Down again, and alone. Where was my Roadside Assistance Plan when I needed it, or the camera crew and support team following me in the chase vehicles to pick it up for me? The answer was “In my color filled expedition dreams.”
I hatched a plan to see if I could budget travel a way around the world, make an adventure out of trying to circle the globe by motorcycle within a reasonable budget. Sleeping and eating cheap was part of the plan. So was using inexpensive motorcycles, good solid runners, but not the well known heavy weight budget busters.
The first leg of the global journey budgeted me on a 2001 Kawasaki KLR 650, the one I had ridden around the world in 2002-2003. It had less than 40,000 miles on it, and merely needed a new set of Avon tires, change of oil, fresh gas and a full charge on the battery. With my spirit high, some dollars in my wallet and a loose plan for adventure I left home in Montana and drove south to Mexico. Along the way I tagged friends, did some research on several writing assignments and a film project, all the while letting my sub-conscious work up a plan for an inexpensive way to get across the Pacific Ocean.
Faced with spending $2,000.00-$3,000.00 USD at the Pacific Ocean’s edge, I back tracked, swapped the 2001 KLR 650 for the 2008 KLR 650 and instead invested some money wandering around the southwest USA selling magazine articles and photographs instead of fattening some shipping agent or his wallet. While I was wandering I kept wondering how to find an inexpensive and reasonable way across the water to Asia.
Looking at a map of the world I saw Alaska was very close to Russia if I could get to Nome. I parked the 2008 KLR 650 and switched to a 1977 BMW R100, a “throw-away” motorcycle if I had to leave it and travel on alone.
The BMW R100 carried me nearly 2,000 miles before I left it resting in Boise, Idaho. My major complaint was it wanted to go faster than I did.
Happy Trails (www.happy-trail.com), a special motorcycle company made up of special motorcycle people, located in Boise, Idaho, made me an unusual proposal as I passed through their office headed towards Alaska. They offered me an incredulous amount of money for the 1977 BMW and in exchange for an even larger amount of money I would pay my bill and take my 2009 KLR 650 they had modified for a “long ride.” We haggled, threw bones, flipped coins, and in the end I left before the owners knew I was sneaking out of town on their BMW F800 GS they had let me test ride. Owner Tim Bernard gave a hard chase and caught up with me 20 miles out of town. He was wildly driving my Kawasaki KLR 650 on a dirt road like I used to be able to do on a flat track or up Pikes Peak when racing. I tried to out drive him on the bigger and faster BMW but gave up when I realized he was chasing me on roads he knew and I did not, a foolish program for me. We stopped and had a professional and enlightening roadside powwow about faith in mankind, integrity, dreams, stealing horses (a highly skilled character element in my Native American tribe), and the tallness of my tale about waking early that morning and having a vision, being on a vision quest, with his BMW F800 GS being my mode of transportation to Nome, Alaska.
Bernard and I made a deal there on the side of the road: If I could out drive him with me on my Kawasaki KLR 650 and him on his F800 GS, I could keep riding onward towards Alaska on my Kawasaki with my vision and integrity intact. It was a risk I thought I could win. I felt the equation favored me having held a professional motorcycle racing license, knowing the KLR 650 better than he knew his recently modified BMW F800 GS, and my being able to use some “old Indian tricks” I had learned racing Indian motorcycles on flat tracks and at Daytona against some very good Harley-Davidson racers.
Our wild drive to win was like when two Indians had a fight to the death using knives while being tired together by a six foot length of leather thong. I could not shake Bernard, nor could he shake me. Bernard used skill, power and determination to put both of us close enough to The Other Side to have us dripping sweat out of our ears when we finally stopped, shook hands, and went opposite directions.
BMW versus Kawasaki: and the winner was?
I arrived in Seattle on my KLR 650, with a seriously wounded ego, but still healthy wallet. I realized Bernard had let me win knowing the price between the BMW and the Kawasaki would be a travel buster for my plan to get around the world on a budget. However, I smiled knowing I had a plan for how to sneak back into Boise and get the 1977 BMW out of his corral. I had copied the key before leaving it parked at his shop, another “old Indian trick” taught me some years before.
Research in Seattle soon proved that transporting me and the Kawasaki KLR 650 across the Pacific Ocean from there as an option to Alaska was going to be expensive. Looking at a map of the world it seemed if I could get closer to Russia I might be able to find a cheap way from North America over to the more northern part of Asia. Alaska was still the logical choice if I wanted to get close to Russia.
I knew from experience that air cargo or shipping by boat from Anchorage to Russia was a fool’s option. Since neither Alaska nor Russia have serious goods for trade across the most direct route, air cargo and shipping companies did not waste money on empty space across that relatively short distance. Therefore the regular path for any goods and passengers was from Anchorage to Seattle or Los Angeles, then across the Pacific Ocean, possibly to Seoul, and finally back north into Russia. That was the long way around, and unless I was traveling on a movie star budget, for my budget adventure it was the wrong way around. My new and modified plan was still to reach Alaska, then see if I could find a way across the Bering Straits from some point closer to Russia than Anchorage.
