Sidetracked - Running a Few Years Late | Everything Overland

Taking Slow Travel to an Unbelievable Level

Image: Ian Coates

Image: Ian Coates

In 1999, Ian Coates set out for an adventure that was supposed to be just four months. But, he got a bit sidetracked and was a few years late. He had no plan, no map, just the desire to explore and experience, and a positive, easy going attitude that literally took him places. He experienced cultures and people in ways that most of us miss as we rush from place to place. An incredible tolerance for things that go wrong and patience that is almost unbelievable, retirement just may have been the best thing that ever happened to Ian. 


Overland Expo

Image: Jonathan & Roseann Hanson | Overland Expo

Image: Jonathan & Roseann Hanson | Overland Expo

Overland Expo was founded in 2009, an event drawing in people from all over the world to both the West and East of the United States. The goal was to inspire people to do overland explorations and to educate in the necessary skills and resources. Founded by Roseann Hanson, together with her husband, Jonathan Hanson, they oversee all that goes in to the event.

Roseann has been passionate about the outdoors since a young age, she’s travelled all over the world, and has worked in the adventure field as a *guide, journalist and conservation program director. She’s been involved with many outdoor, exploration and environmental organizations, is a Tread Lightly Trainer and Land Rover Driver Trainer. 

Jonathan’s passions include both land and sea adventures, from Land Cruisers to sea kayaks. Through his travels around the world he’s experienced diverse cultures such as the Seri Indians and the Inuit. Journalist and author of a dozen books, he also teaches outdoor and off-road techniques including *tracking, natural history writing and 4WD techniques. He’s involved with many conservation and outdoor organizations.

To find out more about Overland Expo West & East go to their website at


Interviewer: Jim Martin | Guests: Roseann &Jonathan Hanson and Ian Coates | Photos: Roseann Hanson and Ian Coates

This transcript has been created from the original audio episode released March 29, 2018. This transcript may have been modified to make reading easier. As Adventure Rider Radio shows are meant to be listened to and not read, the following script may contain some grammatical and other errors. You can also listen to this interview by downloading the episode.


Jim (Narrate): So last week, I had somebody asking me if I could chat about my detailed plans for this years travels. [To] talk about stops and overnights, what we’re going to do, back up plans, and all this sort of stuff…This question, to me, implies the type of planning that Elizabeth and I just do not do. When we travel, we generally have a destination in mind. If we have any times that we have to be somewhere, or dates that we have to be somewhere, that’s fine. We make note of that. But otherwise, it’s very loose. We’ll often decide on going somewhere, and partway through we’ll get sidetracked on something else. Maybe spend too much time in one spot, and totally get rid of a whole section that we had planned on doing. It doesn’t bother us at all. That’s just the way we move, the way we travel. As for stops, the sights we see, well that’s all a bit of a crap shoot. Where we’re going to stay totally just depends on everything; weather, where we are, what we feel like, where we’re moving. All that sort of thing. I mean, we have to work on the road. But other than that, we don’t really have to be anywhere at any time. Usually. So why make ourselves adhere to some sort of schedule. Just so that we cover off everything and dots all of our i’s, and cross all of our t’s, with all the sights that we want to see. In our minds, a schedule would only add stress to what otherwise turns out to be great adventure. Anyway, while we were talking about this, it got me thinking about an episode we did back in 2015 with a guy named Ian Coates. The episode was called ‘Ian Coates: No Map, No Plan, No Worries’. I think the title really says it. Ian has sort of an interesting approach to travel. Well, that might actually be a complete understatement. But, his story gets you asking some questions about the way you see things, the way you travel…life questions, in some ways. In a lot of ways. So we decided to run Ian’s story again, only a slightly different version than before. After Ian, we’re going to talk with Roseanne and Jonathan Hanson from Overland Expo. They’re authors, writers, and extremely passionate travellers. They’ve got a great story. So, let’s have at it. My name’s Jim Martin, this is Adventure Rider Radio. Stay with us- we’ve got a good one for you.

PROLOGUE (Ian Coates)

Jim (Narrate): Okay. It starts off with Ian Coates taking a job to drive a Land Rover, with a bunch of tourists with it, up Africa and back to the UK. [All] for a guy he doesn’t know. Then the trip ends up getting scuttled because they can’t get visas to complete the journey. So they return. But Ian gets his wife to ship his motorcycle down to South Africa so [that] he can ride it home. Then he gets sidetracked, and doesn’t make it home for 14 years. Now, it’s okay if you got lost in that. Let’s take it one step at a time. Here’s Ian Coates.

INTERVIEW (Ian Coates)

Jim: Hailing from Hebden Bridge in the UK, Ian Coates is here to talk about his 14+ years of adventure. Over 400,000 kilometres on his 1991 Honda Africa Twin. Ian, welcome to Adventure Rider Radio.

Ian: Thank you, Jim.

Jim: Ian, tell us how the whole motorcycle thing for started for you. When did you start riding your bike?

Ian: The bike I went on [my] trip with?

Jim: I mean originally. You know…when did you become a motorcyclist?

Ian: When I was 12 years old. Me and my friends bought an old BSA {?}. We rigged it up like a scrambler. I went around his fields. They had a farm. And that’s how it started. Then I got my own bike when I was 16, and started riding then. Because in those days, apprentice mechanics, we didn’t have much money. And that’s the only thing you could afford, was a motorbike. So I had a motorbike until I was about 20, before I got a car. Although I passed my test for a car when I was 17, because I needed a license for work. But I only got a car when I was 20. But I still had a motorbike all the time.

Jim: So somewhere not too long after that, you managed to get your own shop going. Your own garage.

Ian: Yeah. When I was…I think about 22, I started my own business with another lad who used to work with me. We both started it up. After a few years, he pulled out because he wanted to do farming (he had a farm as well). He wanted to do farming all the time, so I just carried on by myself, working.

Jim: Somewhere along the line, you came up to a point in your garage where you decided to go for a ride.

Ian: Well, I had a phone call one day from a mechanic who used to work for me. He said that he should be going to Africa, as a mechanic and driver, fetching a Land Rover back to England. For a month trip. But he said at last minute his wife’s put her foot down and won’t let him go. He said, it sound like a job for you, Ian (because he knows what I’m like). So he gave me the phone number, he says ring this chap up. So I rang this man up, and he said, oh yes, that’s alright. So I few out to Johannesburg, met him there. There was an owner, who was supposed to be the guide, and tell everything about the wild animals. Then his friend was going to do all the cooking of the food, and do the paperwork for the visas. And there was some passengers as well. Now this Land Rover was an ex-army 101 Land Rover pulling a sanky{?} trailer full of camping gear.

Jim: Okay. Hang on, hang on. One second here. Because no matter how easy you think that seg-way was, we went from somebody who owns a garage and goes to work everyday, to someone who just takes this thing offered to them. Where you’re just going to fill in for somebody on this adventure, driving a Land Rover 101 up through Africa, back to England. Where does that come from? Were you an adventurer before this?

Ian: Well, no. I’ll do anything. And I won’t. Anything that’s a bit out of ordinary, I’ll do it. So that’s why Alan, who should have been doing it, (the mechanic who used to work for me but had to back out when his wife wouldn’t let him go) thought, oh, it’s a job for him {?}.

Jim: So what kinds of things? Give us an example. I mean, you had the garage 30 some odd years before you decide to do this. Give me an example of some of the different things that you would do.

Ian: Well, I’d go riding horses. I was motorbiking. Doing a lot of Land Rover work. Oh, out of all the things that sound out of ordinary, I had a yacht. Mediterranean. With family. I had never been on a yacht before. I went sailing. I learned how to sail when I got {?}. But if it’s a bit strange, I do.

Jim: So you’ve always had that little bit in you, where you always want to go off and do these wild and crazy things.

Ian: Oh yeah, I’m not boring at all.

Jim: When you’ve done there other things, when you went to work on the yacht, or help on the yacht, did your wife go with you? Or does she just say, oh that’s fine, go ahead and I’ll keep things going here.

Ian: Oh, no. I had a yacht in Greece for me and family.

Jim: Oh I see, so you’re living on it.

Ian: Yeah. I had never been on a yacht before, and I had to watch people set off from harbour. Then I did. I went out on engine, and then I put sails up when I got out. I thought of roughly what to do, but the Mediterranean is all a big dam, so it’s not so bad.

Jim: Okay. So you’re a little wild and quick to jump at anything that looks like adventure. Has your wife been the type that she’s fine with you going off and doing things on your own before the motorcycle thing?

