For many years before RVing, 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 always took a different road. Motorcycle riding was our passion. It was part of what defined us. We were nomads even back then.
At the beginning of each trip, 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.
We’d ride until we were either tired or a planned overnight.
We’d find some hotel on the road and laugh at each other’s faces; sooty, oily, sweat and dirt stained with pink sunburned noses and raccoon eyes from hours of sun and wind burns masking our eyes from our sunglasses. We’d grab our motorcycle bags and wadded up jackets to head for our room.
Oh, it felt so good to have a nice long hot shower, get dressed and make our way to a local restaurant nearby for a meal and some brews. After, we’d walk back to our cushy room, put our clean pajamas on, and bounce between the white sheets of a Marriott bed for peaceful slumber.
The next morning, we’d rise and mount up to do it all again. We were adventurous, dirty, bad-ass bikers…
…or so we thought.
Fast forward a few years…
In early November 2016, while parked in Pahrump, Nevada, we day-tripped to Death Valley National Park in our dually. After passing the park’s entrance sign, we stopped briefly at a small pullout to use the restroom and get some park information.
When we got out of the truck, we noticed a group of odd looking motorcycles with side cars 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 parked about 25 yards away. These bikes, were accompanied by a few young women stretching their legs and talking amongst themselves.
Now, if you’ve ever seen the Mad Max movie, that’s how I would describe the bikes and these riders. They were hardened looking riders. They looked just as we did in our days on the road only a shade or two dirtier and sweatier with frayed clothing, and scuffed boots that needed a serious polishing.
Normally, an average person would, without a doubt, fail to even make eye contact with this motley-looking riders and walk briskly past them and get the hell out of Dodge.
But we knew better. We understood. We’ve been there. We stayed to chat with them. They looked interesting and well, I wouldn’t be lying if I said I may have been a wee bit envious.
While Dan was at the kiosk getting some park info, I walked over to them while studying their loaded mounds on their bikes thinking ‘WTH…” but then I noticed the foreign license tags which explained the monstrosity of equipment.
Curiously, I started conversing 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 riders once but then, I stepped back from that conversation because hardly, could we ever compare ourselves to them.
The tall lady rider, ‘Anne’ (pronounced ‘Ah-nah’),was cute under all the road grime and dirt; I noticed her very short haircut which looked like perhaps she cut it herself. She was outgoing with a fearless demeanor. Anne and the other lady riders (Nadine and Elisabeth) seemed to be about their mid-twenties with matted helmet-hair, sweaty brows, neck wraps and road-grimed shirts.
They all were friendly and seemed eager to chat in their foreign accents with me. I seemed to think they were European which proved right when I asked them where they were from. Anne was from Germany whom led the conversation of the group because she was extremely proficient with her English.
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 kind; telling them about ‘our’ two-year journey throughout the United States as RV travelers. I showed them that we were bloggers and shared our journeys via social media. I pulled out one of our travel cards and gave it to Anna to keep.
She ooooo-ed and awww-ed at our photo of Liberty. I don’t think she’s seen RV’s like ours other than in America. She laughed when we told her that we travel with our two cats, and our RV had two big, leather recliners, a nice big galley to cook our meals, a king-size bed and a real shower.
We also shared that we have behind our 5th wheel a pair of Yamaha XT225’s for dualsporting rides. They laughed and noted the huge difference in our means of travel and living arrangements vs. theirs.
Reciprocally, she handed me their travel card. By then, Dan had walked over to us to join in the conversation.
While he was getting to know them, I briefly glanced at their travel card which had the most peculiar photo of a suited up motorcyclist riding a camel (or yak?) trying to lasso the rider on one of their Urals with ‘leaving homefunktion‘.
We learned they were called themselves the LeavingHomeFunktion riders. They were five artists with five Ural 650’s, 40,000 km journey. It was then, we were utterly speechless at their absolutely incomparable, scrupulous, gutsy journey. We had a huge level of respect for this group.
Anne told us that they have been on their journey for over two years however, theirs began in Germany traveling 30,000 kilometers. She 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’.
*Anna stepped away shortly for a moment while I chatted with the other ladies*
Anna returned offering me a cookie and picked up conversation where she left off explaining how they rough-camp as a group wherever they could. They cooked their meals on campfires, slept on bedrolls under tarps on the ground and went days without seeing much of anyone or anything (other than the incredible scenery she described earlier). This explained the monstrous mounds of cargo on their bikes.
She told us that the United States has the most differential terrain than any other country she’s been to; explaining the Rocky Mountains, Southwest’s dry sand deserts, Northwest’s rainy coast to even Death Valley where all stood talking.
Anna explained the LeavingHomeFunktion riders had a stopover in Las Vegas to acquire much needed parts to do repairs, which explained the frustrations on their faces.
She said that their final destination was New York City however, they had to change direction and head to Mexico instead because their Visas were expiring.
I asked about their safety on the road; explaining that I, as oftentimes a solo female rider, had ‘carried’ my own firearm where it was legal for personal protection.
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”, she grinned. I laughed as I got where she was going with that. My eyes shifted over to her Ural wondering where the heck they put the darn thing amidst the heaps of tied down belongings.
We sensed a bit of sadness in her voice when she shifted the conversation back to they having to go to Mexico instead of onto their final destination of New York City. She explained 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. I stopped with that. I didn’t want to scare them.
We looked at our phones to see what time it was as we had plans to visit parts of Death Valley National Park. It was getting late.
We still hadn’t talked to the guys as we didn’t want to interrupt their mechanical doings. They seemed very eager to get the broken down Ural fixed as sunset was nearing quickly.
We finally said our farewells, took their pictures and wished them a safe journey.
We got back into our truck and drove down the road to the first Death Valley National Park exhibit stop. While at the overlook taking photos when suddenly, we heard a familiar rumble approaching from where we came from. It was them. A huge smile beamed on Dan’s face as he excitedly said, “Awesome! They got ’em running”!
They waved as they rolled past reciprocating our friendly gestures. We looked at each other and Dan laughingly said, ‘wish we were riding with them, dontcha!?’.
I grinned. Of course he knew my answer.