Your soul is ready to go ride around the world, but your bank account begs to differ? It’s more common than you think – but don’t despair. Adventure travel doesn’t need to be an expensive undertaking at all, as long as you’re willing to compromise (a little) and plan ahead (a lot). And no, adventure travel on a budget doesn’t mean sleeping in ditches and surviving on pot noodles – it just means a smarter way to ride around the world.

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1. Set Your Priorities

What level of comfort do you need? You can buy a $20,000 bike and ride around for a month, or you can buy a $5,000 bike and ride around the world for a year. It’s all about the level of luxury you require. Do you absolutely need a big, comfy bike, nice restaurant meals and decent hotels? Prepare to spend $100 and more a day. Are you happy with a smaller, maybe second-hand bike, simpler lodging and cooking your own meals once in a while? Your expenses might drop to $50 and less a day.

Be honest with yourself and manage your expectations. Are you going on a fancy holiday or an adventure ride? Those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but just think about whether you want to invest in things or happiness and freedom.

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2. Get Creative

As mentioned above, compromises are important but it doesn’t mean you’ll have to sleep under a tarp and eat canned tuna all the time. There are ways of making adventure travel both exciting and comfortable without depriving yourself.

• Barter - Miss staying in a nice hotel? See if you can ask for a discount or a free stay in exchange for, say, great photos or a website upgrade for the owner.

• DIY -  Want a good steak for dinner? Instead of splurging on a restaurant meal, buy a nice piece of filet mignon at a local butcher’s and cook it yourself. This will reduce the cost significantly but you’ll still have a fantastic dinner!

• Pause - Life on the road can get exhausting sometimes – so plan a little break once in a while. Stay in a peaceful jungle lodge and catch up on reading or get an AirBnB in a beautiful city someplace and go out for drinks if that’s your thing. Stopping once in a while and doing the things you’ve missed while traveling can be a huge boost for morale – and finances, because the slower you travel, the less you spend.

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3. Travel Slowly

Speaking of slowing down: most of the time, it’s wiser to pick a country, a region or a continent and explore it slowly rather than race around the world. If you travel slow, you spend less on gas and accommodation, see more, and have a much more in-depth experience of the places you’re traveling through.

Adventure travel isn’t just about motorcycling – it’s also about immersing yourself in local cultures and experiencing the world on a very human level. So hold your horses, spend less, and see more!

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4. Cheat Currencies

If your budget is tight, think about where you’re going. North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand will be very expensive to travel, so if you can’t afford it just yet, go to Asia or South America instead (Africa is also on the list, but the sheer cost of paperwork – visas and carnet de passage – might be on the pricier side).

If you are planning to hit all six continents though, see if you can leverage currencies. Splurge on good hotels, restaurants, and activities in places like Bolivia, Tajikistan and Laos, but consider camping and cooking your own food as much as possible in Norway and Canada.

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5. Be Prepared

We make irrational decisions when we’re under stress or duress – so plan ahead to avoid this as much as possible.

If you have great riding and camping gear, you’re more likely to camp more instead of caving in and checking into hotels when the weather turns bad. If your bike is well maintained, you’re less likely get stranded somewhere and spend a fortune on DHL services to get you parts. Equally, research political situations and borders ahead of the trip: having to detour for thousands of miles because of civil unrest or buying an expensive carnet de passage or a guided tour last minute can get very costly, very quickly. Sure, you can’t be prepared for everything, and unexpected things will happen – but being aware and having a plan B just in case can save you a lot of headache and expenses.

So what’s the bottom line? Adventure travel is achievable for as little as $15 a day and as much as… well, I guess there’s no limit of how much you can spend if you want and are able to! The point is, a little creativity, willingness to compromise and slow travel can all be huge factors in your budgeting decisions. So do your research, decide where you want to go and what you’re comfortable with, and hit that open road!

There’s something about motorcycling that draws us to each other—a sense of camaraderie based on friendships and freedom. On the road, that sense becomes magnified—a shared philosophic approach to life that’s sometimes difficult to put a finger on but one we know is there.

Organizations like Couch Surfing, AirBnB, Uber, Freecycle.org, take advantage of the “sharing economy,” in which participants share or re-use their excess capacity of goods and services. MotoStays is a new travel and homesharing community specifically for motorcyclists. Just about everyone has space to share, whether it’s a guestroom, a couch, an RV, or tent space out back. And, MotoStays has taken the sharing economy to a new level by formally organizing it around the world.

Founders Tad Haas and Gaila Gutierrez launched MotoStays in June 2014. On the road, through sometimes random meetings and connections, they often found themselves with complete strangers. The result was lasting friendships and cultural experiences they would not have otherwise had.

