Adventure Motorcyclists Jeremy Kroeker and Elle West on Self-Discovery Through Travel
Show Notes for Podcast #138
Adventure Motorcyclists Jeremy Kroeker and Elle West on Self-Discovery Through Travel
Canadian adventure motorcyclists Jeremy Kroeker and Elle West traveled the length of the Pan-American Highway on their KLR650 and BMW F700GS bikes. In this podcast from the field, Ashley Giordano learns more about overlanding as a couple, women’s motorcycle training, Jeremy’s experiences as a writer, and the importance of snacks.
Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or researching wild medicinal plants. Ashley is a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and crew member of Expedition Overland. You’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent in 2021, and sharing their trip every step of the way at Desk to Glory. @desktoglory_ash
Jeremy Kroeker and Elle West Podcast
Ashley Giordano: Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I'm her host Ashley Giordano, and today I was fortunate enough to sit down with Jeremy Kroeker and Elle West two Canadian Adventure motorcyclists who have traveled the Pan American Highway and beyond. Elle is a motorcycle trainer based in Calgary, Alberta, and Jeremy is the author of four books as ever. We hope you enjoy this episode, and thank you so much for tuning in.
Scott Brady: This content is brought to you by Overland Journal, our premium quality print publication. The magazine was founded in 2006. With the goal of providing independent equipment and vehicle reviews along with the most stunning adventures and photography, we care deeply about the countries and cultures. We visit and share our experiences freely with our readers. We also have zero advertorial policy and do not accept any advertiser compensation for our reviews. [00:01:00] By subscribing to Overland Journal, you're helping to support our employee owned and veteran owned publication. Your support also provides resources and funding for content like you are watching or listening to right now. You can subscribe directly on our email@example.com.
Ashley Giordano: Here today on location in Canmore, Alberta with Jeremy and Elle two Adventure Motorcycle Riders with plenty of history of traveling throughout the world. So thanks for joining me.
Jeremy Kroeker: Great to be here.
Elle West: Yeah, happy to be here. I ride, well, currently I ride a BMW 700 Yes. And back in 2004 I was riding a Honda Shadow and I thought I could get to, the end of the road in Panama. I knew that the highway ended just after Panama City, and if you look at Canada on a map from East Coast to West Coast, it's a long distance, but you could do it in two weeks. [00:02:00] If you take that same distance and turn it this way, it looks like Calgary to Panama back. So a friend of mine and I went together on two different bikes and we thought we could go there and back in six weeks and it's humanly possible, but we did not make it. We went to Guadalajara and then came back, ran outta time. So the thought ever since then was I have to do that. Like it's an incomplete trip. I need to go do it. So 2013, I actually did go down to Panama back and then loved it so much, did it immediately after that again in 2014, and then thought, I need to go all the way. I gotta go all the way to South America, to the tip of South America. And so I was planning to do that around 2019, and then Jeremy and I started hanging out with each other. Her name is Elle West, by the way.
Elle West: Jeremy. And I said, Jeremy was like, actually, I haven't been all the way to South America. I've been to Panama back, of course, as he writes about in his book. But I haven't been all the way. And I was thinking 2019 as well, and I was like, Hmm, maybe, maybe we could go together. But it depends how [00:03:00] things go and if we still like each other, we'll see. And turns out we did go together in August of 2019. We left Alberta and made it down to the southern tip of Argentina in early 2020, just before Covid broke out. And then we were, starting to make our way north again. We got as far as Erway before the borders closed and lock us in.
Ashley Giordano: Oh, wow.
Elle West: So we made it down, but we didn't make it back.
Ashley Giordano: So what did you do? Were you trapped in Uruguay for a little while?
Elle West: We were trapped in Uruguay for five months.
Ashley Giordano: Oh, for a little while. Wow. Okay. So you had your bikes there and everything, or had you, okay.
Elle West: We were trying to decide do we ship them, do we leave them, can we store them? Is this gonna blow over in a few months or is it gonna take two years? And we didn't, we weren't sure what to do. So it took a while and then it was expensive.
Jeremy Kroeker: So we're launching right into this. Hey, I thought you were gonna go. Hi, my name is Elle West. I've been to this many countries and I ride a bmw. And then I was gonna say, hi, my name is Jeremy Kroeker. I ride a Kawasaki Klr six 50, and I've been to about 30 different countries with my motorcycle. [00:04:00] I'm also the author of two books.
Ashley Giordano: And their names are?
Jeremy Kroeker: Motorcycle Therapy and Through Dust and Darkness.
Ashley Giordano: Nice. What's covered in the books?
Jeremy Kroeker: Motorcycle therapy talks about a trip that I did in 2003. Basically me and my buddy were both, unceremoniously, let go by our girlfriends respectively. And so feeling sorry for ourselves, we jumped on a couple of motorcycles and just headed south. And then in the process of doing that trip, I discovered that my friend was also quite irritating. And then that caused me to think that the only common denominator here is me. So, it turns out I'm a very difficult person to live with and travel with. And so that's kind of the foundation of the book. Ashley Giordano: And then you found a travel partner that you travel well with?
Jeremy Kroeker: I have been unable to travel with anyone, except for Elle. I've traveled with, Neville, our host here, who is the owner of these motorcycles. We have actually managed to travel together, but just for a fairly short period of [00:05:00] time. I'm sure that even Neville would agree that he, by the end of two week trip is quite irritated with me as well.
Elle West: And we traveled well together overall, generally we left together and we came back together, but there were a couple rough spots.
Jeremy Kroeker: Oh sure. Yeah. I don't think you could go on any kind of overlanding trip, no matter what Instagram might lead you to believe, without a little bit of drama and a little bit of, you know, a few blemishes that, that the pictures don't show.
Ashley Giordano: Yes. Yeah, that's an important part. And I think that's one thing when I was reading your book, Through dust and darkness. One thing that I noticed was there, the good and the bad was captured. You know, it wasn't just like this wonderful trip where everything went well. It was a really honest account of all of the emotional and spiritual and physical things that travel entails, which was Yeah, really nice, really refreshing and.
Jeremy Kroeker: Thank you.
Ashley Giordano: These times of Instagram.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. I mean, I kind of set [00:06:00] out with these books to be fairly open and honest and it doesn't always, you know, I don't always paint myself in the most positive light either, but hopefully there's some humor, to carry the day.
Elle West: And that's a danger in being a travel partner of Jeremy's. Before we ever left, I said, if you do any writing about this, I want editing privileges. And he said, absolutely not.
Jeremy Kroeker: No. Yeah. She doesn't get editing privileges because I know what she would do. She would want to write her side of things and, that's valid. But, that's for your book.
Elle West: That might Happen someday.
Ashley Giordano: I was gonna ask you, when was the initial trip that you went on?
Elle West: The first time I tried going all the way to Panama back.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah.
Elle West: 2004. And there, there was nothing that I knew of at the time called an adventure bike or portals or websites where you could go and learn about all this kind of stuff, let alone conferences where people got together and shared this kind of info. I had to stop once a week and find a library in order to access the internet and send an email home. [00:07:00] Smartphone.
Ashley Giordano: A little bit different.
Elle West: Yeah, very different than now.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. And I was actually in Guatemala in 2003 before I found any websites that suggested that this was even something that people do. So I hadn't read, Jupiter's travels yet, and I hadn't, found any websites with information about how to do this. I just thought that I was the first person to ever think about doing this trip. So in, in a way that, complete ignorance actually made the trip more interesting. But since then, obviously I've discovered a lot of the resources and it's a fantastic time to do this kind of travel.
