Before we knew it, we were leaving Latin America and heading to the States; the first time for both of us. We were expecting a time consuming border crossing but as we rode in under the star-spangled banner all went remarkably well. We were asked a few questions and then ... we were in. Mind you, it took me ages to fill in the immigration forms, being so used to Spanish I struggled for a while until I realised it was in English.
"Erm, where is customs then? For the bike temporary import ?" we asked. Both border officials gave us blank looks as we learned there is no temporary import stuff, as in every other country we've been in. It seemed very strange but we didn't argue!
Stars n Stripes
Interstate highways, service stations selling all manner of stuff, huge sandwiches and large four-wheel drives everywhere were our first impressions of the States.
We'd been in touch with Andy Tiegs from San Antonio. We'd met him briefly during a drunken dinner at Graciela's Hostel Argentina in Tierra Del Fuego, back in December 2006. Meeting again on the HU forum, Andy invited us to stay should we be passing.
San Antonio is an interesting city with a fascinating history. We learned that Texas had been an independent country once upon a time and after hearing about The Alamo for years, we finally found out what it was all about!
"Remember the Alamo!"
Andy took us for a night out to a local bike meet, where we met a load of local bikers whilst enjoying a pub dinner. I'd really missed good old stodgy western food, especially since I got pregnant, so I started eating. Lots!
From San Antonio it should have been a quick hop to Houston, except I, in my pregnant state (it's like being extra blonde) took us on completely the wrong road. Somewhat later than planned, we turned up at our friends Mike and Phyllis's house.
With Mike and Phyl
Old friends from Malaysia, it was great to see them again and we spent a fab few days eating, sampling local beer (Hame, not me. I could only laugh at his hangover, courtesy of a lethal-looking brew called the 'Fancy Lawnmower'...
...really, he should have known!) and visiting the local Indian restaurant. Indian food is something we've missed greatly since we left Malaysia.
A Change of Bike - Mike's Harley (think we'll stick with Bertha - sorry, Mike!)
We did the Texan thing with Mike and Phyl, taking in a ball game and a local Texan Ice House or two. Many times I felt as if I was in a movie, having only seen the States on screen.
Arrival at Adam and Yvonne's, a long way from Ushuaia!
My stepbrother Adam and his wife Yvonne moved to Houston a couple of years ago so we spent the last two weeks of our time in the States with them. It was really great to be with family. Yvonne looked after us incredibly well, running us here, there and everywhere as we got the bike sorted, crated and sent off, and bought maternity clothes, jeans and new camping gear (the shopping was rather fabulous).
A Kid in a Candy Store!
We found time to play too, and hired kayaks out on Lake Conroy for the day.
What can I say, forgoing rugby for a book on pregnancy... surely not!
Back in the Crate....
For a few months I'd been gently 'reminding' Hame about the HU presentation we'd be giving in early July, at the UK meeting. No disrespect to Hame, but he is rather good at putting things like that off. This resulted in a bit of a last minute rush to get the presentation done, with us practising in front of Adam and Yvonne, who also taught us to use PowerPoint - thanks guys for all your help!
With another friend from Malaysia, Sandra, we went for a Malaysian meal which brought back good memories, especially the 'roti canai'.
Suddenly, it was time to go. I never get better at goodbyes, even after all this time....
The bike had arrived sooner than expected in Amsterdam, but luckily the nice bloke at the other end kindly agreed to waive the week's storage charges, as the early delivery wasn't our fault. It turned out he was a biker too. It's a bit like being a mason, being a biker!
We managed to blag a bit of an upgrade to Economy plus, on account of me being pregnant (same crappy food but more legroom) which made the journey slightly better. It was a relief to be out of the heat which had been getting a bit much during the last few weeks. Amsterdam was cool and fresh and we realised how much we love a more temperate climate, especially Hamish who tends to melt in the heat.
We caught a cab to the cargo warehouse to be reunited with Bertha, and Hame set about putting her back together. Again, the Dutch guys were extremely friendly and helpful, and let Hame work in the huge warehouse. I fell asleep in the main office, much to the amusement of everyone who came in.
With Jos, the helpful man at Menzies
Uncrating Bertha...for the last time
With directions in hand, we set off to find my oldest friend Matt, the very reason we'd come to Holland. A year ago, Matt asked me to be his best man (well, best woman) when he married the love of his life, Helen. Of course, I could not refuse.
Holland isn't very big, so before teatime, we arrived at the other end of the country. We stayed with Matt's family and had a great few days enjoying fab weather. The wedding went well, and once again we were bowled over by the friendliness of the Dutch.
Matt and Helen on their Big Day
The day after the wedding Hame rode off to Assen to hook up with Pete, (who we'd last seen back in Ushuaia during Christmas '06) for the Dutch TT races. By all accounts they had a great reunion - judging by the state of them the following day!
Hame in Bike Heaven again....
The following day they came back to pick me up, Pete escorting us to the coast. As usual, with no particular plan, we rode through Holland and Belgium, before ending up unexpectedly in Oostende.
