Posts Tagged With: motorcycle travel

My 2012: Year In Review

I’ve looked back over 2012 to see what went right, what could have gone better, and what I might like to do in the year to come. It’s been fun to reflect on the past twelve months. Here’s a brief summary of the path my life has taken:

January

The new year started with lots of preparation and excitement as I set forth to film a motorcycle documentary down in South America. I also built and launched Darien Gap Info A peer review website dedicated to crossing the Darien Gap.

Late in the month, I travelled down to Colombia to meet again with my partner Mike Thomsen of Motolombia. Together with 8 riders, we rode through the heart of Colombia. Filmmaker Andreas Munksgaard and I documented the entire journey. Capturing each days events was hard work but also a great learning experience.

The New World Ride Still Shot

Filming in Colombia for The New World Ride

February

Upon returning to the cold New Hampshire winter, it was time to make sense of the nearly 100 hours of film. I began the pain staking process of cataloging all the footage. This was slow and arduous but laid the necessary foundation for developing the documentary. To keep sane, I played volleyball one night a week with friends.

March

More computer work… During the week I spent 8am – 5pm at my day job (mostly on the computer) and then came home, cooked dinner and spent 6pm – 10pm working on the film (also in front of the computer). I enjoy editing but it was tough to spend all night on the computer after spending my of my day there as well. However, I pushed on, and each day I saw progress.

At the end of the month I took a break from the film and headed to India on another business trip for my day job. I worked with my team of programmers and business analysts to develop custom web and mobile applications to better serve our customers. The work was fun and of course I enjoyed experiencing India. Best of all was renting a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 on the weekend and getting lost in Southern India!

GoPro Motorcycle Photo in India

Riding the crazy streets of Southern India

On the way home, I spent a few days in London where I met up with Andreas. We went over some of the story I had been putting together and he also showed me all around the city. The famous Ace Cafe was high on the list amongst all the numerous historical landmarks. It may be hard to believe, but the English weather was beautiful, sunny and warm!

Ace Cafe in London

Ace Cafe in London, England

April

Back in States once again it was time to finish building the story for the The New World Ride (the name of the soon to be released Colombian Motorcycle documentary). More countless hours spent staring at the computer screen. I also turned 29 years old…

Final Cut Pro Sequence from The New World Ride

Final Cut Pro Sequence from The New World Ride

May

As spring rolled into New Hampshire, I continued building the documentary day by day. By the middle of the month, I was ready for another quick getaway. Setting my compass southwest I headed to the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona. This was my second expo and I was amazed at how much it had grown. If you want to travel the world on 2 wheels or 4, this is the place for you. With hundreds of vendors and thousands of travelers, there is no shortage of gear and stories. Motorcycle Mexico, my how-to guide for motorcycling south of the border, was on sale and I spoke at several roundtable discussions including “Borders, Bribes and Checkpoints.” It was great to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Ben Slavin and Carla King at Overland Expo in a Ural Side Car

Riding Monkey for Carla King

June

June was a big month… I gave my 23rd and 24th presentations about my 6 month, 23,000 mile motorcycle ride from New Hampshire to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuia, Argentina. Moreover, I was recruited for and accepted an exciting new job opportunity on the west coast. It was a tough decision to leave my day job that I really enjoyed and to put so much distance between my family. But ultimately it would be a great experience in an exciting and growing industry with many new places to explore during weekend adventures. So, in three weeks, I gave my notice, Amber and I packed up everything we owned and with excitement and exhaustion we jumped on a plane headed for Europe.

Thanks to our friends Bob and Sue at Micatech, we rode all around Western Europe on their 1995 BMW K75 motorcycle. In three short weeks we cruised through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Ya… I’m still working on that blog post :). It was an incredible trip. We camped each night and lived off of fresh bread, cheeses and sausages.

Crossing the Alps from France to Italy

Crossing the Alps from France to Italy

July

And finally after more than 10 years of dreaming, I finally saw the Tour de France! We followed the first few stages of the tour in Belgium and France – wow, what an experience!

