It was December 10, early morning, about 3 degrees but with a high of about 10 expected. My trailer had been packed the night before and now all the last parts and pieces were in place. I was ready to travel, and I recognised the conflicting emotions which I was feeling. On the one hand, there was excitement setting out into the unknown, down a road I had never traveled before, towards a destination I had only seen on google maps. On the other hand was the realisation that I was leaving a place which I had called home for the last 10 months. I was leaving behind what I knew in exchange for what I could only guess at. Life is a constant process of embracing the new while letting go of the old. We cannot move forward without leaving something behind. We cannot have the excitement of something new if we are not prepared to acknowledge our fears of the unknown or able to even let go of the old.

We cannot move forward without leaving something behind. We cannot have the excitement of something new if we are not prepared to acknowledge our fears of the unknown.

Today I would be leaving France behind and crossing over into Spain. The trip began smoothly as I slowly pulled away from the farm, familiarising myself (as I always do) with the controls in front of me. The day before, I had taken the cycle and trailer for a spin just to make sure the weight in the trailer was well spread. Only some slight adjustments were necessary. Even so, it took about an hour before I was once again feeling confident on the highway with a trailer behind me. When you are balancing on two wheels at 80 kilometers an hour, keeping an eye on the much faster moving traffic, all the while monitoring the stability of the trailer…it is easy to imagine the worst, like a tire bursting or having to suddenly brake or swerve to avoid something. Not having pulled the trailer in so long meant that, at first, my mind was constantly feeding me these worst case scenarios. That is when I start questioning my wisdom in all of this. But, I suppose all of this is just as well, for it keeps me alert and serves as a reminder that, risky or not, it will be safer if I pay as much attention a possible.

After 2 hours of riding, I reached Montreal, a small village on the outskirts of Carcassonne. There I would make a short pit stop to say hello to a fellow WorkAwayer and warm up with a cup of coffee. From there, I simply continued along the toll road in the direction of Barcelona, Spain. I chose to pay the tolls in order to have some peace of mind as far as fuel stops, and because I needed to cover a lot of ground in one day. By car, the trip would normally take about 4 hours, but experience has shown me that I should anticipate the trip taking twice as long.

As I cross from France into Spain, there is an almost imperceptible change in my feelings…as if I can relax just a little more. I don’t know what this is, but it is a good feeling. Like feeling more at home. At the same time, I am riding close to the coast, and the wind is coming from inland, rushing down the Pyrenees and trying to push me out to sea. At a moment like this, riding on a large heavy motorcycle is not exactly an advantage, while the box-shaped trailer only helps to elevate my sense of vulnerability. More than once, I need to slow way down in order to stabilise my momentum. The rest of the traffic speeds on by, comfortable in their sense of security created by four points of contact with the road. Yes, I suppose you have to be a bit crazy to enjoy what I am doing.

About an hour from my destination, I navigate a roundabout and as I straighten out again, I hear a strange noise and feel a little lunge, like passing over a speed bump, only there was none. I pull over and lean to the left, straining to see anything, but all seems in order. I lean to the right where everything ‘seems’ OK too, except that I can’t really see the trailer tire on that side. I make a decision to continue, pulling into the traffic which is slow moving due to road work. Fortunately for me, a road-worker sees what I had not seen and while shaking his head, points at my right rear tire. So I pull over.

Indeed, the tire is flat. Why? I have no idea. While I use my best sign language to ask another road-worker for some assistance, two things are going through my mind. First of all, just the week before I had made a special mount for my spare tire, thinking it might be easier to access if I am in a hurry to change a tire. Secondly, I am thinking back, to the start of my trip, when the neighbour offered me some extra trailer tires that he had, and with a bit of nudging from Anne, I agreed it might be smart to have a spare tire along even though it took up valuable space. It is almost as if someone knew this moment would arrive.

It happened very quickly, like a pitstop change. My helper spoke no English, and I could only manage 2 words of Spanish, but as I rushed to release the spare tire, he raised the trailer and loosened the flat tire, then as he tightened the spare in place and lowered the trailer, I secured the flat where the spare had been. I thanked my guardian angel (with one of the 2 words I knew) and after double checking that all was secure, pulled back onto the road with a renewed awareness of how life takes care of our needs as they arise. Now it was just a matter of following the navigation towards my new ’temporary’ home.

