On the road again

Dear Friends,

If you’re reading this, then you already know… My wife and I are pregnant preparing for a cycling adventure!

In just over a week, Amberlynn and I will fly to Northwest China and pedal west along the legendary Silk Road through Central Asia.

Our rough plan is mapped out in the photo below. We’ll start in far west China, cut across a corner of Kazakhstan, meander through Kyrgyzstan, suffer and delight through the roof of the world on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, explore ancient cities and gorgeous architecture in Uzbekistan, potentially visit the mysterious country of Turkmenistan (if we can obtain visas). Sadly, as Americans we’ll have to bypass Iran. It’s very challenging to get a visa there. As our governments duke it out on the world’s stage, we’ll miss out on the infamous Iranian hospitality. Instead, we plan to hop on a plane and explore the Arabian Peninsula as the temperatures recede into the winter months. Tentatively we’ll fly into the modern United Arab Eremites before cycling through the less flashy Sultanate of Oman.

If these places sound foreign, you’re not alone. Until we started researching the trip, my geographical knowledge about this part of the world was scarce. With ill-formed borders from the collapse of the Soviet Union, these countries are still young and redefining their identities.

It all seems so simple on Google Maps! In reality we’ll travel somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 miles over the course of 6 months.

We’ve been planning this trip for more than a year, yet inevitably there is so much to due as the starting line approaches. We’re down the wire with a little more than a week to go, it’s crunch time. As the calendar whisks the days away, we’re hurrying to make final preparations and say our farewells to friends and family. This isn’t goodbye, it’s simply au revoir.

So if you’d like, please feel welcome to follow along on our journey. We look forward to sharing stories, photos, and videos from the road. If you’d like to get emails on your inbox when a new blog post is published, you can sign up here for emails. If RSS is more your thing (it’s totally my thing), the RSS feed is here. You can also follow us on Facebook.

My apologies that this blog is really out of date (still detailing my motorcycle ride back in 2009). I’ll be updating it in due time. If I say I will l fix something, I will. There is no need to remind me every 6 months…

Let the adventure begin!

-Ben

Categories: Bicycle Touring, The Silk Road | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is not the bike you’re looking for…

It all happened so fast…  Last week I put El Burro up for adoption and this week he’s roaming new pastures with his new family.

I told myself I wouldn’t cry… As I rode to the loading dock a mile away, it hit me… This is the last adventure with my trusty steed. El Burro was adopted this morning by a nice father and son planning a ride through Baja. They will give him a new lease on life. Many more adventures await. Ride like the wind!

I told the new family that the original owner of the bike still keeps in touch when I share updates on this blog. (Hi Lee!) He loves knowing that his bike lives on. I will too. I’ve asked them to send photos and stories from their journey.

Here’s the add I posted online. It was fun to write it and I received so many emails from people saying they enjoyed the post. It will be great to immortalize it here on the blog.

— — — —

Are you fed up with your KTM or Ducati attracting all the ladies? Well, if you’re looking for a bike that deters women, I have just the bike for you!

El Burro is for sale. He’s certainly no prized race horse, but rather a working donkey who is a great companion.

Once heralded for his feats of riding to the southernmost city in the world (Ushuaia, Argentina), his wounds are reminders of adventures gone by. He’s now saddened by the neglect of his owner who is too busy to take him on wild journeys.

— — — —

We’ve had a good run together. I adopted him from his 2nd owner when he was just 7k miles. He underwent a heart transplant (top end) around 40k. Today he’s somewhere around 70k with more than a few gray hairs. He farts (backfires) way more than he should and his hearing is going so he talks far too loud (loose exhaust and no packing in the muffler). For the past few years, I haven’t had the time to give him the attention he deserves – sadly day rides and the odd weekend trip are all he gets these days. I hope some budding adventurer will be able to give him a new home and a new life.

— — — —

The Details
2001 Kawasaki KLR 650
~70k+ miles (after the spedo cable fell off the 3rd time, I quit replacing it. Odometer says ~33k)
40k maintenance: New piston and rings, rebored the cylinder.
Aluminum skid plate
Heated hand warmers
Done did the doohickey
Tall windscreen
Fat off road foot pegs
Rear brake master cylinder guard
Ram mount
Corbin seat (2nd best accessory)
$5 plastic inline fuel filter (best accessory)
SW-Motech side racks (with custom 4th mounting point for extra stability).
Micatech rear rack
Micatech side cases not included…
Engine guards with highway pegs (highway pegs not included, they fell off long ago)
Hand guards with bar-end protectors
Progressive front fork springs
PROTAPER handlebar with rad foam pad that says “PROTAPER” – adds 2.7 horsepower
Pre-routed spare throttle cables. (Despite replacing 3 clutch cables, the throttle cables just won’t quit)
Spare clutch cable
Half-used spare brake pads
K&N air filter (dirt from Death Valley included at no extra charge)
Fork brace (with 2 stripped bolts, so it looks cool but doesn’t do much aside from looking cool)
Large Wolfman tank bag with map pouch and KLR specific mount (this bag has been awesome)
Aftermarket muffler. It sounded great 60k miles ago!
Stock muffler also included (but not mounted)
Oversized front brake rotor
ADV sticker
Headlight protector (protector fell off in Patagonia, dead bugs and industrial velcro squares are all that remain)
Tubes that never go flat (seriously, I’ve never had a flat tire on this bike… ever! That said, you should probably change the tubes…)
New stock rear turn signal (the original melted in Bolivia, some kind person on ADVrider sent me a new pair)
Custom rear shock flap to keep mud out (handmade from a great mechanic in Ecuador)
Center stand
Stainless steel front brake cable (then again, I forget if that comes stock…)

The Good
Running (hey, that’s pretty good!)
New battery that sits on a battery tender
Drivetrain surprisingly ain’t too shabby.

The Bad
A face that only a mother could love.
Backfires (often mistaken for a lawn mower).
Loose exhaust (I had the stock exhaust as well)
Kickstand switch sticks – need to use your hand to flick the switch
Lots of other little stuff…
50% tread left on the tires (50/50 trail/street tires)
Rear brake light doesn’t work (running light works just fine).
Speedometer doesn’t work. Don’t worry, you’ll never be riding too fast.
Odometer stuck at ~33k (it will be great for your resale value).
Headlight points to the sky (don’t ride at night…)

— — — —

Is this the bike for you? Probably not.
Is it a great bike? It once was.
Is it a gateway to adventure? Absolutely.
I hope someone out there can put it to good use!
Not looking to part it out, unless you buy everything except the mirrors.

