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GlobeBusters 20th Anniversary of Trans Americas [Part TWO]

For the anniversary ride, Julia and Kevin Sanders are joined by Kevin's son, Rhys Lawrey (himself a record-breaking rider) as tour manager. We caught up with him during a planned stopover in Las Vegas, while the bikes were being serviced and treated to a fresh set of tyres

A line of Triumphs riding through Fisher Towers in Utah
A line of Triumphs riding through Fisher Towers in Utah

We've travelled 6368 miles since leaving Anchorage in Alaska at the end of July, and it's flown by. Las Vegas is pivotal, because it's the end of Section 1 of our expedition. Until now, we've been travelling through English-speaking countries, but that's all going to change once we cross the border into Mexico.

Riding into Vegas is a bit of a culture shock in itself. Until now we've avoided cities, taking the quiet roads through national parks. From the Grand Canyon we approached Las Vegas through the desert hills by Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the USA, measuring an incredible 112 miles long. We rode into Vegas along The Strip. That's the four-mile long boulevard where you see all the resort hotels and casinos. It's big and it's crazy - lots of people, lots of cars and lots of road rage (not from us!).

On these long trips it's really important to have a break from riding so you can relax and digest everything you've seen over the past month - the average rider takes two years to cover 6000 miles and our guys have done it in a month!

Jumping for joy at Salmon Glacier
Jumping for joy at Salmon Glacier


Alaska is simply amazing. Big, good open roads, with barely any other vehicles, and the sheer scale of the scenery is breathtaking. Also, the people are very welcoming. Most haven't been outside the USA before, so seeing our UK number plates created quite a stir. We've been so fortunate with the weather this year - not one full day of rain. That makes a huge difference when riding the Dalton Highway, which is 414 miles of road north to the Arctic Ocean, one way in, one way out. It's mainly gravel (although as each year passes more Tarmac appears), and in the wet that can be really challenging to negotiate.

having a quick breather at the bottom of the Shafer Trail, after 1500 feet of descent
having a quick breather at the bottom of the Shafer Trail, after 1500 feet of descent

My personal highlight, so far, has to be the Shafer Trail in the Canyonlands National Park. I took one of our Triumph Tiger 900s for an hour-long ride on this iconic road that descends 1500 feet (457m) through a massive sandstone cliff. It's only 30 miles, but zig-zagging down a canyon on a dirt road is technically demanding and so much fun.

A close second is the Valley of the Gods in Utah, with its striking red monoliths. I rode there for Triumph in 2016, to help launch the new Explorer 1200, but it was winter and there was snow on the ground, so it was amazing to return to the same spot at the height of summer.

Socially, our team barbecues are really popular with the group, because it gives us a chance to spend time together in a more relaxed setting than a diner or restaurant. Kevin and I have mastered the art of cooking filet mignon steak medium rare and we occasionally set things up outside the hotel we're staying in and invite all our customers along. There's something about the camaraderie of a bunch of motorcyclists on the trip of a lifetime that makes it that extra bit special, swapping tales of life on the road.

Long days and Hurricane Hillary

It's not all been plain sailing. We saw lots of bears in Alaska and Canada, but they didn't caused us any issues. By far the biggest nuisance was mosquitos making a meal of us and birds flying into riders. When you're doing 60mph it's quite an impact, and very messy!

Temperatures have varied, but have been manageable. The coldest was up the Salmon Glacier in Canada, which is 4000 feet above sea level, where the temperature dropped to 9°C. Cold though it was, we were shocked to see how much the glaciers had shrunk. We have side-by-side shots from previous trips, so we could check it wasn't our memory playing tricks.

Our longest day was also in Canada, when we rode 400 miles from Stewart to Prince George, on the coast. Although there are a few towns along the way, they aren't very interesting, so it isn't worth stopping. To make matters worse, post Covid, lots of roadside cafes have closed down, or are so short staffed they can't cope with a group, so we just had to dig deep and keep going.

One big plus is that we managed to dodge the record wildfires that have been ravaging British Columbia and Alberta, although we've experienced a few 'hazy days' as a result.

At the opposite end of the scale, riding into Moab in the Utah desert, we saw 38°C on the dash, our hottest day so far. At around this time, on the Johnson Canyon Road in Eastern Utah, those high temperatures collided with the edge of Hurricane Hillary to create short and sudden downpours. Lasting about 20 minutes, they'd dump an incredible amount of water on to the dusty desert highways, turning them into mud. This is a great example of why we encourage all our customers to do some off-road training before tackling an expedition - you need to be able to cope with conditions you'd normally only find on a motocross track!

What's Next?

The next section of GlobeBusters' Trans-Americas expedition takes them through Central America. At around 4000 miles, it's shorter than the North American leg, but they will have to cope with far less advanced infrastructure and cross the Darien Gap. We hope to catch up with Rhys and the team when they arrive in Bogota, Chile, by which time they'll have ridden through six more countries: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.


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