Darvin and Todd Puhl, a father-son duo from Southern Ontario, have traveled with Renedian to Africa, Mongolia, and South America. They share unique perspectives on the same trips, and what it’s like to travel together.
Darvin Puhl started riding twenty-five years ago when Todd, age seventeen, came home with an RF600 Suzuki crotch-rocket.
“I wouldn’t let him ride until he took the course, and he talked me into taking it with him. He’d been driving my car and using my gas, now it was my turn to ride his motorcycle and use his gas!”
For several years, Darvin rode Todd’s bike, when it was available. But when Todd married and sold it, Darvin missed riding, so bought his own, slightly different model—a BMW Montauk he still has. It connected them to Rene.
“Todd, Deb, my wife, and I went to hear Rene’s presentation at our local BMW dealer and we got hooked.”
In 2011, the three of them booked onto the Spectacular South West Africa (SSWA) safari, a trip that’s only 50% paved, even though most of Darvin’s gravel skills came from a car growing up in rural Saskatchewan. He managed the trip two-up on a BMW R1200GS, with no spills, and was so impressed, he and Todd both bought R 1200GSAs when they got home.
“Todd and I have always been close. Traveling together, especially on motorcycles in an exotic location, is an amazing family bonding time. It was an adventure, not a vacation. Every day we experienced something different, and sometimes the roads threw in a couple of curves. All that made it extra special.
When Rene told them he was looking for beta riders for Mongolia, both signed up, without realizing there are no roads in Mongolia. Many of the riders had traveled together on the SSWA trip so they’d be with a familiar group. Both times, Darvin was the oldest rider, Todd the youngest.
“I loved the ruggedness of Mongolia. Todd’s a better rider than I am and never seems to falter, but I was concerned about some of the stuff he was riding on. I became even more skeptical after I cracked four ribs and broke my shoulder blade in a crash.
“That’s when I really needed Todd—to give me my pain pills and help me out of bed in the morning.
“After a few days of rest in the vehicle, I went back on the bike for the hardest day of riding. After that trip, I didn’t ride gravel again until we got to South America.
“Todd broke his collarbone the second last day of Mongolia. When our wives met us at the airport, we were both sporting slings!”
When they got to South America in 2017, they’d settled into a familiar group riding routine.
“I ride at my capabilities and don’t get worried if the pack is leaving me behind. I’ll catch up in five minutes anyway. I preferred to be the tail gunner, just in front of the sweep, and Todd is usually somewhere at the front.
“The roads were much better in South America than in Mongolia and the scenery spectacular in a different way. Some of the roads were still challenging, but not beyond my skill level.
“I don’t mind the unknown, which makes beta trips even more adventuresome. If we messed up a day, or we had to sleep outside (they didn’t), that’s what I signed up for. That’s why Todd and I enjoy these first time rides.”
Before Darvin sold his company in 2014, he and Todd worked together for more than twenty years. And they still enjoyed traveling together.
“I spent forty-four years of my life working, building my business, with no time for riding. It’s very special to be away with your son for that kind of a time frame, with no distractions other than our riding of the day. You don’t get into the news or our day-to-day work.
“How often does a dad get to ride around the world with his son, spending time together, seeing something different?
Now the pair has their sights on another Renedian beta trip—wherever it is!
Photos courtesy of Darvin and Todd Puhl