“Around the world on a motorcycle again? Why?” asked one. “Insane idea,” says another. “You’ll never make it through some of the dangerous countries now,” exclaims a third – but I hold a different view. Old Mother Earth has been circled by motorcyclists for 100 years and many are out there now.
In 2010 I aborted a sixth attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Standing on the shores of Java, looking at the Indian Ocean and west, I decided it was sheer foolishness to continue spending money and time merely to lay claim to a sixth ride around the world. I announced my retirement from “girdling the globe” and focused on short term targeted adventures instead of seeking them while on extended ‘round the world rides.
Two interesting adventure prospects have now presented themselves, which may draw me back from my resignation as a circling globe rider.
The first involved the approaching retirement eligibility of a fellow motorcyclist from his job. He had been dreaming about riding around the world on a motorcycle after reading several motorcycle travel books and listening to me recount tales of faraway adventures. Over his lifetime he had seen much of the world, but always while working or on a short vacation, never on an extended motorcycle journey.
One night over dinner my soon-to-be-retired acquaintance suggested we make a ride around the world, together. At first I rejected the proposal. One reason was my earlier decision to stop aimlessly circling the globe. Another was knowing that the toughest of my previous five rides around the world had been when I went with someone else, not going solo. The third reason was a combination of time and money. I decided my personal physical clock had been ticking louder each year and I was physically running out of time for tough adventures. Then there’s the wastefulness of spending hard earned money flying or shipping motorcycles across water, 75% of which makes up the surface of the globe.
End of the road on the African continent, southernmost tip, where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, Cape Agulhaus.
Another factor affecting my offhand rejection of a sixth ride around the world was I had previously gotten the T-shirts, been there, and done most of what I wanted to do. My prior five rides around the world had been filled with wild adventures, each one enough for a normal adventurer’s lifetime. Any one of them could have filled a book, the sum of all five making for extreme motorcycle tales of overcoming challenges, feeding wanderlust, and unexpected adventure.
My ‘round the world ride dreamer asked me to reconsider my “No” to his proposal, instead suggesting that I take some time and think about the route of the journey and possible adventures. To this I agreed, possibly foolishly.
A seed had been planted. Over the next months that seed of global adventure grew as I kept reflecting on places I had been on various motorcycles, especially the geography I liked. I would imagine Ushuaia and the high winds of the pampas to drive there on Ruta 3 or Ruta 40 through southern Argentina. Next would come an image of Namibia and the nocturnal shifting red sands of Souseveli. Europe and the passes of the Alps or the secret roads of the Black Forest would pop up next, followed by memories of the seemingly endless days crossing Siberia during the long days of June.
I started thinking about the friends I had made on previous journeys around the planet, people who had become Internet friends due to distances and the prohibitive costs associated with seeing each other again. These not only included motorcycle friends, but people who had been kind to me by inviting me into their homes, helping me when I had been sick or broken down, some who spoke no English and I spoke little or none of their native language. My thoughts drifted to mapping out a route that would take me back through their villages or the cities where they lived.
As months passed the ‘round the world adventure seed grew, fostered by the Internet. I would occasionally look at the Horizons Unlimited (www.horizonsunlimited.com) motorcycle traveler’s website to see who was traveling where and read updates on border crossings or shipping motorcycle experiences.
Three motorcycles previously used for all or part of earlier rides around the globe: 2001 Kawasaki KLR 650, 1947 Indian Chief, and 1981 BMW R80G/S. Two are now in museums in the USA. The Indian Chief is ready for another long ride.
I would also peek at the Asia (www.rideasia.net) motorcycle website to see who was passing through that part of the world. There was a restaurant/bar/hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand that was the touch point for motorcycle travelers passing through Southeast Asia, the Rider’s Corner. The owners would post photographs on the Ride Asia website of motorcyclists who had stopped in their establishment to spend the night, enjoy a meal or swill and chill while purchasing the most up-to-date maps, souvenir motorcycle T-shirts or find answers to adventure travel questions. I would thirst from a distance the traveler’s choice of motorcycles, gear and journeys through the Golden Triangle and neighboring countries.
