The journey of a lifetime: New York – Alaska – Ushuaia; 56,000 kilometers, 208 days of adventures on Moto Guzzi California III.
“I walk at the airport of Düsseldorf. The last few days I said goodbye to my best friends, colleagues, family and Lisa, the love of my life. When I made the plans for this trip, we didn’t know each other yet.
As difficult as it was, my decision was made: I’m going to make this trip!From New York to the northernmost tip of Alaska, Deadhorse. Then, to the southernmost town in the world, Ushuaia, in Argentina.There I am, together with my 1993 Moto Guzzi California III in Manhattan – New York. The last years before the trip I worked a lot. So much, that I realize I didn’t have much time to get to know the motorbike. I have had my riding license for 2 years now, but have only ridden 600 kilometers. Also my technical knowledge of engines is almost zero. I recently learned how to replace the spark plugs. I also don’t speak Spanish yet, but have brought a phrasebook with me. Is all this a good idea? Am I ever going to make it to Argentina?” After 56,000 kilometers, what now remains are 208 days of adventure and the most beautiful places; moments of happiness, sadness, problems and special encounters. VISIT “THE LONGEST ROAD” WEBSITE
How much time did you spend planning this trip?
I first got the idea when I rode a Honda 100cc from South to North during my Asia trip, in Vietnam, in 2014. I wanted this again, but bigger! America was high on my list. Alaska, Canada, the USA, Central America and South America… actually, I wanted to see everything!
At that time, I did not have a motorcycle license yet. So, the first step was getting my rider’s license and buying a motorcycle. When I went looking for a bike, I came across a very nice Moto Guzzi California III for a cheap price. I immediately knew that we would go on this adventure together! Furthermore, it was mainly a lot of arranging. Insurance for the USA and Canada and shipping the motorcycle from Rotterdam to NYC. I also tried to learn Spanish, although it was all disappointing. I didn’t want to plan the route yet, so I only had it in my head at a general level. I also wanted to get some riding experience before leaving; but, as I had to work, I was not able to do that. When I left NYC I only had 500 miles of motorcycle riding experience.
New York City
A super adventure from north to south of America: what were you looking for?
As I said, the idea came to me during the trip in Vietnam. But I was looking for something, not for 2 weeks, but really a big world trip. The continent of America has always attracted me the most, but not any specific part. I wanted to see everything. The wilderness in Alaska, the grizzlies in Canada. Cities like NYC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. National parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. The desert and Mayan culture in Mexico. The nature parks, the wildlife and volcanoes of Central America, Colombia, Chitzen Itza and Peru. Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. The Iguazu waterfalls between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and the snowy peaks of Patagonia. I wanted to see all these places with my own eyes, and all the cultures I would encounter along the way. That’s why I looked for a route that would go through all these places. I soon concluded that I would like to ride from the northernmost tip of Alaska, Deadhorse, to the southernmost town in the world: Ushuaia, in Argentina. A journey through 19 countries. As shipping the motorcycle to Alaska was too expensive, I decided to start from New York, and then ride to north towards Alaska via Route 66!
Did you have to overcome any technical problems during the trip?
I had a lot of problems during the trip, but fortunately all of them were easy to solve. Even with a very modern off-road engine, you can experience technical difficulties.
My fuel cap did not open in Mexico when I urgently had to refuel. I was frustrated and broke the cap off. Luckily 10 days later I saw my girlfriend in Playa del Carmen, so she was able to bring a new one (I never found it in Mexico, so I drove with a fuel cap using duct tape for 10 days). I also needed new parts for the gimbal and for the front fork. After a long search, I found new bearings for the cardan at a shop in Panama. Had some problems with the front fork, so I rode half of South America without damping. The fork was therefore completely broken after the trip. I had flat tyres and I couldn’t find tubeless tyres. Then I tried with an inner tube, but the temperature was too hot, and the tyre punctured. In the end, I used a tubed tyre, but without the inner tube, for an additional 12000 kilometres. When I told my dealer in the Netherlands, they thought I was joking. Really unusual: a tubed tire without an inner tube…
Canada – along the way
On average, how many kilometres a day did you travel?
That of course changed considerably. Sometimes I was able to ride 100/150 kilometres, or I had a relaxed day. On average, 300/400 kilometres per day in the USA and Canada; 200/300 in Central and South America. Sometimes I did not ride for a few days, and I went to visit places. The very last ride to Buenos Aires was by far the longest. I was running out of time, as I still had to arrange everything to ship the motorcycle from Buenos Aires. That last day I rode over 1000 kilometres (but that was really an exception, luckily).
Jasper National Park – Canada
What were the highest and lowest temperatures?