The road was now becoming narrower as I was entering the Spanish Pyrenees. I was pushing my luck a bit as it was already starting to get dark, but I was still full of positivity following on the speedy tire change, so I couldn’t be bothered. The mountain landscape was breathtaking, the sky magnificent. I stopped so I could take a picture, but as I grabbed my iPhone (which doubles as my navigation) the screen went blank. Nothing I did would make it come to life, and slowly I realised that, due to the temperature dropping, the battery in the iPhone couldn’t keep up with demand and had shut down. Maybe if I had invested in a ‘real’ navigation accessory, I might have avoided this problem. But no, I was using my iPhone. Oh well. I was still about a half hour away from my destination. I couldn’t remember the name of the village I was heading for, but I knew I would recognise it when I saw the sign. Until then, I stuffed the iPhone inside my jacket so that it would warm up again. I would need its magical powers again once I reached the village. On I went, assured that all was well. The fact that I now had no navigation didn’t phase me as I knew I was almost there and, well, after the flat tire, what else could go wrong? One way or another, things would work out.

Things did work out, only not the way I expected!

I reached the village of…ah yes, Borréda. I stopped at the first intersection and pulled out my iPhone which by now had recovered from the chill. Somehow, this intersection felt like the right place to get my bearings once again. I started up the navigation app and to my surprise, it told me I still needed to travel about 15 kilometers. That didn’t make sense! I had seen on google maps that they lived just outside the village and I knew the village was tiny. Feeling a little less secure about things, I decided to follow the instructions anyway, hoping it was me who was confused.

By now it was completely dark and I was heading away from Borréda. The longer I drove, the more confused I felt, until finally I reached the point, according to the navigation, where I needed to be. I had just passed a sign with the name: Vilada. Yes, I was looking for Vilada…the street. But in front of me was Vilada, the village. An idea started to form in my mind as to the confusion, but I decided it would be best to WhatsApp my host and clear things up. Sergi explained that, yes, the street he lived on had the same name as the village I had reached, but that I would need to turn around and head back to Borréda.

Slightly perturbed by my own sloppiness or rather, user error, I turned the bike around and started back the way I had come. I could have avoided this unnecessary waste of time. On the other hand, I now knew exactly where I needed to be, and I could relax a little. After almost 10 hours on the road, I was looking forward to sharing dinner with my new WorkAway family. As I settled into the last little stretch, I reflected bit on how the day had gone, and how, even now, I had a very positive feeling. I had covered a lot of ground and I felt good about it. I felt confident.

And then, one of those weird things happened. Alone on a mountain road, with no other traffic and no obstructions, I rounded a bend with a little too much speed, not enough balance and too little presence of mind to correct my course. The motorcycle veered off to the right, and before I even realised what was happening, the bike slipped from under me and slid to a stop on the soft ground. The engine sputtered a bit until I hit the kill switch. Then silence. Only the lights remained shining, giving at least some warning that I was there.

Reminiscent of my first motorcycle accident, I stood up and immediately understood that I was OK. Moment of deep thankfulness. With a quick scan of the motorcycle, it seemed to have suffered minimal, if any damage. Then, turning to look at the trailer, my heart almost sank to see it also lying on its side, but the opposite side as compared to the motorcycle! I was imagining a completely mangled trailer hitch, yet, to my amazement, it was still safely connected to the motorcycle. And being a swivel hitch, it had allowed for even this much rotation without a…hitch (pun intended). Another moment of deep thankfulness.

I am sometimes amazed at how, just when you might think all is lost, life just starts piling on the blessings. I was in the middle of nowhere, on a dark mountain road. For some reason, the spot where I chose to have this accident was soft and wide enough for my fall, but could just as well have been hard and rocky. Behind me was a bridge over the ravine I had just crossed and up ahead (as I would see later) was a guard rail which would have certainly made me a hazard for any oncoming traffic. This was the only ‘safe’ spot for me to dump the motorcycle.

As if this all wasn’t enough, not even two minutes after the fall, while I was still wondering how on earth I would get all of this back onto the road, two headlights appeared and slowed to a stop. A man and woman stepped out of the van and asked me if I was OK…in English! Then they proceeded to help get my motorcycle and trailer upright and back onto the road. I hadn’t really even had the time to evaluate what had just happened to me, and yet, there I was testing the lights, restarting the engine and putting on my helmet.

Not surprisingly, the woman, Violant, told me they actually lived in Borréda, where I needed to be. Duh…of course. They kindly offered to trail behind me while I drove into town. 10 minutes later, having reached Borréda, I pulled to the side to thank them once again. In passing, I mentioned the name of my hosts, Sergi and Neus. “But, they are friends of ours! Follow us and we will show you where they live”. Yep. By this time, all I could do was laugh. Laugh at all that happened, Laugh at myself. Laugh at life.

But life had the biggest laugh when, turning left to go up the hill to Sergi’s home, I realised that this was the exact same intersection where I had stood only 30 minutes ago, confused by the GPS instructions, only to keep riding.

It could all so easily have been avoided. And yet…I wouldn’t want it any other way.