Located near San Jose, California
Price: $2,200 cash or $2,100 and a whole bunch of beer

— — — —

And I used only the finest of photos in the add:

Ride like the wind…

Categories: United States | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

My 2016: Year In Review

Just as it does every year, 2016 came and went in what felt like the blink of an eye. Equally and fortunately as common, it was action packed. Every year I like to reflect on the past 12 months to see where I spent my time. 20152014, 2013, 2012 were all amazing years. Highlights can’t do justice, but it’s a fun reminder of what’s been going on.

January

Having just crossed the border from Mexico to the USA, we settled into a cozy San Diego neighborhood to celebrate the new year with our friends Cachaulo and Yola, as well as their 2 young daughters. It was a great last stop on our drive north to Cupertino from Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.

january-baja

China Trip #1 came early as it seems to every year. Ganbei (bottoms up) as the locals would say!

january-drinks

February

When working for a Chinese company, there is no greater holiday than Chinese New Year. With my factory closed for a week, we took to the skies to visit our families in New Hampshire. It was cold… Our good friend Byron also helped us film and edit a short promo video for SnapType. Thanks, Byron!! And thanks to Sarah and her son for the wonderful location and acting!

Once back in sunny California, Amber and I took advantage of warmer weather to do our first fully self-supported overnight bicycle trip. 2,500 feet of climbing over 10 miles with a fully loaded touring bike was exhausting but very rewarding!

february-biking

China Trip #2 was shortly thereafter and it was back across the ocean for another round of shenanigans with my friend and colleague, Charlie. We took over the children’s exoskeleton robots and terrorized the local theme park.

february-china-machines

On the way back to America I went out of my way to make a stopover in Singapore. First new country of the year! I spent a long weekend doing what I do in every new city I visit, walking around for miles and miles and miles.

february-singapore-merlion

March

China Trip #3. This time I went to Shenzhen in the south of China and walked 8 miles along the bay with 60,000 of my closest friends.

march-china-walk

I’m an uncle! My sister gave birth to a baby girl and I flew home to see her at just two weeks old. Amazing.

march-penelope

What’s becoming one of my favorite annual events is the ADVrider Noobs Rally. Surrounded by friends, we spent 2 days riding through the rugged and challenging landscape. It was as challenging, spectacular and memorable as always. Every year we say we should get smaller bikes… Maybe next year we finally will!

march-death-valley-tree-riding

April

Weird…. A month without a China trip! It was great to have a good stretch of time without a big flight. April was a pretty relaxing month while catching up with friends, like this ride to the famous Alice’s Restaurant.

april-alices-restaurant

May

The one and only Kent Green popped in for a quick visit and we enjoyed his company while hiking through the gorgeous Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Kent is a master at classy and artsy panoramas…

may-kent

Yosemite is always a special place – even when it’s swarmed with 9872394738923o7 tourists. Our good friends David and Haley came out to California during their 12 national parks in 12 months tour. Good fun and shenanigans were had by all.

may-yosemite

China Trip #4 with visits to both Shenzhen and Changzhou. Overlanding here I come…

march-china-overland

At the end of the month, Amber and I drove 5 hours north to Lassen Volcanic National Park to enjoy some fun in the late spring snow, hiking through beautiful landscapes.

may-lassen

June

Backpacking through Point Reyes National Seashore with Amber and Vanessa was wonderful. Our campsite was blossoming with wild blackberries that helped make our morning oatmeal on the trail that much more special.

june-point-reyes-hike

The weekend rental of a Polaris Slingshot was thoroughly enjoyed by Amber.

june-slingshot

Visitors from New Hampshire (Matt and Alana) came for a scenic drive through the Santa Cruz mountains and a delicious lunch at a brewery along the beach, even if the service was horrendous.

june-hedrick-beach

My sister Abby is a physical therapist and started her first rotation as a traveller. She stayed with us in Cupertino and over the next 3 months and we went on lots of adventures together. It was great to spend time with her (and eat all the food she cooked).

june-kayak

July

America! Freedom! Indianapolis! With travels to the heartland, we celebrated the wedding of Charlie and Jackie!

july-charlie-wedding

My Dad had a unique and fantastic opportunity to drive a brand new BMW X5M across the country to bring a trailer of BMW motorcycles from Maine to California. We enjoyed spending time with each other in my new backyard. With complimentary tickets to the World Superbike Weekend at the Laguna Seca Raceway, we watched an incredible race and saw riders hurl themselves through the infamous corkscrew.

july-corkscrew

I was even able to fit in a cross country drive home alongside my Dad in the sporty and comfy BMW. We averaged 800 miles per day over four days to reach Maine at the end of the week. It was fun to see the landscape change right in front of us but after 4 days and 3,200 miles, we were happy to be out of the car!

july-dad-bmw

China Trip #5.

august-china-bike

Amber’s family came for a visit and we had fun doing all the touristy things around northern California.

july-family-facebook

August

My sister Molly came for a quick visit and we took her rock climbing at the local gym. We climbed a lot this summer and it felt great (on my back – most days).

august-climbing

Amber and I then headed to Portland, Oregon for the World Domination Summit where we spoke in front of a 1,000+ person crowd and were awarded a scholarship to help fund the Android development of our app, SnapType!

august-wds

The first of several mountain biking endeavors went down in August. It’s been years since I’ve been out on a mountain bike and it felt great! The new bike technology is amazing and the bikes are incredibly light and agile. I’m extremely fortunate that some incredible trails are so close to my home in California! I’ll be looking forward to many more biking days in the future…

august-biking

September

China Trip #6 was an interesting one. I had a break in between two meetings. So along with my partner in Crime (Charlie), I made a weekend trip to Japan to hike Mount Fuji (the tallest mountain in Japan) on the last day of the hiking season. It was a mad dash and whirlwind trip but absolutely worth it. We woke up in China at 4am to catch a plane to Japan, landed in Tokyo at noon, arrived by bus to the final town at the foot of the mountain at 5pm, grabbed a quick dinner and hopped on another bus to arrive at the basecamp at 8pm, laid our heads on a park bench and began hiking at 10pm, hiked all night to reach the summit at 5am just in time for the sunrise (which we couldn’t see because it was cold, windy, cloudy, and rainy at the summit), descended and thrashed our knees to arrive back at the basecamp by 10am, caught 2 buses and arrived back in Tokyo at 4pm before passing out with exhaustion at 8pm. Wow, what a trip!!!