Ian: Oh, yeah. She’s alright. But she went with me on my boat job, and my children. But no, she’s alright because she’s got grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She’d rather stop at home with them.

Jim: Okay, so your wife stays at home while you go down here to get to this Land Rover. Really, this is the catalyst that makes Ian Coates the motorcycle adventurer. At least for this stage of your life anyway. So what happened? You arrive there, you meet the owner, you meet the crew, everything looks great; The guy’s got this business set up where he’s going to take the tourists out…what happens next?

Ian: Well, when I got there, the Land Rover wasn’t ready. The tourists got there from England about a week later, and their trip was from Johannesburg back to England. So, I had to get it ready. So I got it ready, and then they came out. Then we set off from Johannesburg up to England. Now then. I was sat in back. The owner was driving it. He’s the man who tells all about wild animals. And his friend sat next to him (who was doing the visas and food). After about 10 days, those two had an argument. So the owner’s friend left. So it meant I could get out of the back, and sit next to the driver. So I sat next to him. So the driver, the owner, did the food and stuff. About 10 days after that, the owner fell out with the passengers. He gave me $1,500.00 and said, you take it back. Now, he’d never seen me driving. The passengers hadn’t. So I said, which way do I go? So he got a lump of paper, and drew a map of Africa. Said, go that way. I said, alright then. So-

Jim: Well, hang on. This is crazy. I mean, these passengers, these paying passengers [who] have paid for this trip sound, like they are being treated like cattle. They’re just waiting for the new driver to jump in and take them.

Ian: Yeah, well, boring when he was driving. So when I got to drive, it was like a mystery trip for them. So we set off, I had to do everything. After the first meal they realized that I am no good at cooking, so one of them took over that job. We did alright. {?} When we got to Kenya, we couldn’t get a visa for Ethiopia or Sedan. So I rang the owner up in England, and I said, I can’t get the visas for Ethiopia or Sedan for myself or the people. He said, alright then, you’ll have to turn around and go back to Johannesburg, and they’ll have to fly out. So I told the people, and they were a bit disappointed. But they said, which way are you going back? I said, well I don’t know. But we’ll find Johannesburg. So I zig-zagged across Africa all the way back. On the way back I’m thinking, I’m not going to fly home, I’ll get wife to send my Honda Africa Twin out. I’m going to ride passed these lot, I’m sure I can get through. I’ll have a go anyway. So when we got back to Johannesburg, I rang my wife up, and she sent my Africa Twin to Johannesburg. The other people flew back. When I got my bike, I went down to the most [Southern] point in Africa.

Jim: So hang on, this is the point where it turns into the motorcycle adventure, clearly. 

Ian: Yes.

Jim: And it’s open ended. Who’s running your business, how are you getting by?

Ian: My sons there. My wife’s there in office. After a month or two, she says, well, what about the carriage? I said, I fully forgot. I said, if you {?}  tomorrow, you {?} have it, wouldn’t you? She says, yes I will, carry on. You know, I’m riding back home. So that was it. I just carted on. I went down to the bottom of South Africa, to Cape Town, then I went on the Garden route, across the bottom, into Swaziland, and had a look round Swaziland. And {?}, somewhere around there. I turned around and went back into Botswana, then across the {?}, or the side. Then up there. I tried to enter Angola, but they were having a {?} up there. So I came out to Angola, and came across…Zimbabwe. Then I Went to Zambia, come back down Zambia, and then back into Zimbabwe. Then into Zambia again, then into {?}…was it? I’m getting all mixed up. Oh! Then Tanzania. I went to Tanzania, and then I went to Zanzibar. I saw a ferry going out. I do this, when I see a ferry I go running. I don’t know where it goes to, but I thought, I’ll get on it. It finished up at Zanzibar. I came across where Freddy Mercury was born, in Zanzibar. So I had a look around Zanzibar, then back into Kenya, and then I went into Uganda. Then I parked my bike up, I got a canoe, and went on Lake Victoria. Spent a bit of time on an island in the middle of Lake Victoria. Came back then I thought, I wonder if I can get into Sedan. The bottom. But they won’t let me in there. So I went then back into Kenya, then I got into Uganda…oh, got into Ethiopia! Managed to black my way into Ethiopia. So in Ethiopia…then I wanted a visa for Sedan. Anyway, I got one after a bit. A visa for Sedan. Then I set off and I got stopped at first military post in Sedan, only to find out that I hadn’t got a transit visa for a motorbike. I had only a visa of myself. So I had to come back. And it’s a long story, but then I sneaked in. Then I finished up in Egypt. Then I got robbed in Egypt, in Alexandra. I had enough brass to get to a ferry to Cyprus, where I got some money sent to me in Cyprus. Then I got another ferry to Greece. Got to Italy, and then I could ride back home [from] there. Back to Hebden Bridge. Just took me a year. I was like, a few months late. Then when I got home, wife went right to it. She said, oh that mails for you, one there as well. So 3rd one I opened, it was from BSA motorcycle. They were running a trip to Australia. It was very cheap. I thought, hell, I wonder if it’s set off. So I rang them all, and I said, have you set out to Australia yet lads? They said, no no, all bikes go in a container next Wednesday. So I took it down to South Hampton on Monday, put it in the container, then I flew out to Melbourne, and picked my bike up. 

Jim: This is another trip now. So you got home in what you describe as a few months late, but I got news for you Ian…4 months to a year…that’s more than a few months late. But we’ll just let that go anyways at this point. So how soon after you arrived home, just a few months late, did you depart on this next trip?

Ian: I don’t think it was many months before I shot off. Because I think I serviced my bike, I did some jobs it before I was {?}. Everything has to be right. So anything going to Australia, it has to be cleaner than new for insects and stuff. So you have to completely strip it down and clean everything off. I mean, I had insects {?} from the Sedan desert stuck on the {?}. So I had to clean everything off.

Jim: And you end up in Australia. How long do you spend in Australia?

Ian: Well, I landed in Melbourne. And as I say, I don’t like to have maps or gps or all that. What I do…I have a little diary. It’s about 3 inch. And if your’e on the back page, a map of the world comes up. All diaries have one of those, so that does it for me. So I landed in Melbourne, I thought it was going to be like a month trip. Longer than my wife was in for. But she knew not to expect me back until a month. I thought, well it’s only an island, I’ll keep water on my left hand side. So I carried on. Every peninsula, up and down, right until I got to the top. Halfway across up, I was near water. Then I drop straight down to burrow down to Alice Springs, and 9 weeks in Simpson Desert. All the way around Birdsville, and down to {?} and across. To the side and up {?} Rock, and back up to where I set off from. Then across on top. Then across to Cannes. Then right up the top of Cape York, then made my way back down to Melbourne. Well, that took me 11 months. I had a month left. So I went to Tasmania, and did Tasmania. Then there was another island I saw. Post Office boat was going, so I put my bike on the post office mail boat. I went to North and South {?} Island. Not many people know it’s there. Then I came back to Australia, and that was just a year. I thought well, see as how I’m down at the bottom of the world, I’ll got o New Zealand. So I went to New Zealand from there.

Jim: You said you only had a month left. You’re talking about your visa for being in Australia. But you told you wife you were only going to be a couple of months. In the end, after we’ll get to the rest of this trip, but in the end…how long were you gone for in total?

Ian: Well, that was a year. It took me a year. And from there I went to New Zealand. I didn’t go home, I went down to New Zealand because it’s just off the bottom of Australia.

Jim: That’s what I mean. But in total. By the time you came home the next time, how long was that?

Ian: It was 2013.

Jim: Wasn’t that 14 years later?

Ian: Yeah.

Jim: Ian, that doesn’t strike you as a little late? Like, a lot late?

Ian: Well, no. Because my wife comes out to look at me.

Jim: Ah, that makes it okay then.

Ian: Yeah. I saw her several times in 14 years, and I spoke to her on the telephone. 

Jim: Now, you also sort of eluded to the map thing. I know you’ve got this bit of a thing; you don’t get a map when you go into a country, do you?

Ian: No, no. I get one when I go out. Then I can fill in where I’ve been. Send it back home. 

Jim: Is that part of the adventure? Is the thrill of just finding your way?

Ian: Yeah. {?} No stress. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get lost. 

Jim: Wow, that’s absolutely true. I’ve never thought about that before.

Ian: And I just put my tent up when it becomes dark, and get up with it becomes light. Eat when I’m hungry, and drink when I’m thirsty. 

Jim: and you’re camping most of the time?

Ian: All [of the] time, yeah. But only in the {?} wilderness. I don’t go in cities or big towns. They’re too mad and I can’t do them.

