The motorbike I found parked in my Guatemalan hotel lobby; here in the Moroccan desert
In March 2014 I was spending the month in Antigua, Guatemala, where they will kill you for your shoes. Or maybe not.
One day I returned to my hotel to find a motorcycle parked in the lobby sporting an Australian license plate. A quick inquiry to my landlady, who was by this time also my friend, and I was pounding on the poor fellow’s door. Regular readers know I have a motorbike and so I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass.
That evening I dragged him out to dinner at Sobremesa owned and operated by my then new pal Alex. In addition to being a restauranteur, Alex is an artist and I’ve featured his work in my posts here, here and here. He is also a novelist with several books to his credit, but that’s another story.
Turns out Dave was just about a year and a half into a 3-year round the world motorcycle ride. Over a fabulous meal he shared a few of his stories and, when things slowed down, Alex joined us and over drinks we closed up the joint.
Somehow we missed each other before his departure, but not before exchanging emails and my learning that his travels would put him in New Hampshire around September. Of course I invited him to visit and offered to show him some of our better local roads.
A day or two later he sent me this email:
March 16, 2014
Had hoped to catch up before I left, but us ‘loners’ are hard to pin down. The fates willing, it would be good to catch up around September. I’ll stay in touch.
As promised, come September he reached out again and we shared a number of emails leading up to his visit. In ( ) I’ve added some explanations for clarity:
September 11, 2014
It’s September and I am now in Newport, Rhode Island for a couple of days, visiting the annual boat show. I will then head down to NY and meander up the Hudson River. I also have a couple of other rides flagged in the region. If you wish to catch up and talk travel/boats, let me know.
I hope life is treating you well.
The boat show attracted him because, after wrapping up the motorcycle journey in Indonesia, he plans to build a boat and spend a few years sailing around the world.
September 15, 2014
Good to hear from you. I am currently headed for Saratoga Springs, and will then swing West to see Niagara Falls. Then it’s further West to Milwaukee, to see the HD (Harley Davidson) factory/museum. There are also some good rides in the region. So, I can swing back your way later in the month – by which time hopefully there will be some Autumn colours (might be wishful thinking though!)
I am due to fly the motorcycle and myself out of Montreal on 12 October, so I can, head for Canada after catching up with yourself.
I will stay in touch and let you know of my progress and expected ETA.
September 28, 2014
Hi James! Hope you are well.
I am currently near Watkins Glen to check out the (Finger Lakes in NY State) lakes, and will be headed your way in a few days. Thought I’d get your address, to better plan my approach. Will you be around next week?
PS: The Fall colours are well on the way!
September 29, 2014
Am currently at Williamstown (truly the quintessential American movie set town – quite beautiful) taking the long way round via Rutland. Could be there tomorrow, but let’s say Wednesday – I will be seeking out a new front tyre as I make my way there.
I hope this is convenient
Once Dave made it to our place we had a great time for 3 or 4 days before he had to move on. It was mostly off the bike as he enjoyed a break from the ride. On his final day I rode about half way up thru NH with him toward his final destination that night.
Dave and me just outside Naughty Nellie’s Cafe where we last parted company
We next heard from him just before Christmas….
December 23, 2014
Have a MERRY XMAS and a great 2015!
I am currently wintering in the Western Sahara/Morocco, however there has been a slight change of plan.
The view from my hotel in the Moroccan desert
But first, since last I wrote, I have travelled far. All went very smoothly getting me and the bike to Portugal, and I landed in a very wet and heavily flooded Lisbon. However, the couple of hours spent clearing the bike had me on the road again in the dry and headed North up the coast.
There were only a couple highlights running the coast, and the weather remained indifferent. However, when I went inland, things improved dramatically. Absolutely loved Portugal and Spain once on the minor roads and off the beaten tourist path – prices fell appreciably too!
Had a great three weeks of sunny dry weather as I explored the villages and towns – and what a rich history they have!
Fabulous old walled cities and majestic buildings, wonderful narrow cobbled streets and stunning engineered structures (aqueducts etc) – ‘I’ll be back’.And so into the magical/mystical Morocco. Not much of a transition early – a change in language (French/Arabic), food, currency……and they all tend to run around in their hospital nightie’s (but not with their bums hanging out) – and that’s about it. Oh, and prices are down.
The pool….every Bedouin has one, don’t they?
Landed in Tangier, and immediately headed South for warmer/drier climes. (I am told Tangier is Tourist Central, with all the cruise ships bringing in the sheep for fleecing).
There was a bit of rain about in the North, so headed for Chefchaouen, then onto Fez. Chefs’ Medina is wonderful (a composite of very narrow streets wending and winding their way up and down the side of a steep hill. The whitewash blue colours they paint the walls with looks sublime at times – hard to describe (no photos). It is a tourist ‘hot spot’ though!
Then it was across the Atlas Mountains to the desert – my favourite place.