Elle West: And we still don't do a lot of research. Like our South America trip. We didn't know a lot before we went. No, I remember arriving in Bolivia and seeing an animal like moving across the land far away. And I stopped. And I thought, is that an ostrich, like what is happening right now? There's no ostrich's in South America, are there, I had no idea it was a ri ari, I dunno if I'm pronouncing it properly, but a smaller [00:08:00] version of an ostrich. I had no idea those animals existed. I wasn't aware that they were glaciers in Peru. Lots of things were still surprises.
Ashley Giordano: That's awesome. I love that.
Jeremy Kroeker: We don't research at all. It should be said and you know, still, we somehow bumble our way through.
Ashley Giordano: So how did you come together? How did you meet? Were you both riders so you knew each other through that or were you both in Canmore living here so you met that way?
Elle West: I stopped Jeremy for about five years.
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, first of all we met in British Columbia at a motorcycle rally and I was there to promote motorcycle therapy, my first book. And I was there with my then girlfriend.
Elle West: And I was there with a partner I was traveling with who had just read motorcycle therapy because I gave it to them and I said, you should read this. And they did. And they started making plans based on this book. This guy says that if two of you travel together, you should travel on the same motorcycle cuz then if you need any spare parts, they work for either bike, we're gonna do exactly that. And he loved the book and he was like quoting it to me. And then I showed up at this event [00:09:00] and this guy is wearing a name tag that says Jeremy Kroeker, author of motorcycle therapy. And so my very first words ever to this man were, holy crap, you're the guy that wrote the book. Hey Greg, come meet this guy! And Jeremy's very first impression of me was that I was slightly insane.
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, and also my girlfriend at the time, I could feel her like eyes boring into the back of my head. She did not appreciate that kind of attention that I was getting. It wasn't my fault. I was just, it's the author of an amazing book.
Elle West: So then we bumped into each other every year or twice a year at motorcycle events, the motorcycle show in Calgary, Overland gatherings like that. And I would every time be like, Hey, Jeremy good to see you again. And he would stare at me and say, yeah, hi. And I could tell he did not remember who I was. So after about four or five years of that, I think we finally connected through some common friends.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. We, it turns out that we had some mutual friends who kind of [00:10:00] reintroduced us, and Elle was of course well aware of who I was. But I took me a while to figure out who you were, and now I'm so happy that I did.
Ashley Giordano: Tell me a bit about your riding history. Like how did you both get into riding? Was it something you did as a kid? Was it something you picked up later? How, how did that.
Jeremy Kroeker: My dad bought me a dirt bike when I was like 13 years old and we were living in Saskatchewan and there was nothing but open prairies. And so I kind of spent my summers just chasing gophers around the fields. Yeah, I learned to ride on, on a field, on a little dirt bike when I was 16. I got my motorcycle road license right away, and I've been riding ever since.
Elle West: I've had a motorcycle since I was probably about 20, 21 years old. As soon as I got my license, I loved it. I would cancel my car insurance in the summertime and only ride my motorcycle for everything to get groceries, to do anything. I would carry my cat inside my motorcycle jacket with me if I was going. I just always loved motorcycles since I was old enough to be on one. And I think even in high school when [00:11:00] girls would often want to go on a motorcycle ride, they had to have a guy who liked them enough to wanna take them. And immediately I thought, well, that's a bad plan. Like, just get your own, learn how to ride your own. There was maybe a couple years in my life when I didn't have a motorcycle almost every single summer throughout my life since 20, 21 years old, I've had a bike. And it's just the best way to travel. I prefer it so much to being in a van or in a foresighted vehicle, being part of the environment and, Feeling the wind in your face and being out there not behind a pan of glass makes a big difference to me. I've been skydiving, I've been mountain climbing. I've been a lot of different ways to try to get that feeling of exhilaration and, and to me, a motorcycle's the best way.
Ashley Giordano: That's amazing. Yeah. Thank you. Where was that happening when you were in your twenties and you?
Elle West: In Calgary.
Ashley Giordano: Okay.
Elle West: Yep. So I've always lived in Alberta King to Canmore after Jeremy finally said, I think I like you enough to let you move in. [00:12:00]
Jeremy Kroeker: That's exactly how it happened.
Ashley Giordano: And what about for you? What is it about the bike?
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. I would echo a lot of what Elle says. I just feel it, it's the ultimate for me. I, it's gonna sound cliche, but it's, it's just a sense of freedom. It feels like you're flying. And even when you're not happy, and it's very easy to be unhappy on a motorcycle, you can go from having the best time of your life to all of a sudden being the most uncomfortable you've ever been, in like 0.5 seconds. But even then, there's something kind of nice about it. It's, it's being alive and not, it's difficult to be complacent when you're on a motorcycle. And it's dangerous to do that too, right? To kind of zone out and just kind of not really pay attention. So forcing you to kind of be present and really experience the wind and the noise and the smells and all that kind of stuff, even if they're not always pleasant smells or pleasant temperatures.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. How does that work with driver fatigue on these long. I guess you have to pace yourself. Do you have to pace yourself cuz you're paying attention to all these [00:13:00] things that are happening on the road and all the temperature changes and.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah, like when we were doing our trip from Canmore here to, Tierra Del Fugo in Argentina, you know, there was a few days where we did big miles, like 900 kilometers. But that was all kind of in Canada and the States. And then once we got to Mexico and Central America, I'll bet you, like for us a really big day would be 500 kilometers. Most of the time we were kind of doing 400 and, you know, five. We maybe push it now and then, but. So we would really take Rider fatigue kind of seriously and try to find shelter of course before dark and all that kind of stuff.
Elle West: Yeah. I think generally speaking, it's easier to do longer days in a four wheel vehicle than on a motorcycle. You gotta stop more often for gas and you need to stretch and you can't have snacks while you're riding and things like that.
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, Elle can, you can eat chocolate when she's.
Elle West: A chocolate is always around.
Jeremy Kroeker: It's actually interesting because I can always tell when she's stuffed a piece of chocolate in her mouth cuz we have an intercom [00:14:00] system generously provided by Motology school. Yeah. And so on the intercom I can just hear her like a happy little chipmunk and then she'll be talking and Yeah, I can actually like hear the smile on her face.
Elle West: You just gotta keep one piece and let it melt slowly over a long time.
Ashley Giordano: Oh yeah, yeah. Then you got the sugar and the caffeine. And the joy. awesome. So did you guys take any training before? You left on any of your trips or were you mostly riding onroad or off-road or how did your experience build?
Elle West: Probably mostly on-road, a little bit off, but I'm not super confident off-road.
Jeremy Kroeker: And I'm overly confident off-road.
Elle West: When we go on gravel, Jeremy just goes and he knows to wait at the end for me and I'll slow down and I'll take it at the pace that is maybe not the smartest because when it's gravel or loose rough surfaces, it's better to have momentum and sometimes I slow down cuz I think I'm only willing to go as fast as the speed I'm willing to crash at. And Jeremy's like, [00:15:00] if you go faster, it'll be over quicker, you'll be more stable. And I understand the reasoning, but yeah, I'm not gonna ever be as fast as Jeremy on gravel, but yeah.
Jeremy Kroeker: And she usually catches up, but one time she caught up to me after I had crashed. So it doesn't always work out in my favor to be that confident. It was in Chile. I was going, I don't know how fast, but I know that I was looking at my speedometer and then I was looking at the road up and down and up and down. So it was between 60 and 50 kilometers an hour, and like kind of hit a ridge and I got sucked into the ditch. And then, yeah, the klr did some gymnastics and then, I had the bike up on its wheels by the time you came around the car.
Elle West: Because a carload of people came and helped you.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyway, I'm willing to ride faster than I want to crash.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. And then on the road, the dynamics of the relationship, you've obviously. Figured that out or, or have made it work together on the way?