Jim: So you were in New Zealand at this point. Where did you go from there?

Ian: From New Zealand, Argentina. Because I had it in my little it that if I went to Argentina, I could ride up to the top, Alaska, get across that lump of land to Russia, and ride back home. Which, I more or less did that. 

Jim: So you go to Argentina. You land in Buenos Ares?

Ian: Yeah. Buenos Ares in 2003. [In] 2003 I got to Argentina. And their winter is summer. They have their winter in July’s. SoI get there in July, and start going down to bottom {?}. Fairly cold. Where I live in the {?}, it’s fairly cold up there. Up at top of {?}, and lots of snow. So I was alright. I was a bit colder than [in] the Sedan Desert. So I rode right to the bottom. a place called {?}, and put my front wheel in water. No more land left. I thought, right, well I’ll do a turn around, and go to the other end. [The] top of Alaska. That was 2003. So in 2009, 6 years later, I put my front wheel in {?} right at the top of {?}, {?}, Alaska. So it only took me 6 years to get up.

Jim: That’s a long time. A lot of people are doing that trip in a lot shorter time span.

Ian: Yeah, but they don’t see out.

Jim: Yeah, I’m sure. As you’re going through, so how do you figure out where you’re going? Let’s say as you went up South America, how do you determine your route?

Ian: Well, I just had to get to Alaska. Any way.

Jim: So do you stop and ask people? You know, hey, point me to…?

Ian: No, no, no. Sometimes I do. But they always tell you wrong anyway. So I had these little diaries, see. I know what country’s next, normally. I’ll just quickly tell you what countries I went through, then we’ll come back to where I am.

Jim: Okay.

Ian: So, Argentina- These are the countries that I got lost in. Well, not lost, just wandered around. Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, {?}, Panama, Costa Rica, {?}, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, USA, Canada, Vancouver Island, Alaska, and that’s it. It took 6 years to get up there. 

Jim: Well that just about covers everything, doesn’t it? I mean, there’s only a few you missed. 

Ian: Well, yeah. It get’s better. Have I got the carry on?

Jim: Go ahead.

Ian: Right. Well, when I was in Venezuela, I saw a bloke that said, does anybody speak English around here? And only do I speak English, and not that very well. And they said, hey, try {?}. It’s English over there. I said, well where is that? So they told me. Anyways, I finished up giving a captain of an oil rig supply boat I think $100US to drop me off in Trinidad. Which, we didn’t do anything illegal. The only thing is, there were no other boats leaving. So I’m stuck in {?}. My wife even came out to look at it there. Shipping aids knew I was trying to get aboard to drop me off in Panama, so I could carry on to Alaska. They got in touch with me and said, well, there’s a ship here form Grimsby. It’s an ex Grimsby Icelandic fishing boat. They’ve spent 15 years converting it to a 3 masted tall ship. It’s 150 feet long, and 450 tonne. But with no engineer to get through the Panama Canal. I said, well, that’ll do for me. So I went down to see them, and I looked at [the] engine room. I said, oh yeah, I can mend out those on here. I can get you through the canal with this. So I put my motorbike on. And of course, all they had been doing for 15 years [was] converting to a sailing ship, doing nothing down in the engine room. So when I got going through the Panama Canal, the owner and his wife were on, and they said, we’d like you to stay on to New Zealand. I said, nah. Left there like 4 years ago. I’m on my way up to Alaska. They said, well, we’re going to spend 7 months visiting all the Islands in the Pacific. I said, alright, I’ll go back to New Zealand. They said no, no, think about this. I said, I just thought about it. I’ll go back. So then we set off to New Zealand. These countries are…well, from Panama…from Trinidad, we stopped at {?} and {?}. My bike’s on, we couldn’t {?}…Then we did Galapagos Islands. When I’m in these Islands, I always make contact with somebody on a bike. Then they Google my name, and know I’m alright, and let me have a go on their bike. Then after Galapagos, we went to {?}. Then Bora Bora, then Eva Orva{?}, and then Tonga. Then there were French Polynesian Islands we went around. The last one was Fiji, and then back to New Zealand. Then when I got back to New Zealand, I went to Auckland, and {?} said, you should be in Alaska now. I said, ah just a little bit of a hiccup. Where can I find a boat that can drop me off in Panama? Anyway, they found a container for me. I put try bike in, and I shipped it back to Panama, where I should have got off the boat, but I got off in Trinidad. Then I flew out there and carried on up to Alaska. 

Jim: Wow, this is really the adventure of a lifetime for a lot of people. You’re seeing just amazing parts of the world, and in depth. Also with an open itinerary. That’s the real way to travel, isn’t it?

Ian: Oh yeah. No stress at all. Just go wherever I want. Just do what I [want]…there was some stress on the boat. I had to come back to the boat every other night. Because…well, I couldn’t set off on my own, because I couldn’t start the dumb thing. So they won’t let you. But that was the only bit. But it was great. All these islands I just wandered around and met people. This boat. People on this boat were a bit like me, they hadn’t really a clue where they were going. So it was alright for me.

Jim: What do you think the key is to travelling the way you travel? Is it…I mean, obviously you’ve got to have a little bit of money you can drawn form to do this. But, what’s the key for your style of travel?

Ian: Smile all the time. When everything’s going bad, smile. Because you’re living. You aren’t dead. So, smile. There’s lot of people who underground wish they could have the times you were having. So all the time, I just smile all the time [at] everybody. And, I don’t worry about anything. Not a damn thing. I’ve got a bit concerned in the Sedan Desert. I thought that was it. I thought, I’ve got a day and I’ve got some petrol left in. But, that’s it. Just wander off. Meet people. In every country in the world, if you get out at big cities and big towns, the country people in the wilderness, are alright. No trouble at all.

Jim: Life is very stressful for a lot of us. Day to day life is just somewhat grinding, and things pop up, and you can’t get easily stressed about them. It seems that you’ve got a bit of an easy going demeanour, maybe it doesn’t hit you quite as hard. But clearly you can’t do a trip like this and have things go wrong, you must have had a lot of things go wrong. 

Ian: I don’t think so, no.

Jim: See, that’s amazing. Again, it makes me wonder if it’s attitude, it’s your approach. Because, I mean-

Ian: Well, no. Sorry. I think in Sedan, I got an AK47 under the chin. A bloke trying to rob me. But…after I tried to swap my motocross boots, which were knackered, everytime I put them on I had to put duct tape around to fasten them. And he had some sandals on, that looked very cool. I tried to swap my boot for his sandals when they were trying to stick me up for some money. But after a bit he realized that I was only a loser, and just said go. [He] just let me go. 

Jim: Wow.

Ian: I smiled the whole time. They might have thought {?}, but I don’t let it worry me. 

Jim: But you’re quick to embrace things that are sort of outside of your area, too. I mean, like to go and work on the ship as an engineer. That’s not…I know you’re a mechanic, and likely a very good one, but a ship is not something you’ve been…I guess you did have a little bit of experience, but it’s certainly not your vocation. [Yet] you just quickly snap it up and say yeah, I can do that. 

Ian: Oh, yeah. I mean, I do that. In Argentina, I was doing {?}. A {?} is like a South American Cowboy. I was doing it in Australia as well. Rounded cows up, and branding them, and seeing to them. Stuff like that.

Jim: So you just go through any country and you just sort of bump into people, and meet people, and make friends, and hang out? Yeah, meet people. {?} wilderness. Just look at their cows and horses. I jest- see my mother worked in a mill as a weaver. It was so loud, you couldn’t hear people talk. So it was her hands a lot, that pointed in gesture. So that’s what I do. Automatically learned that off my mother. I just pointed all the time, and I could get through alright with just pointing. 

Jim: How many miles have to ridden on your adventures now?

Ian: About 250,000 this trip. Since ’99.

Jim: and it’s the same bike? I know I asked you that already.

Ian: Yeah. Yeah, same bike. It’s great.

Jim: And you plan to keep this bike.

Ian: Oh yeah. I know someday they’ll want to make film on me, so I’m leaving this bike at home, just as I got back. Exactly the same. I went out to a charities bike meeting last other week for raising money for a bike club. So I went and took it out. I went to {?} with it. Went racing around there for 3 weeks in June.

Jim: Nice.

Ian: But I won’t take it with me on the next trip in {?}. I got another bike ready. I got that stolen out of my barn last year. So that’s another story [about] how I got that stolen. So a lad’s given me another bike, another Africa Twin, and I’m getting that ready for next April. I have to set off in April because by the time I get to Kazakhstan and Mongolia, winter will be setting in. 

