top of page

Who's Crazy Idea Was This?

Way back in 2010 and still reeling from several serious life setbacks, I started to sneak back into motorcycle riding as a way to put my mind in a different place and away from the twin blows of my wife and me failing to have kids through invitro and adoption and the death of both of my parents the previous year. 


I had been riding my brother’s motorcycles (he has a stable of 30+ bikes) and found that it was a great form of meditation and helped distract me from my grief. My close friend Rendell Johnson, a neighbor and fellow basketball player, texted me a picture of a Honda Shadow motorcycle and said “Guess what I just bought?”. He had just recently gone through a divorce and wanted to do something unabashedly selfish, so on a lark he went to a local motorcycle dealership and rode home with his new girlfriend. 


I immediately went on Craigslist and bought a 2002 Triumph Bonneville and we both started riding every weekend in the canyons of Malibu which were close to our neighborhood in Mar Vista, CA. We also took several long trips to the Salton Sea, Grand Canyon, and Big Sur and through lonely Nevada to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  


As we were walking onto the basketball court one night, Rendell declared earnestly that we should just keep on going on one of these trips and ride the bikes around the world. I looked at him and laughed and said “Yeah right”. I was super busy running two businesses and I felt there was no way I could take off the 3-4 months necessary to do the journey. I said “Good one” and changed the subject. Rendell assured me that he was not going to leave the idea alone. 


For the next couple of years, as I buried and distracted myself with work and became increasingly depressed, Rendell’s steady insistence that we should do the trip started to resonate with me and I took stock of my life and decided that this trip might just be the break I needed to get myself back into a better head space. I was becoming increasingly disenchanted with all aspects of my life including my business and marriage and the thought of taking off 3-4 months and getting away from everything familiar might be the antidote to my worsening depression.


I broached the subject with my wife Eva and remarkably she gave it the thumbs up. She said that if this was something I really wanted to do then who was she to stand in the way? I told her one of the perks would be that she could come to meet me at one or two of the exotic locations we’d be at, her choice.


The next conversation I had was with my business partner. I told him of my plans and how I thought that taking a “sabbatical” could recharge my batteries. He knew what I had been through the last few years and said “Great idea!" with the only caveat being that he was going to take off the same amount of time. We joked that the door would hit him in the ass as soon as I walked back in the door. The next time Rendell and I played Basketball I broke the news to him and he said elatedly  “Great, now let’s start planning for real”.


On one of the basketball nights, Rendell and I were discussing the trip when one of our buddies Mike Winn approached from behind and said “Are you guys planning an around-the-world motorcycle trip?” We turned in unison and said “Yes! Wanna join us?” Mike had just recently joined our basketball group but we both liked his gregarious nature and his hilarious sense of humor. We thought the chemistry could be right. Plus he had more experience than either of us at dirt bike riding of which there would be plenty of on the trip.


Mike said that he had been planning a trip like this for years but each time the guys had dropped out for various reasons. We told him that we were serious and he was beyond elated. We started planning with more intensity.


After much research into what would be the best motorcycle for the trip, we each bought a matching Kawasaki KLR 650s. We wanted motorcycles that were simple and had bulletproof maintenance in case we broke down in Mongolia or other remote areas. The 1980s technology of the KLRs fit the bill perfectly.


We started riding a lot of the fire roads and OHV trails around LA to hone our off-road chops. We also decided to take a trip down to Mexico to test the chemistry of traveling together in a foreign country with the bonus of riding a lot of dirt. Our other basketball friend Nick Miramontes came with us riding his XR650 Honda. Nick and I had started riding together several years earlier, both of us had a love affair with retro cafe racers. That love affair changed to more dirt riding as we both started riding adventure-style motorcycles. We had a blast in Mexico and came back fired up to get going on the trip.


We set a firm date and I started pulling together all the pieces needed to make the trip real. About 4 months till departure, Rendell approached Mike and me and told us that he couldn’t go on the trip. He had started dating a new girl and things had gotten serious and they planned to get married the same month as our departure date. We were bummed but Mike and I were determined to do the trip so we pushed on with the planning. Mike's wife JoAnn wasn’t comfortable with Mike going alone with me and putting her foot down. Mike and I also felt that three traveling together was ideal. Morbidly, if an accident were to occur, two people would have an easier time moving a body than just one person. We were at a crossroads. We racked our brains to see if we knew another person that would want to travel with us on short notice and we both looked at each other and yelled “Nick!”


We approached Nick with the idea and he was elated but also crestfallen. He said he could manage to take the time away from his job as a self-employed freelance photographer but there was no way he could afford the financial hit. Mike and I were fairly well off so we told him not to worry about that, we’d cover his traveling expenses as a trade-off for him documenting the trip through photos and fixing the bikes when they needed maintenance (he was an excellent motorcycle mechanic). It was a win-win proposal. Nick could treat the trip like it was a big photo gig and we would have our third person to make JoAnn happy. Nick said yes and the trip was back on!


All in all, it took about two years to fully plan the trip. Each of the bikes needed to be outfitted for the rigors of off-road travel. My cousin Willy Weiss, Nick, and myself dove into that task while Mike worked on getting us all the medical, inoculation, and insurance information we needed. I worked out a basic route around the world. I also contracted Corkie Van Zak from Pro Travel to help us with air travel and shipping the bikes. She suggested I reach out to Douglas Grimes of Mir Corp because he was an expert in Central Asian adventure travel. He looked at my route, particularly Mongolia, and said that it was a perfectly fine route if we wanted to just “follow the railroad tracks” He came back to me with a full itinerary hitting all the spots he said we needed to see, most of which I had ignorantly left off the route. He also hooked me up with a concierge passport agency that would be able to arrange all of our passports, a monumental task in and of itself.


We shipped our bikes via container ship from Los Angeles to Tianjin, China for the tour's first leg through China and Mongolia. We then went north to the Altai region of Siberia, down through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, where we then ferried across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. We picked up the ride through Georgia on our way to Turkey (right when there was a coup attempt). Next was Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia -Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. From Calais, France we ferried to the United Kingdom and shipped the bikes via air freight to New York while we took a side trip to visit Mike's ancestral home in Glasgow Scotland. We then flew to New York and picked up the final leg of our journey across the US and back home to sunny California.  


We weren't looking to do anything extraordinary; we wouldn't break land-speed records or challenge the Road of Bones in Siberia or ride 12,000 miles in 2 weeks but by the end, we knew we were going to experience a trip that was truly life-changing.


So take a ride with us as we make our way around the world from East to West… racing the sun.

bottom of page