In the mountains of Canada and Alaska I rode through the snow, sometimes freezing: -5 to -10°C. In Baja California and Mexico, temperature was around 40°C every day. Sometimes with peaks of up to 45°C.
One day in Peru I rode first through the desert (40°C), and then through the Andes, where I found ice. Luckily, I planned my trip so that it would be summer in Alaska, and the end of summer in Patagonia.
Dalton highway – Alaska
What was the hardest problem you had to solve during the trip?
Finally I had arrived in the promised land: Argentina. What a special feeling to reach that country! After riding on the crappiest roads for weeks, I finally found a lovely smooth road. I was in a great mood: I was singing out loud on the motorcycle.
Law enforcement. What could happen to me? I had my papers in order and the motorcycle had been officially cleared. I had even asked at customs if insurance was required, but they replied that it was not compulsory. I began to enthusiastically tell the agent about my trip, which often helps, but he was not very interested. “Registration certificate please, and riding license, and insurance.”
Insurance? I said customs said it was unnecessary, but that did not work.
I had to pay, otherwise the motorbike would be towed away. 2900 pesos, or 140 euros! Noooo, I was already in dire need of money… I sat on the road, I felt defeated. Later I would hear from Daniel that lots of very poisonous snakes live in that area… Negotiating was impossible: I tried bursting into tears, but that didn’t work. I decided to pay. I walked up to the agent with my credit card. “Cash only, otherwise the bike will be towed away.” He said I could pay 2km up the road at a petrol station, but I was not allowed to use the bike, so I quickly walked that way. Unfortunately, the credit card pin did not work. Back with the officers, they picked up the phone to have the bike towed away. “Please! Let me ride the bike to town 20km away and I’ll find another ATM… Come on.” When we arrived in the town, 20 people lined up for the ATM. I rode to another one, but they didn’t accept my pass. Back again, I joined in the long queue. Fortunately, the debit card did work there (but with 9 Euros of transaction fees to withdraw 150 euros).
When I walked back but the bike, the officer I had told my story was standing there. “Shall we go to the insurance office now? Is it still open, it is half past eight.” It was still open, so we went inside. The police had my documents, but, luckily, clerks in that office were able to issue insurance using the copies I had. The fine for riding without insurance had not yet been issued, but in the meantime I did have insurance. I would never have been able to leave the police, of course. Could they still issue a fine? Daniel insisted on paying the insurance for me.
Daniel was a shooting instructor in the Argentinian army. He even gave the police some shooting lessons. He texted a senior police chief with the story and asked if I wanted to spend the night with him. It was almost dark, and he seemed like a good guy, so why not? We went to his house. From there we went to the police together, where I got my documents back, and my 140 Euros remained in my pocket. Very happy, I got the bike and rode to Daniel’s house. Two biker friends of his came by. We ordered and drank Argentinian beers.
After nights of camping in the wild, I finally slept on a mattress again. When I woke up, Daniel was already at work. Around 8 o’clock he returned home and he had brought breakfast. After breakfast we said goodbye. One of his buddies rode with me for a while, just to be sure I wouldn’t have any problems with the police.
Food and beverages: what were the best tastes and flavours you experienced along the way?
Before the trip, I really didn’t like beans and rice. In Central America, however, I had no choice. At 8 o’clock, beans and rice were on my dish, but they tasted fantastic, and I really appreciated them. The food in Mexico was great, especially on the street. I will never forget the grills in Argentina. The meat looks so simple, but it has so much flavour!
Alaska – along the way
Did you have any special encounters along the way?
I saw several bears in Canada, many brown bears but also some grizzlies. Seeing llamas in the wild and ostriches in South America was also a very special feeling.
Joshua Treen National Park – USA
What are some special places you’ll remember forever?
The Dalton Highway in Alaska was very special. Hundreds of miles of sand and mud, through snow and mountains without petrol stations or anything. A way to the end of the world, really. Riding over the salt fields of Salar de Uyuni was very special as well. Over there, I set up my tent and admired the sunset and the stars.
I will never forget my arrival in Ushuaia, the crowning achievement on my journey. Similarly, I’ll never forget my arrival in Playa del Carmen, where I met my girlfriend after 4 months: a beautiful and emotional moment!
What is your next trip?
I’d really like to plan beautiful motorcycle trips. With a few friends to the North Cape. And even to the east, Japan for example. Or South Africa, which I think would also be great.
But, right now my Moto Guzzi needs some maintenance after The Longest Road trip. In the meantime, I moved out of my parents’ home, so I don’t have enough money for traveling.
Fortunately, I still enjoy the memories of this trip every day.