Jim: Well, we’ll get to that- your next trip- here in a few minutes. But to finish up this one, you wen tup through South America, you did your boat trip, you came back to Panama, and then where did you go?

Ian: Up to Alaska, then I got told that air {?} fly from Fairbanks, to Magaden. So I went down to Fairbanks, from the top of Alaska, rode up there. And for 3 days, I couldn’t find this damn office of {?}. So I asked, I found out, they’d finished 3 years before (flying out). They don’t do it anymore. Now it’s becoming winter, and I’m thinking, bloody hell, I’m leaving this a bit late to go to Russia. So I made my way down to Vancouver. Then I got on a ferry for a few days to Vancouver Island. I finished up a month there. It is a big place. And I’m right good my way around Vancouver Island. Made a lot of friends there.

Jim: You just explored on Vancouver Island, you’re just riding all over the place?

Ian: All over. Everywhere. Everywhere; I met people all over. Beautiful island. And then I didn’t come back to Vancouver. There was another ferry setting off to somewhere else. Anyway, I get on this ferry and I don’t know…anyway, I finish up in America. Good job I had my passport with me, because I thought, I didn’t know where we were going. So I rode around there for a while. Then I made my way back into Seattle, and then back into Vancouver. Then I stopped winter up in Banff and Canmore. Getting the bike ready for the spring to send it to Russia, {?}.

Jim: Banff and Canmore are both ski places. In the winter time they’re locked up with snow and ice, so you just stayed with friends? Or?

Ian: Yeah. I know some friends up there who I met. Bikers who knew about me. {?} A lad called Neville, and another one called Doug. Neville’s at Canmore. Doug at Jasper. Some more at Brad Creek as well. So I was alright. Then I took it to Seattle, and shipped it to {?} in April. I flew out to {?} in April, and I thought hell, this is a cold isle. Bloody hell. Anyway, we were alright. I got my bike, and of course, I’m going North then. Everybody thought that I was a loon because it was snowing. I’d finished up, it was alright. Then I made my way across Russia. Then I saw a sign {?}…I knew where it was, because I used to ask people where Moscow was. They used to point which way Moscow was. So I didn’t need my map/my diary. So, we’re on this here road, and I saw a sign post for China. We’re no where near China. So after about 6 hours, I finished up at {?}, China. But they wanted a lot of paperwork, which to tell you, I didn’t have. I don’t bother with. So they won’t let me in. I say, well it’s alright, don’t worry. So I turned around and went back into…well, I was still in Russia actually. Then made my way across and went to Mongolia. I knew I was in Mongolia, because {?} and {?} told me where Mongolia was. So IW ent down. They won’t let me in because I only had 6 months on my passport. I said, that’s alright lad, I’ll come back. So it goes on. Then I’m lost. Then I come across this damn big boat. I said, oh I’ve overshot, I’m at sea. I thought that was at cost. So I thought, well I’ll get n it and see where it goes. So I got on this boat. {??I have no idea what he says in this part. I just couldn’t catch it.??} Stopped on there for…don’t know how long I was on there. A fair while anyway. 

Jim: With your bike?

Ian: Yeah. And then I Came back and made my way across Russia to Kazakhstan. They won’t let me in there. That’s alright. We just carted on and finished up in Ukraine and {?}. So there was Russia, then Ukraine, and I went to Moldavia. Then I went into Romania. Then Bulgaria. Oh, and it was winter. I thought black sea was like a sunshine place, but it was covered in ice and snow. The beach was full of snow. I got snowed in in Bulgaria. But I didn’t mind, it was alright. And then, from Bulgaria I went into Turkey. Then Greece. Then Albania. Then Montenegro. Then Mastadonia{?}. Then {?}. Then Serbia. Then Bosnia. And {?}. Now when I was in Bosnia and {?}, I came across a bridge. There’s a plaque there that this was built by the Canadian Army. It was a little bridge called Martinburough. The Canadian Army built this bridge in Bosnia, {?}. So I carried on. Then on this little road, I used to see red notices on trees. I thought nothing about it. Anyway, I was riding, and I wanted to pee. So I went into the woods to pee, and I always look to see if there’s any animals about. So I’m wandering up and down this wood, and I came out onto the little road, about 100 yards further up from where my bike was. There was one of these signs up the tree. So I looked at it, and it’s bloody landmines. It’s warning for landmines. I thought, bloody hell, I just walked all up there. I thought…this got me worried, Jim. I thought about…I had about 30 foot to get onto gravel road. I thought, I didn’t know where to walk! It was a while, and I was sweating like hell. Anyway, I managed to get back onto the dirt road without bringing Bosnia and {?}. Then went across Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Italy…and I even went down to Sicily. Now I was in…where was I? Oh in Czech Republic. And what I was doing in Czech Republic? A bloke contacted me. An English man that lived in Czech Republic, and has a knackered old double decker London bus that they were going to provide free for the deaf and dumb people, and Apple was going to show them iPads. But they didn’t trust this old bus to go around Czech Republic, and they asked me if I’ve got…I’d never met him, but he knows all about me…as a mechanic. So I went over to Czech Republic, mending this knackered old bus, kept it going. After the second…this is mild isn’t this, Jim? If you just concentrate on this…After the second place that we went, it should have been {?}. The man who was organizing it could speak perfect English, but he was from the Czech Republic. His wife was deaf and dumb. So this man, this Czech Republic man, could deal with the hand signals, but speak English perfect. So he was telling people about the and my motorbike, and stuff like that. So after that, everybody was asking this man about me. It was marvellous. Because, they were asking this man with hand signals, about me. And then he was reading what they were saying with hand signals, and asking me in English. I’m replying back to him in English what the question was, and answered him. Then he’d do it in hand signals back to these people. It was marvellous. They were asking if I was married, how many children I had, how old I was, everything. I thought, this is marvellous. Deaf and dumb people can ask something instantly, and I can answer them. Instead of 3 weeks, it finished up 6 weeks. Because, I didn’t mind. We’re going to little children junior schools, senior schools, universities, deaf and dumb clubs. And they’re all right suited. In fact, more suited really than Apple with the iPad to ask me questions about everything. But while I was there, I got an email from a blog in Sicily. It said, will you come to visit us on your trip? I said, of course I will, just send me an address. So they sent me this address. I said to the English bloke in Czech Republic who owned the bus, I said, I’ve got to go to Italy. Which way is best to get to Italy? He said oh well you’ve just come from that way, down there. I said, this town called Sicily, where is it? He said, it isn’t a town, it’s an island off the bottom of Sicily. I said oh, right at the bottom? He said, aye. I said, well that’s alright. I can’t get lost as long as I’m going to the bottom. So I went right to the bottom of Italy, got a ferry to Sicily, then were right suited to see me there. I went around Sicily. That was winter as well. I got snowed in a bit on the way back up. When I was there, I got another email from a lad in Madrid. He said, will you come visit us? I understand you visited people in Sicily. I said, of course I will. Just tell me where you live. So he told me that, but I was snowed in at the time. Anyway, lad says- I can’t ride around. Go down to Genoa, and get a ferry across to Barcelona. So I did that. So I went down to Genoa, and got a ferry to Barcelona. Then went up to Madrid. Then this lad would ride around with me. We went around Spain and Portugal. And then he went back home, and I carried on to…where did I go then?…Spain…Portugal…Switzerland. Oh, France [then] Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg…this is winter. Snowing like hell. Then Holland, and then Belgium. And then home.

Jim: How are you riding around through the snow on your bike?

Ian: Because I got used to it. Where I live is right wild.

Jim: Are you running {?} studs in your tires?

Ian: No, no. Just ride, just slide up and down. It’s because when I was a young lad we used to ride all English bikes at winter. We can’t afford cars, so we drove all year. So it makes a difference. You know, it’s just right. 

Jim: None of the police stop you along the way wondering what you’re doing riding your motorcycle through the snow?

Ian: They got a bit curt- they won’t let me…I was riding…I was going up, about 25 miles that day, form Vancouver up to Jasper in winter. And they won’t let me go over [a] big hill, big mountain somewhere. They said, no you can’t, it’s too bad. I said, of course, let me go. Anyway, they wouldn’t. Anyway, a woman came with a pickup and a {?} bike, and a pick up…a {?} bike, and…no, a bloke. That’s it. A bloke had given me a lift from Vancouver in his pick up, because it was winter, and dropped me off in…I forgot {?}…anyway, dropped me off somewhere in Canada. Way over the rockies, and dropped me off there. Then I rode from there. And going over the rockies, that’s when they wouldn’t let me go over. Anyways, the woman come, {?} in a pickup. I said well, I asked her if I could put my bike in the back of the pickup to go over. She said yes. So all these lads up front here, and some more, put my bike in the back, and we went over. I think she dropped me off at Jasper, somewhere like that. Then I rode down to Canmore. And then…where’s the other place…Brad Creek.