Tour de France - Peleton Climb

Tour de France – Peleton Climb

From Europe we scooted back to South America for Amber’s sister’s wedding in Quito, Ecuador. The ceremony was in a tranquil mountain setting just outside the busy city. After the wedding we rented a Suzuki V-Strom from Freedom Bike Rental. Mountain twisties and serene beaches were on the agenda for the quick 5-day ride at the equator. (Yup, still working on that blog post too!)

Lunch on the beach in Ecuador

Lunch on the beach in Ecuador

With Ecuador behind us we were off to California to find a place to live in Silicon Valley. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find a cute little duplex right in Cupertino (a 7 minute walk from the Apple campus) with a palm tree and lemon tree in the front yard!

Our House in Cupertino

Our House in Cupertino

August

I began work at AAC Technologies were we develop custom micro-speaker, microphone and vibrator solutions that integrate inside today’s smartphones, tablets and mp3 players. By the middle of the month our friend John arrived with all of our belongings. We are so thankful that he drove a 26′ moving truck 3,000 miles across the country just to help us out! For the past 2 weeks we had been “camping” in our new home waiting for all of our furniture to arrive.

House Camping

House Camping

Our motorcycles came in the same truck and we were excited to hit the ground and explore California. At the end of the month we rode through the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Rendezvous. Amber went on road rides with a bunch of new friends and I set out for desert dirt riding with people much more capable than me. After pushing my limits and almost dumping the bike several times we headed over Ebbets Pass on our way back to the bay area. We also hosted our first motorcycle travelers in our new place – a young couple from France.

Amber Motorcycling in Ebbets Pass in California

Amber Motorcycling over Ebbets Pass in California

September

Finally settled into our new life on the west coast, we continued exploring with weekend surfing trips in Santa Cruz, city excursions around San Francisco, road tripping to Fresno to see the Colorado football game and hiking in the Redwood Forests. I also have a bunch of friends from college in the area and it’s been great to reconnect with them too. Additionally, my sister came to live us with. She’s a certified elementary education teacher but there are no jobs to be had in New Hampshire. The hopes of gainful employment lead her to California instead.

September also brought my first trip to China since 2009. I got a custom fit suit in Shanghai before going west and then finally south to Shenzhen. In Changzhou, I climbed to the top of the world’s tallest pagoda. I was amazed at how much Chinese I remembered (still only a few phrases) and was able to pick up a little more along the way. The locals always get a kick out of it when I say something in their language.

Worlds Tallest Pagoda

Worlds Tallest Pagoda

Unfortunately however, a night out at every kids dream (a warehouse filled with trampolines), was the straw the broke the camels back and I was in debilitating back and neck pain.

October

I began physical therapy but still encountered relapses of my injured back. Not fun! I had to give up cycling, running, hiking and any other form of physical fitness. Even simple tasks like putting on my socks or sitting up in bed in the mornings were painful and demotivating.

I slowly progressed as the month went on and with the support of a kidney belt, Amber and I rode 200 miles south along the coastline on Highway 1 to attend the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle travelers meetup in Cambria. New friends like Cliff Danger reminded us of a simpler life with stories of riding Lucy, a small Minsk motorcycle, throughout Cambodia and Vietnam.

Big Sur coastline along California's Highway 1

Big Sur coastline along California’s Highway 1

Putting on my marketing hat, I revamped the Motorcycle Mexico landing page and saw a huge boost in sales conversations. It’s a gold mine of information for aspiring travelers and I get joy out of helping them ride their dreams. We also hosted more motorcycle travelers, this time a couple from Guatemala on their way back from Alaska.

Motorcycle Mexico Landing Page

Motorcycle Mexico Landing Page

And with 48 hours notice, I headed back to China for a quick business trip. At least I got to sleep in a round bed…

Round Bed in Shanghai, China

Round Bed in Shanghai, China

November

Remember that motorcycle documentary? In the summer I handed my work off to Andreas who put on the final touches. Over the following months we released mini-episodes from each day of the trip. The penultimate release was a feature length film – The New World Ride. It was a wild journey and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone involved – To all of you… ¡MUCHAS GRACIAS!

