It’s the people you meet along the way that make a journey memorable. Some meetings are brief while others are long, and sometimes it doesn’t take long for a lasting impression to be made. These are some of their stories and some of our stories why we remember them. These are some of the people and the stories of why we remember them after our time with them has come and gone.
There were many trips that led up to the around the world tour with End Of All Roads. It was on one of those trips in Laos that the idea for our lap around the planet was born and on that trip, we met Maly. We had an excruciating day of riding that we got stuck in the middle of nowhere. We were riding from Vientiane Laos to The Plain Of Jars. We knew it’d be a long day but we had no idea how long it was going to be. We came to a spot on our trail that was covered by a large landslide. The slide had stacked debris across the trail and it looked as tall as a building. We scratched our heads for a while deciding if we should turn around or try to negotiate our way up the slide and down the other side. We decided to chance it and go over the slide. Even though we were several hours into our day, this is where our day really began. After crossing the first slide, we were committed to only direction on the trail because we could not go back the way we came from, due to the way the debris was spread out. It was up and over with no return, so off we went down the trail that was going to take us toward the Plain of Jars. The day was filled with multiple landslides, running out of water, Dan taking a tumble down a cliff that would make Wylie Coyote proud, armed rebel encounters, heat exhaustion and push us to the end of our mental and physical abilities. Why do I mention all of that? Because at the end of that day, when we finally reached a guesthouse, we were in an elevator and this tiny cute Lao girl says in perfect English with an American accent “I really like your GoPro. Did you buy that here?” We thought we must be hallucinating because nobody in this remote part of Laos would speak English that good, and after the day we had, we thought its possible that just might be hallucinating. That girl in the elevator was Maly.
We had a nice exchange in the lobby and Maly invited us to have a beer across the street at the Bamboozled Bar, which was lined with undetonated missile shell casings at the entrance. We were both extremely beat up from the long day and how do we convey that to Maly, so we agreed to a beer or two. I could barely lift my head at the table but I was mesmerized by Maly and her story.
Maly was a young girl in Laos that was forced to leave her country after the Vietnam war. There was political divide in Laos after the American war with Vietnam and Malys family had supported a side that was being persecuted and systematically killed in retaliation after the war and the Americans were gone. Malys father gathered his wife and children and made it as far as the Mekong River. The Mekong is not the kind of river you swim across. Malys father made a deal with one of the only locals that had a boat to take them across but in exchange he had to leave all of his land and possessions to the boat driver. Maly was only 5 years old and she says she remembers getting to the other side of the river with only the clothes on your back and the desperation and determination of her father. Her family made it to America and her father became a very successful farmer in California. As I sat and listened to her story, I realized this is the kind of story that America was built on, meaning people fleeing persecution for one reason or another. Maly said that because she was a refugee, she and all of her siblings had a pressure on her to do well in her career, be successful and to give back. She has succeeded in doing all of those things as well as her siblings have also.
Maly had not been back to Laos since being a small child and 30+ years later, there she was sitting at Bamboozled with Bob and myself. When we told her where we had been in Laos, she said “you must be mistaken, because I’m not even allowed in that part of Laos, no foreigners are allowed there and it’s not accessible.” We pulled out a map and showed her where we went and she could not believe that we made it through that region of the country and now she was really curious and wanted to hear our tales of travelling through the region because she was born in that area and wanted to return there but it was forbidden.
Little did I know that through our 2-beer conversation, that a lengthy friendship was born. I kept in touch with Maly and as I began my around the world tour from San Diego, I stopped to see her in San Francisco. Maly had a friend in Half Moon Bay that owned a spectacular waterfront boutique hotel named, The Oceanfront Hotel. Ann was the owner and I spent a couple of days with Ann and Maly which was fantastic, until I had a medical issue come up that put me back in San Diego and on a surgery table. One month later I returned and we picked up right where we left off. I tend to mesh well with people that have either suffered a tremendous hardship in their life which caused a grand appreciation for the little things, or those people that have travelled extensively and have a appreciation for the subtleties of the world, both Maly and Ann met that criteria and I could have spent weeks talking to them.