Jim: {?} you end up spending the winter there.

Ian: Winter there, yeah, and at Brad Creek. Also at Canmore with Neville Stow. He’s an English man who’s lived here a very long time. Neville…if it weren’t for Neville, I’d still be in Canada trying to get a visa for Russia. Because I hadn’t a clue how to do it.

Jim: Oh, he helped you sort that out?

Ian: He did it. Else I’d still be in Canmore now.

Jim: These little sections that you’re skipping over are completely trips for most people. I mean, a full on complete trip and you buzzed around all over the place. 14 years now that you spent on that particular trip. Clearly, in my mind (and I know if I was to ask my wife this, she would [also] say), yes- you are absolutely late. There’s no doubt about it.

Ian: Well late, yeah. But you see, when I was young, I worked all the time. I never had any time off. Started delivering papers when I was 13, because I was big I could get a paper route, and then I started being an apprentice mechanic and working and working and working. But I enjoyed it, and I thought, someday I want to have a ride on my bike. Then when I set off I thought, I’ll just carry on. Because once you’re late…I thought, well, just keep going. If you’re late, you’re late. If you’re going to miss something, it doesn’t matter if you miss with an either of an inch, or you miss it with a mile. You missed it. And if you’re late, you’re late. I used to talk to wife, and where I live, it’s up in hills and clouds {?}. It’s always raining, and blowing, and snowing. And she’ll say, where are you now? Well, I’m in Trinidad. She says where are ya? Oh, is it fine where you are? I said aye, sun’s out. She says, alright, I’m coming. Said right lass. Said where are ya? I said Trinidad. So off she goes down to travel agents, and books a return ticket to Trinidad. She hasn’t a clue where it is, but she got there. I mean, she’s been out…she’s been to New Zealand. Been to Brazil. Ecuador. All over {?}. 

Jim: You’ve been back now for…a year and bit, I guess?

Ian: Yeah. Nearly 2 actually, I think.

Jim: Nearly 2 years. And you’re already set to head off again.

Ian: Well, yeah. I had 14 years of maintenance to do on the farm and the house. I’m doing that- just putting a new roof on one of the barns.

Jim: How old are you now?

Ian: Well…ah…72.

Jim: 72.

Ian: Yeah.

Jim: And you’re about to head off, at 72, on your next adventure. How long is your next adventure, and where are you going?

Ian: Well, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll be long. I {?}…but I don’t like to be too long because well, I have lots to do at home yet. Very much stuff to do. My wife used to bring me spares out as well. I got knocked off my bike second day in Mexico. Out to {?}, and got knocked off. I rode it form Mexico, up into Mississippi, right up there where {?} twisted. I was 2 weeks late when I got knocked off that bike. So about 3 weeks late when I got back up to Mississippi, where my wife was. But she was alright. I had notified the lads at the {?}, because I’d had a bit of an accident. But {?}, I’m late. Then I came back up from {?} twisted. We started to straighten it up. I paid for all of this myself. I don’t have any sponsors or anything. My wife…no, my daughter came out with some parts for me. {?}. So I put all of them back together. Then that was it.

Jim: I was going to ask you about the sponsorship thing. I didn’t think you had sponsors. Do you just not bother with them?

Ian: No, no. I just do it. I don’t have time to bugger about with them, I just do it, you know. I just don’t know what to do. A bloke, forgot his name now…in Canmore… Neville was right in Canmore. There was another bloke, his name was Bobby. It’s on my damn notes, I forgot them at home. He bought me a new pair of motocross boots.

Jim: Wow.

Ian: As I said, they were all duck taped up. Same boots I’d had in Africa. And he gave me a new pair of motocross boots. And that’s it. A bloke in Brazil, he gave me a new back tire. Stuff like that. You know. But I don’t go begging and asking for them. But I keep in touch with them.

Jim: Has it been expensive for you to travel around?

Ian: Well, no. Because I [never] eat out. If there’s any roadkill, that’s alright, I’ll have it. I’ll eat anything. I normally eat beans, sardines…you know what right good? Bananas and peanut butter. I mean, if Elvis could {?}, that’s what he’d like. So I always have bread around, bits of bread. If it gets a bit green, you have to scrape it off. But, normally get some bananas and peanut butter, and that’s alright. Water, and I’m alright. I never ate out. You know, I never go down and sit out. I should do, but I don’t do.

Jim: Do you document it as you’re going along? Are you making notes and keeping your journals?

Ian: No. I have made diaries. I say pull out my diary, whip up something to {?} in. They always get a little in. I put down where I sleep. Now, my cousin Eric, he’s good on this machine doing stuff. I’ve sent photos back home all the time, and videos. I had a video camera for Africa and then part of Australia, until I threw it away. Because I’d had two videos cameras, and when the second one went, I said, oh bugger this. I threw it away. So I had a normal camera that took old fashion photos, and I had another camera that took slides, which I hadn’t looked at yet. I did that back up Australia, and New Zealand, and then most of South America. But when I got into Paraguay, I bought a digital one for digital films. But all these other films are sent back home, and I’ve only just looked at them now that Eric’s got it sorted out and developed. So, we have to go through them. But I’ve got…through Africa and New Zealand, I think there were 50…yeah, there was 50 videos, about 2 hours a piece. And if anybody ever gets them, they’ll {?}, and just look at them. It’s just me videoing. I talk to myself a lot. I put my video camera on a rock, and I talk to myself. It’s just normal. Because it’s just me, no camera crew, and I know, because I’m miles from anywhere. There’s nothing where I am. And I have that to do. But all the same, Jim. So when I do this book…I’ll do a book for 14 year. Then I’ll do a book for every year. Otherwise, it’ll be a hell of a big book. You’d have to have a trolly to cart it around on. Because the things that have happened to me every day…they’re a bloody laugh.

Jim: Lifetime’s of adventure for sure. Ian, what would your family and friends say has changed about you, since you left 14 years ago, and came back? 

Ian: I’m bald.

Jim: That’s it?

Ian: Yeah.

Jim: That’s just a physical change. You haven’t changed at all? Your personality, your idea, your outlooks on life? Your outlook on people? The world?

Ian: Nothing, no. I was always very good with people. No, I’m just bald now. I’m nearly bald, so I have all my hair cut off so it looks as if there was some. 

Jim: And now you’ve got the biker look.

Ian: Yeah, yeah. {?} So it’s alright. Nothing different.

Jim: And how about when you came back. What had changed for you? I mean, when you came back, and you’re saying you’ve got buildings that need maintenance and you have a farm there that needs work…

Ian: I’ll tell you something now Jim that’ll get you laughing. So for 14 years, I’m wandering around Africa, Russia, Siberia…every bloody way I shouldn’t go. If they say don’t go, I’m off like a shot. I’ll get there. I’ll go there and have a look around. There’s never any trouble. Anyway, I come back home, 14 years, no trouble. Sweeping my hay barn out, loft, you know, where you put hay up top, it was like 15 years since I’d been on it. And as I was sweeping it out, the bloody floor gave away, and I feel through. Straight to the bloody floor. Bugger me. So I’m in pain at [the] bottom, I had my phone in my top pocket, so I rang my lad up (Jason). I said, Jason, get yourself up here bloody quick, I’ve just fallen through a bloody roof. I’m on the floor, and I’m in pain, and I can’t move my legs. I said, but don’t tell your mother. First thing he bloody does- tell his mother. She came flying in. Bloody, what’s up here. {?} {?} And then my daughter came, and my son came. So they rang for an ambulance then. So an ambulance came, two of them came, looked t me and checking me all over. I was in pain, so they gave me morphine. Then they started checking me over. Anyways, they said we can’t take him to Leeds in the ambulance, it’s too rough. Because I couldn’t move my legs, they thought I had done my back in. Anyways, so they send for helicopter. The helicopter comes, and picks me up out in the field just outside, and takes me to Leeds. Then they checked me over. I had a broken pelvis, broken shoulder, and some ribs. So I was in the hospital there. Everything else was alright. So, 14 years no trouble, come home, and fall through a darn roof. Anyway, when I’m in hospital, after a few days, the nurse came and said, the BBC is here. Can the come and interview you? They were on the helicopter that fetched you in. I said, oh of course they can. So BBC comes and say, we were on the helicopter. Can we use you for advertising purposes about this helicopter {?}? I said, yeah you can. Gave them my name, and that’s it. Then after a few days, they came back in again, and she said, oh we found out who you are now. She said, you’re famous. I said, well, not really. She said, well look, when you come out of the hospital, can you give us a ring? Can we come up and do a story on you on BBC? I said, of course you can. So they did do. But that’s when the video did film, and showed my new bike in the barn. About a week after, some buggers came up and stole it. The bike that I got ready to set off on in April, you see. So they pinched my bike. So, I didn’t go in April. I {?}, with my Africa Twin, that I had just come back from my Milan trip on. {?} but I could manage to get a bike. Parking might be a bit dodgy, I’d have to get my mate to come next to me and flip the sides down so I could get off it. But I went to {?}.

