Over the years, we’ve seen some beautiful places during our travels. Some because of natural beauty, and others because of the local culture. The more miles we acquire, the more we come to appreciate not just the places, but the people we meet along the way.
I have a lot of special memories of people I met throughout my year on the road in 2015-16. From Judith, the “Swiss Girl” that rode her DRZ400 all the way from Alaska to Santiago, Chile (and is even leading all-women rides in Nepal), to the stranded local motorcyclist on the side of a dirt road in Colombia who allowed me to repair his flat tire, to Mama Margaret in Tanzania (and her daughter Patricia, who lives not far from us, and has since become our good friend), to the guy at a roadside cafe in Namibia who unwittingly gave me one of my best stories due to my own ignorance.
This trip has been a lot of the same kind of memories. I was convinced that people would be less inclined to approach a traveling couple than a solo traveler. In some instances, it seems that has held true. In fact, what I’ve found is that I can use Diana as a “carrot” to start conversations. This usually happens when she is left standing by the bike, in all her gear, while I go inside a store or other place. I think the attraction of a solo female traveler is strong, and whether it’s that people see her that way when I’m missing, or if they’re just hesitant because of my “Grumpy Duck” face, it seems to work. Often, I’m in the store paying for gas or filling our drink bottles, and over our helmet intercoms I hear her respond to someone who has approached. In other instances, people see us getting on the bike, and they can’t believe there is actually room for her amongst all the bags, so they stop to watch and often comment.
We’ve met a lot of great people in the past four months, even if it’s just a short conversation in a parking lot. From Jimmy in Lizella, Georgia, who recently bought a Versys 650 and wants to travel, to Andrew in East Texas; the Montana bicyclist in northern California on his way to San Francisco (and the Washington bicyclist in Astoria, Oregon on his way to San Diego); the “mailman” in Idaho (Tom and Erin will know who and what I am referring to here — a story left untold on these pages); our friend Dave’s wife AnneMarie in Alaska whom we met for the first time on this trip, and her son Joshua & daughter-in-law Kayla and their friends with whom we shared a dinner, and introduced us to new podcasts; Michael at the Tourist Park campground in Idaho Falls who saw us pull in and, believing that there were no spaces left, offered to share his (turns out there was one space left, so we took it, then shared stories with Michael), and later that same night, Kevin and Ron, who arrived even later on their bikes, and since there were no spaces left, we shared ours with them. And Tony Adams, the bicyclist pulling his house, who has traveled this way for 21 years and covered much of the US.
Then there are the homeowners we’ve met on our housesitting gigs. And too many more great people than we can mention here. Along the way, some people see the Texas license plate and are just curious about where we’ve been and where we are going. Others want to share their travel stories. Some want to learn more about how to travel like we do, so they invite us to dinner, or to their homes.
So while we will always make a list of places we want to see when we begin planning each leg of our journey, it’s really the people along the way that create the strongest impressions and memories. Because of them, we can’t wait to hit the road again.