Which leads me to Ann of The Oceanfront Hotel in Half Moon Bay. Ann was 15 at the end of the Vietnam war and was able to hop on a plane as a refuge only to land in California. She was very good academically and especially at math. She suffered through the challenges of arriving in a new land with no friends, only a couple of family members and trying to learn a new language. She learned English and made a career for herself. She eventually married a German/American doctor and had a son who is now in his early twenties.
I had only met Ann one time through our mutual friend Maly, and she instantly treated me as an old friend. After I returned from my surgery (see above story) Ann picked me up at the airport and took me back to her Oceanfront Hotel and uncovered my motorcycle which she had generously stored for a month, since I had to leave in a hurry with a medical condition. That night I went to dinner with Ann and her husband who had a friend visiting from Switzerland (pictured here). I was treated to a magnificent wine cellar and a great meal.
This trip is about many things. It was here at the early stages of the trip that I was quickly reminded of the generosity of the world and the kindness that is too often forgotten in times like we are living in now. I can’t say thanks enough about Ann and her family for opening her place and treating me like family! Anyone in the San Francisco area looking for a gorgeous spot should check it out at www.landisshores.com 1-650-726-6642.
This is Kim and she was running a laundry mat that we stopped at and she was wearing a Turkish eye bracelet. We asked who gave it to her and she told us a story of the friend that gave it to her. We then went on to tell her the meaning of the Seeing Eye or the Evil Eye, which is to fight off evil spirits. We have been to Turkey and they are everywhere, I even have one above my front door of my house on Guam. As we explained to her, that whoever gave it to her, gave it to her for protection, she took it off and offered it to Bob. She said, “you guys are riding around the world, I think you need it more than me.” It was a sweet moment and even though we only were with her for two hours as we did our laundry, none of us will forget her and the exchange had in our short time together.
These two ladies flew a small 2 seater airplane from Maine to Alaska. One of them is a FAA inspector. We spent the day with them in Talkeetna Alaska on a glacier tour.
On a beautiful day of riding north of Denali national park to Fairbanks, we stopped at the 49th State Brewery. Most people were inside, but there was a fire ring outside with some Adirondack chairs around a fire pit. We walked over to the fire pit and there was a couple there that we started talking to and as we asked what beers they recommended, little did we know that we were talking to 2 beer experts.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time sitting with these two and not only learned a lot about the beer at the 49th State Brewery, but the breweries in Boston Massachusetts where they were from. Good times with lots of laughs!
At the end of Leg 1, I left my motorcycle with my uncle Glen’s friends near Homer Alaska. Bill and Norma have a gorgeous log home with a nice view and a garage that they offered to store my bike until the next leg of the trip. It’s always nice to leave things and find them better than the way you left them. Bill was kind enough to rewire our trailer on Glen’s truck and cover my bike to make sure it didn’t get dirty. We spent a couple of days with Norma and Bill and got to experience Alaska from a locals perspective, which we were very thankful for.
We left Homer Alaska to meet up with Bob in Anchorage. We intended on meeting in Anchorage and heading east right away towards Halifax. The night before we left, Bob told me that his sister and her family were a couple of hours north of Anchorage in Talkeetna. I said, “well, what are the chances of there being any family members along the way on our trip? We gotta go!” So instead of going east we went north to Talkeetna and met up with his sister and family. That stop changed our route and we decided to continue north to Denali and Fairbanks, which was a great thing we did because it was gorgeous and we lucked out on the weather. All of Bob’s family was so happy to see him, especially his nieces. He gave motorcycle rides and I think it gave us all something to think about for a few days.
We went out for a few drinks in Fairbanks and this was our Uber driver. He was from China and came to America to attend university. He liked America and didn’t want to go back home so he joined the military. He is in America by himself with no family and is a member of the US Air Force. This pic was taken about midnight (yes it is still light out) and he had to be at work at 4 am.
This is a couple that we will be reminded of for our entire trip. This guy bought the Land Rover from the movie Lara Croft Tomb Raider and then spent 3 years retrofitting this thing into a Mad Max around the world capable machine. The two of them are driving this tank around the world and camping along the way, if you wanna call it camping. It has a pop up bedroom, bathroom, solar panels and state of the art engineering. I could have spent a week talking to him about how he built it and what all he had done to the truck. He was married and all he ever wanted was a Land Rover but his wife who sounded like a bit of a naysayer, said she didn’t want a Land Rover or to travel. He got divorced, bought his Land Rover, bulletproofed it for his journey with his new wife, who loves traveling and the truck, and they took off.
