TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY

Mike and Shannon Mills left their jobs and home in Seattle, USA to ride around the world - with an unusual companion, their dog called Ducati...

Triumph and tragedy

by Bike Magazine |

WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

We just finished the North and South America leg and took a cargo freighter from Uruguay to Europe. We are now in Madrid, which is about halfway through our trip.

WHAT’S THE BIG PLAN?

Our original idea was to spend a year riding from Seattle to Ushuaia, Argentina. But our plan morphed into a round-the-world extravaganza. Next it’s Morocco then into Southeast Asia and then back home to North America.

Triumph and tragedy

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE THIS JOURNEY?

Right now we have an opportunity that is unique in the history of mankind, where a person of normal means and wit can ride the globe on an overland trip of their own design with a high probability of success. We can step out of our doors, straddle a motorcycle and be our own Christopher Columbus, National Geographic and Sir Ernest Shackleton rolled into one. The freedom of raising your sights above the next career move or two week vacation is intoxicating, slightly frightening and absolutely possible. Life is finite and precious. Accepting not to take full advantage of our dreams, when the opportunity presents itself, should not be an option.

HOW DID THAT WORK FOR YOU IN REALITY?

Over the last ten years we had been making longer and longer motorcycle trips while trying to lead a ‘normal’ life. Then, unexpectedly, a close friend died and we took a lesson from that: follow your dream now because the future may not be what you think. So we quit our jobs, rented our house and sold or gave away most of our possessions.

Triumph and tragedy

BUT YOU BROUGHT YOUR DOG WITH YOU – A CHIHUAHUA CALLED DUCATI!

We couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him behind. Having a dog in tow added logistical challenges but the hassle was worth it. When Ducati’s head popped out of his carrier people instantly grinned with glee.

However, he had a tragic accident in Nicaragua where he fell off a ledge and broke his neck. We buried him on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua where he has great views of sunsets over the water.

WHAT BIKES ARE YOU RIDING?

The two bikes had to be the same so one set of spare parts, tools and know-how would work. We wanted lightly used bikes that were inexpensive to purchase (also lowers carnet costs), and Japanese-made for reliability and easy-to- source parts. We also wanted a proper dual-sport machine that would be adequate for dirt, sand, mud, and rough terrain. Finally we needed a bike that could be easily modified to fit our very different sizes (Mike is 6ft 3in and Shannon is 5ft 3.5in).

In practice we bought two Suzuki DR650s: they’re simple single cylinder, air-cooled and carburetted. We upgraded the suspension, fitted aftermarket seats, windscreens, luggage systems and more.

Triumph and tragedy

WHAT BIT OF KIT COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?

We have a Sena bike-to-bike communication system. Being able to communicate has made us safer riders. The rear rider can drop back out of the dust of the lead bike and the lead rider does not have to worry, even when we can’t see each other. It is also nice to be able to ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’ together at the scenery.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE?

How easy it is to do this. After crossing into Mexico and riding for a few weeks we found our groove and realized all our worrying had been unnecessary.

YOU’VE BEEN TRAVELLING TOGETHER FOR SOME TIME AND YOU’RE STILL SPEAKING! ANY TIPS FOR STAYING MARRIED ON THE ROAD?

During the first three months we sometimes bickered but to our relief (and mild surprise) things just got better and better. One key strategy is that we each have tasks we are responsible for and we’re not allowed to critique or tell the other person how to do their task.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

Some day this trip is going to end. We will find jobs and begin the daily grind once again. But someday the opportunity to chuck it all and hit the road will come again. It is in our blood now and we know no other way. Life on the road changed us and we will be eternally grateful that we had the opportunity to live this life.

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