Elle West: A little bit of luck, maybe a little bit [00:16:00] of I think age helps quite a bit. Generally in any relationship and understanding that sometimes it's better to just bite your tongue and.
Jeremy Kroeker: Elle's finally settled for, for someone.
Elle West: That might be somewhat of a factor. But someone who rides motorcycles isn't willing to go to South America and back with me. I mean, that's a big plus.
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, and also there's some, some things that are super simple that you don't think about, which is just having snacks. Like some.
Elle West: Things he should learn by this age and still haven't learned apparently.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. Like I'm 50 years old now and it's only now occurring to me that when I get really grumpy sometimes all I need is a peanut. And sometimes it doesn't always work this way, but sometimes if I can feel that you're getting irritated with me, Rather than change my behavior because I'm too old to do that, I'll just give you a piece of chocolate. And sometimes.
Elle West: Sometimes it helps, at least for amount of time. Yes.
Jeremy Kroeker: Especially crossing borders and things like that. But again, not to be all Instagram polished or anything. It's difficult sometimes traveling with anyone. And then you travel with, [00:17:00] your life partner, you know whom I love. But also being in that close proximity, under stressful situations, and you're not always comfortable. You don't know what you're going to do next or where you're gonna sleep sometimes. And it's easy for me to get kind of short and not lose my temper exactly. But demonstrate my irritation. And that is something that I could learn to be better with.
Elle West: I'd say There was one good day when Temper was lost. Yes. In, Uni, in Bolivia.
Jeremy Kroeker: Okay. Yeah.
Elle West: And then we just separated for a day.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. We had the trial separation.
Elle West: For a few hours. He was unhappy and he wanted to find food and I wanted to find food too. And we didn't have breakfast that day. He was mad and frustrated and basically like giving up. And I said, fine. Give it to me. I'll see if I can find. And I, okay, I think there's some restaurants. It looks like a whole bunch of a commercial area over here. I'll lead, let's go over here. And so I'm leading and I'm going to the place. And on the way he's [00:18:00] behind me, I hear him, the, oh, I think I see a place. I'm just gonna go there. Fine. Go ahead, see you later. And I thought about it. Am I doing something I'm gonna regret? Is this one of those decisions that's gonna have a really big impact and I'm gonna wish I hadn't done it later. And then I thought, no, he's just around the corner. I know where he stopped. I can go back and find him.
I'm gonna go eat lunch by myself. And in my own restaurant on my own bike. And I think that's a saving grace too, if we were both on one motorcycle. I don't know how those people do it.
Jeremy Kroeker: I don't know either.
Elle West: We even brought two tents. That was my decision that Jeremy made fun of me ahead of time. But I was like, I, we haven't lived together. We haven't been dating that long. I'm not ready to commit to that the whole way down. And if you piss me off enough, I wanna be able to go my own way, or at least for lunch my own way. And I think that actually was a good decision yet, a couple hours we ate our own lunch and then we reconnected.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. And also my side of the story is I was actually quite relieved when I heard [00:19:00] her voice like fade out of my intercom. She was like talking, talking all of a sudden like, oh yeah. I'm gonna go have some food.
Ashley Giordano: It happens.
Jeremy Kroeker: So there again, it basically came down to food.
Elle West: Yeah. After we ate lunch, both of us, I think we're feeling quite a bit better.
Ashley Giordano: That breakfast.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. We missed breakfast and then we were cold and then we were, there's a combination of things.
Ashley Giordano: Temperature, not eating. Low blood sugar cause of not eating. It's like the classic. Yeah. Couple overlanding. Couple. Situation coming up. Which you don't necessarily, when you're at home, you don't necessarily have to deal with that because you can go your separate way?
Elle West: And you're not together 24-7 at home. Go to work. Or you go spend time with friends or do something else. Yeah.
Jeremy Kroeker: How do you do it? You're traveling two in one vehicle.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. How do we do it, Richard? How do we do it?
Jeremy Kroeker: He's not micd up. I know. You've got all the power.
Ashley Giordano: Perfect. Yeah. I think we've talked about [00:20:00] food so many times on this podcast about snacks. Like search word snacks. We've talked about that. With many different couples and Yeah.
Jeremy Kroeker: The same way you pacify a toddler, you have to just take care of yourself sometimes.
Ashley Giordano: And especially when you're getting into a stressful situation like you. A border crossing. If you're going into a border crossing, really thirsty, really hungry, really hot, really cold, and all of that going into it, and you have to go into a problem solving situation. not gonna be in a good place.
Elle West: Especially a problem solving situation that is unfamiliar, that isn't in your native language. That doesn't make any sense. Yes. How many times in, I think Nicaragua is one of the worst border crossings for me. Thank you. Is there anything else I need to do? Nope. You're good to go. Sweet. And then the next person is like, no, actually you're not good to go. You didn't get this stamp and you didn't get a copy, you didn't bring it to this office. Just tell me and I'm happy to do whatever's required. Am I done? Yep. Am I good to go? Yep. And you try [00:21:00} leaving? No. There's a police officer stopping you. You don't have this. Like there's always something that just doesn't make sense at those border crossings.
Ashley Giordano: Yes. Yeah. Those are tough ones. Central America border crossings.
Jeremy Kroeker: I hate them.
Ashley Giordano: And it's like you have to switch off your North American brain. And be like, let's turn on our neck around.
Elle West: Change those expectations.
Jeremy Kroeker: It, it was at that border crossing that we finally found a line to clear our paperwork. Elle was in front of me.
Elle West: After and leaving one building and walking across the mud in construction to another building, waiting hours. We'd already been two or three hours into the process by then. Yeah. Found the new building.
Jeremy Kroeker: And she's in line and she gets her paperwork stamped and it's done. And she's like, thank you. And then the guy goes with the window and like she goes away with her paperwork done. And I'm like the next person in line. And I'm like, what? Oh, this line is closed. Yeah. So now I had to go to the back of the line that was right beside me.
Elle West: Yeah. It doesn't make sense.
Jeremy Kroeker: Maddening. And on that boarder crossing as well, we were told to go bring your paperwork to the blue house. That's what we heard. But it turns out [00:22:00] we were supposed to go find a police officer wearing a blue shirt. So we were looking for a blue house and we were trying to, it was.
Elle West: Being fluent in the language would make a difference.
Ashley Giordano: Sure, yeah. Yeah, for sure. I remember there was a kind of little guidebook written by the time we had gotten there and they had laid out the procedure kind of. You know, it's always gonna change.
Elle West: It'll change on a Tuesday compared to a Saturday who's working.
Ashley Giordano: One hundred percent. Yeah but the framework started to get familiar, which I'm sure it did with you as well by the time you got further south, where you're like, okay, now this is sort of what needs to happen.
Jeremy Kroeker: And then by the time you figure it out, you're suddenly in Columbia and then all the border crossings just get easier and easier and easier and easier. And it's not that, you know, the language better, although that may be part of it, but it's just the Central America, they have not figured out how to move people through their borders efficiently.
Ashley Giordano: How did that compare to your trip over in Europe and the Middle East? I mean, obviously the Europe part.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. One of the hardest border crossings that I've had to do [00:23:00] is into Egypt. A lot of travelers, if you talk to them, you'll hear the same story. Egypt is difficult to get in, especially if you have a vehicle or, you know, I saw one guy crossing in with a, with a pet. That's even more problematic. But yeah, it, it's just a lot of the same skills apply, a lot of patience. You know, try to not be loosened fast with your cash. If somebody asks for money, there's a good chance it's for a bribe and, you know, you try to not to give into that kind of pressure. It's just bring a, bring some snacks, bring a lot of patience, and just kind of outweigh them. Like that's something that you can do as a traveler if you have no itinerary, really. You, you kind of have more power than they think you do. Mm-hmm. Like, oh, okay, well, we're not gonna cross the border tonight, I guess we'll just camp here. Or you can't camp here. Well then I'm coming home with you. You have to provide children. With, without being, you know, saucy or without raising your voice. I know some people, do it with grace and a plum. They can raise their [00:24:00] voices and get mad at people, and they don't seem to suffer any consequences. But it's not how I choose to handle like that situation. I'm always friendly, try to be smiling and patient.
