like I think they are?
Americans told me again and again how great they find Germany. How friendly people are and how tasty the food is.
I also read more and more lately about touring cyclists from all over the world who were traveling in Germany and they talked about the great hospitality of the Germans. Each time I thought – what? Friendly? Hospitable? Do I no longer know my own country?
Am I unfair? Is it always that far away is so great and just out of principle at home not so great so it’s easy to find a reason to go away? I simply couldn’t remember.
But maybe it’s more that I’ve changed a lot and see things differently today and do not know how Germany will affect me today. The more I thought about it the more excited I was for what lies ahead of me.
The desert gives you a lot of time to think. It gives you peace and strength and security, even though it seems so extremely hostile to life. You won’t be distracted, you can concentrate on what surrounds you. You can focus much better on the little things.
When walking through New York, London or Paris, or even in a small village, you certainly do not notice that an ant is crawling nearby. Or a mosquito flies across the street.
Surrounded by loud noises and distractions, glowing billboards, running people and chaos, something so delicate does not stand out anymore. The little things are often lost in daily life.
In my opinion, the desert is the best way to recover from the daily stress and continuous problems of civilization that we are constantly exposed to. Luckily, there is not even a cell phone signal here. So, no reason at all to take out your electronic devices.
As always, I talked to the people I met. About God and the world, about the weather, the great nature and about anything and everything. Americans love small talk, something in which we Germans are pretty bad at. But it always makes it really easy to get in touch with the Yanks. Everywhere you just strike up a chat to give the others a nice feeling.
Trump opponents were numerous. Americans who apologized for their president and it was written on their faces of how ashamed they were of him. Of course, I also met the others, who continue to believe that he was the right choice. But I had the feeling that those people were clearly in the minority.
People are shy to talk politics in the US, only when they are sure which political opinion they have will they talk openly. But of course, only if they have the same leanings as you. Then you can even grumble wonderfully and improve the world mentally, especially with me as a foreigner.
Apart from that, I always find out how restrained the Americans are and prefer to avoid the subject as best as they can. It is too volatile and entire families are shattered because their political interests diverge too far. One is ashamed of the thoughts and vote of the other.
I had rarely heard coyotes at night and took the opportunity to ask a ranger about this when I visited the Ranger Station in Goblin Valley. The ranger was visibly uncomfortable explaining the law to me, because in Utah it is still true today that you get a $20 bounty for each coyote shot and properly presented.
One night a kitfox sneaked around my tent. He was spotlighted thru my campfire and his eyes glowed wonderfully green. It was wonderful. One of the moments that I probably will not forget soon.
Goblin Valley a state park with bizarre rock formations that are almost unique. The super friendly ranger there gave me food, so I could stay out for another while before I finally had to return to the tiny village of Hanksville. The distances are as always immense and just going shopping, can take the whole day cycling.
In Hanksville I took the opportunity to hitchhike again. I wanted to go to the Needles District of Canyonlands and found someone to take me right there.
Canyonlands is divided into several sub-areas and the area around Moab is totally overcrowded, but the other areas are quiet and at least as beautiful. In the Needles District you are even allowed to set up your tent right outside the National Park border, so I stayed for a while and mostly walked a lot. In addition, I took part in almost all the Ranger talks, which are always instructive and gave me great contact with people.
On amazing trails, I found my way back towards civilization and can only say again, what the American West has to offer is simply amazing.
Many times, I hiked, or hitched or cycled and enjoyed my new way of life very much. Without ambition and without counting kilometers, I discovered a new way of exploring the world. In the long run, that would not be my style, but now and then it’s really nice. As already mentioned, this was my break time.
I liked the hiking more and more. The biking lost its appeal. I had done that long enough and somehow, I was a bit done with it. I started to imagine what it would be like if I walked from now on? No more cycling – but walking the world?
Would it work? Is it fun? How could this be realized? Or is cycling the perfect way to experience the world after all? I thought about it a lot, began to wander and to push rather than cycle. Sometimes I left the bike and just walked away from my campsite.
I just felt tired. Tired of pedaling. I wanted to stay longer in one place more often than I did at the beginning of my journey. Less is more, I’ve understood that for a long time.
