In Search of Life
In the first of a regular column, Louise Hillier writes about overland trips, and why she got started in the first place…
The last time MSL heard from me I was about to embark on my first overland adventure. That was almost a decade ago, and I’ve been on plenty of others since. Through this column, I’ll be sharing some of those experiences, and hopefully some of you will be inspired to get up and do your own trip as a result.
There are many reasons for going on a journey, but the main one for me was that I wanted to feel alive. 2001 was a terrible year, and it seemed that death was just around every corner. I had just lost my lovely mum to cancer; my boss, the late Richard Stevens, (the man who saved Motorcycle Sport & Leisure from collapse); Paris-Dakar rider John Deacon, who was a great friend and inspiration; my cousin from a brain tumour and a close friend in a hang-gliding accident. They all died far too young.
After all of this, I was sitting at my computer and couldn’t helping thinking, “Am I next?” Swiftly followed by, “Have I achieved my dreams, followed my heart, or have I just sat and thought about it?” You can always find a reason not to do something and I am as guilty as anyone of this. It takes a brave person to let go of the safe, well trodden paths of life and face the unknown.
I met my partner Gary around this time and he was planning a motorcycle trip overland to India. I had helped him with planning and routes, and it was 2am one morning, just having signed off another issue of MSL, that everything seemed clear – I had to go too. I mentioned it to Gary who was over the moon. On the other hand, it was very early in our relationship. We had barely ridden any distance together and had never camped together, but I figured I wanted to take a chance.
The hardest thing for me was sorting out my life, house, job and animals. I had been art editor at MSL for over two years and loved my job. I tried to figure out a way that maybe I could come back to the job after my trip was ended, but as luck or perhaps fate would have it I was called in to a meeting and told the magazine was going to be moved away from Cornwall. My job was going too. I took this to be a bit of a sign and once my mind was made up to do something it is amazing how quickly things get resolved. I found someone to rent my flat and a person to look after my horse. Even the goldfish found a temporary new home.
We didn’t have a great deal of money and I really didn’t want to ride pillion (I get bored too easily). I had ridden lots of test bikes for MSL and had my heart set on a BMW 650 GS. The budget wouldn’t stretch that far, but I could afford a Honda Dominator. That made sense, as Gary had already decided to ride one, and it was a good idea to take two similar bikes. It was the right decision – we were able to borrow parts from each others bikes, and of course it also halved the amount of spares we had to carry.
Two Dommies were imported from a dealer in France– delivered to the UK and ready to go for the price of a single BMW! Gary, being a welder and fabricator, made our aluminium boxes, big tanks were added and high screens fitted, plus some other small modifications.
The plan was coming together and by September the journey to India was imminent. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Our trip was no exception.
9/11 hit, and the route we had planned no longer seemed safe. So plan number two. We decided to go to America instead. We managed to change our bookings, not without considerable head scratching and frantic emails, but as the crate containing the two Hondas left on the back of the lorry for the first part of its Transatlantic journey the reality of what we were doing suddenly hit me. “What have I done?”
It was too late now to be, as my mum would say, “a flossy”. Gary and I took deep breaths, gathered our clothing and helmets, and headed for the plane…
Who is Louise Hillier?
Ex-art editor of MSL, Louise ridden all sorts of bikes, competed in road trials and jumped through fire with the White Helmets. And ridden 50,000 miles through 28 countries on her Honda Dominator