Elle West: And same with protests too. I've come across situations where the road was blocked because of a protest. And, one time I just went up to the front of the line cuz of the motorcycle. You can wiggle out your way up there, which is nice. Kind of just watched what was happening for a bit and I was intimidated. Definitely people had sticks and they were smashing the sides of the transport trucks and chanting something that I couldn't understand. They clearly weren't happy. After observing one guy who made eye contact with me, I just said, Hey, my Spanish is very poor, but if you're able, I'd love to ask you some questions and learn more about what's happening here and why you're protesting. And he went, come here. Let me tell you, the government this, and our water's polluted and nobody's helping. And rah rah. And I was like, wow, that's awful. I think I understand. [00:25:00] Thanks so much for explaining to me. Is that your motorcycle? Yep. Hey George, open the gate. Let her through. And I was like, bonus sweet. Ah, that was somewhere in Central America. It might have been Mexico, but there were multiple times when protests were happening and I know other travelers have said like, you gotta squat or crack your engine and barrel through, or you gotta yell at those people. And my approach is they're protesting for a reason.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. Like we are on.
Elle West: We got it pretty good.
Jeremy Kroeker: Vacation essentially. And these people are dealing with very like possibly life and death struggles. And they're tired and frustrating.
Elle West: If I need to rent a hotel room for an extra night and wait to for it to clear, or if I put my tent down here, like I've got everything I need. That's the bonus of traveling with all your tent and everything. I think.
Jeremy Kroeker: That's the nice thing too about traveling versus going on like a two week vacation. If you have enough time. Your plans get disrupted, but it's not that big of a deal because this is all part of the experience where if you have a two week or three week vacation, every day [00:26:00] seems so important. We have to see this thing and this thing and this thing. You know, if you have time, it makes any, any travel a lot.
Ashley Giordano: For sure. I was thinking of food poisoning or getting sick. You know, that can blow out your whole, two week vacation or one week vacation. Yeah. Yeah.
Jeremy Kroeker: Not to mention your digestive tract.
Ashley Giordano: Yep. That's a really good tip to go and talk to them and say.
Elle West: If it seems safe and if you're comfortable with it, sometimes it's not possibility. And I've done the same thing at border crossings too. There was a border crossing, I was following a friend of mine who wrote to me and said, Hey, instead of the Pan American Highway, come over to the East coast. I crossed from Panama into Costa Rica, and it took me 20 minutes. And I was like, no way. There's no such thing. It's a 20 minute border crossing in Central America. So I went over there and she did everything, stamped my passport I'm in, and then I said, okay, now my vehicle. And they said, oh no, the computer's down. Well, how about another computer? No, no, no, it's not the computer. The [00:27:00] computer system is down. Well, what if I went back and drove two hours across the country back to the other side? And she said, no. The whole system. Is down. You won't get across any border. So I had my tents with me. I had food with me. There was other people in vehicles who also couldn't cross that day, so we just shared, we put up our tents in the parking lot, which was dirty and gross, but free, and we shared food. So I had a jar of peanut butter. Somebody else had a loaf of bread, somebody else had spaghetti and somebody had tomatoes, and we just all together made spaghetti sauce with peanut butter sandwiches the next day for breakfast.
Jeremy Kroeker: I was gonna say that sounds like a horrible combination.
Elle West: Yeah, it worked out. And that's a story to tell later. Again, if you were on a two week itinerary, that wouldn't have happened. Or you'd be panicking and stressed out. Yep.
Jeremy Kroeker: I mean, I say and Elle disagrees, but I don't know why I, I think that good memories are based on bad experiences.
Elle West: Some of 'em, but not all of 'em. Yeah, you could have good ones too.
Jeremy Kroeker: Sure. True.
Ashley Giordano: The best stories seem to come out of a stressful or uncomfortable situation.
Jeremy Kroeker: In [00:28:00] Argentina. Classic example. We were on the route of 40 and it was like a horrible gravel section. In fact some people call it the worst gravel section of that, that entire journey. The 73 Maldi dos.
Elle West: Yeah, the 73 shitty ones.
Jeremy Kroeker: And we had high winds like, and I can't exaggerate how high the winds were. And Elle had a few offs.
Elle West: We were told too. Like we were told by somebody who grew up in Argentina and spent a lot of time with us and rides a motorcycle and they said, just get up early. Just get up early. Do as much riding as possible before the wind picks up. Cuz usually it's calmer in the morning. Picks up throughout the day, get off the road by noon and then sleep. Get up early and do your traveling early in the morning, but we didn't listen.
Jeremy Kroeker: Nope. So after the third time that Elle crashed her bike, we set up a tent in the high winds and just slept there. Right in the ditch. And I was tempted to say, let's just go to the, like, we're almost there. But then I thought better of it because what if she gets hurt? what if I get hurt or [00:29:00] whatever.
Elle West: It was infuriating. Yeah. It was maddening. Like, you can't stop, as soon as you stop and put your foot down, the wind just flattens you. You gotta keep that momentum. And on gravel you can't, like literally I'm pushing as hard as I can into the wind and I'm just sliding across the road sideways.
Jeremy Kroeker: But my point is that that was a bad day. But it's a great memory and I think traveling is like that a lot.
Elle West: We had food we had cold pizza leftover with us. So that was the saving grace.
Jeremy Kroeker: Good memories are based on food. Good memories are based on cold pizza. That's a T-shirt. There you go. T-shirt idea. Yeah. That, by the way, that whole, event where we crashed and had to set up shelter and everything is on my YouTube channel. So lately I've been doing less writing and more kind of vlogging sort of things. And that's, on my YouTube channel. If you wanna search for Jeremy Kroeker. Great. Nice. That's, that's where you find that kind of stuff.
Ashley Giordano: How have you found the storytelling aspect of going from writing to the video component?
Jeremy Kroeker: That's a steep, steep learning curve. Like all the, the story principles are [00:30:00] the same, but like learning the technology and the Gear and all that kind of stuff. If you're a writer, essentially all you really need is a pencil on a piece of paper. But, if you're going to tell stories through video, you need microphones and camera equipment and lights and things like that. So it's been a steep learning curve. It's quite rewarding though, when you get it. Right. I'm still trying to work my way up to my a hundred videos. Long ago, I, someone gave me some advice, they said, make a hundred crappy videos before you give up. And so I'm getting up to that point now and hopefully they're getting less and less crappy as the time goes on, but, I might return to my paper in pencil soon. We'll see.
Ashley Giordano: I was gonna ask you also about how you started writing and pub getting books published. Is that something that you had done as a kid or did you just start taking notes while you were traveling and it kind of came along? Or how did that begin?
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah, I mean, I did write for a few newspapers and things like that before I went on this trip in 2003. And whenever [00:31:00] I travel, I keep a pretty good journal. So I'm, I'm always kind of writing, but it's not really for consumption. But what I was doing on this trip to Central America was I was writing emails back and forth to my family and friends, and I was putting quite a bit of effort into them. So some of them were quite long and some of them were funny. And then when I got back people. Oh, those are funny emails. You should write a book. And then they just left. Right. That they thought that that was a very sage advice that they gave me. Yeah. So I started to think that I could do it quite easily if I just compiled the emails in my journal, but then I realized how much actual hard work and revision is required to make a proper book. So that's how that book came about was I compiled everything and then I rewrote it about, I don't know, I don't wanna exaggerate, but I'll bet you I rewrote it 10 times. Finally hired an editor. In the end I ended up self-publishing motorcycle therapy. Off the success of that book, I was able to find a publisher for through Dust and Darkness.
