Day 10 - Thursday, July 11th

I awoke feeling… lightheaded and dizzy… nooooooooooooo!

I tried to calm myself: Yesterday was the longest ride you’ll do all trip. As you head west, the climate will be drier and perhaps there’ll be less pollen in the air. Just take your drugs, Levi, and see if you feel better in the afternoon… But it wasn’t working. I was freaking out: My dream is done. I have allergies that are simply too bad to ever do a motorcycle trip like this. It was doomed from the very start. But, that doesn’t make sense. I’ve never been an allergy sufferer before… A-ha! What if the first doctor misdiagnosed the problem?! I knew it: micro-concussions! Wait, no, that’s not a thing…

We went to the Mall of America that morning:

The only pic I took on this fraught day.

The only pic I took on this fraught day.

The mall was overwhelming. Or maybe I was just overwhelmed by thoughts of ending my trip. I had a breakfast wrap and tea at Panera. I didn’t feel any better. My brother and I started looking up urgent care clinics. I felt like a bad guest.

That afternoon Mia and her brother Eddie got tattoos. They had scheduled this back when I was supposed to arrive a day earlier. My brother and I were supposed to go sightseeing in Minneapolis, but got no further than the inside of an urgent care clinic — they look the same here as anywhere else.

Upon examining my ears, the doctor said that there was still some fluid in them. She noted that it takes three to four days for Flonase to build up to full-effectiveness — I might not be there yet. I should continue taking my prescription meds until finished, and stick with the Claritin and Flonase regimen. If for some reason my symptoms didn’t improve, I should go to the ER.

She also offered that I could possibly be suffering from some sort of mild motion sickness. Usually this clears up rather quickly after the motion stops but in rare cases it can persist. Then again, it was odd that I didn’t experience any symptoms while riding. Still, she could write me a prescription for a patch to try. I wouldn’t be able to use it while simultaneously operating the motorcycle though, so it wouldn’t really be a solution if that was the problem. I passed on the patch and kind of wished she had never mentioned any of this.

When I asked her if I should end my trip, she said it was ultimately up to me. She didn’t think I was in any real danger. She had tested my reflexes, which were sharp. I should obviously never ride if lightheaded or dizzy. In the end though, it was a matter of time and logistics. To continue, I might need shorter riding days, less camping, taking more breaks, the ability to take an unexpected day or two off. She was sorry she couldn’t be more helpful and that my trip might need to end.

I felt some relief knowing I wasn’t in grave danger. But mostly I felt paralyzed by the decision I now had to make. From Minneapolis, I could make it home to Pennsylvania in three days, four if I took it easy. Los Angeles was at least an eight day ride. The further west I went, the more difficult it would be to end my journey and the bigger the pickle I could get myself into. Heading home seemed like the smart decision. I felt disappointment creeping into my heart. This was the low point of my trip.

I was glad to be with family at this moment. I didn’t have to put on a face for my brother. We ate spicy chicken sandwiches at a Wendy’s by the clinic and discussed options. He said I shouldn’t see it as defeat to cut my trip short. Health and well-being came first. He’d probably head home if it were him. (NOTE: This was somewhat of a surprise coming from my brother, who was definitely more of a risk taker than me in our youth. One example: As a teenager, upon not slowing the car for a deer on the road: “The way I see it: Everyone hits a deer now and then. Might as well get mine out of the way.”) But then he added something else: “How much does this trip mean to you? How important is it to you that you finish?” That’s what matters the most.

I called my fiancé Kate, and her advice was similarly even-handed. She obviously wanted me to be safe, but didn’t want to see me abandon a trip that meant so much to me. (NOTE: This was also somewhat of a surprise considering Kate insisted that I get a million-dollar life insurance policy that pays out to her if I bought a motorcycle. Or, wait, maybe that makes this not a surprise… jk.) In the years of me daydreaming about this trip, Kate had come to see it as an important journey for me to complete. She was rooting for me. Her advice was to calm down and not rush the decision. I should cancel any upcoming campsites or hotels if I needed to, then see how I felt a little later and take it from there.

I canceled a reservation at Sylvan Lake Campground in South Dakota’s Black Hills for the weekend. Months before my trip, I read that it was the best campground in Custer State Park. It had been difficult to get the reservation, and, of course, they had no other availability now. Oh well.

Despite that letdown, I started to feel some relief. I had time to think and weigh options now. Jim and Mia weren’t leaving for another day. I could stay another night if need be. As the pressure to make a decision about going home abated, I noticed for the first time that my dizziness and lightheadedness were mostly gone now too.

We ate leftovers that night and played cards and board games. I did laundry. I made plans to have breakfast and go to the Bosnian market with Mia’s family in the morning, regardless of what decision I’d make about my trip. In my heart, I knew I’d keep going.