Outside our Salubrious Hotel with Pete
Waiting for the Ferry
I felt quite strongly I wanted to get the ferry back - I'd all these romantic notions about seeing Dover appearing in the distance. Pete had already booked the Chunnel so we left him at Calais the following day and caught a ferry. I did get all tearful as England appeared on the horizon; it was quite a big moment for me.
There'll be Blue Birds Over.....
Pete was at the other end to meet us, riding together as far as London where he lives. Beeping and waving, we shot off around the M25 in a Derbyshire direction.
It was weird being back. In some ways it felt entirely normal, but I couldn't quite get my head around the fact we were really home. It was sunny, everything was green and it really did look beautiful.
I'd picked up a cold in Holland and by the time we'd ridden from Dover to Derbyshire, I was feeling awful. We arrived at our friends Ash and Lou's house in time for tea where I burst into tears, overcome by a million emotions and a head full of cold.
Fish and Chips with Ash, Lou and the Gang
India and Hamish; Lou and Ash's youngest two
Amazingly, we had great weather for all of the few days we stayed with our good friends. It was really lovely to be back and it was nice not to have to leave with big goodbyes, more 'see you soons' as we'd only be living up the road.
After a final practice of the presentation (causing much swearing from Hame), we set off for the HU meeting in Ripley.
At the Horizons Meet with Ashley
Our presentation went well (we think) with both of us somewhat emotional by the end of it.
The Presentation at the HU Meet
For us, the HU meeting was a great chance to meet up with friends - Pete once again, Andy and Maya who we'd met back at the '06 Viedma HU meet in Argentina, Phil, last seen in a whisky haze on Finca Santa Rita, our internet buddies Fritz and Bev, several people we'd written to or had heard of, and lots of new faces. All of us had one thing in common, the madness of motorcycle travel, so it was easy to get on with everyone and there's no need to explain why you want to spend two years on the back of a bike. The weather surprised everyone by being good, but then we were back in the familiar old rain (little did we know but it was the beginning of the end of the 'summer' and for most of the next two months it was to rain...).
I wasn't best pleased at being woken early on the Saturday morning after "a few drams" with Phil the previous night. Who was shouting my name at this time? I leapt out the tent in nothing but my boxers to find my old friend Ed, who'd ridden down from Scotland the previous night to surprise us.
Arriving in the dark, Ed assumed he'd be able to spot a BMW GS and a tent easily, not realising every other bike was a GS! After stumbling around various Bavarian contraptions, he gave up and headed for the bar, waiting to find us the following morning. It was great to see him and meant a lot to us that he'd come all the way to surprise us.
Sun - but not for long!
Hiding from the Rain, under Andy's tarp.
Packing the Bike with Phil's help!
Back on with those Waterproofs....
On the way back, we stopped off at Em's Aunty Pat's house in Kippax for lunch. It was great to see her and fab for Em to ride through Yorkshire, where she lived as a child. We both were really excited to be home.
With Aunt Pat
Despite riding through torrential rain, our spirits weren't dampened as we headed North towards Coldstream and the Scottish border. Here we were to meet with my brother, who'd arranged a somewhat different camping facility.
Back home for Em
Last border crossing and Home!
With no campsite available in Coldstream, Andrew had arranged for us to camp behind a local museum. At least there were toilet facilities. It was of course great to see Andrew, and later that night, Cal, who rode down to camp with us on what would be the last night of our trip.
Our last night under canvas - for a while....
Mmmm, a Fish Supper in the Rain
After a couple of beers and a fish supper, things were getting a little soggy, so instead we sought refuge inside the museum. A rather bizzare place for a party, but dry nonetheless!
A Night in the Museum - the only dry place to be!
And finally, our last day's ride was upon us. After a wonderful cooked breakfast knocked up on our trusty old MSR stove, we set off home, Andrew escorting us in his pride and joy...another German boxer, just with four wheels instead of two.
Andrew, our escort!
The Forth Road Bridge - almost home!
Nearing my parents house, both Em and I became emotional as we reflected on the last two and half years; we couldn't quite believe we'd ridden home from Malaysia! The sights we'd seen, the people we'd met, the experiences we'd had, had been a dream come true - and more.
The very very last few metres....
A ribbon across the gate marked the end to our trip. And what a trip it'd been.
A Warm Scottish Welcome - with the Family
My Folks, my sister Nicki and my nephew Rory were all there to greet us, together with our two dogs from Malaysia, not long out of quarantine. It was indeed fantastic to be home and to be with the family again.
Champagne and our dogs - last seen in Malaysia....
We both felt it was the right time to come home - certainly Em wasn't able to fit into her bike pants any longer!
As we sat with our loved ones and sipped champagne, it felt not like the end of an adventure, but the beginning of a new one - life in Scotland, making our family three, and a whole new chapter stretching out ahead of us.
Hamish and Emma
Watch this space - we'll take to the road again one day, in a sidecar, or a camper van maybe!
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