RIDE & WANDER: How long have you been riding?
William Gloege: I have been riding a motorbike since I was around 10 years old. My dad bought me a Yamaha YSR50 to rip around the private roads that surrounded our home. I wasn’t sure why I chose a street bike, probably because it just looked cool. I took a break until I was about 18 when I bought a Suzuki DR350. Currently my bikes include my 2014 Kawasaki KLR 650 “the Burra”, 2006 KTM 450 EXC-G (plated) and a 1977 Honda XL175.
RW: What got you interested in adventure riding?
WG: While I was living in the Lake Tahoe area, I bought the DR350 and the adventure riding bug got me good. Stringing together 300-mile loops in my favorite riding area on the eastern slope of the Sierras was my passion. The simplicity and ease of living off your bike for days at a time, only needing gas, offers a freedom that I can’t replicate with other sports. That kind of self-sustainability is very rewarding. I have learned more about motorbike repair on the side of a dirt road – having every tool except the one I need, 50 miles from the nearest town at dusk.
Now, adventure riding feeds my soul. Seeing new places and meeting new people is my joy. I believe that we do live on a big planet, but it is getting smaller quickly. More paved roads, the internet, and globalization are all contributing to a more homogenized world. Getting out and seeing the differences in food, culture, people and landscapes is what I am trying to do before the whole world is blended together. I have seen the end of the pavement get closer and closer to the end of the road, whereby access will be easier for everyone. As technology evolves and grows, the now hidden parts of the world are losing some of their authenticity and the true reason for exploring them. Don’t get me wrong, I know this evolution is inevitable, I simply want to make sure that I can experience both sides of it.
RW: What does adventure riding mean to you?
WG: The term “adventure riding” is widely used, and rightly so. Generally adventure riding is where one can truly be free. The freedom comes in the form of picking an unknown route that is not the fastest from point A to B, testing your skills as a rider and a human being, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. The freedom comes from a total focus on the road in front of you, and detaching from everyday life. Depending on the rider’s ability level, experience level, time off from work, family situation and comfort zone, adventure riding can look very different from rider to rider, but it is still adventure riding. A rider will know when they are on an adventure by the tingle down there spine in the first 5 miles.
Adventure riding not only lets you get to know yourself and your limits, but also lets you get to know some of the best people in the world. For example, in San Pedro de Atacama a fellow overlander (and now dear friend) rode nearly 60 miles each way to Calama to get a part for me so that I could get back on the road. No hesitation, no reparation, off he rode. Thanks Michael! You just don’t find that in many other circumstances. I will pay it forward and that is the nature of adventure riding.
For me, an adventure ride usually involves some or all of the following; seeing something new, a new road, sleeping in a tent, several roadside cups of coffee, meeting new people, a nap on the side of the road, a fall, some type of mechanical failure and surely that tingle down the spine. Although I love to cross borders on my bike, county lines are sufficient on the weekend. Just pick a place on a map and go.
In my home life, I am a yoga instructor. Meditation is a challenge in my personal yoga practice, but when I am on my bike, out in nature, it is a meditative state for me. Nothing brings me closer to my true essence, than this type of travel. It breaks you down to the smallest denominator of your being and encourages you to grow in ways that you could never have imagined. You test your boundaries, become more independent, learn what is really important to you and the world, laugh, cry, love and become calmer and clearer in your mind. Adventure riding is the best way that I can spend my time.
RW: Where did you go on your trip?
WG: My last trip was the Pan-American Highway. I left my home in Santa Cruz, California and traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina. Countries included; Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. It was a 5 month journey and about 18,000 miles. I rode a Kawasaki KLR 650. I saw so much and met some people that are now lifetime friends from all over the globe. It is amazing who you meet in a hostel, anyone from a Chairman of a global bank to an elementary school teacher. I met overlanders from the US, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, England, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Italy and Mexico, among others.
It is the age-old saying that the journey is more important than the destination. This was so true on this trip. Yes, I made it to the bottom of the world, but the accomplishment to me was the experiences and lessons that I learned on a random Tuesday, in the middle of Bolivia, at 13,000 ft. sitting around a campfire in a cave.
RW: Why did you take this route?
WG: I was on another trip (sans motorbike) in March to Argentina. On a bus from Calafate to El Chalten to see Mt. Fitz-Roy, I saw two motorbikes riding the other way. I was inspired at that moment and I made the decision that I was going to ride down there from my house. The route was generally pieced together on a 3 day forecast, depending on what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go. I didn’t have a predetermined route, except for some major points of interest, the Carretera Austral and Ushuaia. Ironically enough I got a good chuckle in my helmet on Ruta 40 near Calafate, when I saw the same bus I was on go by. I wonder if I inspired anyone along my journey, as I had been, just months earlier.
The route was about 70/30 paved/dirt. I really enjoy dirt tracks and try to ride them as much as possible. The secondary roads offer a truer flavor and more unadulterated experience of the country that you are visiting. Unfortunately, many of the tracks that I thought were dirt in South America had been paved since the maps were printed. This included much of the Carretera Austral in Chile, one of the highlights of the trip. My recommendation to people is to go out and explore now! Many of the dirt roads of the past are being turned into highways, making them easily accessible to everyone. I am not grumpy about this or fighting change, just cognizant.
RW: What is a ride/trip that you’re looking forward to in the future?
WG: I have made the decision to ride around the world. I plan to leave in March 2016 and, as I am writing this, am trying to decide whether to continue on my KLR, ride a BMW F800 GSA or get a hold of a new Honda Africa Twin. The AT doesn’t come out in time for my departure, so that may be a pipe dream and I am concerned about the lack of history with this new model. But, wouldn’t that be sweet? Check Instagram or Facebook to see what bike is under me.
I got fun grief from my friends that the Pan American Highway begins in Prudho Bay, Alaska, not my driveway in California. It was just easier to turn left out of my driveway for my last trip. So to complete the Pan American, I will ride around the world and finish the northern portion of the Pan American Highway at the conclusion of this trip. The route will include, the Southern United States, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Monte Negro, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia to Magadan. If I have time, money, and desire, I would enjoy exploring northern India, Nepal, Burma and Thailand. Then to Alaska to “finish” the Pan American.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of nonsense happening in the Middle East right now. It is truly devastating, the pointless suffering that is occurring. For safety’s sake (and to spare my mother) I may have to take a more northerly route, skipping one of the highlight regions of this journey. I expect that this journey will be about 6-8 months. I am very excited for the continuation of this next sortie and anticipate that the lessons, experiences and adventures will be eye-opening.
All photos by William Gloege