Ashley Giordano: That's Rocky Mountain Books, right?
Jeremy Kroeker: Rocky Mountain Books. [00:32:00] Yeah.
Ashley Giordano: They're local.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah, right. They're, well, yeah. They used to be based in Calgary and now they're based in Victoria. But it's a great little publishing house. And Don Gorman is over there running this show right now. I believe he's still there. Haven't, communicated him with him for a while because I haven't been writing, but. Yeah. And then, I went back to publishing my own, anthologies when I did motorcycle messengers and motorcycle messengers too.
Ashley Giordano: And those are a collection of various stories from other motorcycle adventures.
Jeremy Kroeker: It's all just motorcycle travel, stories, short stories, and I've got a few stories in there as well. So I guess I've always been writing, but I only really started taking it seriously when I set out to write motorcycle.
Ashley Giordano: Okay. And then what did you learn from motorcycle therapy that you did differently for the next?
Jeremy Kroeker: I learned almost nothing. I, I honestly thought, okay, now I've written a book, the next book will be easier and I know how to do this. As it turns out, every stage of the writing and publishing process is the most [00:33:00] difficult stage. Like the starting is the hardest thing. And the continuing, then that becomes the hardest thing and on and on and on, until finally you're exhausted and, you hand it off to a publisher or to an editor and, and then selling it becomes the difficult thing. So it's really a labor of love more than anything else. They say of mountaineering that the, the most important tool that a mountaineer has in his toolkit or her toolkit is a short-term memory, because you forget all the suffering. And I would say the same applies to, writing. If you wanna do it well. I did wanna do it. Well, I, I always want to do like every story that I, I tell, I wanna make it the best I can.
Ashley Giordano: Were you taking notes, diary style in the evening? Because obviously you're writing and you're having these experiences, so how are you getting those onto paper So vividly.
Jeremy Kroeker: If you see my journals, like if you look at my, and sometimes I'm typing them on my computer and sometimes I'm scribbling them in a notebook. But if you read them, Almost unreadable. Like they're just things that I jot down to trigger my [00:34:00] memory when I go back to them later. If I have time, then I'll sit down and I'll write a proper, you know, journal entry. And then sometimes I'll get like way behind and I'll have to catch up 10 days. And then it will just be bullet points, lots of swearing and lots of spelling mistakes and scribbles. And then I try to be better going forward.
Elle West: And he'll jot down stuff along the way, like a thought in his head that he wants to preserve. And save for later. So I think more capturing the feeling. And then constantly coming back to me asking where were we and what date was that? And what country was that? And so I keep the data.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. I've also got like a little notebook like you say, and sometimes I'll just jot down a phrase or a funny sign or something like that. And it's really just about triggering the memory or a direct quote. Elle has some strange quotes that I've written down.
Ashley Giordano: How did it differ between self-publishing and working with a publisher? Because I know that a lot of overlanders have gone both routes or either one. Some, some are only publishing themselves or some are only [00:35:00] with publishers. So what was that difference like?
Jeremy Kroeker: Like self-publishing is. I think very difficult if you want to do it well. So it's just a lot more, dedication, I guess. And you have to really, yeah, it's just, it's determination. You've gotta really see it through and if you ever decide that you are done with it, the problem with self-publishing is you can just publish it and maybe it's not good enough yet. So that's why I hired an editor for motorcycle therapy and they helped me rewrite the whole thing. They helped me find a story. Like I had a bunch of things that happened. They helped me find the thread. They didn't write it for me. But they gave me some guidance. They said, I like this. I'd like to see more of this. You can ditch this section. And then so I rewrote it again. And that would be my advice to anybody who wants to self-publish, is spend the money and hire an editor. Not your friend, not your English teacher, not somebody that you know, but like a professional who will give you good and, and sometimes difficult advice. And then with a publisher, Rocky Mountain Books was [00:36:00] very good to me, and I'm grateful for everything they did. They were the ones who after I, I also hired a publisher and I had it basically ready to go to self-publish, and then I handed it off to them and they liked what they saw and then they helped me shape it even more. But then I could relax a little bit too, because once they had the manuscript, then I knew that the copy editing was gonna be done. I knew the layout was gonna be done, I knew the artwork was gonna be done. Just took a lot off of my plate. And they also did a great job with distribution, which as a self-published author, distribution is often the problem. So you can find copies of through Dustin Darkness, in bookstores all over Canada. If you can't find it there, you can ask them to get it in and they can't. And I think motorcycle therapy as well. But if you self-publish, then it becomes more difficult to get books into the hands of readers.
Ashley Giordano: Right? Yeah. They have a machine that is a publicity machine with connections and email lists and things like that that you don't necessarily [00:37:00] always have access to as a self-publisher. So that makes sense.
Jeremy Kroeker: And they say the book stops selling when the author does. So I think that's also part of the reason that I started the YouTube channel, to be honest, was just be like, check out my books. Yeah. Yeah. So, and they're actually still doing well, so I'm happy it, it's, it's difficult. Not that I'm complaining because it's all something that I've chosen, but don't expect, you know, I never did expect and I wouldn't expect going forward to make it any money doing this. Ashley Giordano: Yeah. Let's talk about budget a little bit. That's always the question that everybody asks. I'm sure you have experienced this where people are really curious about, you know, how can you just leave your home or your job or whatever for long periods of time. And travel. And motorcycle travel is a really great way to travel in a budget from what I've seen. And I haven't done it myself.
Elle West: Yet, I think it really depends how you travel. It can be done quite cheaply and it can be done quite extensively too. And I think with two of us on motorcycles, [00:38:00] two different bikes, two different gas tanks to fill, I'm not sure that it is cheaper. I think if we had been in a small four-wheel vehicle, I think it would've been cheaper on gas every time you cross a border and pay for all the temporary vehicle import permits every time, and insurance and registration and things like that.
Jeremy Kroeker: But would've been too hard in our relationship.
Elle West: Yeah, we would've come back together probably. But when I first went to Panama and back, I was gone for six months and that was my plan was to avoid a Canadian winter. So I left when the snow came and I didn't come back till the snow melted. So six months I budget and that was, more than a decade ago now. So prices have increased somewhat, but I budgeted $10,000. I don't think I could live in Canada for six months. For $10,000. So it depends what you're doing and how you're living. If you're in your tent a lot, if you're staying in local places or if you're staying in five star hotels and where you're eating. I stayed in Nicaragua at a homestay for a month, took some Spanish lessons, did some [00:39:00] volunteering. I lived for a whole month on 200 Canadian dollars cuz I had room and board included with my stay when I did volunteering. So if you want to do it cheap, it's possible. Can nowadays I think I would have a higher budget. Yeah.
Jeremy Kroeker: Can I say what the whole budget was for a whole year?
Elle West:Sure. Yeah.
Jeremy Kroeker: I think our whole budget for an entire, well it was 13 months. Was $30,000 each.
Elle West: Each Canadian dollars.
Jeremy Kroeker: Canadian dollars. Yeah. And that's, but that included getting stuck in Uruguay for five months. And then having to ship our motorcycles home, which we weren't budgeting for, which.
Elle West: Which we then went over. But that includes like new tires, new brakes, couple oil changes, maybe chain and sprockets along the way.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. No, that sounds like a lot of money and it is, but again, like living in Canada for an entire year I don't think, I mean, it'd be tough to do that for $30,000. Right now people screaming at the podcast saying, I can do it for cheaper!
Ashley Giordano: Of course you can.
