We thought we were hardened nomads until…

I fear this piece may seem a bit like a crazy compass, so please bear with me.  This particular piece isn’t about a cool place or things we’ve done.  This one is about people; those who crossed our paths whom we’ve shared good fellowship and learned of their exceptional difficult journey.  

So…here it goes.

These were of one of our first of several
‘road trip vacations’

Years ago BRV (before RV), Captain Dan and I would use our vacation time (his military leave) to take two-three week long Harley trips to see family or friends or to just go ‘somewhere different’.  Usually married couples of our ages would be going on lavish cruises or fly to distant countries to sip foreign wines and photograph ruins they’ve seen in history books.  But us?  We took a different road.  Riding was our passion; part of what defined us…our adrenalin…the skips between the beats of our hearts.  

The morning of each trip’s beginning, we opened our garage door, tugged at our luggage tie-downs one last time, geared up and said our prayer while idling our engines to get the oil running through their steel veins.  Our souls literally came alive and what anxieties from preparation instantly escaped our minds.  Immediate upward turning of our lips into grins abounded.   If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle let alone, a cross country trip, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Us…our machines… the road…and God’s loving grace.  

As each day’s end took us to some hotel on the road, we’d laugh at each other’s faces; sooty, oily, sweat and dirt stained with pink sunburned noses and lips.  We’d playfully mock each other’s ‘raccoon eyes’ from hours of sun and wind burns masking our eyes from our sunglasses. At the end of hot days, we’d grab our motorcycle bags and wadded up jackets to head for our hots and cot.  Oh, it felt so good to have a nice long hot shower and  put clean clothes on and make our way to a local restaurant nearby.  At night’s end, we’d walk back to our cushy room to put clean pajama pants and tee shirts on, and bounce between the white sheets of a Marriott’s bed for peaceful slumber.   Each day was exhausting (in a good way); perhaps fighting the wind, dodging needling rain or riding though what seemed to be a hot furnace but that was part of the experience and making of memories.

Enjoying brews and a hot meal after a long day on of riding
(notice our raccoon faces from too much sun)

We were adventurous dirty bad-ass bikers…

A photo stop on one of our trips

…or so we thought.

Now years later, we travel behind a shatterproof, bug-splattered windshield sitting in our heated or air conditioned Ram diesel dually pulling our 18,000 pound home on wheels.  Its quite different.  Admittedly, even though we no longer ‘trip ride’ the slab (asphalt) on two wheels, you can bet your bottom dollar, we still grin at and nudge each other when we hear the thunder of a Harley with trip bags strapped behind as the riders roar past.  Oftentimes at rest stops, we’d find ourselves wandering over to ogle out-of-state-plated scoots while chatting with bikers about where they were headed or where they have gone.  Now, while we absolutely LOVE our RV LIFE, there’s still that bit of unsettled urgency to get on a motorcycle to go on a trip. Once its in your blood, its there forever.

Fast forward a couple years…

Recently (Friday, November 4, 2016), we decided to day-trip to Death Valley National Park in Captain America (our dually) while Liberty was parked at an RV resort in Pahrump, Nevada.  After passing the Death Valley National Park entrance sign, we stopped briefly at a small pullout with an informational kiosk and a small building with bathrooms.  When we got out of the truck, we noticed a group of odd looking motorcycles with side cars that were loaded to the gills with well-worn travel bags, spare tires, dented metal and red plastic gas cans, coolers, large canisters of some sort and other motorcycle gear. 

One of the motorcycles was by itself with a few road-weathered young men looking perplexed at what looked like a mechanical malfunction of some sort. 

There were four other of these odd-looking bikes with the same visuals parked about 25 yards away in the parking spaces.  These bikes, were accompanied by a few young women stretching their legs and talking among themselves.  Now, if you’ve ever seen the Mad Max movie, perhaps you can get a mental picture of how I could describe the bikes and their riders.  This in no way, is judgement, mockery or ridicule; just merely the best description I could give for non-riders to visualize.  They all looked worn, dirty, sweaty…kind of like us on our own motorcycle trips only a shade or two dirtier, sweatier, ripped or frayed clothing, scuffed boots that needed a serious polishing with the looks of frustration on their weary faces.  We speculated it was because of that one bike by itself that prevented the group from moving on.  There was a van rental with a couple inside chatting that was parked immediately ahead of the single broke down bike.  I learned later that it was one of the lady rider’s father who had rented to come tag along for a short bit of their journey.  

Normally, an average person would, without a doubt, fail to make eye contact with this motley looking crew and walk briskly to get their info, take care of their business and get the hell out of Dodge.  I mean, seriously, if one didn’t know better…

…but we did know better.  We understood.  We’ve ‘been there’ (as bikers).  We stayed to chat with them. They looked interesting. 

While Dan walked to the kiosk to get info of the park, I approached them while studying their mounds loaded on their bikes thinking ‘WTH…” but then I noticed the foreign license tags which sort of explained the monstrosity of equipment. 

Intrigued, this spawned me into instant conversation with the young women asking where they were from and where they were going.  Trying to make them feel at ease, I told them we were once ‘bikers’ once but then, I sort of stepped back from that conversation because hardly, could we ever compare ourselves to what was before us. 