As we talked to him, he said something in German to his wife who went to get a key to a compartment that he began digging in. He came out with 2 boxes, which he elegantly presented each of us with a limited edition Swiss Army knife. He was very proud of the knives and obviously had stocked a few on board for special occasions, so I was honored to receive such a beautiful knife. It will accompany us around the world.
This is Captain Jay Katz of United Airlines. He is a friend of ours and is a continuous resource for us. If there is anywhere we are planning on going, chances are that Jay has been there. Jay has spent time in Iran, North Korea, southern Algeria with the Toureg Tribe, every country in the Middle East and most importantly to us, Antarctica. Jay seriously should be writing travel books but lucky for us, we have him as a personal resource. Thanks for all the help planning our trip to Antarctica!
We stopped for lunch and as soon as we start riding again, after only 5 miles, we pass The Big Beaver in Beaver Creek. The jokes were plentiful and after laughing so hard for a few miles, we decided we had to turn around and get a picture. As we pulled up, there is a family sitting on a bench taking in the nice day and looking at the Big Beaver. They turn to look at us because our laughter is loud and obnoxious but we can’t stop, and that’s because of the countless jokes we are telling in our intercoms.
We took our photos and as we were finishing, Bob asked one of the ladies from the family to take our picture. It turns out that she is a 2 time Pulitzer Prize winner, Emmy winner from the LA Times. Needless to say, the picture she took was framed perfectly and it wasn’t her first time taking a photo. Barbara is in between Bob and I and she is wearing some fabulous shoes, which she insisted we take a pic of, not really. I’m glad we turned around! The people ya meet…
The route planning involved for this trip is continuous. We are constantly looking at maps, blogs, phone calls and anything to gather info on various parts of the world. Recently, We had been researching our trip across northern Africa and Morocco. Sometimes we feel like the universe has a funny way of answering you when you are looking for info and this is one of those cases. When we were in Edmonton Canada, we took an Uber to the Taste Of Edmonton and low and behold, our driver was from Morocco. There are not many Moroccans in Canada and we were intrigued at the coincidence. We spent the entire drive and about half an hour after the drive talking about Morocco and the things to see and the things to avoid. It’s always good to get a local perspective and this guy changed our route and gave us some solid tips that will be taken to heart for our Morocco travels.
The people ya meet…
While taking picture in Dawson Creek, BC at the Alaskan Highway sign, we met Tim. Tim was on his way from North Carolina to Alaska to work at a salmon hatchery in Seward Alaska. He was in the hospital for a very long time with a rare form of Limes Disease and almost lost his life. One of the doctors that worked on him, made such a strong impression that he is now headed to medical school. First, he was going to Alaska to save his money for one fish season and then attend university which he was already been accepted for the Fall semester. To hear his blow by blow story renewed my faith in humanity and I’m thankful for doctors like the one that worked on Tim that inspired him to completely change his life and now Tim will be making a strong contribution to the masses while helping people.
Tim was someone that almost had his life taken from him, so he knew life is short and must be enjoyed. As we compared notes of our routes, he insisted we not miss Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper, and that was great advice. He changed our route and we spent an extra week enjoying some of the best scenery I’ve seen in my life. Thanks Tim!!!
The People ya meet…
The girl on the right side of this pic is Bina from Czech Republic. You don’t really expect to meet someone from Czech Republic when you are in rural Canada. She was our waitress at a pub we stopped at for lunch. She had a contagious laugh and a story to tell.
Her family was expecting her to go to college but she chose to go live in Canada for a couple of years and have some adventure before digging into school. We all have those thoughts but its good to see someone living their dream! She was so curious about the world and about our trip. She had so many questions and I think we all just wanted to scoop her up and take her with us to show her the world.
This is Phil “the road runner.” He is 85 years old and still driving his RV around. He was driving from Florida to Alaska on this trip. He wanted to come with us on our trip but he said he should probably stick to the RV.
85 years old
The people ya meet…