A tiny fraction of us will ever summit Everest, rocket into outer space or spend years traveling nonstop around the world. But we’re often mesmerized by the tales of those who complete such endeavors, the personalities of those willing to take on such challenges often as bold and fascinating as their adventures. The growth of the adventure touring segment over the last several years, from the popularity of the BMW R 1200 GS/Adventure and the emergence of competitors such as the KTM 990 Adventure, Yamaha Super Ténéré and Triumph Tiger Explorer, to the proliferation of go-anywhere aftermarket companies such as Touratech, Twisted Throttle, Wunderlich and countless smaller players, to high-profile, made-for-TV journeys such as Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round and Long Way Down, suggests that epic motorcycle adventure is something that many riders aspire to, whether or not they’ll actually realize their dreams.
Horizons Unlimited is an information clearinghouse for people who have, will or want to travel around the world, or through significant portions of it, by motorcycle. The organization was founded by Grant and Susan Johnson, a couple who, on their first date in 1987, decided to explore the globe on two wheels. Three years later, they sold all their belongings, quit their jobs and embarked on an adventure of a lifetime. They’ve been rolling stones ever since. They fund their travels with occasional consulting work but proudly proclaim: For us, “nomadicity” is a way of life now. Sharif, our guide in Libya, described us as “modern Bedouins.” Since we have no kids, no pets, and all our possessions fit easily in a storage locker, that’s a pretty accurate description.
The Horizons Unlimited website (www.horizonsunlimited.com) is chockfull of information for those considering exotic motorcycle travel. And several times a year in locations scattered around the world, the Johnsons host Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle Travellers Meetings. Last October, one was held a couple hours north of Rider’s Ventura, California, editorial office, in the cozy town of Cambria, just south of the world-famous stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway that runs from San Simeon to Monterey. Rider contributors Clement Salvadori and Chris Sidah were featured speakers at the meeting, along with other renowned world travelers such as Ted Simon. (Read Clem’s blog about the meeting, or check out the Horizons Unlimited meeting schedule for 2012.)
Since not everyone can attend the Horizons Unlimited Travellers Meetings, the Johnsons decided to record and distribute seminars given by accomplished travelers. The first installment of a new DVD series called Road Heroes: Motorcycle Adventure Travel Tales, includes half-hour talks by Peter and Kay Forwood, Tiffany Coates, Dr. Gregory Frazier and Rene Cormier. Over a 14-year period, the Forwoods rode their 1994 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide in all 193 countries recognized by the United Nations—and they’re still traveling. Among several of her long-distance journeys, Tiffany Coates rode her BMW R80G/S from the United Kingdom to Central Asia, along parts of the ancient Silk Road through the “-stans” (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) into Mongolia and Siberia. Dr. Gregory Frazier, a well-known personality and prolific motorcycle travel author, has traveled around the world five times on a wide variety of motorcycles. And Rene Cormier spent five years traveling 154,000 kilometers through 41 countries. He did so on $25/day without sponsorship; like the Johnsons, he sold everything and simply hit the road.
These are inspirational tales. They are tales of human triumph, of testing one’s physical and psychological limits, of breaking through the normal, self-imposed barriers that keep 99.9 percent of us at our desks, paying our monthly bills. It is impossible to watch this DVD and not shake your head in disbelief, wondering how in the world a couple road a Harley touring bike through the muddy jungles of the Congo; how someone undertook a fifth circumnavigation of the globe with a stranger as a passenger; how such indomitable individuals could repeatedly overcome the hardships of crashes, breakdowns, fuel scarcity, demanding terrain and awful weather, and keep going. The DVD is well edited, with video of the travelers speaking onstage interspersed with photos and maps from their slideshows. Sometimes the lighting is poor, or the speaker will momentarily step out of frame, or the audio will be garbled. But such incidents are few, and the overall production quality is high. In the end, it’s the stories that matter, not the spit-and-polish of video production.
Road Heroes: Motorcycle Adventure Travel Tales, Part 1 DVD is $24.99 and is available through the Horizons Unlimited online store: www.horizonsunlimited.com/store