Jeremy Kroeker: Definitely you can. Ed March, he's a good. A friend of mine, he can travel [00:40:00] around the world on something like $10 a day or less.
Elle West: Probably if anyone could Ed merch could.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. I can't, I mean, I, maybe I could. I don't think I could though.
Elle West: And age I think is a factor too. The older I get, the less I want to be uncomfortable. And sleeping in the dirt on a uncomfortable mattress every night.
Jeremy Kroeker: I'm usually the one pushing for like a hostel or a hotel. But I have noticed that as we're both aging, Elle much more gracefully than me, that it's easier to push her into a hostel. We could sleep in the ditch. But wouldn't you rather have a.
Elle West: A hot shower in a real bed and queen sheets?
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. Yep. We are also experiencing that too. It's so nice to have that hot shower and those comforts in life. Yeah. You know?
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, we just did, a short three week kind of adventure in, February.
Elle West: Yep. In Ecuador.
Jeremy Kroeker: We, we flew to Ecuador and we rented a motorcycle and then our friend loaned us a motorcycle. So we had two bikes and we always stayed. We didn't have our camping gear, so we.
Elle West: We didn't [00:41:00] have tents and everything with us.
Jeremy Kroeker: We always stayed in places by our standards were even a bit upscale.
Elle West: A couple of times. Yep, yep.
Jeremy Kroeker: It was so nice. Just so much nicer.
Elle West: Yeah. And that's the other side of it, like, we loved taking a year off and I'd love to go again for a year. I'd love to go for multiple years. But financially I have to come back and work. Yeah. And so this is what we're stuck with now is three weeks vacation is what we're allowed at our jobs. Jeremy gets four weeks. And so we took three weeks. We flew to Ecuador. We had some people we met there, so we knew we had a place to stay and a bike to borrow. But it still cost quite a bit to fly, to rent a second bike, to stay in places where we didn't have tents. And now hopefully we're saving a little bit more every year in order to go again for a year, someday sometime. But we're paying for that. We have roommates. We don't go out very often. We're being quite frugal.
Jeremy Kroeker: That's right. And my YouTube channel is now beginning to pay for the trips. I'm, yeah.
Elle West: It's so, it's such a great income.
Jeremy Kroeker: Earn, I'm making 33 cents a day.
Ashley Giordano: Perfect. [00:42:00]
Jeremy Kroeker: Every day.
Ashley Giordano: Every bit counts.
Jeremy Kroeker: Every day 33 cents just rolls in. I'm curious about your budget, like you're about to continue this big trip that you're on. And yeah. Since we've broached the subject, how are you doing it?
Ashley Giordano: So it's gonna be very interesting to see what the difference is like, because we did our first Pan American trip in our 1990 Toyota pickup back there. That was. How much was that?
(ASHLEY’S HUSBAND?) 75 bucks a day for Mexico, central and South America over 18 months.
Elle West: Inclusive for both of you?
Jeremy Kroeker: Both of you?
Elle West: That's pretty good.
Jeremy Kroeker: That's great.
(ASHLEY’S HUSBAND?) Not, including shipping home or shipping across the different.
Ashley Giordano: Right. So it'd be more obviously. Yeah. But I thought we, that was a pretty good, pretty good job during that time, doing something similar in North America would've been around $150 a day easily. Yeah. Yeah. And even today, things are more expensive. Now we have, so we're taking our 2008 tundra and a camper to Europe. So we're both like, oh my gosh, this should be interesting. With budget. And, you know, Europe's supposed to be expensive. I don't know how much more expensive it is [00:43:00] than Canada or the US, because I would say the US portion hasn't, wasn't inexpensive.
Jeremy Kroeker: It's fuel in Europe.
Elle West: It's totally, yeah.
Ashley Giordano: So we'll try to move really, really slow. Don't stay in places a long time.
Jeremy Kroeker: Go to Scandinavia, or if you do go to Scandinavia, just realize you're gonna blow your budget. Yeah, totally.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. Yep. There's that. And then, we are really, really, really fortunate that we have transitioned our work to things that we can do on the road now.
Elle West: If you can make money while you're traveling Yeah, that makes a big difference.
Ashley Giordano: My editorial duties and writing articles. And Richard's filming. So all those things we can do. So it should be, it's different than the last trip. Last trip we were just out. Yeah. We quit everything. And there's a different, mindset in that for sure. You're just free. You're doing the thing.
Jeremy Kroeker: That's the way to do it.
Elle West: But you're free until that end how the money runs out. And then that's a sad [00:44:00] feeling that post trip, I'm gonna call it post Trip depression. That’s a real thing
Ashley Giordano: Tell me more because I, I have experienced it also. And a lot of people I've talked to have had a hard time with it. So let Yeah. Share your experience if you want.
Jeremy Kroeker: I would say that I've experienced it often and it always catches me off guard. Like, I think that I, oh, I didn't have it this time and then like 18 months after I'm home it hits or I never see it coming.
Elle West: I think that was part of what I was gonna say is we talked about it cuz we'd both been familiar with it. We've both experienced it before and so this time we said, oh yeah, that's a thing. But, but we're aware of it. We're, we're familiar with it. So it won't be an issue. It still happens. Being aware of it doesn't stop it from happening. It still comes. And for me, winter, like in Canada, when we have the darker nights and the less hours of daylight and the cold temperatures where I just don't even go outside sometimes for a whole day. It's, it can be pretty depressing.
Ashley Giordano: It's brutal [00:45:00] here. And also the mountains are some of my favorite in the world. Like Canmore is one of my favorite places on the planet that I've been to, but having those really steep mountains. Yeah. And you only get.
Elle West: That means you lose sunlight.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. You only get a, sometimes a shockingly low amount of sunlight per day in.
Jeremy Kroeker: One of the worst places in the world, I think is just up the road here in field. So field is beautiful. It's just across the BC border, but the mountains are so high. And the canyon is so narrow that in the wintertime, I don't even know if he, I don't even know if the sun crests the hill.
Ashley Giordano: So how did you work through that time period?
Elle West: I remember watching some YouTubers who were traveling as I was getting ready for my first, 2013 trip. Followed them and stayed in touch with them and met up with them at the same place where I first met Jeremy and yelled at 'em. When I finished my trip and came back, I was like, Ugh, this feels awful. I don't wanna go back to work. I don't wanna pack my motorcycle away for the winter. This is a horrible feeling. And she wrote to me and she said, now [00:46:00] you know what you're working for. And I hung onto that. That was good. I was like, yeah. So every day that I'm going to work and thinking, I don't wanna go to work today. Oh yeah. But if I save my money, this is what's going to get me back to where I wanna be. And one of the things that we did after this trip was, Jeremy just offhand mentioned, where are we gonna go and when can we take time to go for a year? Again, we need to redo South America cuz we didn't get to finish it. We only got halfway. We need to do that again. But when can we do it and how can we do it? And how much money do you think? And we just kind of tossed a number in the air and said, what if we had $50,000? How long do you think it would take us to save that much? What if we could do that by 2026? And so I grabbed a felt marker and I wrote it 2026, $50,000. And that's still on the whiteboard today. So you can look at that every once in a while when you're like, I don't wanna go to work today. Oh yeah, that's what I'm working for. Jeremy Kroeker: I'm pretty sure I'm gonna get fired before that. So maybe we can go even sooner and, and I think I kind of handle winter a little bit better than Elle. Even though I'm outside all the time. And [00:47:00] sometimes it's minus 30. I still ride my bike to work every day. Well it's like seven minutes away.
Elle West: Bicycle.
Jeremy Kroeker: So bicycle. Yeah. Bicycle. Yeah. So seven minutes and minus 30 is still bad, but it's not.