Wanderlust had also fed the ‘round the world adventure seed. I had been afflicted with this disease most of my life. It seemed to have slowed its growth after I turned around on the shores of Java, but was growing a bit more as I motorcycled to places like Nome, Alaska and The-Hole-In-The-Wall, Wyoming. I was lusting for wider wandering.
Trying to kill the disease of wanderlust over the years had cost me considerably. As the seed of wandering the globe a sixth time sprouted I reminded myself how, nearly 30 years earlier, an ex-wife had said, “If you go off on another of your wild adventures I won’t be here when you get back,” and she wasn’t. Or the girlfriend who I met while circling the globe that wanted to get married for a USA Green Card for her and then start having babies, who lamented, “Are you just going to keep riding around the world?” And I did while she finished her one global loop and went on to search for a more likely husband and possible father.
A year went by and my ‘round the world dreamer and I met again, this time over a longer dinner. He asked if I had made a decision yet and I told him I was in the “maybe zone.”
We talked about the places I did not want to visit, those ugly areas I had traveled through on the planet that I never wanted to see again while driving a motorcycle. He was amenable to jumping over or riding around them. He named some places he would like to see from atop a motorcycle and I found them acceptable.
Our dinner ended with a map of the world showing some solid lines across continents and some that were dotted or circled as No Go Zones. These No Go Zones included places like Honduras, where I had once been tossed in the clink for a night after taking a policeman’s gun away from him when he pointed it at me. Other No Go Zones were tiresome border crossings and countries with nearly impossible importation rules for motorcycles that I did not want to deal with again.
We met again after I returned from five months of exploring Asia by motorcycle. This time our conversation was focused on how much time, how much money, and what motorcycle would be best. Also coming into play during this meeting was my wanting to do something different from the previous five ‘round the world rides, some new mix of elements.
Two Irish motorcyclists pushed us closer to a firmer plan with some of the new mix for our world ride. Feargal O’Neill and Joe Walsh came up with a brilliant idea to celebrate 100 years of motorcyclists circling the globe. They had read my book MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURER, about the first man to pilot a motorcycle around the world in 1912-1913, Carl Stearns Clancy. Because Clancy was of Irish descent and they were Irish they wanted to bring attention to his incredible journey. Their idea was to have fellow motorcyclists around the world ride as much of the original route taken by the first global rider. (The Clancy information page is: http://www.HorizonsUnlimited.com/clancy. The Clancy updates pages are here: http://www.HorizonsUnlimited.com/clancyride).
Carl Stearns Clancy with his 1912 Henderson motorcycle, the first person to “girdle the globe,” 1912-1913.
While O’Neill and Walsh were initially organizing what they titled “The Clancy Centenary Ride,” they contacted me and asked if I would volunteer to shoulder putting together the USA final leg of the ‘round the world ride. Their plan was to have riders meet in San Francisco and follow the Clancy route to New York City. I agreed and set the date for crossing the USA as June 2, 2013, exactly 100 years after Clancy had departed San Francisco. The Clancy Centenary Ride will start from Dublin, Ireland October 23, 2012 and we will possibly meet two riders from Ireland in San Francisco for the final leg of the ride across the USA.
The Clancy Centenary Ride presented me and my ‘round the world dreamer with the possibility of testing ourselves and our machines. Another meeting was held and we decided to put together a firmer plan for at least our crossing of the North American Continent together in conjunction with The Clancy Centenary Ride.
The first leg of our ‘round the world ride will give my potential ‘round the world companion and me a chance to see if our personalities are compatible for more than the few days we have shared together before in Alaska and several times in the Lower 48. We will be on the road for three weeks, covering some of the easiest ground of a global circumnavigation, across the English speaking USA. At the end of our first leg we will park our motorcycles, take a break or extended pit stop and ponder the wisdom of tackling the next leg, that of reaching Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost point we can reach by road on the South American continent.
While I am pondering the wisdom of our proceeding onward together two happenings I will not have to worry about coming into play are a divorce upon return or the either/or option of a Green Card and babies. I have been both places and paid dearly for the T-shirts, will mark them as No Go Zones. Instead I will merely be pondering continued wandering.