MotoStays Profile 2

Motorcyclists sharing homes with one another isn’t new. It occurs naturally between riders, randomly and through word of mouth. MotoStays’ site provides predictability and, as the network grows, a rider will eventually be able to plan entire trips around the network.

MotoStays provides an alternative to campsites, hostels and hotels. Membership is based on the “pay it forward” model, in which stays between members are free. Whether traveler or host, there’s no money exchanged. But as a host, there’s no obligation unless it’s convenient and comfortable. Tad and Gaila have also been compiling a “guest etiquette” they recommend. For example: When someone is hosting, it’s proper to show appreciation by bringing a bottle of wine or contributing in some way, whether it’s helping with cooking or cleaning up after a meal, or small gift from your region. The idea is you’re one and the same; sometimes the host, sometimes the traveler. The goal is to create an experience you’d like to have.

The cool thing about this community is that every dining table becomes the concierge’s desk with locals able to provide regional knowledge and insights. These are the people who know the area best—the preferred roads, sights, restaurants and local repair shops or possibly even help with repairs right in their garages.

So exactly who is MotoStays designed for and how does it work? Tad and Gaila encourage every type of motorcyclist to become part of the community. Whether you ride an adventure bike, cruiser, sport tourer, sidecar, CanAm or scooter, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s around motorcycling.

“We believe one of the core benefits of the MotoStays platform is that we’re very targeted. We’re not trying to be a forum, a riding club or general interest site. Rather, MotoStays is intended to be the go-to resource for motorcycle home sharing. While other sites may have provisions for sharing, ours is focused. It’s our hope that someday other riding sites/clubs will work with us to create an integrated engine for home sharing. In doing so, we can reduce the workload and get the word out in a coordinated manner. Ultimately it’s scale that matters because being good at all things is really difficult. Most of all, it’s about the experience, the economics of collaborative consumption and the new friends we meet on the road or at home around our collective passion for riding.”—Tad and Gaila

MotoStays Profile 1

How it Works

It’s simple, just sign up for a membership and build a profile. MotoStays is not a social media site, but in a similar way profiles provide short introductions as well as information on the spaces being shared, amenities (laundry, Wi-Fi, parking, pets, etc.) and other pertinent info. Your profile appears as a pin on a world map of our website. Profiles are important as they establish expectations, minimizing the element of surprise. In addition to making connections with others, there is no cost, as stays between members are free, making MotoStays a great way to stretch the budget while making new friends.

When crossing borders, where language barriers can be intimidating, members can also create “safe ports.” Knowing there’s a connection in the next country can give reassurance that there’s someone locally who is expecting you, speaks the language, knows the culture and laws, and can help if you find yourself in need. But it’s not just about foreign lands, there are plenty of opportunities in North America.

Since its launch, MotoStays has done a fantastic job creating a community that extends hospitality while enhancing the travel experience. Whether just for a weekend or a global excursion, MotoStays can help find places to stay with other members who understand the needs of motorcyclists.

The website and mobile-friendly services provide an exceptional user experience with an excellent visual database and connection details. In addition, there’s a built-in rating system where travelers and hosts can share their experiences. Members can use this information to help make informed decisions when accepting guests or finding places to stay.

MotoStays currently has hundreds of members in 16 countries and is growing fast. Their goal is to gather like-minded travelers into a largescale community, creating more opportunities worldwide. Based on the interest generated so far, it looks they’re off to a great start.You can learn more about MotoStays and how it works at Motostays.com or listen to a recent interview with Tad and Gaila on lizjansen.com/travel-network/.

MotoStays.com

This story first appeared in the July/August 2015 edition of Adventure Motorcycle Magazine.

 {gallery}ARTICLES/Industry/MotoStays/Gallery{/gallery}

Meeting People

Everyone has his or her own style, taste and thrills. Some motorcyclists travel solo, some travel 2up and others in groups, for various reasons. However, after being on the road for some time, meeting various travelers and following a number of blogs, I believe that one thing is common amongst all—at one point or another during the trip, everyone shares wonderful experiences with different people from across the globe. Following a couple of backpacking trips, I have noticed that travelling on a motorcycle amplifies the opportunities to meet people as well as to be invited by locals wanting to host you, which is great. I’ve connected, I’ve made friends and I have plenty of good memories, but is this always an easy going, wonderful experience? Hell NO.

This might be one of the challenges of long-­‐term travel, especially when it is your first long trip and you’re still learning about what you can live with and what doesn’t work out for you. Besides this, if you’re travelling with a partner, it is even more challenging, as amidst of it all, you need to realign and find a balance between the wants and needs of both.