Jim: So you just proved that it’s more dangerous to be at home working, than it is to be out riding your motorcycle around the world. That’s a given now. I mean, that’s…I didn’t know that before.

Ian: Oh yeah, yeah. You’re a lot more dangerous at home where you are. Yeah, get on your bike and set off.

Jim: Get on your bike and ride.

Ian: Yeah.

Jim: But what’s the new bike that you’re taking then?

Ian: Same. It’s a 1990 Africa Twin.

Jim: So clearly you like the Africa Twin, there’s no doubt about that. You haven’t thought about logging with a newer bike?

Ian: Well, they don’t make one that’s any good. 

Jim: Okay, I see. I was going to say that they don’t make Africa Twins, but they make other bikes. But you don’t think any other is going to be as good as that. It does sound amazing. I mean, Honda’s known for it’s reliability, there’s no doubt about it. But it does seem incredible. It sounds like you really haven’t had any major trouble with it. 

Ian: No. I mean, I’m a mechanic, and I used to do lots of welding, getting Land Rovers ready for Africa. When I wanted a bike, I looked at this, and I thought, there’s nothing to smash on it. It’s all covered up, it’s great. Everything’s tucked in neatly, out of the road. I’ve looked at lots of bikes since. There is none [close]. You see, I go off-road all the time. Most of these bikes that you see {?}, you won’t go into wilderness and fall off of them everyday, and still be alright. Mine’s just right {?}. And also, my bike’s ignition is electronic. Anyone who is a mechanic, can break down with my bike, and if a bloke mends a lawn mower, or a tractor, or a compressor, or a {?}, he can mend my bike. Most of these new bikes have too much electric on them. I do a lot of river crossings by myself, and I’ve get lots of water on it, snow, everything. It’s great. I’d go around the world again on it without a hesitation. But there are no {?}, and I don’t want them to use another damn bike if I’m not around. Hope nothing happens to it. So I’ve left it there so they can use it. Tires- tires I just use a normal 75% road, and 25% off. They do perfect for me. Never had any trouble. As I say, wilderness nearly all the time…mud, snow, ice, everything. I don’t care what time of year it is, or what the conditions are. I have no trouble. 

Jim: So what we’ve learned here is, we’ve learned some key things. 1. You’re safer riding your motorcycle around the world than you are at home. That’s a given. The other one is (2.), you buy a map after you leave the country that you’ve found your way through because, if you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t be lost. And the other one that I get from this is that (3.), when your’e late, you don’t have to worry anymore, because you’re already late. So at that point, just relax.

Ian: That’s it.

Jim: Did I miss anything?

Ian: No, nail on the head, Jim. Yeah.

Jim: So for those out there who are definitely going to be considering doing something even better than what they’ve already done now, after listening to your story, what advice would you have for them? 

Ian: Right. Say you’re going form Argentina to Alaska, and you don’t have as much time as me, because you might not always have time. Go to Argentina. And say you could only manage say 6 months at a time. Do your six months, put your bike into a reputable garage that’s been there a long time. Tell everybody on Facebook, and everybody around the world, where you are, and you’re leaving your bike at such and such a garage because you’re flying back home, and that you’re going to pick it up next year. But you tell everybody. And that garage knows that all the bloody world knows your bike’s there, so they can’t sell it {?}. So come back home, for 6 months or a year, go back out, pick it up from there, and then carry on again a bit until you run out of time. Don’t try to do it all at once. And that’s the best way.

Jim: what about bike and gear? What’s your recommendations on that? 

Ian: {?} shop, or stuff like that. No, when I’m going over the top at minus 20 or 30, going over the top, when your’e cold, all I do is have normal socks, and put supermarket bags over my socks. Now when you’re right cold, minus 30 {?}, I put three supermarket bags over my socks. My socks actually are wool socks made out of marina wool from New Zealand. They’re right good socks. I wear them summer, winter, everything (in my motocross boots). Gloves; I just have two pairs of those cotton type working gloves. I have to admit I sometimes have to stop and put my hands near the exhaust a bit. But I know my hands are getting warm, because my gloves starts smoking. So I think, we ll, I’m out of here. And that’s it. A normal jacket. When I was in New Zealand, I went to Hamilton, to an under garage because {?}, and I had withdrawal symptoms because I’d missed it. I went inside, and the owners son was in his sales office watching {?}. I said, is that {?}, to him. He said, aye, yes it is. I said, can I watch it? He said, go on in. So I went in, and when it finished he says, how long have you had your leathers on? I said, well, I’ve had them all through Africa and Australia. They were just like a two week old road kill cow wrapped around me. They stunk. They were rotten. He says, I think you need some new ones. He said, tell you what, just hang on. And he rang White Wholesales up in Hamilton. This was Honda {?}. He said go there and see them, they’re waiting for you. So I went to Whites Wholesale. It was in Hamilton, not far off. I said, so and so sent me, he said oh yeah, come in. We can tell who it was that sent you. Take your jacket off and leave it out there. Because it did stink. So they gave me a new technic suit. And I’ve still got it. They were right good with that. And that was in 2003. I mean, it’s knackered now. It lets water in enough. I’ve put stuff on it that you seal tents with, and it still leaks. And all the zippers are buggered. It’s knackered, really. All the zips are buggered and I don’t wear it anymore now. But it doesn’t smell. Not that much anyway.

Jim: Not that you can tell.

Ian: No. But I’ll wear anything. What I’ve got now Jim, is motorbike stuff, right expensive. I was working with a lad, I’ve been mending {?}. He has a right good suit on, and he had been working on oil rigs up in {?}. He had a full suit…a jacket, and pants on. It’s right waterproof. And if you fall in water, it blows itself up, and it’s made in Sweden. He said all lads on rigs have them up there, and full waterproof, even if you fall at sea. So I’ve got one of them now. It even has a whistle on it. I haven’t tested it yet, that’s for my next trip. It’s a fairly big one, so that’ll be alright. 

OUTRO (Ian Coates)

Jim (Narrate): That was Ian Coates from our interview originally done in August 2015. Where’s Ian now? Well, maybe it’s time to start Googling. Stay with us- we’ve got more coming up after this short break. We’ve got Roseanne and Jonathan Hanson, who have a deep passion for overlanding in all it’s forms. Stay with us. 


PROLOGUE (Roseanne and Jonathan Hanson)

Jim (Narrate): Roseanne and Jonathan Hanson are the driving force behind Overland Expo, which you’ve probably heard me talk about on the show because they advertise with us. But that’s not why we have them on today. After getting to know them for a bit, we connected in a numbers of ways. In background, life experience, but also their ethos for life. They believe in living life to the fullest. And for them that means overland travel, and exploration. 

INTERVIEW (Roseanne and Jonathan Hanson)

Roseanne: I’m Roseanne Hanson, director of Overland Expo and from Tuscan, Arizona, and that’s where we still live. I’m Jonathan Hanson, I’m sort of the husband of the director of the Overland Expo. I’m a native of Tuscan, as well as Roseanne is.

Jim: Roseanne and Jonathan, welcome to Adventure Rider Radio.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Roseanne: Thank you, great to be here. 

Jim: Where does the overlanding thing come in for the pair of you?

Jonathan: Well, I bought a Toyota Land cruiser, an FJ40, in 1978. It was a ’73 model, I bought it from the fellow who bought it new. So I immediately started exploring the southwest and Mexico and that. It just came naturally. I had been backpacking when I was a kid, and was used to being outdoors. I spent most of my time outdoors when I was young. So it was an easy transition to go from backpacking to travelling by vehicle.

Roseanne: And I pretty much grew up doing it. My parents had 5 kids, and the cheapest way to explore our beautiful southwest was in an old international travel {?}. they’d pile all the kids in, and we’d go for a couple of weeks at a time. Exploring Mexico especially really stuck in my mind. So I grew up overlanding we call it now. Back then it was just travelling by truck and camping.

