Jim joined Renedian’s Wildlife and Waterfalls Tour as a solo traveler, but his reasons for being there were anything but solitary. Riding was a family sport so it’s no surprise to see that members of his family played supporting roles over more than ten years, culminating last year with his motorcycle trip to Africa.
Like many others, Jim rode in his teens, but when he married and started a family, the motorcycle went away—for a while. He wasn’t satisfied with the disparity when as a bikeless parent, his young son began riding a dirt bike. His decision to do something about it resulted in Jim and his wife Suzanne, their son and daughter each ending up with their own bike. “Our vacations were riding trails and forest service roads and camping in the Cascades,” he recalls.
Once his son and primary riding buddy left home, he got away from it until 2004, ironically when his son moved away. “My wife and I were out camping and mused that it sure would be fun to have motorcycles again,” he says. They did and he began adventure riding around the Pacific Northwest.
His daughter Casey planted the first seed for travel to Africa in 2002. She’d graduated from college, worked for a couple of years and was traveling in Europe. When an opportunity for a seven-month overland tour came up, she hopped on a truck with 15 other people and spent the next seven months traveling through 22 countries, ending up in Cape Town. “I was very jealous, and very happy for her,” says Jim.
In 2004, his brother John went to Africa for a “typical” safari, which piqued Jim’s interest, although it remained dormant. Five years later, an article about University of Gravel Roads caught his attention and the book went on his Christmas wish list. To his delight, he discovered the author, Rene, organized guided motorcycle rides in Africa. In spite of his own objections, Suzanne told him that when he retired, he was going to go.
Sadly, she passed away in March 2012 but her wish for him to travel to Africa fortified the now seedling, planted by Casey ten years earlier.
Last year it was time. He chose the Waterfalls and Wildlife Tour because, “If I’m going to go to Africa, I’m going for as long as possible.” He was also very interested in the scenery, the ratio of pavement to gravel, and wanted to visit Cape Town to retrace memories his daughter had implanted.
“My daughter took a lot of pictures,” he remembers. “There’s a photo of her at Fish River Canyon and I had one taken there of me to be as close to her’s as possible. It was a high point of the trip. A photo I took of a gas station in Victoria Falls triggered her memory of waiting in line for two hours to get fuel.”
Namibia’s vastness and emptiness fed his soul. “We were on a single road so you couldn’t get lost, and the riders were spread out by as much as two miles. You were in this incredibly huge barren landscape with just rocks and desert, all alone, and didn’t pass anybody all day. Nobody. It was exceptionally special.”
But the best was saved for the last. “The last morning of the trip, we were outside of Cape Town, driving down a road surrounded by fields,” says Jim. “I started seeing white flowers which we’d not seen anywhere else. All of a sudden, the fields were filled with what I learned were wild calla lilies. Suzanne loved calla lilies and they were predominant at her funeral. It was like she was welcoming me to the end of the trip.”
If traveling to Africa is a dream of yours, Jim’s advice is simple. “Figure out how to make it happen and do it. You’ll never regret it.”