About two years ago, Olympia’s Dave Lovely realized there was only one thing standing between him and his passion for traveling the world: His job.
He says, “I was free emotionally.” No wife or girlfriend. And his daughters were married.
So, Lovely quit his job and sold his house. He gave his car to his dad and his furniture to his daughters. He bought a Triumph XC motorcycle and on Sept. 15, 2014, he started heading south.
Lovely, 54, says his goal is to visit all 193 United Nations-recognized countries. So far he estimates he’s logged almost 45,000 miles, more than 60 countries and five continents (including a cruise to Antarctica).
He figures he’ll finish his dream road trip in another two or three years.
When you are on a motorcycle you experience everything. The rain, the cold, the hot. You are in the environment. It’s not always comfortable, but you feel where you are. It’s not just seeing.
Lovely says he travels as cheaply as possible. He camps or stays in hostels, but he never uses hotels. He’s sometimes joined by a friend, Mercer Island High School teacher Roy Newton.
We caught up with Lovely while he was in Olympia for the holidays and preparing to fly to Buenos Aires for the next leg of his adventure.
Q: What’s next?
A: For the next four months I will be doing something new for me. Instead of getting around on my motorcycle, I will be backpacking through South America and the Caribbean to hit all the remaining countries in the Americas that I have not yet been to.
Q: So you started this adventure by riding from Olympia to the southern tip of Argentina (a seven-month trip). Any incidents along the way?
A: I never felt in danger anywhere on my trip except once in southern Mexico. The people are just great everywhere you go.
Q: What happened in southern Mexico?
A: I came to a roadblock where there were about 80 guys standing on each side of the road blocking traffic and they had machetes and sticks. They were extorting a toll from drivers. I’m lined up and they’re looking at me and looking at my bike, and it got more intense and they weren’t smiling. I got really nervous. I couldn’t turn around. After I got to the front (of the line) and was really getting scared, I decided to just take my chance and I turned out into the oncoming lane. I zig-zagged through and I gunned it and hoped nobody would stick a stick out and knock me off my bike. I didn’t look back.
Q: How many miles do you typically ride in a day?
A: I move almost every day. Maybe once a week I’ll stay someplace for a couple of days. Like when I was in St. Petersburg (Russia), I stayed a week. I stayed a week in Moscow. Places I find really interesting I’ll stay longer. I’ll go 250-300 miles per day on average.
Q: How different is 300 miles on a bike compared to a car?
A: I don’t think you could do this in a car because of the traffic. It would take you forever. You have so much more mobility on a motorcycle, getting around slow trucks. You can go places you couldn’t go otherwise. You seek out roads with lots of curves and the mountains. You seek out the adventure of terrain. … When you are on a motorcycle, you experience everything. The rain, the cold, the hot. You are in the environment. It’s not always comfortable, but you feel where you are. It’s not just seeing.
Q: And it would seem accidents might do more damage to your body. What happened with your accident in Buenos Aires?
A: On March 30, 2015, I was 200 kilometers from Buenos Aires, the location from which I had scheduled to ship my motorcycle by airplane to Frankfurt, Germany, when I had my accident. At the time of the accident, I was taken by ambulance to the local hospital, which was a small city. They took X-rays and said that I was badly banged up but no broken bones. My bike was damaged, but a passer-by that stopped to help me used wire to piece it back together so it was rideable. When the hospital released me, three policemen gave me a ride in their pickup truck back to their station about 20 minutes away where they had taken my bike for me. In addition, the hospital did not charge me for anything, not even the ambulance ride. … Thinking I didn’t have any broken bones, I rode the remaining 200 kilometers to Buenos Aires. The following day, the pain was intolerable, so I went to a hospital emergency room. They took X-rays and told me I had broken both the femur and tibia. I ended up requiring surgery in Buenos Aires, which I had to wait four days to get. The specialist that was going to perform the operation gave me his cellphone number and email address in case I needed to reach him. I was shocked. I don’t get that kind of access to doctors in the U.S. The hospital was amazing and very, very professional.
Q: So you visited Antarctica before the accident and the Arctic Circle after you recovered?
A: We actually got to go below the Antarctic Circle, which is not very common at all. It was the first time in 10 years the ship I was on had been able to get down that far. I was able to cross the Antarctic Circle and then six months later I was crossing the Arctic Circle in Norway. It was kind of cool to be able to do that.
Q: After your backpacking portion of the trip where will you go?
A: My bike is currently stored in Frankfurt until I return there on May 1 to head to Asia.
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