When Roxine Wright sets her sights on a goal, she makes it happen. That’s why she didn’t let a debilitating knee injury just before her Spectacular South West Africa trip deter her.
Traveling to Namibia had been a dream since she read Wilbur Smith’s novel The Burning Shore, but she hadn’t considered doing it by motorcycle. After blazing through The University of Gravel Roads, which a friend had given her, she knew that’s exactly what she wanted to do. Why sit around and get old, she reasoned.
The 52-year old Edmonton woman retired in January 2016 after 29 years of service with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). She didn’t know anyone else who was going but that was inconsequential.
Roxine’s been riding for 12 years and is on her 5th bike, a BMW F700GS. Prior to moving to Edmonton she was posted anywhere from the Ontario border to Vancouver Island. While in Saskatchewan, she taught the Basic Rider program and plans to continue that in Edmonton. Recreational travel has taken her throughout Canada and the U.S., mostly on the road.
Wanting to be fully prepared for her Renedian trip, she started working out at the gym. To hone her skills and regain full confidence following a 2010 motorcycle crash which broke her back, she took three courses through TNT Motorcycle Training: the BMW off-road course, Total Control, based on Lee Parks’ curriculum, and Mountain Riding Skills.
Then, to apply her skills and get used to rough roads, she took a solo jaunt to Yellowknife, NT, over to Fort Smith, NT, and back to Edmonton—a 4,000 km. ride. She rode for 12 hours a day but with 24-hour daylight, it wasn’t difficult. In a stroke of serendipity, on that trip she met and became fast friends with another woman rider from Edmonton, also a retired nurse (Roxine’s first career), adventure rider, and kindred spirit.
Not long before she was scheduled to depart for Africa she injured her right knee and knew it wouldn’t be ready by the start of the trip. Deeply disappointed, she talked it through at length with Rene, and decided to adjust her expectations and go anyways. She’d ride in the air-conditioned van until she reached a point where she knew she could ride.
The flight over was an ordeal and on arrival, she needed help walking. A pair of hot pink crutches materialized, coincidentally matching her runners, socks, and hat. She knew she had to be smart about managing her knee or risk further damage. So it did affect what activities she could participate in, but there was no point in being miserable. She appreciated other experiences that much more.
Like the trip to Lambert’s Bay, a magical, open air lunch stop that gave her goose bumps because of its beauty. It looked like ‘nothing’ from the outside but the owner fed them course after course of outstanding delicacies. He only opens if there are enough people, which there were, but Rene also has a special connection. On his solo trip, he was allowed to sleep under the picnic table if he made sure no one broke in and stole the fryer.
Or the visit to Monkey Town, the primate sanctuary owned by Rene’s mother-in-law. Roxine, admittedly very quiet, couldn’t walk the property but she enjoyed conversing and getting to know Colette and the boys (Rene’s wife and sons).
As they approached the end of their trip, she was determined to ride into Cape Town, “come hell or high water.” The F700GS that had followed her throughout Africa came off the trailer and Rene spent extra time making sure she was comfortable on it. He used extra time built into the schedule to accompany her over Franschhoek Pass and generally made those final two days extra special.
“I was so excited to ride that last little bit,” she says. “It was almost all pavement but to avoid traffic, we cut across a parking lot which had a bit of sand in it so I got my sand experience.”
“Riding along the ocean into Cape town,” she continues, “I was grinning from ear to ear. You feel the warm breeze, smell the salt air, and see the sand wafting around. Who’d have thought I’d be here? It was a big hairy deal!”
Roxine’s thrilled she made some significant connections in her motorcycle family through her experience. She also has a dream about taking off on a solo adventure to South America and this trip gave her a better understanding of what to expect.
In the mean time, she’s headed to Las Vegas at the end of the month for a few days of riding, and then has her eyes set on a trip to the Arctic Circle, and then maybe a loop from Edmonton through Prince George, Prince Rupert, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Vancouver Island, and back across the mainland.
You just know she’s going to make it happen.
Photo Credits: Roxine Wright