Ashley Giordano: On an ice sheet.
Jeremy Kroeker: Sometimes. Yeah. I've got studded tires like this. Yeah. But I think me having a somewhat active job is helpful. And then when I come home and it's like it's dark when I go to work and it's dark when I come home. But having these videos to make was helpful, I think. Just some creative project that I like to do.
Elle West: I watch them all the time. Jeremy comes home and he finds me watching YouTube, but he is like, oh, what are you watching? Oh, you're watching us? And I'm like, yeah, yeah. Can you believe we were there? Like Ecuador? Was just a month ago. And it feels like, did that really happen? Or was that just a dream, or were we talking about that? Or did we really do that? So I love that we've got these tangible videos that I can look back on and go, yeah. That happened Ashley Giordano: So great. Because you forget so much, so quickly. Yeah. I wanted to ask you about Through Dust and [00:48:00] Darkness, because there was a very specific reason why you went on this trip to this specific area of the world.
Jeremy Kroeker: So I was raised in a very, closed off kind of insular. Conservative Christian place. So I was, I say in the book that I was given all of the answers before I had any questions.
It kind of started, didn't really fit with me, that worldview after I left home and, started poking around the world. And my thought was that I wanted to go to, an entirely different worldview and examine religion from a different perspective. So I went to Iran, which was, at the time I think George W. Bush was making noise about, you know, their nuclear program. And, and it looked like war was not, an impossibility. And I wanted to go see this country because I'd heard so many. Beautiful, wonderful glowing reports about it, but I also wanted to look at religion from a totally different vantage point. So that's what I did. You know, it sounds like I'm talking about religion quite a bit, [00:49:00] but I still don't consider it a religious book. It's at heart a motorcycle journey, and for me it was, kind of a journey of discovery. It was helpful. You know, ultimately now at this, stage in my life, religion, doesn't really hold much of a place for me anymore. I've kind of, I think, moved past it, but it was helpful for me to go and just kind of have my foundation kind of shaken a little bit. It's easy to look at another culture or another religion or, or someone with different religious beliefs and to see it with all of its blemishes and its flaws, and maybe even look at a certain, set of ideas and, and think that they're ridiculous. But it's hard to look at your own sets of ideas and, and be critical and, and really examine them. Openly. So that's what that trip did for me.
Ashley Giordano: That's pretty powerful.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah, it was a difficult journey. Not only the motorcycle getting it there and getting through all these countries through Syria and, and Iran. I didn't actually get my motorcycle into Iran. Spoiler alert, but, I did travel there. [00:50:00] Yeah, I, I would say it was a trip that changed my life, I would say in a positive way. My mom would say it in a negative way. She's still, she's still praying for my soul probably right now. She's listening to this podcast.
Ashley Giordano: Thanks, mom. Shout out.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. But, again, I, I don't like to think of it as a religious book. It was just me kind of examining the presuppositions that I had and my background and my upbringing and coming away, I think with a broader view of the world. It's all thanks to motorcycle. And the Klr six 50.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah, I would say I would agree.
Jeremy Kroeker: Oh, good.
Ashley Giordano: I would agree for sure. Good. Yeah. It was really interesting.
Jeremy Kroeker: Oh, thank you.
Ashley Giordano: To follow with you on the journey and see what you were thinking and how it was changing and what you were observing and the experiences that you had and meeting different people and, oh yeah. It was really interesting.
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, actually, I think that's partly why I haven't written another book was because Through Dust and Darkness, really took a lot out of me. My opinions and my [00:51:00] beliefs about the world and myself, and where I saw myself in the world, they were shifting as I was writing the book. So there was, a few times I actually, I actually stopped writing and I said, that's it. It's not a book. It's a series of short stories. I'm gonna sell some of them to magazines, which I did and no book. And then I went back to the Middle East, which is not in the book. It was after, you know, the Civil War was kicking off in Syria. I went to Syria and I was, you know, doing some work for the Toronto Star. Kind of a long story, but I got arrested and then kicked outta the country and then ended up back in Canada. And then that's when I was kind of depleted emotionally. I picked up the book again and. After sending it to my friend, Mark Richardson, who's a dear friend of mine and a, a good writer and editor, he went through it, basically said, you can finish this in six months, but you have to commit to it. And I did, and it was the hardest thing I've ever done.
Ashley Giordano: Was it the kind of vulnerability and the [00:52:00] difficulty of going through those changes that was really hard plus the writing that was hard? Or was it just everything together?
Jeremy Kroeker: It was everything together. Like I laid myself bare in this book. There's a few passages that I don't think that I could have been more vulnerable. And so that was difficult to put down because I had to first be honest with myself and then I had to decide that I was going to let other people see that side of me, and that was no easy feat. You know, again, I don't want to ruin the ending, but, it's not a pro or, or it's like, it's not a, it's not a book that rails against religion or faith. It's not a book that embraces it either. It's just me going through the journey. I think if I wrote that book now, it would have a, a much different conclusion. I think I would be more, decisive in how I finished the book. This book leaves a little bit of mystery at the end, I would say. And I did have, an encounter, with something bigger tha me. That was unseen and that [00:53:00] happened, in Iran. And that again, is open to interpretation as to what that was. If that was God speaking to me, or if it was just my own anxiety, the reader can make up their own mind. I, I know what I think happened, but it was a difficult book to write. Elle didn't like it as much as she liked my first one, which was just me talking about, rice and eggs in Central America.
Elle West: The first one is funnier.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. The first book is funnier. It's quicker. It's an easier read. And then this, Through Dust and Darkness. I do think it's a better book. It's got more substance and it was difficult to write. Some people read the back cover, I think, and they're, they're turned, they might be a little hesitant to pick it up because it doesn't mention religion. But as I say in the book, you can't, you know, you can't, go to Iran and, and write about it, you know, if you try to write about it without mentioning God or religion, it's like trying to sail around the world without writing about the ocean. Religion and, religious belief is everywhere, in the Middle East.
Ashley Giordano: It's, yeah. And I haven't been to [00:54:00] Iran, but from what I know of the area, it's infused into daily life.
Jeremy Kroeker: Even the language, you can't speak Arabic without, probably somebody's gonna be listening to this and say that this is incorrect, but I believe it's difficult to speak Arabic without using religious terminology. And it's, it's very influential religion in the Middle East. Ashley Giordano: Would you go back to Iran?
Jeremy Kroeker: In a heartbeat. Love it.
Ashley Giordano: Would you go?
Elle West: I would go, sure. Yeah.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah If we can get in.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. Well, when I went it was, it was actually more difficult for Canadians to get in than it was for Americans. And I actually met a Canadian in Iran that had a stamp on her passport from Israel. Everybody says that's impossible. But I saw it with my own eyes. Yeah. She apparently, I don't think she was, anyway, she flirted with a border guard. I don't think she did anything inappropriate beyond that. Somehow she got in.
Ashley Giordano: Wow. I was gonna ask you about, you mentioned earlier that [00:55:00] there's a good community of female motorcyclists. So have you seen that change? Is it growing or is it, tell me more about that.