Two hours a day of back stretching and strengthening exercises finally started to pay off and I slowly began seeing improvements. Amber and I had hoped to ride to Baja, Mexico during the Thanksgiving break but her work schedule and my health had us put it on hold. Nevertheless, we found some fun in hiking and camping in Marin County just north of San Francisco. Aside from an evening spent convinced that we were being stalked by a mountain lion, we had a great time.

Point Bonita Marin County Hiking

Point Bonita Marin County Hiking

December

My work schedule isn’t the typical 8-5. Some days are slow and others are action packed with customer meetings during the day. I’m up most nights until midnight working with my team in China. With the end of the year in sight, we headed east for a much needed vacation, exchanging our computers for the families we hadn’t seen in 6 months. It was the perfect Christmas gift.

What went well in 2012?

The past 12 months have been action packed.

  • I traveled to 12 countries (8 of them for the first time) and spoke 7 languages (granted some of them were only a few words).
  • I gave 6 speeches about my motorcycle travels around the world.
  • I did all sorts of new things like paragliding over Medellin, Colombia, motorcycling around Lake Tahoe, eating congealed pigs blood at a Chinese restaurant and shooting trap with a shotgun in California.
  • I built and released a feature length motorcycle travel documentary.

What did not go well in 2012?

Though 2012 was a good year, not everything was perfect.

For one, my Russian language learning got de-railed. A new job with a shorter commute meant no time for audio CD’s. I got through 45 lessons (the same amount of Spanish before I left on my first big trip) but it quickly faded with lack of use. I still hope to explore the now disolved Soviet Union and it will be great to use the Russian language to connect with people from many countries. I need more practice.

Also, I didn’t do a great job maintaining friendships. I spent a lot of time in front of the computer with interesting but isolating projects, and I didn’t see my family for the entire second half of the year. As I grow older, I realize how important friends and family are. I’m disappointed that I lost my way in strengthening those relationships.

Finally, I’m not happy with how things finished with my physical fitness. I reached a peak level of fitness in early May when I was playing basketball every day at lunch and running on the weekends. But then a combination of injuries, travel, and a new job with many business lunches made me a little soft. I’m carrying an extra five or ten pounds now, and my fitness levels are lower than I want them to be.

Looking Ahead

Though I didn’t set goals for 2012, I do have a few plans for the year to come. Soon, I’ll share some of my goals for the future. I have a lot in mind including travel, technology projects, friends & family, happiness, 2 wheels (without a motor), business, health and more.

What about you? How was your 2012? Are you happier now than you were the same time last year? Have you made progress on your personal goals? What went well for you this year? What could have gone better?

Categories: United States | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Now Available: Motorcycle Mexico DVD

Hey folks!

As I announced last fall, I went back to Mexico for another round of adventuring and more importantly to film for my new project, Motorcycle Mexico. I wanted to make the DVD I wish I could have seen before I left on my trip. I hope it will help riders to get inspired, get educated, and get on their way.

Have you been dreaming of a motorcycle trip through Mexico? In this 2-disc DVD set, you will get the advice you need to help you cross the border, buy insurance, organize your documents, interact with police, find safe hotels and camping, break the language barrier, avoid Montezuma’s Revenge and much more to ensure that you have an amazing ride!

In addition to what he learned on the road, I interviewed veteran travelers and local experts who share their hard-earned knowledge with you. This DVD will get you inspired, educated, and on YOUR way! Whether you are riding in Mexico for just a few days or en route to Central and South America, This DVD will help you prepare for YOUR ride!

Here’s a short 5 minute movie trailer to show you what it’s all about.

Motorcycle Mexico DVD Trailer from Benny on Vimeo.

It’s $36.99 + $4.99 Shipping = $41.98.
It’s 2-discs. 5 hours of insightful content 
Available at www.MotorcycleMexico.com

Disc 1:
Intro, People, Culture, Weather, Gear, Border Crossing, Border Towns, Accidents & Insurance, Family Reactions, News & Drug Cartels, Personal Safety, Bike Safety, Women Riders, Riding, Road Quality, Toll Roads, The Left Blinker, Topes, The Bike, Tires, Tools & Packing, Mechanicals.