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The Annoyances

I am a wanderer, a free-­‐spirit, and freedom is fundamental for my sanity. This is quite understandable, no? I left my home, my full-­‐time job and a shedload of comforts back home to travel after all. Furthermore, I left on a trip at the back of a guy’s bike whom I had only known for a couple of weeks—so, adventure is a big drive for me. As much as I like and appreciate the people we come across, and as much as I embrace certain memories, I find myself in situations, where I simply feel like suffocating.

In certain countries more than others, being a traveler on a big bike turns you into an entertainer and an attraction for many. I get it – in some countries, there aren’t even bikes over 250cc on the road—Iran is one example, so it’s only natural for people to react, ask and get super interested.

What becomes irritating is, when people put you in certain situations, for their own benefit. I am referring to the notion that is present in certain societies, where being seen and additionally having a foreigner at your house somehow makes you look good or even superior. It is definitely a cultural thing, and in my opinion, it is unfortunate, that simply having white skin might give the impression of superiority, but when you are in the middle of it, it sucks even more.

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The phone rings…and amongst the jargon of a language that I do not understand, I hear ‘world traveler’, I hear the name of a country, which most of the time is not where I come from, because most of the people do not know that tiny Malta exists and BAM—this is where I must prepare myself, to shake more hands, take more selfies and answer the same questions, even if I’m drained, dead tired or simply need some space.

I have to sit, drink, eat, sleep when my hosts decide I should, and I must be careful because I don’t know how to hide my emotions! If I express myself, I have to be very careful because due to language barriers, one thing might be understood completely wrong, and that’s when things get awkward.

Being a Woman in Different Cultures

And you know the worst part of it all? Being a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of being a woman, but all of this in a male-­‐dominated environment makes my blood pressure explode a lot faster. We were invited for lunch once, and I was sitting with Daryl and the man of the family. The wife was only serving food, and that already made me upset. At one point, the guy looked at Daryl and asked him a direct question about me, like I am totally invisible whilst I was on the same table, trying to engage, very capable of answering.

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Maintaining Balance

Whilst dealing with all of this, I somehow still try to keep in mind that most probably, these people are unaware that they are making us uncomfortable. For them, allowing us time and space might be unacceptable, as we are their guests and they must entertain us, whilst for us, it is a need. Disregarding me as a woman might be natural for them, as the way that they were raised in society didn’t teach them otherwise. After all, whenever we ended up in situations like these, there were still moments that we enjoyed, where we learnt something new or simply experienced something that we couldn’t have found on our own.

So how can you take control of situations like these, without eradicating yourself from any type of interaction? It is not easy, and in reality, when you are approached by someone and you accept their invitation, it is always a risk. But like almost anything else in life, it is all about balance. First of all, if you’re not traveling solo, maintaining healthy communication with your travel partner is essential. Secondly, you have to learn how to find the balance to stick to your plans and stay comfortable whilst respecting and appreciating what these people have to offer. In the end, the way you travel is your choice and you have to figure out how often or how long can you handle such situations for yourself. One thing is for sure—crossing borders and facing all kinds of situations including some like these broaden your perspective about a lot of matters—including yourself.

Wildfeathers.com

The morning air is still cool enough to be comfortable as Bill and I ride two-up on his BMW R1200GS, climbing the steep, tight, twisting road from the Mesa Verde National Park entrance to the Far View Visitor Center 15 miles and 1,500 vertical feet away. We attempted this ride last evening on separate motorcycles but a few miles in, I chickened out. White-knuckled on the precipitous switchbacks, I had panicked at the thought of riding back to camp after dark. Today I relax on the back of Bill’s bike, happy to let him expertly negotiate the road and allow me to enjoy the view. My F650GS waits at the campground, where we will retrieve it later.

My excitement builds as we top the mesa and enjoy the panorama. The Colorado Plateau spreads out before us in every direction. With our presence here, we’ve embarked upon the National Scenic Byway known as “Trail of the Ancients,” a loop through the far corners of southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah which sweeps the rider into a now nearly uninhabited desert where the Ancestral Puebloans made their homes as recently as the 14th Century. This expanse of red soil and sandstone is dotted with a high concentration of archaeological sites, among them Mesa Verde National Park. Located near Cortez, Colorado, Mesa Verde opens a window into the lives of the people who made it their home from 600 to 1300 A.D., protects over 4,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. According to the National Park Service, these are some of the best preserved in the United States.

We ride a few more miles and disembark at the parking area above Spruce Tree House, the park’s third largest cliff dwelling. The weather has warmed up atop the mesa but we find respite from the sun on the tree-shaded footpath, turning back the clock 700 years during our 100-foot descent into Spruce Canyon. As we approach the cliff dwelling we’re greeted by a young park ranger who seems glad to have company. It is May, early in the season, and there are few other tourists here today.