september-fuji

As if the Mt. Fuji trip wasn’t hard enough, I packed up my bicycle the next week to pedal from my home in Cupertino to Mariposa (the foothills to Yosemite) for the Horizons Unlimited gathering where I gave a few presentations about motorcycle travel. 200 miles, up and over the leg-busting Mt. Hamilton and then down through the central valley before ascending again to the edge of the Sierra mountains. I felt whole.

september-bike-shadow

October

Skinny Pedal! YEAAHH!!! The boys and I drove the Rubicon Trail in Joel’s Toyota 4Runner. Everyone was impressed that a near stock vehicle could make it through. Joel was a great driver and with enough rock stacking we were able to make it without issue. A weekend in the wilderness with the “Js” was time well spent.

october-rubicon

Another cross country flight to Celebrate the wedding of Samir and Ligia in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Gotta love weddings with friends from college!

october-samir

China Trip #7 wasn’t actually in China (but it makes for easy record keeping). After the wedding I flew to Munich, Germany for a business trip. In between meetings, I enjoyed a day of castle hiking, a visit to the BMW factory museum and a soccer/football match with what I learned later was one of the world’s best teams! Along with copious amounts of beer and meat I survived the trip. And A short drive into Austria for lunch marked another new country!

october-castle

On the way back from Germany I made a quick stopover to Amsterdam. I love the bicycle culture in the Netherlands!

october-amsterdam

November

China Trip #8. Something is a foot in my soup…

march-china-chicken-foot

And then a sudden and unfortunate family emergency had me on the next flight to Boston.

Thanksgiving break was spent with several members of my family on a trip to Ajijic, Mexico along the shores of the country’s largest lake – Lake Chapala. We spent the week hiking in the dense hills that surround the lake. Our trip coincided with the annual local celebration of the San Andreas Festival. Fireworks, beer, street food, live music, carnival games and parades were all thoroughly enjoyed! One of the most interesting and rewarding parts of our trip was the visit to a local school where we volunteered for a day with both kindergarteners and 7th graders.

november-hiking-mexico

December

Go Buffs! My college alma mater had a terrific football season and made it to the PAC12 Championship which was played just down the street from me in Santa Clara – at the new 49ers stadium. It was also a great chance to reconnect with a fraternity brother I hadn’t seen since college. Hi, Weapon!

december-pac12

Another trip back to the east coast to be with family. My step-father is going through end-stage heart failure and underwent an emergency LVAD surgery where the left ventricle of his heart was replaced with an electro-mechanical pump. Under the best of circumstances, it’s an extremely difficult recovery. Unfortunately, he was plagued with several complications which has made his recovery extremely slow and challenging. It has been great to see family so much these past few weeks, but it’s sad that it had to be under such circumstances.

China Trip #9 – the last one of the year! Unlike 2014 and 2015 where I made 10 China trips, I slacked off this year and settled for 9. It’s rare that Charlie and I are in China the same time, but we’ve aligned several times this year and it’s been fun to explore together. On this occasion, we visited the city of Hangzhou and pedaled bicycles around the popular West Lake.

december-china-biking

It’s been several years since I celebrated Christmas / Chanukah / New Years in New Hampshire. So this year Amber and I decided to brave the New England winter and head back to our families on the east coast. No grand year-end adventure this time, but it was just what we needed and there’s certainly lots of exploration to be found in 2017!

december-christmas-hospital

What went well in 2016?

  • I visited 2 new countries! Singapore and Austria (even if it was just for a lunch, 15 miles from the German border), bring the country count to 34 (I think). Return trips to Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, and Mexico were fun too.
  • I spent a lot of time on the east coast with family towards the end of the year. Of course, I wish it were under better circumstances, nevertheless it’s nice to be with them. I love living in California’s Silicon Valley but I sure do miss my family. I was lucky to have one sister come live with us for 3 months and to have another sister come out for a visit. Add a cross country drive with my Dad and it was time well spent with the people I love.
  • SnapType, our education app that helps students keep up in class even when their penmanship holds them back, is hard to classify with milestones throughout the year, even so, it certainly had a big year too. We finagled through Apple’s intricacies to create a company and relocated the hosting of the app. It was no small task and Apple didn’t make it easy for us, and more importantly easy for our users. But everyone did great and we managed to get back on track without too much fuss. We’ve also reached 1 million downloads, which is mind boggling! Revenue for the iOS app has been strong and we kicked off development on the Android app this fall. Unfortunately, it required us to re-write the app from the ground up in a completely different programming language. We had hoped to launch the app by now but development is taking longer than expected due to unforeseen challenges with Android which make some items much more complicated than with iOS. It’s been exciting and stressful, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. We’re about to enter our second round of beta testing and it won’t be long until we launch SnapType on Android to the public!
  • With Amber’s grad school complete, she passed her national boards and became a licensed and registered occupational therapist in the state of California! Early in the year she moved back to Cupertino full time and has been working in several different settings to get as much experience as she can and to explore the different opportunities within her field. She’s fantastic at what she does and has quickly become a valued and trusted supporter for many of her clients and their families. It’s beautiful to watch her pride blossom as she thrives in her new career.
  • “The day job,” which has me jet setting to China all the time, continues to go well. It’s a very unique gig with lots of challenges and rewards. It has not always been easy, but it has been worth it. I continue to grow professionally and enjoy the work and people I work with.
  • Back pain is usually the first thing I list each year under “what did not go well…” My back is far from healthy and it keeps me from doing many of the things I love, but this year I’ve had more good days than bad. I’m not sure exactly what to attribute it too since I haven’t been good about stretching or doing yoga, but a win is a win.
  • I stayed fairly active throughout the year. Even with all the travel, I was able to get in quality walks and bike rides on a mostly regular basis. A few bigger quests also gave a great sense of accomplishment. I need to stay active (for my physical and mental wellbeing) in the upcoming year and I’d like to branch out to some new activities.

What did not go well in 2016?

