Riding Full Circle: The U-Turn

Updated January 2021: This story first appeared in Expedition Portal June 2016.

The first thing I did after crashing my motorcycle into the ditch was get out the camera. What had happened and how it was about to affect our plans hadn’t set in yet. My G 650 GS lay cratered on its side in the dirt and rocks. I’d tagged a boulder on the trail with my hard case aluminum pannier and lost control of the bike—a fantastic scene especially with the offending pannier at rest up the road after its tomahawking dismount off the frame. Nothing hurt until I zipped my camera back into my tank bag. My wrist was broken. The throttle hand. The date was September 25—my birthday.

crash_3_PG_Heather Lea

The most significant question a man has ever asked me wasn’t, “Will you marry me?” It was, “Will you travel around the world with me on a motorcycle?” As though I’d anticipated the question all my life, the word yes escaped me before my boyfriend, Dave, had finished asking. Yes. Solid and final, I married myself that instant to the road of travel for whatever adventure awaited.

Dave and I discussed a date we felt was realistic to leave and then moved it up a year. We spent small fortunes on riding gear, bike modifications, and travel supplies. We allotted hours to pore over websites about medical insurance and travel vaccinations. I created a website, got business cards made, started a YouTube channel, learned how to use video cameras, and began approaching gear sponsors.

This was all done while juggling and organizing our daily lives: jobs, selling Dave’s house, and my business. Packing things into storage, taking care of expired passports, obtaining international driver licenses, and figuring which bank gave the best rates for foreign credit cards.

When our departure date crept so close that we couldn’t sleep at night, we jammed non-trip belongings into the spare room in Dave’s dad’s house, now officially homeless. It’s not enough to say that when Dave and I began planning our two-year trip around the world via motorcycle, we prepared ourselves; the trip changed our lives.

When September 15, 2015, rolled around, we were barely ready or perhaps not even ready at all but we loaded our bikes on the front lawn of my parents’ home in Revelstoke, B.C., our starting point, stuffing last-minute items into every crevice we could find in our panniers or drybags. There was too much stuff yet not enough stuff.

A bon voyage party that night with friends and family sealed the deal. The next morning Dave and I rode away. My parents filmed us with happy tears in their eyes. I tried to swallow around the lump in my throat. What would it feel like not to hug my snuggly mom, see the twinkle in my dad’s eyes, or share with my sister our sense of humor in person for two whole years?

Utah Discovery Route_Photog Dave Sears

Two weeks after we left Revelstoke, we drove back in, this time in a car with newfound friends and my wrist in a splint. The three-month healing time felt like a prison sentence after I’d been set free to travel. I saw my mom and dad again along with friends I’d hugged goodbye at our party a mere 14 days earlier.

The effect of my broken wrist was like a stick thrown into the spokes of my wheels; all that prep work and we’d come to a complete halt at the height of our enthusiasm. Returning back to Revelstoke where people knew about our plans was tough.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on a trip around the world?”

Wrist sling day of break_OG_Dave Sears

We’d made every effort to prepare ourselves by selling nearly everything we owned in order to buy the very best motorcycles and gear for such a journey. But we forgot one vital thing.

There’re plenty of books, videos, and advice out there to help prepare you physically and equipment-wise for your next adventure; there is very little to prepare you mentally when things go wrong. And they will. No matter how you think things will go, it’ll be vastly different. That’s not a bad thing, and in this case, the mishap didn’t mean the end of our adventure. In fact, it helped to define the very word adventure.

I wrote this story in Mexico on January 21, 2016. Dave and I had been back on the road for over a month, excited for Round Two: for the challenges and the highs and lows, knowing we were never in control of what came next. We could only ride on.

Xmas Eve_Baja Mex_Photog Dave Sears Urban Camping_Mex_Photog Heather Lea CocosCorner_Mexico_Dave and Heather_Photog_Brenda Cannon Dave riding in Idaho_PG_Heather Lea


For more Riding Full Circle adventures, follow ridingfullcircle.com.

Heather Lea has traveled to over 60 countries, 40 of which were on a BMW F 800 GS during a 708-day round-the-world motorcycle adventure with now-husband, Dave Sears (Trip Blog: Riding Full Circle). Heather has been a freelance writer for over twenty-five years and a book and magazine editor for more than fifteen. Aside from Expedition Portal, her stories can be found in Overland Journal, Canadian Geographic, Kootenay Mountain Culture, and Canadian Alpine Journal. She loves doing anything in the backcountry, including backpacking, four-wheel-driving, ski touring, and climbing. Heather is a Canadian now living in Bellingham, WA. Find her on Instagram @writer_heather_lea or on Facebook @heatherleawriter.