Jim Phelps’ travel log: Finding inspiration from a lady and her motorcycle

Editor’s note: The following is a travel log submitted by Jim Phelps, owner of Phoenix Traders fair-trade store at 215 7th St. Phelps is traveling through India and Nepal, and will be sending updates about his different experiences along the way. This is the eighth entry in his travel log. To read previous entries, search The Rock River Times’ online archive using keyword “Jim Phelps.”

Note: Before I left home, I had a conversation with a wonderful lady. The gist of the conversation was that she felt she would never be able to do what she read about other women doing, namely adventure traveling. She told me that, until she could, she would have to live vicariously through her sisters.

It is to Robyn that I dedicate this story.

Friday, April 28, 2006

We have a new guest at the Happy Home: Linda. Linda rides a bike—a motorbike, to be exact.

Linda is in her prime, and has been riding for more than 40 years (since she was 17), she says.

Did I say she can ride, or what?

Linda has a massive Suzuki 650 Enduro. She rode it here from Germany. But her trip actually started in Andalusia, Spain. She rode her original bike though Spain, into Portugal, and eventually into Germany.

That bike, she reckoned, wouldn’t make the rest of the trip. So, off she rode on the Suzuki: through Central Europe (the Czech Republic, former Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania), across the land bridge of the Bosporus Straights into Turkey, across Turkey into Iran, over land through Iran into Pakistan and on to India. And, finally, into Nepal.

Did I mention she did this alone? BY HERSELF?! She isn’t 17 any longer, but she is my kind of gal!

When Linda first came into the Happy Home, I thought, “Well, I’m not the oldest one here anymore.” To tell the truth, Linda’s life story is far more interesting than mine. She embodies the spirit of the “great female explorers.”

It is just a matter of viewpoint. From Linda’s perspective, she is the constant optimist—the glass is always half full.

“Can’t,” Linda told me, was a word her father wouldn’t let her use.

That explains a lot, but it doesn’t explain it all.

Linda was kicking around Russia in the 1960s. Yeah, that was when Russians couldn’t travel provincially without an internal passport. Imagine getting on I-90 to go to Wisconsin, only to be stopped at the border and not let in. That took guts, and heaps of them, for Linda to navigate that mess. As a foreigner and as a lone young woman.

This is still not the whole story.

Here are the words of wisdom she shared that inspired me:

“Don’t be afraid of dreaming.”

“Do research.”

“Don’t be put off by other people’s opinions.”

“If you really want it, it will happen.”

“If there is a will, there is a way.”

“You will be surprised, call it synchronicity or whatever New Age belief you hold dear.”

“Everything will work out better than you planned and dreamed.”

“Keep yourself grounded and confident, because you will have bad days where everything goes wrong.”

“The sum of all the good overcomes the sum of all the bad.”

Really, you could build a religion around this stuff. Synchronicity or blind luck? I’ll take Linda’s advice and daring over sitting on my round posterior feeling sorry for myself any day.

I can almost hear a long-dead cowboy now: “Pull yerself up by yer bootstraps, kid.” Reminds me of the advice I gave my sister Sue when she thought she wouldn’t survive grad school, saying to me in a mantra-like whine, “What if I fail?” I countered her insane logic for more than a year with, “What if you succeed?” Hey, it’s an option, too, you know.

Linda’s spirit would be at home at any age. She has the spunk of a person half her age, and the wisdom of the ages. I hope I know half of what she does at her age.

What a great lady!

Did I mention she rode a motorcycle?

Jim Phelps is owner of Phoenix Traders fair-trade store at 215 7th St.

From the May 3-9, 2006, issue

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