  • Stress. With the family emergency at the end of the year, I found (and still find) myself taking on more responsibilities in order to help out. Actually, my family has really come together to help out and it’s been really nice. I’m more than happy to help and I’m proud that I can assist. In spite of this, it still adds an extra layer of stress on top of the day job, SnapType and the rest of life’s requirements. So far, I’m managing the stress well and doing what I can to prevent any flareups in back pain. 2017 won’t be off to a smooth start, but we’re hopeful that there are many more good times with family to be had down the road.
  • My motorcycle continues to stand idle. It’s the same bike I rode to South America 7 years ago (wow, time flies)! I simply haven’t had the interest to go out on day rides and I haven’t had the time to take on big trips. Or when I do find some time, I’m leaning more towards the bicycle than the motorcycle. Maybe 2017 is the year I let El Burro find a new owner while I consider a smaller bike. Several manufacturers are coming out with exciting small bore adventure bikes this year… It gets me thinking!
  • Like most recent years, I had a lot of small adventures that I cherish, but I still yearn for another grand adventure. The older I get, the harder I find it to step away from daily life. I’m not really sure where this one will lead. My day job is great and I find it rewarding, but the taste of freedom out on the open road still lingers.

Looking ahead

As it does every year, the new calendar brings with it new challenges and opportunities. I’ll continue the quest for passive income with big leaps ahead for SnapType. I also look forward to spending more time with friends and family as my top priorities. Adventure is always on the doorstep and I’m trying to set up 2017 to be a big year.

How was your 2016? 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: Austria, China, Mexico, Singapore, United States | Leave a comment

My 2015: Year In Review

Yikes, 2015 flew by! Fortunately it was action packed. Every year I like to reflect on the past 12 months to see where my life has taken me (or where I’ve taken my life). 2014, 2013, 2012 were all amazing years. Let’s dive into the highlight reel.

January

Amber and I rang in the new year with bass thumping music on the beach in Cabarate, Dominican Republic as we pedaled our bicycles through the North Coast of the country. We learned that no one in the DR rides a bicycle. All the locals thought we were crazy.

Dominican - North Coast

China trip #1 didn’t wait too long and I headed across the Pacific. Fortunately, I set my sites on the Portuguese colony of Macau and I really enjoyed exploring this special area. It’s very different from mainland China and also uniquely different from Hong Kong. Known as the Vegas of the far east, Macau has much more to offer than just casinos. Most of my time was spent walking the streets of the city – getting lost and soaking it all in.

Macau

A visit from our good friends, David and Haley, was welcomed. Whether we’re hiking, singing karaoke or making sheep jokes, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with these two.

January - David and Haley

February

Month #2 and China trip #2. Again, I was lucky enough to make a short stop over to explore another place I’d never been to – Taiwan. I spent a night in Taipei on my way out and as I do in every new place I visit, I walked… EVERYWHERE. Seeing the similarities and differences to mainland China was fun (the food was very different and quite delicious). Next stop, the 2nd tallest building in the world – Taipei 101 (ya, that’s the building’s name) at 509 meters stands like a goliath over all of the cities other sky scrapers. In 45 seconds the elevator raced me to the observation deck while my ears popped twice on the ride up! Scooters flooded the city streets.

Taiwan Beer

During my favorite holiday (Chinese New Year), I travelled back to my hometown on the east coast. While I loved seeing my friends and family, my California blood was a bit shocked with the sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit). Miraculously, I didn’t freeze to death during the 10 degree snowshoe hike (-10 degree with windchill).

Snowshoeing

Let us not forget about China Trip #3. Two trips in one month.

March

Spring weather and cycling with the J’s.

J Cycling

A unique opportunity presented itself. I had a week long business trip to China scheduled that perfectly aligned with Amber’s spring break. China Trip #4… For the cost of a few frequent flyer miles, she set off on her first trip to Asia. We had a great time together exploring Shanghai, Changzhou, Yangshuo and Hong Kong. After a long New England winter, her pale white skin was blinding eyes. While not fashionable in the US, it was revered in China. Kids also loved her blonde hair and wanted pictures with the 老外.

Amber with Chinese Kids

Death Valley came knocking again and a few friends and I set our sights on the adventure motorcycling rally. Much like last year, we got in way over our heads, ran out of fuel, water and food, experienced numerous mechanical breakdowns, and got stuck in deep sand. I even managed to ride at night with a missing helmet visor and a headlight that points to the sky. It was exhausting, yet incredible and very memorable. So it was pretty much perfect.

Death Valley Moto

April

While I do find it nice to kick back and relax on the weekends, I find it much more energizing and rewarding to take on challenges. In April I attended my second Startup Weekend, where entrepreneurs from all backgrounds come together to form a team, build a product and launch a startup, all in 54 hours. I partnered with a group of really talented engineers and together we built RedHound, a hassle-free smart alarm. Over the course of the weekend we created a prototype and pitched our startup. It went well and out of more than a dozen teams, we came in first place!

RedHound Startup Weekend

After a weekend of mental exhaustion, it was time for physical exhaustion. Over the course of a few hours, I pedaled my bicycle up the East Bay’s Mt. Diablo.

Mt. Diablo Strava

May

Without a visit to Asia in more than a month, I must have been getting antsy. So it was back across the ocean for China Trip #5, but first I made a stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to visit my college fraternity brother, Austin. He and his wife were gracious hosts and it was interesting to explore a city with a unique mix of people and religion. It was my first time in a predominantly muslim country and it felt nothing like I would have expected. My only previous experience with the faith came from what I’ve seen on TV about the middle east. Touring the grand mosque was really interesting. Below we’re taking our touristy picture in front of the famous Petronas Twin Towers.

May - KL

Back east for Amber’s graduation from Occupational Therapy graduate school.

May - Amber Graduation

June

A trip to Japan was a nice break from all the China travel (but for easy record keeping, let’s call this China Trip #6). These two economic giants are separated by the East China Sea but their histories have been intertwined for centuries. I find it fascinating to see how different the two cultures are though. I spent a few days touring around Kyoto, which has a very different feel from my previous trip to Tokyo. Around 2,000 temples are scattered about this ancient city. Of course, the food is always fantastic in Japan.

June - Japan Kyoto

July

July started off with a bang! Amber and I celebrated our July 4th holiday with an exhilarating and exhausting day of learning and riding at SoCal Supermoto. These guys put on a fantastic session and immense fun was had by all!

July - SoCal SuperMoto

Time for China Trip #7. Thankfully, a stop over in Hawaii on the return leg made the journey much more enjoyable! Spending some time catching up with my cousin, hiking, surfing, and stand up paddle boarding with giant sea turtles made this one hell of a trip! Here’s the view from the top of Diamond Head Crater, overlooking Waikiki and Honolulu.

July - Hawaii

Restless legs and good friends took me back to Yosemite for some more hiking at the end of the month. What a rad place this is…

July - Yosemite

August

Missoula, Montana! A celebration for a great couple, Mike and Katie, who tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony in big sky country. We partied late into the night, and I unfortunately had to wake up at 5am to catch a flight to China…

August - Mike And Katie

China Trip #8. BBQ anyone?

