When paths cross
Possibly unbeknownst to many of my readers because of the three and a half years which have passed, I have arrived to the place in Honduras where two of my friends suffered a tragic motorcycle accident in January of 2011.
I remember being thrilled beyond words when I met Ben and Matty. I had just begun my own motorbike tour and was excited to see others doing the same. Meeting two riders on Alaska’s famous Dalton Highway so late in the riding season was a treat, but encountering two guys of my own age and ambition — riding BMW motorbikes, endeavoring to tour the Americas — was unbelievable.
We shared dinner and stories that first night in Deadhorse and then rode out of the north together until Atigun Pass. They stopped to hike; I rode on to Chena Hot Springs with very mixed feelings about riding alone versus with companions.
A month later, our paths unexpectedly crossed again in Dawson City, Yukon. I was convinced by then that I could enjoy riding with friends. The one road south kept us together. The freezing temperatures and snow on our heels made our pace fast and concerted. For three weeks, we rode the most beautiful parts of Western Canada.
We traversed the Rockies and visited several national parks. We camped illegally, dodged park rangers, and endured challenging weather. We prepared our meals together and at one point chased after a black bear in the night. The adventure was so incredible that my journal overflowed and I became days and then weeks behind in posting updates to this blog.
In Seattle, I was invited to stay with Ben, Matty and their friends. The down time let us work on our motorbikes. We toured the city, ate great food, and of course drank a lot of great beer. We even celebrated an early Christmas.
But even though we got along so well and shared the same goal of South America, our adventures were to be quite different. I wanted to ride much of the United States before going to Mexico. I had plenty of time and money to do so. Ben and Matty needed to prioritize the limited time remaining on their visas and seriously reconsider the longevity of their budgets.
So in late October of 2010, they blasted off to Texas; I went east to Idaho and then slowly looped around to Oregon for an extended stay with friends over the winter holidays.
Three months after parting ways with Ben and Matty, I had only ridden to Oregon. They were already through Mexico, Guatemala, and into Honduras. Their last stop was at a brewery in the Lake Yojoa region — a couple hours south of San Pedro.
It was while catching up on my journal at a coffee shop in Eugene that Ben called over Skype to deliver the bad news. Just an hour before, Matty had been killed in a terrible crash with a truck.
Three and a half years later, my tour has caught up with Ben and Matty. I’m in Honduras. I’m a couple hours south of San Pedro. I’m at the brewery they so raved about, drinking and enjoying the beer they so encouraged me to enjoy.
The place has changed hands since their visit. The new owner is also named Bob, a coincidence which confused me into thinking I could reminisce with the man. But the new owner knows very little about the accident and can only share vague details.
He showed me on a map where the crash happened. I’m going to visit the place today and think on the great times I shared with Ben and Matty. And then I’m going to ride the road they never got to ride… around the lake… into the mountains.
Honduras is absolutely beautiful. The scenery alone warrants incredible praise, but the riding… the riding is amazing! It’s also very dangerous. The Honduran government drags its feet on road maintenance. And because of this, landslides become permanent fixtures on road. Potholes are everywhere! Drivers in both directions invariably ignore right-of-way just to avoid these hazards.
Part of me knows that a crash can happen anytime to any of us. I’ve had my own sobering close calls along the way. At times, my only escape from two oncoming vehicles — abreast on a blind curve — is the narrow space of the shoulder. These are the moments in time no one can predict. A few seconds of good luck or bad make the day a great adventure or the end of a great adventure.
Ben and Matty were the unlucky ones that day in 2011. I’m happy to have ridden with them. I’m honored that they welcomed me along, and I will be forever grateful for those weeks we shared. For now, it’s time to ride around the lake and into these beautiful mountains.
This ride is for us, guys.