Jim: Yeah, we just called it four-wheeling, too. I like the overlanding term much better. But you’re also, now, you’re a certified Land Rover driver trainer?

Roseanne: I went through the certification course as did Jonathan. And we’ve both done tread lightly training, and Jonathan is certified trainer through the…

Jonathan: NPTC, it’s a British organization, as well.

Roseanne: Those focus on safety and specific skills that you don’t get just driving around exploring. These are skills that really prepare you a lot more for extended travel, or remote travel, on your own. So that’s why we went the extra mile- so to speak- and got extra training. Which…anything from self recovery, to winching, to…important things. On motorcycles, you don’t just get on the bike and ride. You’ve got to learn some specific skills, it’s the same with four-wheel drive as well. 

Jim: And Roseanne, with you being into it from being a kid, and Jonathan, with you it being the 1978 FJ40 you bought…it hasn’t worn out for you guys? Because I know a lot of people…because Elizabeth and I started four-wheeling when we were [in our] late teens, and most of the people that I knew back then that were into it, it was sort of a fad for them. They did it for a while, and then they got out of it, and moved on with their lives. But you guys have been at it the whole time.

Jonathan: Yes, definitely. Well, part of that is because of where we live. We’re fortunate enough to live [and] have grown up in the west where there are obviously endless opportunities to explore. Both the western United States, Canada, Mexico…So it was easy to keep doing it because there is no end of possibilities for doing it.

Roseanne: And we both became really passionate about long range travel. One of our first big trips together was to drive as far North as we could in Canada at the time, to Inuvik, and then we paddled our sea kayaks down the Mackenzie River out to the Arctic ocean, and then flew back, and drove back home. That was our first taste of this long road trips difficult travel on challenging roads, and just kind of went from there.

Jim: What other sort of things have you done like that?

Jonathan: Well, I got sent to Africa for 2 months for Outside Magazine in 1999. And, most of those trips, or most of those {?} there, were either Land Rover travel, Land Cruiser travel, or some walking safaris. So that just fuelled the fire. And we’ve since visited and traveled in several more continents. Especially most recently [being] Australia, where we have a vehicle.

Jim: With both of you being writers, and just like that assignment you just said, why would you want to do something like Overland Expo that would hold you down to one spot now for a while? 

Jonathan: Good point. It came about almost by accident. I was the founding editor of Overland Journal Magazine. While working there and trying to build up the magazine, Roseanne had the idea to organize an event that would help publicize it, and publicize overland travel. So she organized the first Overland Expo in Prescott, Arizona in 2009. And it basically just exploded from there. The first one was successful, and they’ve just become more successful since. We added the Eastern show in 2014, I think. So that fills up our schedules. We don’t want want to do anymore than that. We have people constantly asking us for a mid-west show, or a Canada show, or a south-east show, and…we still want to travel. So two is about all we can do and still maintain the freedom to get out and travel on our own. 

Jim: So Roseanne, were you sort of shocked in 2009, with the first one? Did it exceed your expectations?

Roseanne: You know, it did. The reason we started it, as Jonathan said, was to help publicize our magazine at the time. But also, we were trying to get the re-brand formal driving adventure motorcycling in North America to an audience that wasn’t really aware of this different way to think about it. In North America, a lot of our use of four-wheel drive is what they call wheeling/four-wheeling. Much of it involves pitting your vehicle and yourself against obstacles. But overland is about travel. It’s about the destination. It’s about discovering things. Not about beating up your vehicle, or the landscape, or anything like that. It’s a mode of discovery. Same with the adventuring motorcycling, [it] was really on the ascendancy at that time, and was really taking off. again, it’s not dirt biking. It’s not going out to just ride around and around and around. You are packing your motorcycle for extended travel- with luggage and camping gear- and you’re going exploring. Whether it’s 100 miles from home, or 10,000 miles all the way down the Pan-America highway. 

Jim: Do you guys see overlanding sort of divided between different modes of travel? In particular, I’m going to asking about motorcycling for instance, and vehicles. Is there a division there?

Jonathan: I think there is a division, and I don’t want to make that sound like a bad thing. I think that, having traveled both by motorcycle and four-wheel drive vehicle, typically the modes of travel are so different, that it’s difficult for a group of riders and a group of four-wheel drive drivers to travel together. The logistics tend to be much harder than when you’ve just got one cohesive group of motorcyclists. Or one cohesive group of people in four-wheel drive vehicles. So that logistics bit is what separates them more than any particular philosophy. Certainly there are people who are more snobs for bikes, or snobs for four-wheel driving, but it’s more simple planning logistics than any philosophy that creates a bit of a divide.

Roseanne: Yeah, we like to say it’s about…our event is an event for people who are nomads, who are passionate about travel and exploring. Whether you do so with motorcycle, or four-wheel drive, the mind set is the same. In fact, I’d say a small percentage, maybe about 15% of the people have both. Some will put a adventure motorcycle on the back of a four-wheel drive sprinter van for example, and drive down to Mexico or Baha, set up a base camp, and then explore with their motorcycles. 

Jim: Yeah, that’s what I was wondering. Because, I see a lot of crossover there. The idea of packing everything you need on your vehicle, and getting your vehicle through an area- like Jonathan said there- being prepared for anything that’s going to happen to you along the way. There’s a lot of similarities, and I can certainly see a lot of cross over with it. 

Roseanne: Yes, in fact, a big change we made last year in our training program is pretty exciting for both four-wheel drive and motorcycle- we brought all of our training, all of our motorcycling training, in house for the first time. Our four-wheel drive training had always been in house with our own training team. And now we have our own motorcycle training team. And we developed…at the shows, we develop a specific road, and last year it debuted as it Africa Road. We actually create this road through the training area. It has different learning stations. It’s for both motorcycles and four-wheel drive. (They use it at different times.) For example, there’s a mud section, there was a rockfall section…so say you’re riding a road in South America, as often happens up in the Indies- big rock fall. How do you get your bike over/around it? Or your vehicle. We have a border crossing [where] we actually build a guard house with the gate that raises up and down, we have a team that runs people through a scenario on how to do border crossings. Do you have the right paperwork? What if the guards start shaking you down for a bride? How do you deal with it? It’s really a fantastic program that’s got a huge amount of positive feedback.

Jim: So the thing where you’re doing the border crossing…people coming up, they obviously know what they’re doing. You’re stopping them and just running them through a mock border crossing with problems? 

Roseanne: Yep.

Jonathan: Exactly. They do…overtime it’s different just to keep it lively. One time they had a…while the people were being occupied explaining their papers to the border crossing guard, we had a kid who was attending the Expo pretend to be a little thieving villager who would come up and swipe stuff out of the side window of the vehicle while the driver was preoccupied. So it gets quite realistic and really fun.

Roseanne: Yeah, I think last year they…they guys who teach it, and women who teach it, are ex border agents from the UK. So they really know what they’re doing. But they started speaking in a different language, they started confusing the drivers, and I think they ended up hauling one of the drivers out and arresting them, taking them out leaving the spouse alone to cope with it. It was great.

Jim: So, just talking about the border crossing then, are there some mistakes that could be avoided? Could you give 2 or 3 examples of things that you do not do at a border crossing? 

Roseanne: Yeah.

Jonathan: Sure. Don’t lose your temper- number one. We found that personally, and certainly it’s backed up by our ex customs people who teach it, is that the worst thing you could possibly do is lose your temper. Even if your border crossing takes 3 days, as sometimes they do in certain countries, you just have to be ready for it, and stay calm, and saturable. That will get you through quicker than losing your temper. 

Roseanne: Yep. Having your paperwork in order. We do teach people how to deal with that. What resources to use, like the HUB and places like that, to research what’s going on and what you need. A lot of good tips. 

Jim: Anything else?

Roseanne: I think from safety, the reason we have the kids steal things out of cars is because your’e going to be distracted at a lot of these border crossings, [and] attract people who take advantage of the fact that you’ve got to either leave your vehicle, or you’re talking to the border guards, and you left your rear window down, or your door unlocked. So I think that’s another thing- just to be cautious. Not paranoid. Because we certainly don’t teach/encourage people to be paranoid, just careful. 

Jonathan: Also, having your vehicle…make sure your vehicle is operating properly and has everything working on it. It has all the paperwork. Because if you are at a crossing where a guard might be tempted to shake you down or deny you access, having a tail lightbulb out or the wrong registration or something like that, is a sure ticket to get trouble.