4

Spruce Tree House contains about 130 rooms and eight kivas, or underground chambers. We’re pleased to discover that visitors have liberal access. Descending a wooden ladder into a kiva, we ponder what life would be like if this were home. Quite snug, we decide, enjoying the cool subterranean environment. Back on the surface we watch a small girl go through the motions of grinding corn in the way of early inhabitants, using stone implements with the ranger’s guidance.

By this time we have both worked up an appetite, so we ascend the trail and look for the park restaurant. After a bit of wandering around we find what amounts to a cafeteria, enjoy pizza and cokes, and head back to the campground. It is time to retrieve my bike and continue on the Trail of the Ancients.

From this point, the Trail offers two options. A southern loop continues on Highway160 and a northerly route passes through the communities of Lebanon and Yellowjacket. Either way takes you to Utah. Hoping to get off the pavement, we digress from the official Byway, choosing a more direct route on County Road G (or McElmo Canyon Road) which runs straight west along McElmo Creek and the southern edge of the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. Canyon of the Ancients covers almost 164,000 acres of high desert and contains more than 5,000 recorded archaeological sites. The area has the highest known archaeological site density in the United States.

7

As we approach the Utah border we spot a building sitting askew in the desert, its flaking adobe façade revealing worn bricks of red mud. The sign on the building just says “Ismay.” It appears to be a deserted store and a perfect photo op. I am shooting pictures of Bill and his GS in the parking lot when a Toyota 4Runner pulls up. From it steps a blonde woman wearing sunglasses and a red muumuu. A white dust mask covers the lower half of her face. “Have you been inside yet?” she asks.

“You mean it’s still in operation?” Bill says.

“Yes, this is the Ismay Trading Post and old Mr. Ismay still runs it. You meet him and you meet a REAL John Wayne. His family has owned this land for years and this store has been open since 1927. You should go in and take a look around. By the way, I have allergies. That’s why the mask.”

Inside the trading post, our eyes adjust to the darkness as they fall upon nearly empty shelves, a calendar many years out of date, and dust. Lots of dust. In every respect the place appears to have been long abandoned except for the presence of Mr. Ismay, a slightly stooped old man sitting on a stool in the corner, paying little heed to the two strangers in motorcycle gear. My husband, who can start a conversation with anyone, speaks, but Mr. Ismay shows no interest in chit-chat. Perhaps he has tired of the usual questions from curious travelers. Finally, Bill selects a Snickers, dusts off the wrapper, and we depart. Our masked friend fills us in on several nearby tourist destinations and stresses that we must see the Valley of the Gods on our way. We thank her for her kindness and ride on.

As it turns out, Mr. Ismay’s business is more than it appears. In these parts, “trading post” is not just a catchy name for “convenience store.” This and many others were established in the region in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries for the purpose of trade with the Navajos. Few remain in operation. Though the Ismay Trading Post seemed a bit forlorn, we realize we have touched a piece of history that could soon be gone.

Our road soon reconnects with the official Trail of the Ancients and Utah Highway 162. We stop for photos in Bluff, clearly named for the geological formation looming over the community. About 17 miles west of Bluff on Highway 163, we spy a sign saying “Valley of the Gods” and remember our impromptu tour guide’s advice. I am in the lead and, uncomfortable taking time for the side trip, I drive past the turn-off. In my rear view mirror, I see Bill turn into the Valley. I pull off down the road and, after a few moments’ hesitation, turn back to join him on the dirt surface of the entry.

2

Many are familiar with the red buttes and mesas of Monument Valley as the background for old Hollywood westerns. But Valley of the Gods, 40 miles north of Monument Valley, is more obscure. It is a smaller version of its famous neighbor but boasts similar sandstone formations with names like Castle Butte, Pyramid Peak, Setting Hen Butte, and Lady in the Bathtub. The 17-mile dirt road through the valley is steep and bumpy in parts... perfect for a fun ride on a versatile motorcycle. I stand and ride through the gullies and across the road’s washboard surface, disappointed when we reach pavement again so soon.

The Valley lies at the base of Cedar Mesa, a 1,200-foot bluff which we face head-on as we rejoin Highway 261. A road sign warns “10% grade 5 mph switchbacks.” In less than a mile we are climbing the Moki Dugway. Once again the road turns to dirt and gravel and we slowly proceed up the side of Cedar Mesa. This exhilarating three-mile path climbs to the top in a series of switchbacks with spectacular views and convenient pullouts.

Moki Dugway gets its name from the carved hand- and foot-holds on cliff faces throughout the region created by the Ancestral Puebloans. The term “moki” is derived from the Spanish word moqui, a term used by Spanish explorers and settlers to describe the Pueblo Indians.