May - China Food

September

For months and months and months, Amber and I planned our wedding. The big day finally came and all of our hard work paid off! We had an incredible weekend with friends and family on a beautiful summer camp in rural Maine.

September - My Wedding

And I surprised her with a ride in a Ural sidecar. She loved it.

September - Ural

The weekend after our wedding, our friends, Matt and Alana also tied the knot. With all the running around that goes on at one’s own wedding, it was great to relax and enjoy our time at someone else’s wedding.

September - Hedrick Wedding

The next day we hopped on a plane and headed to Eastern Europe for a bicycle touring honeymoon! We spent just shy of 2 weeks pedaling from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Poreč, Croatia. It was fantastic, exhausting and beautiful. To top it all off we spent a few days in Venice, Italy before flying home.

September - Bike Touring

Still adjusting to the jet lag, we rallied to stay awake and celebrate the wedding of more good friends, Kyle and Caitlin. It’s so great to goof off with friends that I don’t get to see often, now that I live on the other side of the country.

September - Kyle Wedding

October

With so many wonderful weddings under our belt this year, I headed back to California and then made a U-turn after 2 weeks to head back to New Hampshire for one last 2015 wedding to celebrate with the incredible Byron and Sally. An H-Town selfie shows our group of childhood friends back together again.

October - Byron Wedding Group

After the wedding I went directly to Asia for China Trip #9. On the way home, I caught up with Amber in LA. She had been hard at work in her second and final fieldwork placement. Her first was in the Bay Area and for the first time in 2 years, we lived together again! Yet, for the remainder of the year, she was down in LA for an amazing opportunity to complete her fieldwork at one of the nations premier sensory integration clinics – a great step in her career. I headed down for a long weekend on my return from China and my fraternity brother, Biscuit (future Mars astronaut), took us for a sunset cruise over Los Angeles in a small prop plane. Sweet!

October - Flying with Biscuit 2

November

Amber and I split the difference in driving and met up for a weekend in Pismo Beach where we rode ATVs around miles and miles of windscaped sand dunes.

November - Sand Dunes

China trip #10. Double digits this year, yikes!

Later in the month, Joel and I did something we’ve been talking about for years. We went 4-wheeling in Hollister with his Jeep. His truck is very capable and he’s a great driver. Oh so much fun!

November - 4wheeling

Back in LA, Amber and I attended the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach. Seen below, we found a great bike for a loop around India! We also met up with some moto friends and attended a fantastic presentation from the Striking Viking, Glen Heggstad, about motorcycling around the world.

November - IMS

To wrap up the month and enjoy our Thanksgiving holiday, we hiked and hiked and hiked all throughout Joshua Tree National Park. My sister who teaches elementary school in Las Vegas also joined. I was sad not to be with all of my family, but grateful to be with some of them while exploring this beautiful place.

November - JTNP Hiking

December

China trip #11 was underway, until a 5 hour delay eventually turned into a cancelled flight. I ended up scrapping my entire trip.

The real year’s end excitement came with an overland journey through Baja, Mexico! I thought that moving from NH to CA would mean more opportunity to visit Mexico since I would be much closer. Sadly, it’s been hard to find the time to jump away from work for so long. But the long holiday break worked out great and our unique trip was incredible. A month prior, our friends drove an SUV from San Francisco to Cabo at the southern tip of Baja. They parked the truck and flew home. A few weeks later, Amber and I flew down to Cabo and drove the truck back to the USA! Here’s short video edit from the trip:

Baja Cactus QX4

What went well in 2015?

  • I visited 1 new state! Traveling to Hawaii takes me up to 48 states visited (Alaska and North Dakota are still pending). I’m now tied with my Dad who has also visited 48 states (missing only Hawaii and Alaska).
  • I visited new 4 new countries! With Taiwan, Malaysia, Slovenia and Croatia on the list, the total country count is now up to 32 (I think I miscounted last year – oops). I also re-visited some other amazing countries and explored new areas around Japan and Mexico. Furthermore, having Amber join me on a China trip was a real treat too.
  • I didn’t even mention our educational iPad app, SnapType. After teaming up with our awesome new developer, Brendan Kirchner, we launched a new version 2.0 of the app in January. To date, there have been more than 400,000 downloads of the free version and enough sales of the paid version to keep it interesting. Each week we receive emails from ecstatic parents, teachers and therapists who share how the app is literally changing lives. It’s incredibly rewarding.
  • Work continues to go well. I was promoted to director level this year and took on a new role. It’s great to know that I’m adding a lot of value to the company.
  • Months upon months of preparation for our wedding was well worth it. We made memories that we’ll remember for years to come! Check out this highlight video if you’re curious.
  • The year contained many small wins. I spent a good chunk of the summer rock climbing at the gym with Amber. I also made it through 15 “Learn to speak Mandarin (Chinese)” audio sessions. Fluency is still very far away, but I gained quite a bit of street credit from my colleagues in China.

What did not go well in 2015?

  • As with every year, back pain continues to be my biggest challenge. Fortunately, this summer I found that yoga has helped me have fewer “bad days.” Although, it’s a struggle to keep it up every day, especially with so much travel.
  • I was happy to have travelled back east many times to see friends and family, but it always feels too fast. There are some great people in my life and it stinks that they are so far away.
  • After the trip to Death Valley, I didn’t ride my motorcycle for the rest of the year. The battery died (finally, after more than 70,000 miles) and I simply was too lazy to get it up and running. I’ve been eyeing a new bike, but I’ve yet to pull the trigger.
  • While work is going great, it’s also quite stressful at times. My colleagues are fantastic, but it’s just the nature of the beast. More often than not, I do well with managing my stress, but at times it’s difficult and it get’s magnified when those times coincide with flare ups in back pain.
  • My quest for passive, location independent income continues. SnapType has been the great surprise, but despite my best efforts with tweaking the Motorcycle Mexico sales funnel and working on related affiliate sales, it’s much more of a hobby and less of a business. I should let it go, but I like being a part of the community.

Looking ahead

2016 brings with it new challenges and opportunities. With Amber finally done grad school, we’ll once again be living together full time and I look forward to seeing her grow into her role as an occupational therapist. Continuing the quest for passive income and spending time with friends and family are my top priorities. Amber and I both would love to take on a big quest and we’ll be discussing what that might entail.

