ON THE ROAD - To date, the most exciting proposal I’ve ever heard from a man was not, “Will you marry me?” No, it was, “Will you travel around the world with me on a motorcycle?”
My answer was “yes” before he even finished asking and suddenly, I was married to two years of life on the road by bike.
I had a motorcycle for a year before Dave. Just after we met in April, 2014, he immediately went out and got his endorsement to ride and later that week bought a bike. It wasn’t a beginner bike, either. He fully committed to a BMW F800GS — a powerful adventure bike that could travel on and off-road.
At the time, I had a 250cc Kawasaki Super Sherpa. The upside was being able to ride backroads in the mountains, which we both loved. The downside was, although I technically had more time in the saddle than Dave, he quickly advanced in off-road riding, while I was literally left in his dust.
I wondered how we would survive riding around the world together if we couldn’t even ride around one province (British Columbia) within sight of each other.
But before June, we’d crafted a plan to outfit our motorcycles and ride them from Canada through the U.S., into Mexico, then Central and South America. From there we would assess whether we liked the lifestyle — and each other — well enough to continue over to Africa, Europe, Russia and Alaska.
A lot of work is involved in organizing 24 months away from home; from travel insurance to finances to what sort of gear to take and add to the bikes. One of the more difficult things was deciding when to spend money and when to avoid spending money. We wanted our bikes to be amazing machines so they could stand up to the task, but we didn’t want to look flashy and attract attention.
We sold everything we could through yard sales and posted items online. Dave sold his house and truck. My own house had been sold a few months before meeting Dave and I had invested the money. But what good is banked money if you can’t use it?
We are both self-employed. I sold my business as the publisher of an arts and culture magazine in a B.C. mountain town. Dave is a contractor and has the advantage of just saying “no” to the next project.
The departure date was set for mid-September, 2016. Fifteen months to learn Spanish and Russian, take an off-roading course, work and save, give family and friends time to get used to the idea and, because we were newly dating, see if we could work well as a team. If we couldn’t make it through the prep stage, we surely wouldn’t make it out on the road.
As Dave lived in the U.S. and I in Canada, seeing each other wasn’t easy. The distance was only an hour’s drive but we encountered problems crossing the border so frequently.
One day, it was decided we would leave a year early on our trip. We could be together, for one, but we had another reason; what could happen in a year that might stop us from starting? Our dream had begun to grow wings and flutter distractedly around us during the daily grind. It became our main focus.
We budgeted $50 U.S./day/person and figured we could save money using resources like couchsurfing.com, or we could work for room and board. We also planned to camp as much as possible to save hotel fees.
Above: Camping under the stars and travelling down abandoned back roads all part of the journey.
On Sept. 17, 2015, we packed the last carefully selected item onto our bikes and rode away from my parent’s home in central B.C. Dave now had a used red BMW F800GSA, an even more powerful bike designed for the adventure rider, with a larger fuel tank and better off-roading modifications. I had bought a used black BMW G650GS, which would later be nicknamed “Frankenbike” for all the hassles it caused.
I tried to imagine what it would feel like not to see anything familiar but each other for 731 days. When this felt too overwhelming, I developed a way to micro-manage my anxiety for what Dave and I were attempting. The trick was just to enjoy the day getting somewhere; think only of the next 24 hours and see where we ended up. When broken down into daily goals, our round-the-world trip seemed possible.
Seven months and 23,486 km had passed when Dave and I reached the world’s southern-most road accessible point. Ushuaia, Argentina greeted us with a snowstorm on April 24, 2016. Our journey to this point had many challenges. We had mental and mechanical breakdowns, many spills off our bikes, over a dozen border crossings, intense winds, rain, mud, snow and heat. We were chased by dogs, narrowly escaped head-on collisions, faced extreme fatigue and got sick.
Very shortly after we left in September, however, we had to return home for three months after I broke my wrist in a minor crash.
Despite all of this, the good times prevailed, as did we. Dave and I flew ourselves and our bikes back to the U.S. from Chile and from May 14, 2016 until Oct. 1, 2016, rode from California to Canada’s northern-most road accessible point in Inuvik, NWT and the world’s northern-most road accessible point in Deadhorse, Alaska.
Above: The journey took Heather and Dave to some of the world's great wilderness outposts.
In February, 2017, Dave and I arranged flights for ourselves and the bikes from Vancouver to Cape Town, South Africa, where we plan to take the year to ride Africa’s eastern coastline and then Europe and Russia for the second half of our journey.
I think the hardest part will be coming home.
NEXT ISSUE: Ride on the wild side