The pavement quickly reappears and we continue to Natural Bridges National Monument, our last official stop on the Trail of the Ancients. Short on time and gas, we are uncertain where we will camp tonight, or how far it is to the next fuel stop. Two bored park rangers man the otherwise deserted visitor center and they are happy to answer our questions.

“Where is the closest gas?” Bill asks.

This must be an FAQ for the rangers. Conveniently, they have an actual printed list of “Distance from Natural Bridges to Gasoline.”

“Closest gas is at Hite,” says one, pointing out its direction and distance.

“Eighty miles?” says Bill, looking at the document.

“Yep, 80 miles,” says the ranger.

Bill and I look at each other. It will be a stretch. Here, we leave the Trail of the Ancients behind to strike out for that essential of modern life, gasoline, riding northwest on Highway 95 through the beautiful but desolate landscape of buttes and canyons. We are buffeted by sledgehammer crosswinds which swirl around the bluffs and require a reflexive vigilance just to stay on the road. After 79 miles of this, and frequent glances at my dashboard to check fuel status, a road sign appears indicating a left turn will take us to Hite.

One mile on, we arrive at yet another deserted establishment. No humans. No other vehicles. Thankfully, there are indeed gas pumps. Bill wipes dust from the glass of one pump, then swipes his credit card. We breathe a sigh of relief when the digital read-out tells us to select our fuel grade. And we feel even better hearing the muted hum as fuel flows into the hollow caverns of our tanks.

3

Returning to the highway, we’re stunned by the beauty of the vista ahead where an arching bridge crosses the Colorado River. As the sun lowers in the sky, the colors of the landscape intensify. We must move on, but I think about hiking these canyons and climbing the monolithic formations. How many years would it take to see just a fraction of the scenery out here?

Back on Highway 95 I scan the empty landscape and ponder what a high level of trust we place in the machinery between our knees. Help would be hard to find out here. We stop in the town of Hanksville to top our tanks and fill our grumbling bellies. We need to find a camp spot before dark and the sun is about to set. Bill invests a few precious moments in helping four young people having car trouble. This is no place for anyone to be stranded. Finally satisfied that the kids can be on their way, we chase the final rays of light westward and I follow Bill as he turns up a sandy wash just outside of town. There we make camp as the stars begin to pop out in ones and twos and then hundreds and tens of thousands. The evening cools and we gaze at the night sky, reflecting on the Trail of the Ancients and those who have enjoyed that same night sky for thousands of years.

{gallery}ARTICLES/Rides/TrailOfTheAncients/Gallery{/gallery}

______________________

Susan Dragoo mini bio portrait
As a writer, photographer and ADVMoto associate editor Susan Dragoo enjoys bringing a historical focus to her travels, whether two-wheeled, four-wheeled, or on foot. She and husband Bill
(BillDragoo.com) travel extensively from their centrally located home base in Norman, Oklahoma, generating plenty of material for tales of adventure. SusanDragoo.com

The morning air is still cool enough to be comfortable as Bill and I ride two-up on his BMW R1200GS, climbing the steep, tight, twisting road from the Mesa Verde National Park entrance to the Far View Visitor Center 15 miles and 1,500 vertical feet away. We attempted this ride last evening on separate motorcycles but a few miles in, I chickened out. White-knuckled on the precipitous switchbacks, I had panicked at the thought of riding back to camp after dark. Today I relax on the back of Bill’s bike, happy to let him expertly negotiate the road and allow me to enjoy the view. My F650GS waits at the campground, where we will retrieve it later.

My excitement builds as we top the mesa and enjoy the panorama. The Colorado Plateau spreads out before us in every direction. With our presence here, we’ve embarked upon the National Scenic Byway known as “Trail of the Ancients,” a loop through the far corners of southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah which sweeps the rider into a now nearly uninhabited desert where the Ancestral Puebloans made their homes as recently as the 14th Century. This expanse of red soil and sandstone is dotted with a high concentration of archaeological sites, among them Mesa Verde National Park. Located near Cortez, Colorado, Mesa Verde opens a window into the lives of the people who made it their home from 600 to 1300 A.D., protects over 4,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. According to the National Park Service, these are some of the best preserved in the United States.

We ride a few more miles and disembark at the parking area above Spruce Tree House, the park’s third largest cliff dwelling. The weather has warmed up atop the mesa but we find respite from the sun on the tree-shaded footpath, turning back the clock 700 years during our 100-foot descent into Spruce Canyon. As we approach the cliff dwelling we’re greeted by a young park ranger who seems glad to have company. It is May, early in the season, and there are few other tourists here today.