Elle West: Generally, I do think it's growing. I teach in Calgary on, in summertime, of course, on the weekends. I teach motorcycle school for brand new riders. We, I learn a little bit of statistics through that. And there's talk about generally in, probably this is a North American statistic, about 18% on getting close to 20% of riders are women. I think that number would be higher if we had bikes and gear that was more comfortable and more purpose-built for women. Some people worry, when I go on rants like this, I'm not trying to be an angry feminist. I think that if I owned a company that built motorcycles, and I knew that 90 or 80% of the people buying them were gonna be men, I would target it to fit their bodies. The problem is not just seat height. We've looked at grip strength and all kinds of differences in women's bodies. So having some adjustments to those bikes [00:56:00] is I think, making it better. And there's a few, there's a few that are not just girls' bikes, but have some adjustability to them, like levers that you can adjust. And, seat height is getting a little bit more customized on some bikes now, which makes a difference. And you can walk into a store and not just find pink gear that is for women. So that's getting better. And I think that if you feel like you belong and you don't have to walk into a store and feel like, oh, if nothing in here fits me, Maybe I'm not meant to be here. If you don't keep getting that feeling every time you go to a class or a motorcycle shop or a gear store, then hopefully more women will get into it as well. I think I was just stubborn. I just wore men's gear and it didn't stop me from riding a bike and I just picked a smaller bike to begin with. But at, the Overland event in Oxford. Am I saying it right? Yeah. There were so many women there, so many who had been doing this way longer than I ever was. Way [00:57:00] longer since before I was born. I mean, look at women like Elbe Beard who went around the world on her motorbike and. She tried to get sponsors and she tried to write articles and there just wasn't people willing to publish it and take it and support her. Now there are, now people are like, you did what? You did that when? Holy cow. That's amazing. Why isn't there a book written about it? Why isn't there a website dedicated to that? Why isn't there a YouTube channel? Well, because people at that time weren't interested in what women were doing. There's the, the two sisters, or the mom and daughter couple who rode across, the United States.
Ashley Giordano: The Van Buren.
Elle West: Yeah, the Van Buren sisters. Like this is back when there weren't roads, there were motorcycles with headlights that were actual flames. You had to stop and light it. When it got dark out.
Jeremy Kroeker: Carbines. Yeah.
Elle West: And they wrote, and what happened? Did they get applauded? Did they get supported? Did they get offered sponsorship? They got arrested for wearing men's clothing. Come on. There's a lot less resistance nowadays, [00:58:00] which is great. So I get to see some of these women like. In Oxford, there was a lot of women, women's International Motorcycling Association members Who have fabulous experience and stories to tell that are just coming out now.
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, here you got a shout out Lois Price and Tiffany Coates. And, Antonio Balling Brook Kent. And, I'm forgetting a bunch of them. But there are books written by, women riders and they have done adventures like Tiffany Coats. I wouldn't wanna ride with her. She would lead me, like Tiffany I love you. But yeah, she would lead me in the mud.
Elle West: We did ride with her, but we followed on pavements. And gentle, nice. Easy days riding. I wouldn't keep up with her off-road.
Ashley Giordano: There's a story about two women that, crossed the Sahara in a motorcycle and a sidecar. I can't remember the, the year. I'll have to send it to you guys. It was probably one of the most intense travel logs I've ever read. Getting stuck pushing that. A motorcycle and a sidecar through [00:59:00] the sand. It was incredible. Incredible. So, lots of cool stories out there. I have a special affinity and interest in women's historical overland trips. So I can totally identify with that.
Jeremy Kroeker: Motorcycle messengers too, actually has a lot of, female writers in there. So that's a good place to kind of sample. Who's out there for writing check.
Ashley Giordano: Perfect. So there are a couple questions that we ask during every podcast, and I'm stealing Scott Brady's question, which is, what is your favorite book and why?
Jeremy Kroeker: Favorite book?
Ashley Giordano: Favorite book.
Elle West: Oh, I know what you're gonna say.
Jeremy Kroeker: No, you don't. Well, I don't, I don't know what I'm gonna say. You go ahead. Elle West: You're gonna say, Ted Simon Jupiter Travels travel book.
Ashley Giordano: Doesn't have to be a travel.
Jeremy Kroeker: Doesn't have to be a travel book? Okay. Okay. So I will say yes. Ted Simon, thank you for writing Jupiter's Travels. With all the respect, Mr. Simon, that's not my all, all time favorite book. I would say that, oh, maybe Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or, or something by Hemingway, probably at Farewell to Arms. I'm gonna go with a [01:00:00] farewell to arms. I'm gonna throw a curve ball. It's got nothing to do with motorcycles. Yeah. He Hemingway inspired me, in many ways to improve my writing.
Ashley Giordano: He has a very interesting style cuz it's kind of, it seems simple. But it's really effective. And that one is about his time in Spain, is that right?
Jeremy Kroeker: That's right.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. What is it about that book that you really liked?
Jeremy Kroeker: Well, I think that was the first Hemingway book that I ever read. So I think it really impacted me more than, his other works. It was just what he could do with very simple sentences and a very simple terminology. And I also love, Tom Robbins as a writer, and he is the polar opposite of Hemingway. He is very, he uses giant words. I've got a sit there with the dictionary by my side and like look up every, you know, every other word. But yeah, I'm gonna go with the farewell to arms. And I know that as soon as this podcast is over, I'm gonna go, oh, I should have said this.
Elle West: I'm thinking as you are talking, I'm like, I can't pull up one. I can't pull up one. I think it's really hard to pick one.
Ashley Giordano: It is. It's like your favorite movie. Favorite movie. [01:01:00] Air quotes.
Elle West: I think for me though, one of the definitely top ones, I'm gonna say anything by Louis Price.
Jeremy Kroeker: Motorcycle therapy? Oh, I was gonna say, this is my chance to earn some points. Right. And name one of your books. Definitely motorcycle therapy. For sure. I have reread. And I don't do that very often with a lot of books, but motorcycle travel, I think Louis Price has to be up there in the top. She's got a great writing style and it keeps me engaged, not just because of it being a motorcycle travel book, but her writing style in general.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. All the history that's woven through. And her storytelling ability and yeah. It's great. I can't wait to have her on the podcast again. Yeah. Well, where can people find YouTube on the interwebs?
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. So online I would say, if you wanna see our videos, just go to YouTube and look up Jeremy Kroerker. It's k r o e k e r. So that's partly why I started that YouTube channel was just to teach people how to pronounce my last name. It's, it's difficult to spell. It's Jeremy [01:02:00] Kroeker.
Elle West: It's Jeremy's channel, but there's lots of me on there. So he loves to keep the camera on me even when I don't always know.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. I would say that my online, presence is a bit broader. Cuz I've been working at promoting books and stuff like that. But, I'll bet you if you'd search Elle West on YouTube, which is easier to spell.
Elle West: It would take you to Jeremy's channel.
Ashley Giordano: All right. You also have a website and do you have any social media handles that you want to share? Where people can find you.
Jeremy Kroeker: It's all Jeremy Kroeker based, so jeremykroeker.com. My Twitter handle is Jeremy underscore Kroeker. I think that's my Instagram as well, Jeremy underscore Kroeker.
Ashley Giordano: I'm sensing a theme.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah, so it's, I'm, it's very, I'm very, also, if you search motorcycle therapy, a lot of those things pop up as well.
Ashley Giordano: Yeah. Well, thank you guys so much for taking the time to chat with me. I feel like we could chat forever talking about this stuff, and. It's been really wonderful to listen and learn more about all of your adventures and I'm really looking forward to seeing where the next trip takes [01:03:00] both of you.
Jeremy Kroeker: Thank you.
Ashley Giordano: This should be really exciting.
Jeremy Kroeker: I want to answer one of Richard's questions cuz it was great. And I didn't get a chance to tee it off. Yeah. If anyone's looking for the books, Richard, thanks for asking. The best place to start is go to your local independent bookstore and they can get it in if you ask for them by name. And if they can't, then you can shop online, but support your local independent bookstore.
Ashley Giordano: Super important.
Jeremy Kroeker: Yeah. We've got a great one here in Canmore called Cafe Books.
Ashley Giordano: Oh, it's excellent. I really like it. Yeah. Love that place. Well, thank you guys again and thank you so much to the Overland Journal podcast listeners for taking the time to tune in today and we will catch you next time.