17 Months on a Motorcycle


The Pan-American Highway is the world’s longest steady highway system, stretching 30,000 miles from the northern tip to the southern terminus. Beginning on the very prime of North America within the small arctic city of Deadhorse, Alaska, the highway ends on the backside of South America within the metropolis of Ushuaia, Argentina. It crosses a dozen international locations and a whole lot of ecosystems, whereas following a mixture of pavement and dust roads. For a lot of highway warriors, it’s not simply on their bucket checklist, it’s on the very prime of it.

James Barkman, pal and fellow dirtbag, spent a yr and a half using the whole thing of the route on a bike, with two of his closest buddies. They stopped alongside the way in which to climb among the tallest and most difficult peaks in each North and South America, together with Denali, Robson, and lots of in Peru.

Impressed by his journey and sense of journey, I sat down with him to be taught extra in regards to the journey and classes he realized alongside the way in which.

Riding Salt Flats
Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

The place did you get the thought?

I credit score the entire concept to Allen, who for years had dreamed of using from Alaska to Argentina. The day he graduated faculty we hopped on our bikes and headed for Alaska.

Who got here alongside for the experience?

My fellow riders had been two buddies from childhood, Allen and Jeremy. We grew up collectively; I’ve identified each of them nearly so long as I can bear in mind.

Moto Camping Snow
Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

What sort of abilities did you could have going into the journey?

None of us had executed something longer than a week-long motorbike journey previous to leaving, though we every had years of expertise on bikes. It’s laborious to organize for one thing just like the Pan Am. I began mountain climbing once I was round 17, however had solely began pursuing alpine and mountaineering aims a number of years earlier than.

When it got here to climbing, I used to be probably the most skilled out of the group but it surely’s secure to say we had been all comparatively inexperienced – the journey was very a lot a maiden voyage for all of us.

Broken Chain
Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

Did you ever get near quitting and simply flying house?

Just a few occasions, for positive. Going into the journey, I knew it was going to be laborious, however I didn’t understand how laborious. I used to be all the time decided to complete come hell or excessive water. Climbing again to again mountains off a bike for 17 months is exhausting bodily, mentally, and emotionally. Allen suffered from some bizarre well being points in South America, and relational dynamics can get fairly difficult particularly once you’re coping with harmful and nerve-racking conditions. Carving out a yr and a half of my life for the journey required numerous power and sacrifice, and I believe that saved me motivated to truly end and make it worthwhile.

Motorcycle Waterfall
Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

What about some highlights?

Man, there are too many highlights to select from, however some favourite reminiscences are using by means of flooded salt flats in Bolivia, crossing excessive elevation passes in South America, bathing within the freezing Yukon river, sleeping below the northern lights, tenting at scorching springs within the fall – moments that made you overlook the remainder of the world existed. These varieties of moments are a lot extra rewarding when a lot effort went into creating and discovering them.

Moto Flats
Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

Any unhealthy moments?

The unhealthy? Too many as nicely! We acquired caught in an avalanche in Peru and I needed to give Jeremy mouth to mouth for five minutes till he began respiratory. That was a terrifying expertise. The experience to Deadhorse within the Arctic was most likely probably the most depressing factor any of us had ever executed on account of freezing temperatures, difficult and harmful using situations, breakdowns, and fried nerves. I believe any kind of intense scenario that burns all people’s potential to remain affected person and understanding results in some heavy moments, and there have been loads of these.

Moto Fixing
Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

What had been probably the most helpful items of substances?

Touring by means of so many alternative climates makes selecting the right sleeping gear a tough one. Therm-a-Rest’s ultralite gear was a complete sport changer, as paired collectively they type a zero-degree setup however can be utilized individually, and nonetheless take up much less house than most zero-degree baggage. The Hyperion 20-degree bag and Vesper 20-degree quilt gave the flexibility to remain comfy in sweltering jungles or at 18,000-foot excessive camps within the Andes.

Death Valley Moto
Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

What number of showers did you are taking once you acquired house?

Showers had been nearly changing into a distant reminiscence once we acquired again. I believe I’ve taken a scorching bathe daily since I acquired again to the states, and I’ll by no means take them without any consideration once more.

Summing up a yr and a half is almost not possible, however give me a number of belongings you realized?

One life lesson I believe I actually walked away with was that with out the precise individuals, experiences are sometimes shallow and received’t depart you fulfilled in and of themselves. Journey is finest discovered within the context of neighborhood and relationships, you want each. It’s a little bit cliche I suppose, however as somebody who has usually tended to pursue experiences over individuals, the journey helped me stability out the scales a little bit bit extra.

Photograph: Courtesy of James Barkman

Would you suggest the path to others?

I’d completely suggest it. Driving the Pan Am was the craziest factor I’ve ever executed. You may spend a lifetime in each nation or space alongside the way in which and never even come near experiencing every part that it has to supply. And if I did it yet again, I’d select the identical bike (1996 Suzuki DR650).

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