4

Spruce Tree House contains about 130 rooms and eight kivas, or underground chambers. We’re pleased to discover that visitors have liberal access. Descending a wooden ladder into a kiva, we ponder what life would be like if this were home. Quite snug, we decide, enjoying the cool subterranean environment. Back on the surface we watch a small girl go through the motions of grinding corn in the way of early inhabitants, using stone implements with the ranger’s guidance.

By this time we have both worked up an appetite, so we ascend the trail and look for the park restaurant. After a bit of wandering around we find what amounts to a cafeteria, enjoy pizza and cokes, and head back to the campground. It is time to retrieve my bike and continue on the Trail of the Ancients.

From this point, the Trail offers two options. A southern loop continues on Highway160 and a northerly route passes through the communities of Lebanon and Yellowjacket. Either way takes you to Utah. Hoping to get off the pavement, we digress from the official Byway, choosing a more direct route on County Road G (or McElmo Canyon Road) which runs straight west along McElmo Creek and the southern edge of the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. Canyon of the Ancients covers almost 164,000 acres of high desert and contains more than 5,000 recorded archaeological sites. The area has the highest known archaeological site density in the United States.

7

As we approach the Utah border we spot a building sitting askew in the desert, its flaking adobe façade revealing worn bricks of red mud. The sign on the building just says “Ismay.” It appears to be a deserted store and a perfect photo op. I am shooting pictures of Bill and his GS in the parking lot when a Toyota 4Runner pulls up. From it steps a blonde woman wearing sunglasses and a red muumuu. A white dust mask covers the lower half of her face. “Have you been inside yet?” she asks.

“You mean it’s still in operation?” Bill says.

“Yes, this is the Ismay Trading Post and old Mr. Ismay still runs it. You meet him and you meet a REAL John Wayne. His family has owned this land for years and this store has been open since 1927. You should go in and take a look around. By the way, I have allergies. That’s why the mask.”

Inside the trading post, our eyes adjust to the darkness as they fall upon nearly empty shelves, a calendar many years out of date, and dust. Lots of dust. In every respect the place appears to have been long abandoned except for the presence of Mr. Ismay, a slightly stooped old man sitting on a stool in the corner, paying little heed to the two strangers in motorcycle gear. My husband, who can start a conversation with anyone, speaks, but Mr. Ismay shows no interest in chit-chat. Perhaps he has tired of the usual questions from curious travelers. Finally, Bill selects a Snickers, dusts off the wrapper, and we depart. Our masked friend fills us in on several nearby tourist destinations and stresses that we must see the Valley of the Gods on our way. We thank her for her kindness and ride on.

As it turns out, Mr. Ismay’s business is more than it appears. In these parts, “trading post” is not just a catchy name for “convenience store.” This and many others were established in the region in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries for the purpose of trade with the Navajos. Few remain in operation. Though the Ismay Trading Post seemed a bit forlorn, we realize we have touched a piece of history that could soon be gone.

Our road soon reconnects with the official Trail of the Ancients and Utah Highway 162. We stop for photos in Bluff, clearly named for the geological formation looming over the community. About 17 miles west of Bluff on Highway 163, we spy a sign saying “Valley of the Gods” and remember our impromptu tour guide’s advice. I am in the lead and, uncomfortable taking time for the side trip, I drive past the turn-off. In my rear view mirror, I see Bill turn into the Valley. I pull off down the road and, after a few moments’ hesitation, turn back to join him on the dirt surface of the entry.

2

Many are familiar with the red buttes and mesas of Monument Valley as the background for old Hollywood westerns. But Valley of the Gods, 40 miles north of Monument Valley, is more obscure. It is a smaller version of its famous neighbor but boasts similar sandstone formations with names like Castle Butte, Pyramid Peak, Setting Hen Butte, and Lady in the Bathtub. The 17-mile dirt road through the valley is steep and bumpy in parts... perfect for a fun ride on a versatile motorcycle. I stand and ride through the gullies and across the road’s washboard surface, disappointed when we reach pavement again so soon.

The Valley lies at the base of Cedar Mesa, a 1,200-foot bluff which we face head-on as we rejoin Highway 261. A road sign warns “10% grade 5 mph switchbacks.” In less than a mile we are climbing the Moki Dugway. Once again the road turns to dirt and gravel and we slowly proceed up the side of Cedar Mesa. This exhilarating three-mile path climbs to the top in a series of switchbacks with spectacular views and convenient pullouts.

Moki Dugway gets its name from the carved hand- and foot-holds on cliff faces throughout the region created by the Ancestral Puebloans. The term “moki” is derived from the Spanish word moqui, a term used by Spanish explorers and settlers to describe the Pueblo Indians.