Spent time in the Sahara – did a camel trip into the desert to stay at a bivouac (I had the place to myself – great!) then a 4WD trip around the oasis areas. Touristy stuff, but fun. The ‘real’ Morocco begins after Fes, heading down toward Errachidia and Erfoud (as I remember it – in 1977 – but times change!).
‘Progress’ has taken it’s toll over that time, with small villages now towns and cities – and not always attractive. Again ran the great mountain passes of the mighty Atlas Mountains, at times above the snow line, and across to Marrakech. Spent several days here – enjoyable but all too frenetic and it does wear you down. Too much hard-sell. Must be getting too old and cynical to fully enjoy it, and was pleased to move on South and toward the coast.
The state of the roads has made it a bigger adventure with mud/rock slides, ‘creek’ and puddle crossings (nothing your Scrambler wouldn’t handle though!) and bits of roads simply vanished into ravines/rivers – NOTHING handled that!
Then it was into the Western Sahara, where I spent a few days in a rather nice little coastal town called Dakhla. Thought it would be just a fishing village, but is a very modern, civilised place. The ride onto the peninsula was spectacular, with quite a surreal landscape. This is real desert country, with the landscape covered in a haze of wind-blown sand and having to occasionally dodge and weave sand dunes encroaching on the road.
The REAL Morocco – love it down here!! Temps down this way are VERY pleasant, up around the mid-20’s (centigrade). Seem to have left the ☁️⚡️☔️ behind too. Really nice riding weather (but windy).
The only bugaboo is running the checkpoints. Had six checks one day: four within five kilometres; and two within eyesight (150 metres) of one another! – a military check followed by a police check, both recording the same info!! Go figure? The good point is they are all super friendly and want to chat (they all tend to speak a bit of English).
There is a heavy military presence, and I have even seen UN peacekeeping (?) vehicles. Big white 4WD’s, of course! – more money that could be better be spent elsewhere, being pissed up against the bureaucratic wall.
I am now settled into a really nice beachfront hotel just South of the Megopolis ???? of Tan Tan for the Xmas/new Year period. It’s a quiet little town – probably only a couple of thousand people, if you count the ???????? and ????. Be nice to have a quiet time before heading to the Big Smoke (Casablanca) early in the New Year to organise …….my return to Australia!
And so for the change of plan…
Just recently, a young lady friend has asked me to return to Oz for a while to do the Kokoda Trail Trek in PNG (Papua New Guinea) with her! Says it’s IMPORTANT to her – but she is not keen to venture off alone, and her mum understandably is not keen either – and I’m the only one she knows who would be interested/could physically do it! (remains to be seen ????).
I will leave the motorcycle in Morocco (The Missus I believe has to be stored at a Customs warehouse while I’m out of the country – more paper work) and fly to Australia on 6 February (before my current visa runs out) and return late April (29th at present) – the bike has a 6-month entry, ending 13 May, so good timing.
The Kokoda has been on my Bucket List back-burner for some time now (and I’ve never been to PNG), so it would be a good opportunity to tackle it. Another (obvious) motivator is that at my age, I don’t get too many offers to go adventuring with a lovely young woman these days!
Also, truth being, there is also a LOT I can better arrange in Oz for my onward travels back into Europe and beyond (carnet, green card insurance etc). Also breaks up my time in Morocco, which I was thinking might get boring after a few months, and puts me back into Europe in more favourable weather in early-May.
Another ‘plus’ is if I follow the most favourable global weather pattern, it will extend my travels to mid-2016, rather than June next year – and I have been looking for reason not to go ‘home’ – something which even now looms large! The longer I’m out here, the less appealing THAT prospect appears.
Several more months in Europe/Turkey and SE Asia holds a lot more interest! ???? Inshallah! (God willing)
So, I hope you both have an Xcellent XMAS and NEW YEAR ????????????, and have a ????or ???????? for me. (We did!)
PS: Just when I thought I had this international motorcycle adventure travel beat – 85,000km in and unstoppable, having conquered mountains, jungle, deserts, and terrorists/assassins disguised as motorists, I met the insurmountable – the one thing that brought fear to my heart……the squat toilet! O…M…G!!! The agony and the ecstasy. ????
I do exaggerate a little tho’ – I have yet to use one (except for a pee) and it is the prospect that has my knees shaking. It’s been a long time between squats! ????
PSS: James, I hope you have plans for more travel to exotic places in the New Year. Whatever you do, travel safely both of you.
A few days ago it occurred to me I hadn’t heard from Dave in awhile and so I sent him a note, which produced this reply…
June 21, 2015
James, great to hear from you!
Sounds like you have your hands full with the move and finalising your book! I hope all goes smoothly. Your daughter’s ‘posting’ (to South East Asia) sounds like a wonderful experience, but I’m sure you have a parents’ trepidations!
I think I indicated I was heading back to Oz (Australia) to join a friend on the Kokoda Trail trek in PNG. Completed that (managed to hobble my way through after twisting my knee in training/preparation for the event!). Am still trying to recover from the injury 3 months on – but it only hurts when I WALK – perfectly fine while riding, thank goodness!!