By ferry, boat, road or airplane, travel to Anchorage, Alaska from Seattle can hammer a credit card or cash filled wallet. Instead of spending $1,000’s, I stashed the Kawasaki KLR 650 and flew in a cheap seat by airplane to Anchorage where The Motorcycle Shop (www.themotorcycleshop.com) had waiting for me a Kawasaki KLX 250 S I had called ahead and had them hold for me. They also had waiting for me the invoice, but compared to the lost time, and what it would have cost me to get the KLR 650 from Seattle to Anchorage, it was a deal if I could get the KLX 250 S on around the world.
The Kawasaki KLX 250 S, a deal on two wheels.
I outfitted the KLX 250 S, and then broke it in while poking around Alaska, trying to find an inexpensive way from Anchorage to Nome. In the winter that stretch is done by dog sleds and snow machines over the frozen tundra and water during the Iditarod Race, but I was there in July and could only get about ten feet into the tundra on the Iditarod Trail before the motorcycle and I bogged down.
Camping, eating, and researching around Anchorage was eating away at my wallet in large chomps while I was trying to find a cheap way to Nome. Finally I stepped up to the counter and purchased an airline seat for myself and handed the KLX 250 S over to an air cargo company to get us across the stretch between Anchorage and Nome. It was expensive, but not as expensive if it would have been my bigger and heavier KLR 650 or spending a few more days in Anchorage.
As I was whimpering around the air cargo area in Anchorage about the cost of flying my Kawasaki 250 to Nome, one of the workers said, “Hey, if you were a real rider it would have cost you three or four times as much for your Harley-Davidson.” I was trying to interpret that statement two weeks and a thousand miles later, having seen no Harley-Davidsons in the air cargo area or on the roads ahead.
“There is no place like Nome” was the description of Nome used to promote and market the city, and it was right. I spent nearly two weeks driving the KLX 250 S over every possible piece of ground I could cover in, around and out of Nome, bagging nearly 1,000 miles. After over a million miles of riding motorcycles around the world I had never found a place like Nome, a truly unique, friendly and interesting town. Once having had a population of over 45,000, the 4,500 residents there in July made up for the difference in helpfulness, friendliness and fun.
Nome had been on my personal adventure motorcycle travel screen for nearly a dozen years. Every time I looked at a map of Alaska, whether it be for research for my book (ALASKA BY MOTORCYCLE) about how to ride to Alaska, or the film (MOTORCYCLING TO ALASKA), my eyes would wander to the far northwest corner of the huge state, and see Nome and the lines representing roads on the map going out of Nome to end in the bush or at small villages. The furthest western point was Teller, an Alaska Native village at the end of the road northwest. I drove to Teller to inquire about hiring a boat or booking some space from there to Russia.
The road to Teller included an optional route along the beach, where I learned that when a wave washed a log into the front wheel at the wrong angle the result was “down, again.”
Once I got to Teller I discovered what I wanted to do could be done, but illegally. Instead, if I chose to wait, it was suggested that I might be able to go to the Native trading days when Natives from Alaska meet Natives from Siberia to trade goods on the Island of Big Diomede. While I was told from there I could likely find space for me and the motorcycle, once I got to mainland Russia I was going to have a rough go of it to find a ground route south or west. Again I would be paying mega dollars for air cargo space and likely neither I nor the motorcycle would be legally in Russia. Another option was to load my motorcycle on a small fishing boat at Teller, go across the sound, then ride the footpath to Wales, and try from there. The end result was to toss in the towel at Teller and head back to Anchorage.
The road and expedition ended at Teller. To push further north and west meant loading the motorcycle on a fishing boat like this fellow did, then ride on the beach to Wales, where further travel was going to come to a halt unless I chartered a flight or boat to illegally drop me on the shore of Russia.
The KLX 250 S found a resting place in Anchorage. I flew back to Seattle, collected the KLR 650 and then worked my way south to Los Angeles. After calling in favors and schmoozing airline executives found me up against a financial wall for getting the KLR 650 across the Pacific Ocean unless I sold secrets about some motorcycle avatars and celebrities to tabloids. I decided to leave those sales to my Personal Representative when a more profitable deal could be made for my educational trust fund.
Eventually the KLR 650 went into storage and I flew across the Pacific Ocean with my adventure travel motorcycle gear. Once on Asian soil I leapfrogged my way to Indonesia where the next large body of water, the Indian Ocean, brought me to a halt. I had ruled out going north through China or Russia due to the time of the year, knowing a frozen ride across either country was not in my definition of a fun adventure. In addition, my research for a film, magazine articles and book projects focused on Indochina and larger SE Asia, not the cold north.
While wandering around Java I continued researching costs and timing to get across the rest of Asia, Europe or Africa and then to New York by April, and back to my home base of Montana some days later. The options were expensive, some requiring bureaucratic paperwork that tired and bored me thinking about it. The large quantities of money needed I concluded would be better spent on motorcycling fun than the adventure of crating motorcycles and dealing with Customs officials. The less expensive optional routes would take me places I had been before and wished not to visit again.
Wandering around Java while planning which way to proceed, found me and my motorcycle in some colorful and interesting places.