The pavement quickly reappears and we continue to Natural Bridges National Monument, our last official stop on the Trail of the Ancients. Short on time and gas, we are uncertain where we will camp tonight, or how far it is to the next fuel stop. Two bored park rangers man the otherwise deserted visitor center and they are happy to answer our questions.

“Where is the closest gas?” Bill asks.

This must be an FAQ for the rangers. Conveniently, they have an actual printed list of “Distance from Natural Bridges to Gasoline.”

“Closest gas is at Hite,” says one, pointing out its direction and distance.

“Eighty miles?” says Bill, looking at the document.

“Yep, 80 miles,” says the ranger.

Bill and I look at each other. It will be a stretch. Here, we leave the Trail of the Ancients behind to strike out for that essential of modern life, gasoline, riding northwest on Highway 95 through the beautiful but desolate landscape of buttes and canyons. We are buffeted by sledgehammer crosswinds which swirl around the bluffs and require a reflexive vigilance just to stay on the road. After 79 miles of this, and frequent glances at my dashboard to check fuel status, a road sign appears indicating a left turn will take us to Hite.

One mile on, we arrive at yet another deserted establishment. No humans. No other vehicles. Thankfully, there are indeed gas pumps. Bill wipes dust from the glass of one pump, then swipes his credit card. We breathe a sigh of relief when the digital read-out tells us to select our fuel grade. And we feel even better hearing the muted hum as fuel flows into the hollow caverns of our tanks.

3

Returning to the highway, we’re stunned by the beauty of the vista ahead where an arching bridge crosses the Colorado River. As the sun lowers in the sky, the colors of the landscape intensify. We must move on, but I think about hiking these canyons and climbing the monolithic formations. How many years would it take to see just a fraction of the scenery out here?

Back on Highway 95 I scan the empty landscape and ponder what a high level of trust we place in the machinery between our knees. Help would be hard to find out here. We stop in the town of Hanksville to top our tanks and fill our grumbling bellies. We need to find a camp spot before dark and the sun is about to set. Bill invests a few precious moments in helping four young people having car trouble. This is no place for anyone to be stranded. Finally satisfied that the kids can be on their way, we chase the final rays of light westward and I follow Bill as he turns up a sandy wash just outside of town. There we make camp as the stars begin to pop out in ones and twos and then hundreds and tens of thousands. The evening cools and we gaze at the night sky, reflecting on the Trail of the Ancients and those who have enjoyed that same night sky for thousands of years.

{gallery}ARTICLES/Rides/TrailOfTheAncients/Gallery{/gallery}

______________________

Susan Dragoo mini bio portrait
As a writer, photographer and ADVMoto associate editor Susan Dragoo enjoys bringing a historical focus to her travels, whether two-wheeled, four-wheeled, or on foot. She and husband Bill
(BillDragoo.com) travel extensively from their centrally located home base in Norman, Oklahoma, generating plenty of material for tales of adventure. SusanDragoo.com

There are many times when we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to listen to those who brag about the number of countries traveled, mileage covered, mountains climbed, oceans crossed, etc. We sincerely don’t have the slightest issue discussing these details. But what is exhausting is explaining that we don’t feel we’re in some kind of an imaginary contest.

Competitiveness is part of human nature and in some cases it’s encouraged by the social context we grew up in. While in others—less individualistic ones, where the sense of community and belonging are considered more important—competitiveness remains a secondary feature or becomes “absorbed” by the sense of community and belonging.

worldvespa breaking records 3

What we have seen until now are many travelers who tend to measure lengths, widths, heights and various other quantifiable dimensions for reasons that mystify me. “How many countries have you been to?” “How many kilometers have you done?” “How many food poisonings have you suffered from?” Numbers, numbers, numbers....

What’s confusing is why the hunt for world records or generally the notion to be “the first to do something,” whatever that may be, is so important. I’ll never forget the traveler who needed so badly to be the first who made it through a difficult route that we’d crossed some months earlier. So, he just had to publish a statement that went like this, “I was the first one to do this ride on a [specific motorcycle] and with no mechanical failures,” only to differentiate himself from us.

worldvespa breaking records 1

Yes, he was right, but what was the point if the joy of achieving something difficult has to be compared to something or someone else? Did he really enjoy the ride or did his need for recognition spoiled it?