How was your 2015? 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: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

My 2014: Year In Review

Wow, my 2013 finished with a bang while getting engaged in Guatemala on top of a volcano on Christmas Eve. And 2014 has been incredible as well. As another years passes, it’s fun to reflect on what went down and recalibrate for the future. Here’s a summary of my adventures in 2014. January After leaving Guatemala, it was back to California to spend more time with Amber before her spring semester started. Towards the end of the month, I flew home to celebrate our engagement with our families. February February kicked off my first trip to China for the year. Shanghai Bund March With spring in full swing in California, it was off to Death Valley for some moto riding at the annual ADVrider rally. This was my first trip to the valley and I was blown away with it’s beauty, remoteness and rugged terrain. The riding was challenging and exciting with lots of soft sand, steep rocky ascents and crashes every now and then. Highlights included Goler Wash, Mengel Pass, the Race Track, Tea Kettle Junction and Lippincott Pass. March - Death Valley Pass April This was a crazy month with 2 trips to China. The best part though was a long weekend in Seoul, South Korea on the way home. I met up with a friend of a friend and had a wonderful time exploring the city with my local guide, Claire! It’s amazing how different South Korea is from China and I really enjoyed exploring a new place. The food was delicious, the language was unique and the culture was interesting. I’d love to get back some day and travel more around the country! Korea Gangnum Style May Amber and I set off for our annual visit to the the Overland Expo in Arizona where I gave several presentations about riding around the globe on a motorbike. And it was back to New Hampshire for the wedding of my friend, Chip. Wedding Group Additionally, I had been working with a developer for the past few months to build an iPad App. Born from Amber’s creativity, SnapType empowers students to keep up with thier peers, despite their difficulty with handwriting. By allowing them to take pictures of their school worksheets and then fill in the answers using the iPad keyboard they can now complete their work and feel successful. May - SnapType 2 As a final accomplishment for the month, I made my final payment to one of my two groups of student loans. Financial independence seems like a never ending battle, but this was a solid step forward and I’m really excited and proud to be paying off my debt. There’s still a lot more to pay, however with my other group of loans at only a 1.75% interest rate, there’s no big rush to pay them off quickly. June Once again, I hopped on plane and headed west for China trip #4. In order to spice things up a bit, my colleagues took me out to dinner at a unique restaurant where we feasted on giant silk worm grubs, dog meet and french fries covered in liquid sugar… June - Bugs Later in the month I spent a weekend in San Francisco to compete in the Startup Weekend challenge. Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups. I joined a group of incredibly talented programmers to develop CrowdSync, a meeting management application to automate note taking. We didn’t win the competition, but it was a fascinating and empowering learning experience. June - Startup Weekend July Halfway through the year, China came calling again. Like April, this was a two-trip month across the Pacific Ocean. With all that air time, my body was tired and so a cupping session was in order. Yes, it was painful. The marks were said to last only 5-10 days but even several weeks later, they could still be seen. I’m not sure if it helped at all but it was a fun new experience! China Cupping In between China trips I headed to Yosemite with some friends for some camping and hiking while being unplugged. It was just what I needed to recharge! Here’s a picture overlooking Half Dome; We hiked 15 miles that day. July - Yosemite Amber also made another trip out to California and we spent time tubing with friends down the Russian River and cycling along the coast. We also took engagement photos along Baker Beach in San Francisco. Ben and Amber Engagement August In August I officially relaunched the Motorcycle Mexico website. One of my passions/goals is passive income and this was another step towards location independence. Rather than simply pitch the DVDs, I’ve structured a free eBook landing page and an automated email marketing campaign to build rapport with readers before making the sales pitch. Time will tell how well it works. But it’s already proving well with a growing email list and a (small) increase in sales. Of course, it’s a sale I’m proud to make since these DVDs are a gold mine of information where any traveler can reap lots of value. Motorcycle Mexico eBook As summer rolled on, Stephen stopped by during his visit back to the USA. He and I rode Baja together in 2010 while he was en route to South America. He made it only as far as Guatemala before falling in love with the country and deciding to live on Lago Atitlan. He’s been there ever since. While in California, we went for a hike in Pinnacles National Park. Pinnacles And no month would be complete without some bicycle riding with my friends – The J’s. August - Bike Rides September Another annual event, the Horizons Unlimited meet up, had me back on the bike and riding towards Yosemite. I gave several informative and entertaining presentations about motorcycle travel and I watched several other inspirational speakers present on riding in intriguing places like Central Asia, Africa and Cuba. It wasn’t long before China trip #7 came knocking. Here we go again. With fall coming to New England, I flew home to go on a motorcycle ride with my Dad. He’s been a motorcyclists since his college days but hasn’t owned a bike since I was born. Now equipped with a Harley, I too borrowed an HD and we spent the day riding back roads throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. Spending time together doing something we both love was really special and I look forward to more miles in the future! Moto Ride With Dad October October was a hell of a month. Action packed and a bit of a blur, I found myself on a new adventure every weekend. The month kicked off with a visit to Colorado to re-unite with friends from college, ride bicycles and drink beer… October - Colorado Biking The next weekend I flew to Utah to catch up with David and Haley. After arriving in Salt Lake City, we headed south for Capitol Reef National Park to go canyoneering through Cassidy Arch and river hiking through some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. Look closely in the photo below… I’m on rappel! Utah Canyoneering The weekend after that I hosted Montanans, Mike and Katie, on a weekend trip to explore sunny California. The trips north to San Francisco and south to Big Sur were a blast and the company was perfect. Big Sur Overlook Other notable October happenings included a visit from my buddy John, hosting my first MotoStays traveler and welcoming my college comrade, Cachaulo to join our company. November With a month full of adventures behind me, there was no stopping the excitement. Reid, Joel, Charlie and I drove 6 hours north for a 3-day 25-mile backpacking trip along the rugged Lost Coast. This was the only stretch of coast in California where it was too rough to build a road. The hike was both challenging and rewarding. Getting caught in the tide with wet feet coupled with walking through soft sand yielded many blisters. Nevertheless, the grandeur of this remote wilderness was well worth the effort. Loast Coast Hiking A weekend hiking in Tahoe and a well deserved long Thanksgiving trip home to the east coast made the month of November fly by. December The last page of the calendar also marked my final trip to China. Trip #8 was a success! And of course, to close out the year in style, Amber and I flew down to the Dominican Republic to relax in an all-incluve resort go on a bicycle tour around the north coast of Hispanolia! Dominican Republic Bicycle Touring El Choco What went well in 2014?

