The ultimate global circumnavigation is to circle the world by motorcycle. This method allows you to be part of the environment you are passing through, not looking at it from inside a car, bus or train, but to be out in the wind. You can stop your movement and visit distant places like Red Square in Moscow, or Nepal’s Kathmandu, the end of the famed “Hippy Highway” of the 1960’s, or make a stop for a photograph in front of Egypt’s pyramids, or take a walk on top of the Great Wall of China.
To reach these points, and make a real adventure out of it, why not see them while riding a motorcycle as far north and south as you can ride on the continents of North and South America, Africa, Europe, then across Asia? Ah, but what a dream it is.
Donna-Rae Polk, a mother of three and grandmother at 61, does not know how to ride a motorcycle, she has been busy in life raising a family and supporting them. There had been no time or money for the hobby of motorcycling. Let alone conjuring up colorful and adventurous dreams and then expect to live them.
Often we let life slip by, and next, because we feel we are too old and unsure of ourselves, decide we are beyond certain activities, especially those requiring youthful strength and foolishness, like learning how to ride a motorcycle. At 60 Donna-Rae decided to dream a little, and her dream was a big one.
61 is not too old to learn to pilot a motorized bicycle, and many people have done it. But Donna’s dream was to ride around the globe, and for that she needed a motorcycle large and heavy enough to maintain highway speeds often in excess of 70 mph, such as found on the autobahns of Germany and elsewhere in Europe, or across the United States. The world also includes many bad roads, like those in Zambia, Africa, or Cambodia. Then there is the nightmarish traffic of Paris, Rome, Cairo or Tokyo (some would add Los Angeles, New York City and other American cities!). These are no places for a beginner, especially one weighing about 1/5th the weight of the motorcycle she would need to carry her and all her traveling gear for a year.
Donna-Rae has some other barriers, such as time. She knows she can not plan a never-ending journey. Another barrier was money, just how much could she afford. Obviously the dream of camping in unsafe environments to conserve funds in countries like Africa or South America could easily become a deadly nightmare.
However, Donna’s biggest barrier is having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. As her dream to see the world became clearer, her ability to do simple things, like button coat or tie shoes, made the dream seem more impossible. The reality is her Parkinson’s is going to keep her from manually learning how to handle a motorcycle, big or small, and as the disease worsened and medication got stronger, the wisdom of her years told her she would not be a safe pilot. But she had her dream.
She decided she would not let Parkinson’s get her down, keep her from living her dream. She would just have to have some help, not do it alone. She would have to find highly qualified pilot and guide for her motorcycle, someone to help her with live her adventure. As she said, “I have the spirit, I won’t let this get me down. But when my brain sends messages to do some things, somehow they aren’t received.”
Ever resourceful, Donna-Rae presented her “retired” motorcycle adventurer friend Gregory Frazier with a challenge she knew he would find hard to resist. Frazier is the only motorcyclist in the world to have ridden solo four times around the globe. After completing his last ride, in 2002, he officially quit the long rides, having seen the ends of the earth twice as often as any other known motorcycle adventurer has. He was concentrating on what he called “boring office work,” some customized guiding and helping other novice adventurers learn the ropes of global travel. Her challenge was for him to again ride around the world, this time not going solo, but instead with a passenger (called “pillion”) on the back, and seeing some places he had not seen before.
Some months after the challenge was presented, Frazier made a counter-proposal. Instead of charging his usual fee for professional guiding services, he would waive the fee if he could work on his writing projects along the way. This would mean that rather than move almost daily, as he had done before; they would stop and take time for him to catch up on his writing and photography. He also added that Donna-Rae had to agree that when or if her health got a point he determined it became too poor, then he could unilaterally decide to cancel the balance of the ride.
There were some further meetings and “test rides” that followed. Eventually a plan was agreed to that seemed to meet the approval of both. They would ride a motorcycle at least 20,000 land miles (thereby exceeding any record requirements for a ‘round the world ride) and ride to the “ends of the earth:” Deadhorse (aka Prudhoe Bay), Alaska; Ushuaia, Argentina; Cape Agulhaus, South Africa, and North Cape, Norway. These are the furthest points north and south on five continents of the globe a motorcyclist can ride. They would make side trips along the way to reach points Donna-Rae had on her dream chart like Ankor Wat, Victoria Falls, Red Square, and Mount McKinley. Their transport would include everything from ships to elephants, airplanes to balloons, trains to trucks, but all the while maintaining their lifestyle as motorcyclists moving around the globe.
To live within a minimal budget Frazier would not only pilot the motorcycles but also maintain them. To further save their limited funds, they would draw on his considerable experience and try to avoid the expensive shipping or flying the same motorcycle across large bodies of water, therefore requiring the use of possibly more than one motorcycle. They would have to pack their equipment and riding gear on themselves across the ocean or sea.
Finally, the ride around the globe would be done in specific sections or “legs.” At the end of each leg, Frazier would make the decision on whether their health was up to make the next leg or call the adventure over. He called it a “Mental and Physical Health Check Point.”
With little experience in traveling together, “two-up” on one bike, Frazier and Polk set-off of the first leg of the ultimate globe ride, to arrive in Deadhorse, Alaska.