As for the records, of course I’m not referring to important world firsts, such as: the first astronaut landing on the moon, first physicist to prove the theory of relativity, and other significant achievements that have helped humanity progress. I’m mainly referring to the meaningless “world records” like these: the first senior married couple to do the Panamerican Highway two-up on a motorcycle smaller than 400cc, the first young not-yet-married-but-soon-to-be-married couple to circumnavigate Africa in less than six months on two 125cc bikes, the first 25-year-old momma’s boy to ride his motorbike along the Mediterranean coast, etc. And, I’d also like to make it clear that I fully support attempts that may clearly motivate groups of people to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise dare to do.

worldvespa breaking records 2

Back to the not so important records—what if one fails their goal for a record like the those I mentioned above? Does it really matter? Did the success or failure make the world a better place? Did it have any impact whatsoever? What probably happened is that having done everything in pursuit of “beating” someone else made them more stressed or more competitive towards imaginary adversaries.

Before I close, here’s my last comment on the topic: Aren’t most of us out there traveling to break free from the demanding and mentally (or physically) exhausting reality we live? Why would one want to jump from one into another exhausting reality? So, what if we tried to see things in a new light? We all have different motives and needs, and I respect everyone’s views, but perceiving life as an opportunity to learn and grow and not as a constant need to dominate things may turn out to be a surprisingly uplifting shift in PoV!
___________

profileStergios and Alexandra (both Greeks) first met in 2014 in the DRC while he was on his RTW and she was doing Ph.D. fieldwork. Since then, they’ve been traveling together. They write, film, photograph and ride their scooter around the world, combining their passions—and have recently released their first book, Rice & Dirt: Across Africa on a Vespa. WorldVespa.net

Throughout his overland motorcycle journey from Australia to England, Sam Manicom encountered countless obstacles traveling through border crossings, hostile territory, extreme terrain, and inclement weather. The lessons he learned and stories of the companions he gained along the way are told in this newly revised and updated edition of Under Asian Skies.

Sam has a vivid writing style that keeps the reader engrossed. It makes it easy to visualize his experiences, as if you’re riding in a sidecar right alongside him. Even though he tells of daunting adventures, his experiences are written from a humble perspective. His competence is clear, but he’s also honest about his limitations and shortcomings as a rider and mechanic. This makes it much more relatable for new and experienced riders alike. And, there are many anecdotes about being helped by other travelers and vice versa.

Under Asian Skies 1

As he enters each new country, Sam gives a brief background on the culture, religious groups, and political history, providing some insight into the current state of the area. Aside from his travel tips and descriptions of the different regions, he recollects many short stories of love and companionship through the relationships and connections that were gained in his journey.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Under Asian Skies, but a good review wouldn’t be complete without a few pieces of constructive criticism. The illustrations in the book were a great way of adding a personal touch to the story, but I wish they were bigger. They’re done so well that they deserve to be better displayed. Also, the beautiful photos would be easier to associate with their locations and places within the story if their pages or chapters were referenced.

All in all, Under Asian Skies is a great read for those who want to live vicariously through the eyes of a worldwide traveler, and for those who love to rough it and just want to pick up great travel tips. Sam-Manicom.com

★★★★

Author: Sam Manicom
Publisher: Self-published
Pricing: Paperback: $17.69
Audio Book: $23.77
ISBN 10: 095565730X
ISBN 13: 978-0955657306

 

Throughout his overland motorcycle journey from Australia to England, Sam Manicom encountered countless obstacles traveling through border crossings, hostile territory, extreme terrain, and inclement weather. The lessons he learned and stories of the companions he gained along the way are told in this newly revised and updated edition of Under Asian Skies.

Sam has a vivid writing style that keeps the reader engrossed. It makes it easy to visualize his experiences, as if you’re riding in a sidecar right alongside him. Even though he tells of daunting adventures, his experiences are written from a humble perspective. His competence is clear, but he’s also honest about his limitations and shortcomings as a rider and mechanic. This makes it much more relatable for new and experienced riders alike. And, there are many anecdotes about being helped by other travelers and vice versa.

Under Asian Skies 1

As he enters each new country, Sam gives a brief background on the culture, religious groups, and political history, providing some insight into the current state of the area. Aside from his travel tips and descriptions of the different regions, he recollects many short stories of love and companionship through the relationships and connections that were gained in his journey.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Under Asian Skies, but a good review wouldn’t be complete without a few pieces of constructive criticism. The illustrations in the book were a great way of adding a personal touch to the story, but I wish they were bigger. They’re done so well that they deserve to be better displayed. Also, the beautiful photos would be easier to associate with their locations and places within the story if their pages or chapters were referenced.

All in all, Under Asian Skies is a great read for those who want to live vicariously through the eyes of a worldwide traveler, and for those who love to rough it and just want to pick up great travel tips. Sam-Manicom.com

★★★★

Author: Sam Manicom
Publisher: Self-published
Pricing: Paperback: $17.69
Audio Book: $23.77
ISBN 10: 095565730X
ISBN 13: 978-0955657306

 

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