  • Like in 2013, I flew a bunch. I racked up more than 200,000 frequent flyer miles.
  • I visited two new countries (South Korea and the Dominican Republic) to bring the total country count to 27.
  • My career is going well and I’m providing value to my company and my clients. The work is challenging at times but also rewarding with many benefits and I enjoy the people I work with.
  • Amber and I created the SnapType iPad app to help students with dysgraphia (and the feedback we’ve received from teachers, therapists and parents has been overwhelmingly positive). We’re also working on upgrades for version 2.0 to make it even better!

What did not go well in 2014?

  • Even though I had many wonderful small adventures, I didn’t undertake a large journey. When I rode to Argentina a few years ago, people told me it was a “once in lifetime experience” and ever since I’ve hoped it would mark only the start of a life full of adventures. It’s tough to undertake large quests when burdened by the responsibilities of daily life. Nevertheless, I look forward to putting myself in the position to take advantage of more opportunities in the future.
  • Year after year I continue to struggle with back pain. As an engineer, it’s most frustrating to be unable to find a root cause of the pain and a solution to resolve it. The challenge is beyond physical and I struggle emotionally with not being able to live an energetic life filled with freedom and motion.
  • Even though it was a fun year, I didn’t take the time to write anything on the blog. I had to make a commitment to myself to write this year in review (albeit a little late). I find it important to reflect on and celebrate the past to help prepare me for the future.
  • Even though I went home to New England a few times, I still wish I spent more time with my friends and family on the east coast.

Looking Ahead There is a lot in store for 2015 and it’s already shaping up to be a busy year with my first trip to China scheduled later this January. But most of the year will be focused on this fall, when Amber and I get married. Even though we’re keeping things simple, there is so much to do. We want to put on a great event and look forward to celebrating with all of our friends and family. Chris Guillebeau writes about The Happiness of Pursuit in his new book. He talks about how taking on a quest can improve your life. I’ve had this sensation many times in my life. When I was riding to Argentina, and producing the Motorcycle Mexico DVDs, and cycling a century, and working out a new climbing route, and building a mobile app – All of these quests were not relaxing. I was engaged, in flow, and working my mind and body. That’s happiness – Not in reaching the goal, but in the challenge to reach the goal. I want to bring more of this into my life. It makes me feel alive and excited! I have a few small quests in the works for 2015 and I look forward to larger quests sometime down the road. What about you? How was your 2014? 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: China, Dominican Republic, Korea, United States | 2 Comments

My 2013: Year In Review

I really enjoyed writing My 2012 Year In Review so I thought I’d give it another go with 2013. This is my chance to look back on the year 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 a busy year…

January

After spending New  Years Eve in a 70’s style British pub in California, 2013 began. Thankfully my good friends David and Haley put together an artistically shameless 2013 wall calendar. It really set the tone for the coming year. At the onset, their goal was to find 12 awkward photos of me. As it turns out, they had to whittle it down from more than 60! Ya, we’ve had some fun over the years…

Ben Calendar

It didn’t take long for our first moto guests of the year to stop by. Bernd and Heidi from Germany stopped in during their two year around the world journey. Opening up our home to overland travelers is incredibly rewarding. Their stories help keep the travel spirit alive.

Bernd and Heidi

By the end of the month, I was off to China for trip # 1 of the year.

February

I work daily with my colleagues in China and each morning I wake up to an inbox filled with technical emails. But during my new favorite holiday of Chinese New Year, my inbox was nearly empty each morning! It  gave me time to spend a long weekend with friends up at a gigantic cabin in Lake Tahoe thanks to my buddy Charlie.

Tahoe

Amber and I also headed east for a visit to Yosemite. It was perfect timing with a little snowfall and only a handful of other tourists.

Yosemite

But by the end of the month it was time to jump on a westward plan bound for China. China Trip #2. Hungry? Eat some chicken feet…

Chicken Feet

March

With spring in full effect, it was time again for more exploration. Lots of day hikes around the Bay Area with friends, discovery of a local motorcycle stunt park, a trip to wine country in Napa Valley and a visit from my sister made March a fun month.

Golden Gate Bridge

Vilen

Hollister

I spent some more time in front of the computer screen as I learned some basic programming skills with the help of Codecademy. I find programming both straightforward and extremely complex, but intriguingly powerful. I still can’t do anything useful, but it’s been fun to learn the foundation.

April

I hit the big 30 this year. I don’t feel 30… In my mind, I feel like I’m 18. My body however feels more like 65… I continue to struggle with back pain and it’s very frustrating not doing the activities that I love. On the other hand, my amazing girlfriend rounded up 30 letters from 30 of my friends. This was an incredible gift as so many of the wonderful people in my life shared stories from our past. Wow, 30 years have gone by in the blink of an eye…

30

Even though life moves  fast, there is still so much time for adventure and good times with friends. At the start of the month we travelled south to San Diego for the wedding of our friends Danny and McKinsey.

Chair Dance

From there I boarded a plane on another business trip. This time headed east en route to Germany. Even though my feet were only in Germany for about 48 hours, it was exciting see the city of Munich. Better yet, I stayed in a working class neighborhood and devoured several delicious Turkish Kebabs. mmmmmmm.

May

Over the past month, I worked with a software development team in the Ukraine to build a resource for overland travelers. The site is Border Helper. Until now, it had been very difficult to find information about border crossings. This site makes it easy to read and write reviews.

BorderHelper

Furthermore, I went to Arizona for my 3rd consecutive Overland Expo. I gave lots of presentations with advice and stories from traveling the world on a motorcycle. And as always, it’s so fun to be in a place without cell phone service and be surrounded by people who share the passion for overland travel.

SideCar

June

Ryan and Rachel’s wedding took us back to New Hampshire for the first time since Christmas.

Moto Proposal

Meanwhile we hosted more moto travelers. Ken and Carol Duval previously stayed with us in New Hampshire and now this time in California. This amiable couple has been on the road for years, exploring all around the world.

Duval

By the month’s end I was back on a 737 and flying over the pacific ocean. China trip #3.

July

For years I’ve been reading Chris Guillebeau’s blog (The Art of Non-Conformity) and I’ve wanted to attend his World Domination Summit. But Portland, Oregon was always so far from New Hampshire. However, it’s close to California! It was well worth the trip and so inspiring to be around ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

Half way through 2013. Amber packed up all she had, and along with her 11 year old nephew, drove across the country so she could start grad school and work on her masters degree in occupational therapy. While we were both sad for her departure, we agreed that it was the right move for the future. So for now we’ll have 3,000 miles between us.