Publisher demands for serious progress on a new book made the decision for me. I had been trying to complete the book while traveling, using Internet cafes and questionable uploads and downloads. The book project had taken over ten years of research with the assistance of numerous friends, colleagues and associates to get it near completion. The working title was MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURER (www.motorcycleadventurer.com), the true story about what had been described as “the world’s longest, most difficult and most perilous motorcycle journey ever attempted.” Compared to what I was facing in the middle of my sixth ride around the world, my current motorcycle journey could be called the Cream Puff Ride. While I had faced some nearly insurmountable problems, all could be rather simply overcome with money. The motorcycle adventure of writing, some modicum of responsibility and fiscal conservativeness moved my “on the road adventure” behind that of the motorcycle adventurer who had broken ground, made trail, long before I was born. The decision on the shores of the Indian Ocean was to not deficit spend and instead finish the book.
Standing in the rain in Java, this pictured what I thought about paying for the adventure of piloting again a motorcycle across India, North Africa, the middle east or paying to fly over those areas where I would not be granted a visa.
Looking over the miles and photographs covered since I had initially hatched the plan for a sixth circumnavigation of the globe, most of the miles covered had been fun. The Expedition to Nome had taken me to a place nowhere like it on the globe. I had driven a myriad of motorcycles nearly 40,000 miles by the time I had reached the Indian Ocean: Kawasaki, BMW, Henderson, Indian, Harley-Davidson, Honda, HPN, Suzuki, KTM and Yamaha. It had been travel, a loose journey, and an interesting motorcycle adventure. Maybe my next plan to circle the globe will be to do it by boat, with the motorcycle taken along for ground transportation. It had been done before, a boat with a motorcycle on the bow, but never using a Henderson, at least not that I had heard about.
I still have 1,000’s of adventure miles of roads to travel.
July 27, 2000, Going Out Again - 'Round The World
October 4, 2000, Why Another Long Ride, The Plan, and Mr. Fish
October 10, 2000, the beginning, in America on an Indian
November 6, 2000, AMAZONAS-Tamed By Beasts in Brazil
November 22, 2000, Monster Cow, Wolpertinger and Autobahn Crawling Across Europe
December 22, 2000, Enfield 500 Bullet, India Motorcycle Dementia, Ozoned Harley-Davidsons and Gold Wings
December 25, 2000, Yeti on a Harley-Davidson, Nepal By Enfield, No Carnet Sexpedition
January 1, 2001, Haunting Yeti
January 25, 2001, Monkey Soccer, Asian Feet, Air 'em Up: Bhutan and Sikkim
February 12, 2001, Midgets, Carnetless, Steve McQueen on Enfield, Bangladesh
February 20, 2001, Higgledypiggledy, Salacity, and Zymurgy - India
March 20, 2001, Road warriors, sand, oil leaks - meditating out of India
April 8, 2001, Bike Cops, Elephants, and Same-Same - Thailand
May 1, 2001, Little Bikes, Millions of Bikes, Island Riding - Taiwan
May 15, 2001, Harley-Davidson, Mother Road and Super Slabs - America
June 8 , 2001, Crossing The Crazy Woman With A Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Amazonas, Enfield, Hartford, SYM, Honda
January 1, 2002, Donged, Bonged, and Gonged - Burma
January 20, 2002, Secrets of The Golden Triangle - Thailand
March 31, 2002, Bear Wakes, Aims Green Machine Around The World
April 10, 2002, Moto Cuba - Crashes, Customs and El Jefe (Fidel)
May 20, 2002, Europe and The Roads South to Africa
June 10, 2002, Morocco Motorcycling, Thieves and Good Roads
July 30, 2002, Russia – Hard and Soft, By Motorcycle
August 30, 2002, USA – American Roadkill, Shipping Bikes and BIG DOGS
September 30, 2002, Good Times Roll Home, Riding With Clothes On, Team Green - USA
November, 2002, Mexico By Motorcycle - Gringos, Little Norman Bad Cock, and Bandits
March 2003, Laos by motorcycle - Guerrillas, Mekong Beering, and Plain of Coffins
July, 2003, Alaska by motorcycle – Deadhorse, Fish Story and Alaskan Bush
January 2004, Angkor, Bombed Out Roads and Dog Eaters - Cambodia
April, 2004, Minsking, Uncle Ho and Snake Wine
August 2004, Around The World Again, 1st Tag Deadhorse
February 2005, Colombia To The End Of The Earth - South America
January 2006, My Marriage, Long Strange Ride, Montana Nights
May 2006, Cherry Girls, Rebels, Crash and Volcano - Philippines
September 2006, Break Bike Mountain Ride – United States
March 2007, Kawasaki Cult Bike “No Stranger To Danger Expedition” - Thailand and Cambodia
November 2007, Lone Wolf Wanders: Bears, Moose, Buffalo, Fish
April 2009, Global Adventure Roaming: Burma through the USA to headhunters on Borneo
February 2010, Adventure Motorcycle Travel: Expedition to Alaska, then Java
Copyright © Dr. Gregory W. Frazier. 1999- All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author,
and not necessarily Horizons Unlimited