The tall one ‘Anne’ (pronounced ‘Ah-nah’) was adorably cute under all the road grime and dirt (actually, they all were); I noticed her very short haircut which looked like perhaps she cut it herself (or her comrades did…read on). I loved her spunk and outgoing, fearless demeanor.  She and the other ladies (Nadine and Elisabeth) seemed to be about their mid-twenties and quite fit looking under their matted helmet-hair, sweaty brows, neck wraps and road-grimed shirts.  They all were quite friendly and seemed eager to make talk in their foreign accents with me.  I seemed to think were European which proved right when I asked them where they were from.  Anne was from Germany whom led the conversation of the group; probably because she was extremely proficient with the English Language and seemingly less shy.  I asked if they minded me taking photographs of their top-heavy, heaping rides and of them.  There were four Ural 650’s with sidecars and two Yamahas and their riders who joined them in Canada.

To learn more about their Ural 650’s, click HERE

From their website:

The Ural motorcycle is a cross-country vehicle which is closely attached to Russia, ex-Soviet countries and Mongolia. This type of motorcycle with a sidecar has historically been a traditional means of transportation all across the communistic era. It is generally considered robust, anyone can repair it, and spare parts can be found in a local pile of garbage, a musty attic or the backyard of some lonely tacha.

I explained that we too, were ‘nomads but of a different suit’; telling them about our two-year journey throughout the United States as RV travelers.  I told them we were bloggers and shared our journeys via social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.).  I pulled out one of our travel cards and gave it to Anna to keep.  She ooooo-ed and awww-ed at the photo of Liberty. I don’t think she’s seen RV’s like ours other than perhaps, passing or being passed on American roads.  We told her that we had two big, leather recliners, a nice big galley to cook our meals in, a king sized bed and a real shower.  We told them of our two kitty cats.  We also shared that we have behind our 5th wheel a pair of Yamaha XT225’s for dualsporting rides.  We laughed together noting the huge difference in our means of travel, journeys and living arrangements vs. theirs.

Reciprocally, she handed me theirs. (by then, Dan had walked over to us)  

I briefly glanced at their travel card which had the most peculiar photo of a suited up motorcyclist riding a camel trying to lasso the rider on one of their Urals with ‘leaving homefunktion‘ (spelled exactly that way). 

On the backside of their card read ‘On the Landway to New York’ with the map of the world in tan with their route in red. 

We learned of who they were; five artists with five Ural 650’s, 40,000 km journey and…It was then, we were utterly amazed and dumbfounded at their absolutely incomparable, scrupulous, gutsy journey.  We had a huge level of respect for this group. She told us that they have been on their journey for over two years as well however, theirs began in Germany traveling 30,000 kilometers.  Anna went on to tell us of their travels through Western Europe, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Republic of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia and how they ‘floated’ their motorcycles down the Kolyma River in Russia to a port where they could board them onto boats to make way to Anchorage, Alaska.  Yeah, you read that right….‘FLOATED’ THEIR MOTORCYCLES’.  I hope I have that right!)

*Anna stepped away shortly for a moment while I chatted with the other ladies*

Anna returned offering me a cookie.  Anyways, she picked up conversation where she left off explaining how they rough-camp as a group wherever they can; eat from campfires, sleep on bedrolls under tarps on the ground and go days without seeing much of anyone or anything (other than the incredible scenery she described earlier) which explained greatly of the view of them and their bikes I vividly described above.  She excitedly told us that the United States has the most differential terrain as any other country she’s been to; explaining really high Rocky Mountains, to dry sand deserts, to rainforest-like Northwest coast to even Death Valley where stood.

Anna explained they had a stopover in Las Vegas to acquire much needed parts (well, because well…they’re URAL motorcycles) to do repairs, which explained the frustrations on their faces.  She said that their destination was New York City however, they had to change direction and head to Mexico instead because their Visas were expiring.  I learned that their journey supplies, clothing, electronics, communication, bike parts, etc. are paid for or donated by sponsors.  We shifted gears and started talking about their safety on the road and how, when I would travel by myself (as a lone woman rider), I always ‘carried’ (CCDW handgun).  She looked at me wide-eyed as if I had three heads.  “Oh, we don’t worry about that…we have a machete’ to cut firewood” and then she grinned.  I laughed as I got where she was going with that.  My eyes shifted over to her Ural to see if I could see where it was…not that I was afraid…just intrigued where the heck they would put the darn thing amidst the heaps of their tied down belongings.

We sensed a bit of sadness in her voice when she told us again of them having to go to Mexico instead of onto their final destination of the city that never sleeps.  They will continue south to Tijuana to cross the border, travel through Mexico and whatever comes of that while waiting for their new Visas to return to the United States so they can complete their planned journey.  I did advise them when travelling through Mexico to stay together as their laws differ greatly from ours…without getting into too much.

We still hadn’t talked to the guys as we didn’t want to interrupt their mechanical doings; walking back and forth to insure all the machines had been ready to roll.  They seemed very eager to getting the Ural fixed as sunset was nearing quickly. 

We finally said our farewells and well wishes of a safe journey.  

We got back into our truck to make our way down the road to see a bit of Death Valley National Park.  We stopped at an overlook to take photos and suddenly, we heard a rumble nearing.  It was them.  A smile beamed on Captain Dan’s face as he said, “Awesome! They got ’em running”.  We waved as they rolled past reciprocating our friendly gestures.  We looked at each other and the Captain laughingly said, ‘wish we were riding with them, dontcha!?’.  

We couldn’t stop talking about their wonderful story and journey all the way back home to Liberty that evening.  

To follow this hardened group of nomads, please refer to their card I posted. 

To LeavingHomeFunktion Riders, we wish you well and for all to remain in good health and mechanical efficiency.  Keep the rubber side on the road and please keep in touch!  We will continue to keep up with your journey.  Blessed thoughts on your eventual arrival to your destination, NEW YORK CITY!  We hope its all you dreamed of and more!  RIDE SAFE!!