On the bright side, my back started feeling a little better and I hopped back on the road bike for the first time in nearly a year. It felt great to pedal through the Californian hills!
Biking
My Dad also came out for a visit. We toured all around the Bay Area including Alcatraz and the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
Dad Beach

August

Through smoke and ash from the Sierra Nevada forest fires, I rode up and over beautiful passes and settled in Nevada just south of Lake Tahoe for an Adventure Moto Rally. I gave a presentation and really enjoyed other presentations from renowned racer Jimmy Lewis and track legend Walt Fulton along with some fantastic dirt riding.

Carla

Over the past two months I had been working on another software project. This time I was building it all myself. And finally in September I launched www.RiderMix.com, an exclusive, members only club, for borrowing a motorcycle anywhere in the world.

RiderMix

Asia? Why not… China trip #4.

September

More exploration around the Bay Area. Hiking at Castle Rock State Park.

Charlie

I racked up frequent flyer miles with another flight. China trip #5. At least I had some time for a hike along the Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Hike

October

Another New Hampshire wedding had me back home. This time it was my sister’s. As always, it was great to see the family. Life flies by and it’s easy to get into routine. Even though I can’t make time for a big adventure these days, I find it crucial to celebrate life’s small adventures. With the help of the One Second Everyday app, I created this compilation of my daily mini-adventures over the course of a few months.

Motorcycle Travel nuts, like me, wait impatiently all year for the Horizons Unlimited meeting. I was back for another round in Cambria. I gave a few fun presentations, met up with old friends and made new ones like Jeffrey Polnaja from Indonesia who has been riding around the world for 6 years on a Ride For Peace.

Ride For Peace

November

China trip #6. But the really exciting thing about this trip was a long weekend stop over in Japan. It was my first time to Japan and I loved it! I stayed in old Tokyo at a quaint airbnb place and for a few days I walked all over the city, took a train to the south to see a giant Buddha, and even went to a Japanese Onsen (public bath). The weather was great and the food was delicious. Hey Japan… I’ll be back!

Buddha

Then I left the California sunshine for a taste of the bitter New England winter weather! But it was a perfect visit with friends and family (and way too much turkey).

December

I easily surpassed 100,000 miles in the sky this year with the help of China trip #7.

I returned from China and two days later boarded a plan for my final trip of the year. This time for a vacation with Amber in Guatemala! I’ll do a separate post about our time spent in Guatemala, but I’ll share one piece of exciting news – On the top of Volcano Acatenango, in the freezing cold, howling wind and pouring rain, we got engaged!

Volcan Acatenango Proposal

What went well in 2013?

  • I racked up frequent flyer miles with 7 business trips to China and made it to 1 new country (Japan).
  • I gave several presentations about adventure motorcycle travel at exciting venues like the Overland Expo, Tahoe Adventure Moto and Horizons Unlimited.
  • I launched 2 new resources for motorcycle travelers www.BorderHelper.com and www.RiderMix.com.
  • I increased my income and reduced my spending which helped me save a significant chunk of money.
  • I got engaged to the woman I love!

What did not go well in 2013?

Like last year, 2013 was a good year. But as always, there’s room for Kaizen.

  • Although I reached out to many of my old friends, I feel there’s still an opportunity to stay better connected and strengthen our relationships. On the same note, my family lives on the other side of the country and I didn’t spend as much time with them as I’d like.
  • While my back improved, it’s still very far from normal. I started running and cycling again but I’m still not strong enough to do other activities I really love, like basketball and freestyle mountain biking.
  • I didn’t devote any energy to languages. Sure, I learned a few phrases in Chinese to make people laugh, but I’d really like to become more proficient in Spanish and resume my previous studies in Russian.
  • I enjoy writing on the blog but it’s takes dedication and I rarely posted updates over the past year.

Looking Ahead

Though I didn’t set goals for 2013 (even though I said I would), I do have a few plans for the year to come. For one, I have a wedding to plan! There are also business opportunities that I’d like to explore. Of course, I wish I had more exotic travel, but I’ll probably stick to business trips in China while I rack up the frequent flyer miles. It’s been a good year and a good 3 decades. I’m looking forward to another good year and hopefully many more healthy and happy decades to come!

What about you? How was your 2013? 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?

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Overland Expo 2013

Last weekend I attended the 5th (my 3rd) Overland Expo outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. As expected, it was an amazing weekend filled with inspiring and empowering presentations from travelers all over the globe. Trucks, bicycles, motorcycles – they have it all. I sold lots of Motorcycle Mexico DVDs to aspiring travelers and had the opportunity to give several presentations to more than a hundred people. If you missed all the fun, you can have a look at my slides (unfortunately, you won’t get all the sarcastic commentary). If you’re reading this by email, click through to the www.AFewMoreMiles.com website to flip through the presentations. 

And now a few pictures of the Overland Expo:

Strategic marketing placement… (No fumar español)
IMG_1598
Now that’s a NEMO tent!
IMG_1625
Ted Simon giving a sneak peak of his new book.
IMG_1624
Morning in the tent.
IMG_1622
Toasting to old friends and new friends.
IMG_1614
Ya, that’s 45 year old bourbon that we drank – DELICIOUS!!
IMG_1617
Incredible presentation by Simon and Lisa Thomas (2 Ride The World). They have been riding the world for the past 10 years!
IMG_1618
World premiere of Austin Vince’s new film Mondo Sahara (Click the link to watch the movie trailer).
IMG_1621
Amber and I riding dirty in the Ural.
IMG_1610
Ya, that woman has a pet pig…
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Playing Left, Right, Center with the group at Snow Peak.
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Celebrating 20 years of marriage with Sandy and Terry of Adventure Trio.
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Amber’s new commuter. It’s good on gas.
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Amber’s new buffalo friends.
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30 Years

My wonderful girlfriend collected 30 letters from 30 of my friends and family for my 30th birthday. Here is a compilation of the memories that made me laugh, cry, cringe and smile! (click the image to see the full infographic)

click on the picture to see the full story!

click on the picture to see the full story!

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The Americas According To Motorcycle Travelers

I put together this info graphic. It’s a fair representation of the Americas through the eyes of a motorcycle traveler.

The Americas According To Motorcycle Travelers

The Americas According To Motorcycle Travelers

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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?

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