[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]The hardest part of any long, overland trip is deciding to go. Not deciding that you want to go, that's pretty easy. But actually picking a day, announcing it to all your friends and family, giving your cushy job and no longer having an address? That is much harder.[/FONT] The decision, for me, was made after a very bad week at work. I was a Critical Care Paramedic for a private company in Milwaukee. Now, before you start to day dream about what a bad week for a paramedic might be, no external bleeding was involved. In fact, unlike a lot of my co-workers, I've always been bored by trauma. Not much you can do, really, in an ambulance. Part of my job, though, involved hospice transport. Wisconsin has some touchy rules about keeping people alive in ambulances, and people on hospice would rather be left alone when it comes to that stuff. As a paramedic it is a lot easier for me to let that happen, legally speaking. So, I had this one week with three of these transports. It was pure luck of the draw, nothing personal. There were probably half a dozen more that I wasn't involved in. These three, though, were all my age or thereabouts. One, a couple years older, had managed what most of us dream about. Retired in his late thirties with a massive bankroll after his company was bought out. Nice home, nice wife, they bought a huge (I saw it, it was massive) RV and planned to just tour the country. Time together to make up for all the vacations missed while he made his company worth buying. They never left. He was diagnosed with cancer and now, six months later he was in a drug induced coma, seeming little more than a skeleton and going home to die. The wife, who was as heartbroken as anyone I had ever seen, wasn't sure what she was going to do next. I couldn't give her advice, I wouldn't know either. And it wasn't like I walked out of the house and decided to go, but going was something that I always wanted to do. I've read Jupiter's Travels and Zen, and seen the Long Way X movies, Terra Circa and Mondo Enduro, and read ride reports of people in far away places dreaming of going there myself. And, yeah, I was getting older but I enjoyed my job, my house, my life. Why leave? After leaving that house, with the massive RV carefully concealed by what was probably a custom made weather cover something inside me changed. I was suddenly aware that putting off something for someday was running the risk of never doing it, and I really wanted to go and see some of those places myself. So, one night while staring at a map on the wall, I decided I really didn't need any of the stuff I had around me as much as I needed to go. And then I freaked out, slowly but progressively, over the next two years while I arranged to get rid of almost everything and limit myself to a motorcycle and it's luggage for at least one year, but probably two. More, if I could manage it, but at least that. Of course, a long motorcycle journey needs a motorcycle. I chose a 1981 Yamaha SR250, the street model of Yamaha's XT250 of the same era. Why a thirty year old street bike? Well, it was cheap. Lets just say the bike and all the prep work (cables, tires, chain and sprockets) was under 500. Maybe way under. Also the bike was as simple as it gets, one cylinder, one carb and chain drive. And light, under 300lbs wet. Of course, all these things exist in those dirt and dual sporty bikes, but the street bike will manage interstate speeds even loaded, which I thought might be occasionally helpful either in the USA (I'm in the Midwest, there is a lot of the USA to cover) or other long, boring stretches. I have a tendency to name my motorcycles, usually depressing names (goes with Pain, after all), but a good friend suggested something a little more up-beat for this bike, so Curiosity. To be honest, Curiosity wasn't my first choice. I own a Ural Patrol, which I had meant to bring on the trip. In April, before I left, I took the Ural (named Despair) to the Overland Expo. The low fuel economy (28mpg) was topped off by some odd transmission issues as I was headed home. I decided, only a few months before leaving and after having spent the winter getting Despair ready to go, to switch bikes. So, back up a few more months, to October. A friend, with her two kids, came to town for trick or treating. I know a place in Milwaukee that does Halloween like most places wishes they did Christmas. Since there were kids, they went to the mall, to Build a Bear, and I decided to get my friend a bear (ended up being a bunny) as a Thanks for the help present...and then I decided to get myself one too. I thought I would bring him along and take pictures of the bear in various famous locations, like people do with gnomes. And, since I was bringing a sidecar I could never fill with my usual gear, space was a non-issue. So, Blue (a limited edition Star Wars bear) (He dressed up for this pic. He was more casual when we were on the road) Blue was insanely popular everywhere we went, even before the trip started. And, I am personally amused to admit, we we left he had more changes of clothes than I did. That didn't last. Lastly, we needed a plan. A vague plan, with lots of wiggle room to go and do other stuff as it took my fancy. So, I would leave in late June (the 21<sup>st</sup> was settled on later), head for my oldest and best friend's place in NE Georgia, to hang out a few days (she has a boyfriend who gets very uncomfortable when I visit. Had one I mean, they split up again after I left), then return to Wisconsin for the 4<sup>th</sup> of July with other friends, finally leaving with the M2M ride a week later. From there I would head for the Badlands, to spend a few days hiking, then Northish to Glacier and then Canada and Alaska. Then back down the Pacific coast to the end of Baja, over to Mainland Mexico, and then south until I reached Ushuaia. After that I would head back up the Atlantic coast to Buenos Ares and then Brazil and Rio, and then decide where to go next.