Returned to Morocco on 2 May and picked the bike up from Customs (a five minute job) and back on the road into the desert once more.
After crossing from Morocco, I went up through Spain into the mountains, dropped in to Andorra (heavens know why – little to recommend it. Yuppysville in ski boots!)
Then spent a week with friends in France. Hadn’t caught up in 21 years, so it was great to touch base.
Their house. His wife resurrected it from an old farmhouse. The real estate values in this region make you cry. The population in this area continues to decline, and real estate values plummet along with.
The fairytale continues
From there into Switzerland to stay with a fellow rider (KTM 650) I met in Colombia/Panama. A lovely lady.
Then thru Lichtenstein into Austria and on to Germany, where I rode the ‘Romantic Route’ – a series of beautiful medieval towns over about 450kms up through central Germany as far North as Nuremberg. If you must visit just one medieval town- make it Rothenburg ob der Tauber – simply stunning!! (as all the tourists attest/verify!)
Prague. Claimed to be the most beautiful city in the world – no argument from me! (Or me!)
I then was at a loss to do with myself – but they say Prague in the CZ (Czech Republic) the most beautiful city in the world – and so it proved. Stayed a few days and went all cultural, taking in Swan Lake and two classical strings recitals – the last being in a medieval cathedral and backed by the organ!
Then on to Vienna – which didn’t do it for me this time round. Too much traffic, noise and glass high rise. Progress has eroded the character. Then, maybe I just didn’t find that ‘special’ town square or plaza. Moved on and stayed in a lovely little village called Krems, at a lovely old hotel that has clung to the best of ‘old fashioned’ – but no WiFi!!
But Cesky Kumlov in the CZ might just be the most beautiful village
Had a brilliant ride along the Danube and then back into CZ to look at another ancient town which gets great wraps – Cesky Krumlov – and no wonder. Just beautiful. Perfect hideaway for a dirty/romantic weekend! Then back into Germany to Munich to get culture of a different kind – the BMW museum!
A typical Austrian/Tyrol village
Am now in the Austrian Alps to do the Stelvio Pass in Italy (top of the bucket list) and several other alpine rides: then it’s a quick spin around Lake Geneva in Switzerland (a VERY X-pensive country to travel); a flit into France to check out Niece and Monaco; then off to Italy to run the west coast (might ship over to Corsica/Sardinia while I’m in the area) down to Sicily and round to Brindisi to ferry across to Greece. I have around one month before their holiday season begins and the hordes descend – so I better motor!
One of the many things I love about travel is the interesting people you meet. People who just go ahead and pursue their dreams while others smugly claim it can’t be done.
Of course, your dream doesn’t have to be about travel. It’s yours and it can be anything you chose. Just be sure you are actually choosing, and not just going along with some predestined flow.
This blog is, mostly, about money and investing it. But in the bigger sense, it is about freedom.
Dave is in his fifties. Over that dinner he made an interesting observation. His intention with this motorbike trip and the coming sailing voyage around the world was to burn thru all his savings and die broke. It’s not working out.
Seems since hitting the road and after covering all his expenses, his net worth keeps growing. Poor guy!
Living a life of adventure, it turns out, is a whole lot cheaper than owning a McMansion and keeping up payments on an Escalade (starting at $72,970!) or two.
For those who asked about financial details and other questions Dave emailed me to politely decline engaging in the comments here, saying “….don’t want to get too tied into a lot of on-going correspondence.
“Truth is, most CAN afford to do what I do, it really comes down to the WANT, as to how we channel/allocate our resources. Money is not the limitation, the desire and conviction to put yourself out there is the limiter – and money does not buy that (but it’s a nice ‘holding deposit’ underpinning!).
“In my case, I find it is not courage that drives me, but rather FEAR – the fear that time is running out, and I may not get to realise my dreams!
“Am currently in Switzerland, having ridden the sox off the Tirol! Many great roads and stunning scenery all the way. This is biking nirvana, and there are more motorbikes than grasshoppers in a locust plague! And push biking is just as popular – people of all ages out there tackling mountains while the weather lasts!
“However, the Grey Nomads predominate, both on push bikes, and more notably on motorcycles! There are a lot of ‘oldies’ out there making the most of the time they have left. Inspiring!
“Ciao for now.”
Meanwhile and unrelated, recently…
I was interviewed for the Create My Independence Podcast: F-you Money, Stepping Away, Fear and Investing. It was fun to do and I hope you find it fun to listen to.
And, if that’s not enough, check out my As Seen On… page.
My pal Matt Becker of Mom & Dad Money just put out his new book: The New Parents’ Guide to Financial Independence
If his name and website sound familiar to you, it might be because I have had the occasion to link to some of his past posts to amplify a point in one of mine or to introduce concepts I thought valuable to the readers here.
If you want to read all about it, just click on the first link. If you just want to cut to the chase and order it, click on the second. It’s worth your time.