Starting on 26th July 2009 from Anchorage, Alaska, the 2009 Trans-Americas Expedition heads North to Prudhoe Bay on the very tip of North America, before heading South though Alaska, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina to reach the very southerly tip of the Americas at Ushuaia before heading back North again to Buenos Aires, arriving on 6th December 2009.
Paul will be taking part in this "trip of a lifetime" and is joining a group of like-minded people under the expert leadership of Kevin and Julia Sanders and their Globebusters organisation.
When Tracy was back at home during October & November 2007 following the accident that put paid to our Round-the-World plans, we started discussing our options for the future. It was already clear even then that Tracy would not be able to ride a motorcycle again, and that as a result of the trauma she suffered was also very unlikely to ever want to ride pillion either. What we ended up deciding on is covered by "The Good Life", but our discussions also brought home another realisation. It was Tracy who first spotted it, probably noticing that I'd gone a bit "glazed-over" whenever we talked about our aborted trip. She asked me how I felt about not being able to realize my dream. I felt guilty when I replied that I didn't think I could actually give up on the whole idea, and that I still desperately wanted to take on a real challenge, a real adventure, and travel by motorcycle somewhere few people have been. She understood, of course, and explained that she wanted to support me, but that she wouldn't be coming.
That was how we left it for a while, until I went to the National Motorcycle Show at the NEC in late November 2007. During the show I got talking to Julia Sanders, who with her husband Kevin runs Globebusters, a company specialising in organising and running motorcycle expeditions. Now I've always believed that the only real adventure is one where you have to look after yourself and pit your wits and skills against whatever arises. I had in my own mind a perception that these "expeditions" were little more than packaged holidays for rich adventure wannabees. So I started my conversation with Julia along the lines of seeing if they could help me organise my own trip - and as round-the-world would take me away from Tracy for too long (I may have a craving for adventure, but I love my wife and anything longer than 6 months would be too much) - I'd already decided the Trans-Americas route was a good option. The more we talked the more she convinced me that the expeditions they run are anything but a "picnic". Sure, they provide a lot of the organisation, route-planning, back-up and are there to help when anything goes wrong; and they have the experience and organisation skills to ensure anything that does go wrong is dealt with professionally, but critically as she put it "we're not there to wipe your bottom". So I started to consider joining them. Then Julia popped my bubble by telling me that the 2009 trip was already fully booked and there was a waiting list. 2010 had places, though... I explained my predicament - as far as I was concerned, 2009 was already a year late (as we should have set off RTW in June 2008), and asked to be put on the reserve list just in case.
When I got home from the bike show, Tracy and I discussed what I'd found out. I was still concerned about the expedition being too organised, too sanitised, and therefore not the adventure I craved. Tracy pointed out a few things (she has a habit of providing great insight when I'm wrestling with my own thoughts and emotions). First, she pointed out that if I was to "go it alone" then all my family, and all her family, not to mention her herself, would be extremely concerned for my safety after what had happened in Slovakia. Fair point. Then she pointed out that I wouldn't be alone, unless I wanted to be, and that I'd have someone to share the experience with. I could see how this was a double-edged sword - she wanted me to have someone to share it with but was upset that it couldn't be her. Third, and this was the clincher, she asked me whether I'd have the independence to go my own way if I wanted to - and that had been the subject of a fair bit of the discussion with Julia. The trip, whilst organised, is not a "follow-my-lead" kind of trip. Each day there are pre-arranged hotels, but if a rider wants to deviate, to forge their own route, then they can. And Julia had said that was fairly common, and that they didn't ride "as one big group". So Tracy had once again helped me make up my mind - and this time to do something that would mean I'd be away from her for quite a long time, doing something she'd wanted to do but now no longer could. That's just one of the many reasons why I'm glad I married her...
But that wasn't the end of the matter. As I've mentioned, the 2009 trip was fully booked and I wasn't prepared to wait another year. So I emailed Julia regularly, so she wouldn't forget me, and hoping that some of the riders would back out. Then, on 15th April 2008 I got the email I'd been hoping for. A place on the 2009 Trans Americas Expedition had become available "should you wish to join us". And that's when I knew it's what I wanted to do. My excitement at receiving the email was confirmation enough.
Now you might think that because I've joined and organised expedition that I don't have to prepare, simply turn up and off we go. Well, you'd be wrong. Whilst Kevin & Julia and the Globebusters team do a fair bit of preparation for us, in particular sorting out the freighting of the bikes to and from the Americas, arranging the hotels and finalising the route, there's still a fair bit left for me to do. I have to prepare the bike, prepare myself, sort out all the paperwork including visas and carnets, save the money, sort out how the bills will get paid whilst I'm away, and try not to get too excited...
With the trip imminent (it's now 6th July), most of my preparations are complete - you can read all about them on the Blog, but I've frequently been asked for more information about what equipment is needed for a trip like this, so I've also compiled an Equipment page, where you can find details of the bike and the modifications I've made to it, my clothing list (which is surprisingly small considering I'll be away from home for 21 weeks!), and other essentials for a long motorcycle adventure.
The other thing I'm asked about frequently is the route, and so in order to help you follow what I should be doing when, I've created a further page here to host full details of where I'll be each day from departing the UK in the wee small hours of Thursday 16th July up until I return on Thursday 10th December.
If you'd like to get a better feel for what's involved in a trip like this, or if you just like watching travel documentaries, there's an excellent DVD available called "The Ride". It covers the 2005 Trans Americas expedition, and was aired on the National Geographic channel. You can get a copy from here.
Alternatively, if you just want to read about the trip in general, check out the Globebusters website, and look under the Trip Photo Gallery. Just bear in mind that if you get the same bug as me, the 2009 trip is fully booked! But if you do contact Kevin & Julia, mention where you heard about them!