Disc 2:
Gas, Navigation, Camping, Accommodations, Secure Parking, Food, Drinks, Montezuma’s Revenge, Health & Evacuation Insurance, Health Risks, Checkpoints, Police, Money, Language, Connectivity, Get Gone, Credits, Bonus Footage.

Thanks to everyone that contributed and encouraged me along the way!

Ride & Explore!

Categories: Mexico, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Where Are They Now” Edition

New to the site? Click here to follow the blog in chronological order. Thanks for checking out the journey, enjoy!

Hey Everyone!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been back in the USA for over 4 months! Spending time with friends and family has been great and the summer weather has been beautiful here in New Hampshire. So… What’s been going on? Well, 6 months without regular exercise coupled with 3 or 4 daily meals of delicious fried food plays a toll on the body. I weighed myself when I returned home – I gained 15 lbs… YIKES!!! Riding the motorcycle everyday was exhausting but it wasn’t stimulating my cardiovascular system. Now back at home I’ve been kayaking, running, biking (of the pedal variety), and hiking on a daily basis and I’ve shed that baby fat. Here’s a few shots from the absolutely stunning Acadia National Park in Maine.

Have no fear though, I’m still riding the motorcycle nearly everyday. My car has only seen a few days of use this entire summer. Being stuck inside the 4-wheeled box is near torture. The KLR, a.k.a. El Burro, has been a true workhorse. He now has roughly 35,000 miles (I say roughly, because I’ve been without a spedo/odometer cable for the past 12,000-ish miles). All that traveling has taken it’s toll and I now have piston slap. It looks like I’ll be rebuilding the engine’s top end…

This Bike Climbed Mt. Washington

I recently presented the my journey through the Americas at the New Hampshire Latino Festival. Latinos and Gringos alike came up and asked all sorts of questions. “Are you fucking crazy!?” was a popular one. I met Salvadorians, Mexicans, Colombians, and Guatemalans. Their eyes opened wide as I described riding through their countries. Many young kids who are still learning about their heritage stopped by to check out my photos. Their parents would point to a picture and say “That’s our country.” Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll inspire one of these kids to jump on a bike and ride through their country to experience it first hand. I made this highlight map to have on display.

Motorcycle Central and South America

Crucial to the success of my journey were the Micatech panniers and top case. You’ve seem then in every photo with my bike and I certainly put them to the test. With over 50 tip-overs ,they are still in excellent shape and waterproof (although a bit dirty). The boxes are made only 30 miles from my home and since returning home they’ve contracted me to do some engineering and design for new products. The projects has been fun, challenging, and engaging. Designing and building adventure motorcycling products is great. One key element in product development is field testing… Alright, so what’s next??? Ya, it’s about time for a new adventure. Well, in 3 short weeks I’ll be back on the bike, riding 3,300 miles across the country to California where I’ll be presenting my journey through the Americas at the Overland Rally. Are you interested in traveling the world by car/truck/van/motorcycle/bicycle then this is the event for you. So, if you’re in the Bay Area between September 23 and 26, sign on up and check out the rally.

Overland Rally

After the Overland Rally I’m headed south to Mexico! Wooo Hooo! I’ll be riding down the Baja Peninsula and then crossing over to the mainland where I’ll be riding for 5 weeks. While south of the border I’ll be filming for a How To Guide for Motorcycling in Mexico. I’m super excited about this project and hope to inspire others to go and ride their dream. Check out the website at www.MotorcycleMexico.com. Interested in following the new journey? Then sign-up for email updates by clicking here (because I won’t be updating this website anymore). When I make it back home at the beginning of November I’ll have put on another 10,000 miles!

Motorcycle Mexico

That’s about it… What have ya’ll been up to? Drop me a line and keep me in the loop.

Ride & Explore!

-Ben

Categories: Mexico, United States | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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