September 5, 2013
OSWEGO, N.Y. – Summers are typically a time for adventure, fun, and spontaneity. Ted Winkworth took this idea, and he ran with it (or rather, he rode with it.) This summer, Oswego State’s former alcohol and other drug program coordinator embarked on the journey of a lifetime: an intercontinental motorcycle tour. The first few months of Winkworth’s trip have taken him all the way across the continental U.S.
Winkworth mapped out his journey so far yesterday, and realized how expansive it has been.
“It goes west, it goes north up to the Dakotas, and then it goes to Utah, and then back through Colorado to Tennessee, to Georgia and then back around the bottom of the United States, up the coast of California,” said Winkworth. “Then it was back through Utah, down to New Mexico, and then back to Tennessee, then up here. Yeah, it’s been insane. I did this and laughed about how pointless it all seems.”
However, the trip has been anything but pointless in Winkworth’s eyes; in fact, it’s been a learning experience.
“Human beings are capable of so much,” Winkworth said. “I knew it going out into it, but the stuff that we overcame (and I say we because I was riding with a guy at one point, and I have friends that I went on adventures with) …we’re capable of so much… But, to understand that you can throw yourself into the unknown, something really crappy can get thrown at you, and you can figure it out, and overcome it, is such a huge lesson to learn.”
The knowledge that he gained was equally as important to Winkworth as the experiences themselves.
“We are so used to having conveniences that fix our problems, and not having that is a really awesome experience,” Winkworth said. “The other thing I learned is that people are legitimately amazing. I met people who, they found out I was on this trip and they kind of looked at me sideways and then they wanted to help. Like, they wanted to be a part of it, and they wanted to help push me forward. I wouldn’t have been able to survive without them. So, that was another huge one, that we often talk about how ‘the people over there suck’ or ‘those are mean people’ or ‘those are jerks’, and when it comes down to it, most people are really, really awesome if you give them a chance to be, which is cool.”
Winkworth’s plan for his adventure was simple; to have no plan.
“I tried really hard not to have expectations,” said Winkworth. “I’m lucky that I’ve gotten to travel enough where I know that nothing you imagine will ever pan out the way it’s going to be. It was incredible. As it turns out, riding a motorcycle all day isn’t as freeing and exciting as you think it is; it’s more painful and annoying. Living off the land is difficult: you know, you get dirty, you’re cold, you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you’re away from the people you care about. It’s not necessarily as glamorous as it is when you’re imagining it, but at the same time, it’s just as rewarding.”
This trip has so far spanned across the continental U.S., but there are still eight months left in the original time plan. Winkworth went on a community service trip to Jamaica through Oswego State in 2011. It introduced him to “legitimate poverty in the Third World” and ever since he has begun to realize how much we take for granted.
“I’ve always wanted to go and get more invested in that kind of lifestyle and to really kind of explore what it is to live in another country, and not have all of the conveniences that we have, and figure out how do people get by, what do they do, and how can I be a part of that,” Winkworth said.
“So, on one hand it’s really exciting for me to finally get to do that, and it’s one of those things where I said someday I’ll do that, someday I’ll live in that kind of place, and I’m doing it now,” Winkworth said. “I’m committed to go to El Salvador for at least four months. If I can manage to get down to South America, I’m absolutely going to do that, and then where I go from there, I don’t know.”
The adventures are enough to sustain his interest in the trip.
“In Wyoming, I was riding, and was going ninety miles an hour and my chain flew off,” Winkworth said. “And it scared the crap out of me. And it could have done like a million things, but it didn’t. And, we pulled over to the side of the road, thinking that we could fix it, but there was nothing we could do. The closest town this way was fifty miles, and the closest town that way was one hundred twenty miles, because it’s Wyoming; there’s nothing. So, it was really exciting to have to go onto a rancher’s property, and hope that he didn’t shoot us, and hope he was a nice guy. And, he called a guy that he knew, and he helped us, and we made all of these friends through the misadventure.”
“I got stuck on the Pacific Coast Highway, I got to a road that was closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and when I thought I was going to be able to pass, I got stuck, so having to find shelter on the side of a cliff, basically, and get through the night was one of the more… well it sucked at the time, but it turned out to be one of my favorite things that’s happened,” Winkworth said. “There have been a lot of adventures and a lot of misadventures, and it’s all been kind of fun and exciting.”
Winkworth has been working on a novel since before he left his position at Oswego State. With this journey, the novel has blown up and grown into something much more, and his excitement has grown with it.
“I’ve been working on a book for a while, but now, all the people that I’ve met along the way have sort of been turned into characters for the book,” said Winkworth. “So now I’m writing this novel, and that’s really kind of my main focus: go on adventures, write about the adventures, try to get people excited about what they’re capable of, and at the same time, write a novel where that’s sort of the key central theme to it. I’m so excited about that.”
Having no plan lead Winkworth to a lot of unexpected opportunities to do things that are rather unusual. On the spur of the moment, he ended up enrolling in skydiving school. He was riding his motorcycle through Tennessee, and he saw skydivers. He proceeded to go and ask for a job at the skydiving school. He was expecting them to laugh in his face, but they gave him a job, and he started doing his jump licensing, and now he is a skydiver. He met hang gliders and paragliders through there, and so he ended up going paragliding in Utah with a guy he met in jump school.
“I never thought I’d be in skydiving school; I never thought I’d be jumping out of planes, but it just happened,” Winkworth said. “To do something that’s random like that, and to have my story change… And, the thing was, I was riding down the street, and I looked up, and there were people parachuting down, and I pulled into the drop zone, and all of a sudden these people were just so excited that a dude on a motorcycle would show up and do this, and they’ve become my best friends from this entire trip. I’ve got family in Jasper, Tennessee now, and it’s amazing, just absolutely amazing. It’s been perfect.”
Even though he describes his adventure so far as perfect, Winkworth still misses some things about being here, like the people that he met here.
“I’m at a point where I left my job because I was ready to move on to the next thing,” Winkworth said. “You know, but even just coming back, and seeing everyone, and realizing how much I’m cared about, and how much I care about people here… That’s a really hard thing to walk away from.”
Winkworth’s parting message for Oswego State is similar to what he said before he left.
“Get involved in all the opportunities that you have. I just talked to someone today who’s really on the fence about going on an alternative winter or spring break because they heard that it’s dangerous. They heard that there are armed guards, and well what does that mean, and what have I heard about it. The experience of leaving this country, and doing it in a way that’s sanctioned by the university, is the most valuable thing I can think of,” said Winkworth. “And, when you take into account all of the other opportunities you have through being a student here, whether it be getting invested in a club, or finding people that are from another culture that you might not know through the Hart Hall global experience, that stuff is huge, and so many people don’t do it because they either don’t understand the value of it, they’re scared of it, or they just don’t realize the pot of gold that they are sitting on that ninety percent of the world’s population don’t get to have, and it’s right here in Oswego, New York.”
“I would absolutely encourage anybody to stop being afraid or making excuses for whatever it is that they have or whatever reasons they have for not doing something, and just go for it. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have done that in their own ways; they’ve just gone for whatever it is that they said that they would always do and they’re always happier for it.”