All Things Must Pass

An Excerpt from Lone Rider
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Having crossed inhospitable terrain, war-ravaged countries, and four continents over the course of her two-year journey, Elspeth finds herself at her most unusual destination: home. Read more in this excerpt from “Part 5: All Things Must Pass” and continue following Elspeth’s progress around the world with “Excerpts From My Journal." Lone Rider is available now! Books ship today. 

London, 22 November 1984
          Standing outside my parents’ house, three hours before dawn and two years after leaving home, I had a problem: no front door key. I rang the doorbell for Justin’s flat at the back of the house. He opened the front door, bleary-eyed and dishevelled.
‘Justy?’ I still didn’t quite believe I was home at last.
‘Yeah – it’s me.’
Justin gave me a huge hug and, although desperate to return to bed, he made me tea and covered me in a blanket while I shivered and huddled in front of a gas fire in his flat. For about an hour, Justin listened to me unload my thoughts and experiences from the road in a babbling stream of consciousness before leaving me on my own after insisting he needed more sleep. Although I felt tired, too, I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited and still could not believe I was home.
At about eight o’clock, my mother came downstairs to collect the papers. ‘Elspeth! You’re here!’ We hugged and after a few comments about my appearance, I felt her interest wane. Life had returned to normal for my mother.
‘Why hasn’t the Sunday paper been delivered?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know.’
‘Hmm.’ Mum looked annoyed.
While she disappeared to solve her newspaper crisis, I went upstairs and found something to eat in the kitchen. Emerging from the kitchen, I bumped into my father on the landing. ‘Oh hello,’ he said, showing no surprise or excitement at my arrival. It was almost as if I’d never left home. I hadn’t expected bunting, streamers and banners to herald my return, but some kind of minor celebration wouldn’t have gone amiss. Upset and confused, I tried to rationalize my family’s indifference, telling myself that this was because my parents had always expected me to do what I’d set out to do. Their apparent disinterest, I told myself, was a tacit vote of confidence in my abilities.
Later that day, I caught a glimpse through a window of my bike standing in front of the house, its headlight peering towards me expectantly, like a dog hoping to go for a walk. Already my BMW seemed like an old friend from my past with whom I’d shared exceptional, special experiences, but with whom I was now losing touch. I went outside, ran my hands over the BMW badge and along the tank, then wheeled the old girl around to the mews, where I parked her in the back of the garage and took a note of the mileage. The odometer said 74,574 miles. When I left New York on 4 October 1982, it displayed 45,447 miles. My speedo cable then broke in Sydney, leaving around 5,000 miles unrecorded by the odometer. I did the mental arithmetic: a few miles short of 35,000 that’s what it had taken me to ride around the world.
In early spring I finally wheeled my bike out of the garage and sat on it for the first time since my return. I looked down at the dusty petrol tank, filthy frame and dirty engine. A part of me felt guilty for neglecting her, but then I realized why I’d been so reluctant to clean her up. For as long as my bike was still covered in the dust of the road and her frame was still bent and twisted, her brakes hardly worked, oil leaked from every gasket, then my memories of my journey were still intact. I looked at the numerous bodged repairs I’d done, remembering exactly where I was when I had done them.
If I took her apart, washed off the dust, the squashed insects and all the other relics of Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and America, then I’d also be washing away the memories of my journey with Robert.
And with no one but Robert to share and relive those memories, I was worried that everything about my trip would soon be gone.
September 1982, on the day I rode to Dartford in Kent to get my bike crated and shipped to New York. 

Outside my parents' garage in central London in 1984, after 35,000 miles and over two years on the road. 

Back home, completely stripping down my bike before the rebuild. 

Read an excerpt from Elspeth's journal throughout her adventure in "A Motorcycle Adventure Traveler's Pack List and Records." Find Lone Rider on our website, HERE