In addition, I started to bake bread. Something fun and really easy and leads to great results. It almost was something of a ritual and I was often looking forward to the evening to finally be able to bake it again. Of course, it took several attempts until everything was as I liked it, but in the end, I was simply thrilled how well it worked.
By a sheer coincidence, I discovered an event in New Mexico. A “Star Party”. But not a party where important people come, but a party where you watch the stars. Exactly my thing and I registered immediately for the week because the event was very inexpensive.
On the way there I visited the Bisti Badlands Wilderness. An area with many extraordinarily impressive rock formations.
When I was walking in the parking lot, a couple suddenly smiled at me in a very friendly way. They were Swiss and when I got closer, they greeted me with: “Hello Heike” and I just thought, huh, who is that now? In the end I had met the two Volkswagen drivers Sandra and Markus before in Laos and they recognized me immediately. Small World.
The Star Party had been more than interesting. People from all over the US came together, the farthest from Alaska. Just great people. Watching the stars every night with giant telescopes and answering all the questions I asked during the week.
There were also lectures on various astronomical topics. We visited the huge MRO telescope and the largest radio telescope station in the world the VLA which was extremely impressive, known to many through the movie Contact. A great week and an event that I can recommend to anyone who is interested in astronomy.
Of course, with almost no light pollution, New Mexico is a perfect place to do such celestial observations. Just seeing the rings of Saturn or discovering galaxies that are forever far away was a real treat.
During the day we slept, we observed at night.
Back at the Colorado Plateau I visited the well worth seeing National Park Capitol Reef. The park not only has beautiful secluded off-roads to offer, but also lots of hiking trails that lead you through the most incredible rock labyrinths.
So late in the year it was already very cold, but still sunny every day. The visitors were less, the daylight as well.
If you live on the road, the winter with its short days is always more difficult to endure. Although of course I treated myself to a campfire as often as I could, but it is dark early and cold for a long time. You have to entertain yourself in the long dark night.
The more I hiked and the more I experienced the beauty of the area, the more I thought with horror of the flight home. In addition, my plan was flying home for Christmas, something that I do not really like anyway and I kept asking myself why I had actually decided that way.
I enjoyed the sun even more, as I always did anyway. I knew I would not see it for a while. Apart from the weather, I was just nervous. I was insecure, I was scared. There was a deadline. Besides, I did not know how my people will react to me and what will happen at my homecoming.
This time it was not just a new country, this time it was an end. The end. But then again it could turn into a new beginning, but in spite of everything, it was almost over and very soon not the same as it was before.
The question of whether I will somehow experience anything comparable to these brilliant 4.7 years again in the future or in journeys to come was the unknown. After all this trip was so gigantic and I doubted if matching it could really be possible.
Also, I noticed more and more that I was not so enthusiastic about the bike anymore. I was doubly uncertain, because I did not know if I was in my final weeks with my “biker career”? Internally I hoped, of course, that this is only a short phase and does not last forever.
I was looking forward to home, but I would have preferred to postpone the flight for another while, even though I knew it had to be now. But one thing I already noticed, flying home was the hardest part of the journey so far.
It was at some point the first thought when I woke up in the morning and the last one when I lay down at night.
But I continued to enjoy my campfires. My camping anyway.
Then it was time for Bryce Canyon …….
and of course, Zion.
Grand Staircase Escalante and the Mojave Wüste were next.
Surprisingly, even so late in the year everyone was on the go in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Despite everything, they are fantastically beautiful.
The Mojave was again as I imagined. Lonely, calm and pure desert. In the end it was the best ending I could have had.
I sat in the plane and my thoughts were a roller coaster. Inside I was laughing, smiling and crying an endless mix of emotions. In the Condor flight from Las Vegas to Frankfurt, of course, I was surrounded by a lot of Germans, more Germans than I had met on the whole trip. It was simply weird.
It went home, I could not believe it myself and was nervous as rarely ever before.
A gigantic journey was over and something new had to come. In between a few months at home until I know what’s next. With that in mind, I said goodbye to my life on the road and could barely wait to finally arrive. Somehow, I was damn homesick.