From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on a Harley
30,000 kilometers, 17 countries, 119 latitudes – one road: the Pan-American Highway is undoubtedly one of the world’s most fascinating routes. It runs from Anchorage in Alaska all the way to Ushuaia at Argentina’s southern tip. Five friends from Hamburg made a dream come true when they hit the road. But not just any which way. “Anyone can do it on a comfortable enduro bike,” said Heico Forster, who has turned the group’s adventure into a fascinating book project. Navigating deserts, jungles and narrow mountain passes on highway-compatible Harleys, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether.
Late August is a good time to travel in Alaska. The mosquitoes have all gone and there’s plenty of time left until the first frost. “It’s lunchtime,” Heico noted in his diary. The sky looks almost as expected: rain is falling from low-hanging clouds. The airport is only a few miles away from 4334 Spenard Road, the headquarters of Harley Davidson, Anchorage. The manager welcomes the German adventurers as if they were old friends. “No wonder, after 50 emails, faxes, phone calls and a total of USD 70,000 in sales,” recalled the designer and author from Hamburg, who has already produced exciting reports and illustrious graphics for the likes of Stern, GEO, Amica, National Geographic, Max and FREEMEN’S WORLD.
“Hey guys, have a look,” the Harley Davidson manager called out as he showed his impatient guests around his store: “Your machines are over there!” Registered, insured, with a full tank and cleaner and more beautiful than they would ever be again. One more night in Anchorage, a Happy Landing beer at the hotel bar and a juicy steak at Sullivan’s around the corner before the group hits the road in the morning. “Half the world lies ahead of us. May the adventure begin,” Heico wrote.
Back in the day, the flower power generation followed the legendary route south in their VW Beetles or campers. The idols of the hippie generation followed the road to freedom in their converted omnibuses, and motorcycle enthusiasts have always admired it as the ultimate biking adventure. A road spanning half the globe, crossing deserts, ice, swamps and mountains on its way. Beautiful. Exhausting. A real challenge that serves up the world’s fascinating nature in its entirety on one single road. Spending 30,000 kilometers cruising on asphalt, bumping along gravel, splashing through puddles in the rainforest, getting stuck in hot sand and making tire tracks in fresh snow. Seeing the world in the daytime, enjoying a cold beer in the evening, and spending the night in a cheap motel.
Much like Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five”, the friends spent their childhood having adventures together and dreaming of the legendary route together. Detlef, Tom, Peter, Tommy and Heico spent hours upon hours absorbed in colorful comics about the famous Carrera Panamericana race and simply could not get enough of it. They already knew back then that they wanted to travel the Pan-American Highway. From north to south, sometime, somehow. Their dream had to wait for several decades. On tours of Namibia, Laos, Uruguay and India, the guys had their first travel experiences in preparation for the adventure of a lifetime. It took them ten years, summer after summer, no trips shorter than fourteen days at a time – cast adrift from time and space, they lived and shaped their dream “until it became a source of pure joy that would satisfy any longing”. They were finally ready for the road of all roads.
Alaska, Kanada, USA, Mexiko, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Kolumbien, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivien, Brasilien, Paraguay, Argentinien, Chile und nochmals Argentinien. Ein Abenteuer ohne Grenzen.
“Anyone can do it on an enduro bike,” Heico claimed at the beginning… But what about a Harley? Tom on the Forty-Eight: Any biker knows that the machine is the stuff of legends, but its tank can’t hold more than eight liters. Not the most comforting back-up in a desert.
Peter and Detlef on Fat Boys. A homage to the Terminator. 76 HP and an unladen weight of 330 kg – lots of work. Thomas on the Dyna Super Glide, the classic from Milwaukee and the one and only for many bikers. Finally, Heico on the Street Bob: A solo seat, narrow front tires, high handlebars. You can’t get more chopper than that without going custom. A relaxed way to hit the highway, which will go no further than the Mexican border.
“There was that dream,” Heico said. We’ve all got one. “It was always in the background of our lives, at our regular table down at the pub. One day, we decided that we would take on the Pan-American Highway on Harleys.” From Alaska to Terra del Fuego. Along highways, desert tracks, jungle trails, narrow mountain passes – and, briefly, even on a freight plane, as the gap between Panama and Colombia remains as impassable as ever.
There aren’t many people who would dare making such a dream come true. “Don’t dream your life, live your dream,” he said. But the book he wrote is a source of dreams like no other. It is a homage to the road of roads, to freedom on two wheels – put simply, to adventure. It features compelling pictures and plenty of geographical, political and sociocultural background knowledge. Stories about tequila, narco bosses, motorbike clubs, customs problems, Diego Maradona, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid. Ten summers on 160 pages that you won’t want to put down.
The next project
After the journey is before the journey, as German football legend Sepp Herberger would undoubtedly agree. Heico Forster has already planned out his next project: from Hamburg to Mongolia by bike. He’ll be on his way this summer, taking the Balkan route to the Black Sea. The second leg of the trip will happen next year: Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and, finally, Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital.
Tours like these require solid motorcycle boots that keep your feet comfortable not just on the bike but also beyond the saddle and footrest. Boots that keep you dry in the rain and support you across mountain paths. “You can’t take more than one pair with you,” Heico pointed out. At the moment, he is testing a prototype by HAIX: the BLACK EAGLE MOTO GTX, which will be hitting the shelves soon. A boot born to ride and run.