Nate Davis had been telling his wife Kathy he’d like to take a motorcycle trip in the Alps. Kathy had traveled throughout Western Europe while there as an exchange student. Nate grew up in Maine and didn’t venture too far from home until he met Kathy. Then they’d traveled to Germany, Australia, and the Czech Republic.
After speaking with Rene at the nearby Cleveland IMS (International Motorcycle Show), Kathy set her sights on Mongolia. It took a year to convince Nate to go on the Gobi Discovery expedition. “Mongolia has so few paved roads, we should go when we’re younger,” said Kathy.
The couple, both in their forties, began preparing a year-and-a-half before departure. Nate, a computer programmer, had ridden for twenty-five years, all on the street. He signed up for off-road lessons. Kathy, who works on her family’s dairy farm, has her motorcycle license but prefers riding on four wheels. She signed up for the UTV (side-by-side). “I didn’t have to worry about my riding and when I was a passenger, I could gawk around and see the scenery.”
They’d read about Mongolia in Rene’s book, The University of Gravel Roads, and travel books. “When you read something like that, it doesn’t feel real until you’re out there,” says Kathy, “Even when you’re out there, you can’t believe it. The sky seems so huge. Everything gets remarkably hot when the sun comes out, and the temperature drops as soon as it goes down. The wide open expanses are so vast.”
“There were a few times I got caught up in the sand, and if I hadn’t run out of sand, I’d have been in trouble,” says Nate. “It was so cool when we got off the pavement and hit our first wide open space, fanned out, and rode ten across.”
One of his fondest memories occurred the day they went to the eco-camp. “Some of the guys went to the showers, and a few of us took off and rode to the top of a nearby hill. That was an accomplishment for me. There are decent hills around us here in Ohio with loose gravel under the grass and I’ve usually fallen over while riding them. Getting to the top of the hill in Mongolia and having a good time with people with similar perspectives was incredible.
Kathy enjoyed driving the UTV, an adventure she shared with Maya Treuheit. “Driving up to the monastery was fun! It was slow work and you had to pick your path, and I enjoyed the more technical driving.”
The way help would materialize from nowhere fascinated her. “On the way back from the monastery we had an issue. No sooner had we stopped then a van appeared and twenty-three people poured out. They’d been on a school trip and their second van had broken down so they had to fit into one.” We’d be out in the middle of nowhere, have a flat tire, and within five minutes, someone would putt putt up to see if we needed help.”
Nate and Kathy spent a few days in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, visiting museums and walking around. “The history is so different than what we’re used to,” says Kathy. “All the people were incredibly friendly.”
Nate, too, marveled at the welcome extended by the Mongolian people wherever they went. “It was a vivid reminder that people are people wherever you go. Our translator had a five-year-old son and he played like kids everywhere. They’re like us, even though they live in gers and eat mutton. And more often than not, people are really nice.
Photo credits: Nate and Kathy Davis.