Roseanne: Yeah, we were stuck crossing into Kenya from Tanzania in a Land Rover. We got {?} just completely by not having a proper yellow caution symbol for the back tire of the vehicle. It was a required element in Kenya, and we couldn’t buy one at the borders, so I can’t even remember what we did. No, someone sold us one at a highly absorptive rate. Yup. That’s it. 

Jim: As is usually the way, isn’t it? When you’re stuck for something like that.

Roseanne: Money solves pretty much anything.

Jim: Do you find it more hassle crossing through the border? Like, would it be potentially more hassle to set yourself up for more crossing as vehicle, just because you have more there. You obviously look like you have a lot more money etc. than you would on a motorcycle. 

Jonathan: I think there’s no doubt about that. A vehicle’s got more places to hide contraband…there’s just more stuff for border guards who are interested in doing so, to go through…and of course, there’s twice as many taillights, and headlight bulbs, and other things like that that can go wrong as well. Your’e a pretty compact package on a bike, and there’s just less to mess with, I think. 

Jim: Then there’s often those little requirements. Like you said the yellow sign to go on the spare tire. Another one that I just recently heard of, that I hadn’t head of before, was the requirement in some places in Africa to have a fire extinguisher for your vehicle. Even a scooter. 

Jonathan: Yeah. Which of course is a good idea anyway, but you need to know those things. And that’s where a resource like the HUBB is invaluable because there are people there who are…literally any border crossing you name, someone on the HUB has probably done within the last week, and knows exactly what the conditions are at the moment. 

Jim: Yeah, the HUBB- Horizon’s Unlimited- is what you’re referring to, just for those two don’t know. 

Jonathan: Yeah.

Roseanne: Yeah, fantastic resource. 

Jim: The people that you have to come and teach at Overland Expo…I’m sort of curious…where do these people come from?

Roseanne: Oh, yeah. Good question. All over the world. We have 140 instructors. Around 140-150, it’s different each show. And our core training team that works specifically on our motorcycle and technical driving section, is another 30 people. They comes form Wales, Scotland, the UK, general Europe…then the rest of the instructors that teach less technical classes…we’re had them from Australia, South Africa, India, multiple countries in South America. So, all over the world.

Jim: Are these people that are traveling? Or are they coming just for that show? 

Roseanne: Many of them come just to be part of our teaching team. Many of them return every year with new class ideas, or back by popular demand. There’s a lot of classes that we offer over and over and over. We do about 45% or so new classes each time.

Jim: And are you guys teaching as well?

Roseanne: We do.

Jonathan: Yes, we both teach. 

Jim: What do you teach? I’m curious.

Jonathan: I usually teach a winching class. I teach winches recovery class. I teach a very extensive tire repair class. I’ve taught classes on building tool kits…those are the main ones I cover. 

Roseanne: And I’ve done…a lot of our slideshows, our trip programs, videography and do our media for slide shows. I’ve taught writing classes, I recently started teaching a class for art. For people who want to do in the field watercolour for their journals, and keeping journals for their travels. 

Jim: What do you guys see in your future? Down the road. Where do you think all this is going? Or where do you plan to go, I guess?

Roseanne: That’s a good question. At this point we’re planning on growing better, not necessarily bigger. So every year we improve things. That’s our near future. Jonathan and I will always continue traveling. We are just really really blessed that we can have this amazing business that not allows us to travel, but it’s about travel. And the people we can surround ourselves with are similar in spirit. It’s kind of our chosen family. We look forward to these shows inordinately. We are loners. We are not social people. So it’s very strange that we look forward to seeing 12,000 people. But, we do. There are people here that we consider lifetime friends. Real chosen family. 

Jim: It’s funny that you say you guys are loners, but you’re doing something that, yeah, that’s hugely social. To put on a show. I mean even being writers, you’ve got to be networking all the time. Do you find you’re pushing yourself to do those sorts of things?

Roseanne: You know, I think for the 2 or 3 weeks that we are intensely involved with all these people…then we all leave and go back to doing our loner activities…I would say no. It’s not hard. We only do it twice a year thought. Otherwise I think a lot of the people who work for us and come to the show would call themselves loners as well. After all, it’s about independent self directed travel. These aren’t people who are choosing to buy a $5,000 guided trip. These are people who want to outfit their own motorcycle, outfit their own vehicle, and go off on their own.

Jim: We used to talk a lot about defining adventure. And, I’m sort of curious, because of what you guys do, and your history and everything…how [do] you guys define adventure? And I know it’s sort of an overused term nowadays and everything. I still love the word myself. But the idea of it. What do you guys picture adventure as?

Jonathan: We think of adventure as…the definition of adventure is a highly personal term. Because it’s different for everyone. My definition would be completely different from another persons. My limits might be different from another persons. The things that I would think would be crazy to do, someone else might not think would be crazy to do. So it’s about pushing personal limits, and those are different for each person. For example; we have a very dear friend, a woman, who a couple of years ago drove around the world with her boyfriend. They crossed Europe and Asia in a Peugeot…a diesel Peugeot station wagon that they bought for 200 pounds in England. That trip, by her own admission, pushed beyond her limits. She was desperate to go home at times, having a very hard time doing it. She was glad she did it, but it was very hard. To me, that sounds like a ball. To cross 2 continents in a 200 pounds vehicle. On the other hadn’t, when this woman was 22 years old, she left her mid-western postcard cork husk town on her own, and moved to Los Angeles by herself. That’s way beyond my definition.

Jim: That’s adventure.

Roseanne: Wouldn’t do it in a million years. No way.

Jim: Yeah, that’s right. 

Jonathan: So it’s all personal.

Jim: How about you, Roseanne? Do you have a different opinion?

Roseanne: No, I would agree with that. We run into this a lot. One of the…we run into this idea of, what is adventure. You can see it at the show, especially at happy hours, people will be talking about oh I’m going to be going on this trip to this far off amazing place. And maybe the person next to them might feel like well, you have to go long distances, to foreign countries, and cross many borders for it to be a true adventure…well, maybe not. What we like to say is, it’s your own…pushing your own boundaries. Maybe it’s for that person listening and being a little bit jealous of that wild adventurer in foreign lands. Maybe they’ve never left heir hometown. Here they are reaching out, and just learning how to camp. Learning how to go travel on your own for a couple hundred miles. That’s a huge adventure for that person. One of my favourite stories from Overland Expo, was a couple of years ago. I got a call from a young man. I was very pleased he had actually called me to ask me this. He had met a very adventurous young woman who he wanted to go with on this adventure. She was driving the vehicle down into Mexico, and into central America. And he wanted to talk to me because he had never camped, and he had no idea how to even go to the bathroom outdoors. He specifically asked me if we taught classes in person hygiene outdoors. And we do.

Jim: You do. You have that. There’s a book out. I remember the first one I saw…I think it’s called, How to Shit in the Woods. By Kathleen Meyer, is it? Have you ever heard of that book?

Roseanne: It is. Yeah. Oh yeah.

Jim: And I always thought it was funny, because I come from an outdoors background, so it’s never even been a thought process. But when I saw that book, I realized that, I guess if you don’t do it, you obviously don’t know how to do it. 

Jonathan: Of course.

Jim: So you teach a class.

Roseanne: We teach a class. And have a really strong rule at the show, and that is that, we don’t really tolerate people making fun of other experiences or levels of experiences. We don’t make fun of…hey, if you choose to have a very inexpensive vehicle with nothing bolted onto it, or a very simple motorcycle- that’s your choice. Or, if you want that BMW with every single solitary accessory and heated grips, and heated feet, and things that plug in, and fabulous luggage…that’s your choice, too. And it’s all fantastic. Nobody is right or wrong. And we really push that. So, yeah. If someone comes, and they don’t know how to go to to the bathroom outdoors, great- we’ll show you how. 

Jim: I don’t know if I should delve more into this, because now you’ve got me curious exactly how this program works, but I guess if somebody is interested, they can go to one of the shows and checkout out. Roseanne, Jonathan- thank you very much. It was great to talk to you.

Jonathan: It was great to talk to you, too.

Roseanne: It was really fun, thank you.

OUTRO (Roseanne and Jonathan Hanson)

Jim (Narrate): And of course, that was Jonathan and Roseanne Hanson. 



Interviewer/Host: Jim Martin
Producer: Elizabeth Martin
Transcriptionist: Natasha Martin

*Special thanks to our guests: Roseann & Jonathan Hanson & Ian Coates


This episode of Adventure Rider Radio is made possible by listener support and the following SHOW SPONSORS

Max BMW:
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