Unlimited Horizons

Text: Uwe Krauss • Photography: Ramona Eichhorn

After an article in RoadRUNNER whets your appetite for traveling have you ever wondered where you could meet like-minded people with the same spirit of adventure? Do you need some encouragement to pursue your dreams?

One particular website, www.horizonsunlimited.com, was constructed with just those questions in mind. Founded by a Canadian couple, Grant and Susan Johnson, it connects motorcyclists from all over the world in a new way. Both Grant and Susan have circled the globe on their BMW for 12 years, so they're well aware of the worries and needs of the traveling motorcyclist.

Among other useful features found on the web pages, the Bulletin Board provides a forum in which any imaginable question about motorcycles and traveling can be asked and answered. On the shipping page, as the name suggests, there's good advice from travelers about shipping your motorcycle from one continent to another. And in terms of support, the Horizons Unlimited Community has grown to encompass 300 communities worldwide. These international enthusiasts are happy to meet with and help other motorcyclists; and every year, rallies in different countries are organized via the website.

In 2004, meetings were held in New Zealand, North Carolina, England, Australia, Portugal, Mexico and Argentina. We, Ramona and I, recently attended the Canadian gathering in the town of Revelstoke, which is sandwiched between mountains and blue rivers in southern British Columbia. When we arrived on a sunny Friday afternoon in autumn, a handful of tents were already pitched just out of town at the Williams Lake campground, and soon the meadow was filled with tents, bikes and people.

The familial atmosphere had little in common with the ordinary biker gathering. There were no smoking tires, bloody fights, or drunks crashing into tents at 4 o'clock in the morning. Instead, we met Dereck from London, David from Seattle, and Bill from Vancouver. Attendees came from as far off as Great Britain, Germany, Japan and Arizona. In all, more than 90 souls found their way to Revelstoke.

The official rally kickoff began in the town theatre on Friday night with a slideshow about a journey across the two Americas. That was followed by a presentation by Doris Maron from Alberta, whose tales excited the crowd. And who wouldn't admire the courage and self-confidence of a lady who had ridden her Honda Magna alone from Thailand to Europe via India, Pakistan and Iran? Hopefully, Doris will forgive me for adding that she's over 50 and a grandma already. Outside of the European landscapes she toured, the traditional, predominant role of a woman is one as a housewife and mother, not a motorcycle "mama". Somewhat surprisingly, the police treated Doris with great deference and she even received escorts through dangerous areas.

Seattle's Randy Hoskins spoke on China and detailed how his group of seven motorcyclists dealt with the local bureaucracies. Their bikes had to pass an emission test upon arrival. Since Randy's bike was the newest of the seven KLRs, they simply ran that one through seven times - and then passed them all.

Saturday in Revelstoke started with an easy ride out on logging roads to give the participants' bums a chair-sitting break, and that afternoon various workshops helped with fixing a flat tire, getting the best from your photography, or improving riding skills. Gleaning highlights from his 12-year trove of travel wisdom, rally organizer Grant Johnson displayed his expertise in an interesting and educational two and a half hours. However, his most important messages are short and simple: "Don't put yourself under pressure by marrying your travel plan. Be open to change...and take your time!"

After dinner, a German couple, Martin and Katja Wickert, explained how they left the comfort zone of their lives. "We studied economics. I got the job in a suit and tie that my mother always wanted me to have. But there was this dream. So we set a date when to leave, and decorated the walls of our flat with maps, and marked all the places we wanted to visit. It took us three years of preparation. There was one last thing to do before we could set off. We had to get married. As a wedding gift, we asked our friends for one night of paid accommodation in case we needed a break from camping." The newlyweds started out in eastern Canada a few months ago, heading for Alaska on their Honda Africa Twin.

An enjoyable travelogue of slides taken in Africa, Australia, and Thailand ended our two inspiring days at the rally.

Breakfast on Sunday morning offered the last chance for us to exchange stories and addresses. A tiny Japanese girl, Miki, regaled the crew at the table with a page from her travel diary. Entitled "troubles", the entry contained many humorous English notations: ...crash with car...broken belt (Harley)...249 bedbug bites in Romania. When asked what the most significant difference between the Chinese and Japanese people is, Miki's pocket translator spat out its Nipponese bias: Japanese: well-behaved; Chinese: bad mannered. She also recommended that we visit her country when the cherry blossoms bloom, and she says the ancient capital Kyoto should not be missed.

Meanwhile, on another notable island, Dereck had sold his fruit and vegetable store in London, bought a KTM, and shipped it to New York. He has since traveled all over the United States and Canada. After an accident in Alaska, he was helped by an elderly man in old pickup truck. The needed repair called for parts that were 500 miles away; so, he set off with the local not knowing the journey there would take him two full days. Dereck's new old friend simply refused to drive any faster than 35 miles an hour!

This year's meeting will be held a little bit farther south, in Nelson, British Columbia, September 9-11, 2005.

You'll find more information at www.HorizonsUnlimited.com/meetings

See ya there.