British couple treks to Yukon in custom built bike

Once upon a time, a couple sold their house, quit their day-jobs, and travelled around the world on a beefed-up 1979 Italian motorcycle.

Once upon a time, a couple sold their house, quit their day-jobs, and travelled around the world on a beefed-up 1979 Italian motorcycle.

Meet Kevin and Karen Browne – a former engineer and a librarian from Horsham, a town just southwest of London, England. For 10 years, the couple saved up a pool of money to embark on this unusual journey.

It’s unusual particularly because of their modified bike, which took them five years to build. The couple thought of practically every life-threatening situation and added the necessary accessories to survive their global trip.

The 34-year-old bike looks odd, with a circular rooftop, a solar panel to charge a mini-fridge in front of its handlebars, crash bars to hold metal storage boxes on the bike’s sides, outrigger wheels that unlock during slippery conditions, and a winch that pulls them out of sticky situations.

The News met the intrepid couple during their two-day stay with a local contractor, Denny Day, who invited them into his home for hot meals and a fresh bed when they met in the Robert Service Campground.

What does it feel like to ride this vehicle? “You smell the air. You smell the forest fires, the dead animals, the fresh flowers that come up. The senses are all alive. The wind is in your hair … You’re living the journey rather than just travelling through it,” Karen says.

They’ve also received plenty of media attention, made lots of friends on the road, and have found themselves in some muddy situations with their unique bike. They’ve used the winch to pull themselves out of Mongolia’s mucky passages along rivers, as the country has few paved roads, Kevin says.

The couple started their road trip in May 2010 and has zipped around several countries since. They left the U.K. and got to France by putting their Guzzi Moto bike on a ship to cross the English Channel. From France, they headed east into Germany, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Romania.

They travelled into Asia through Turkey, crossing the Bosphorus River. The couple then visited Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia. Subsequently, they re-entered Russia and drove across the massive country’s Siberian region. They shipped their bike once again from Russia and travelled in a figure-eight through Japan for three months. From Japan, they loaded the half-tonne bike unto another ship and took a flight to New Zealand. They spent six months in New Zealand, survived an earthquake, then shipped the bike to Australia.

They rode around for a year then finally made their way into Canada by loading the motorcycle on another ship from Melbourne to Vancouver.

They’ve been riding the West Coast since the beginning of the summer, making their way into the Yukon in August. They’ve also since visited Alaska.

Although they might have had desk jobs before their trip around the world, the couple said a craving for adrenaline runs in their DNA.

“I was riding ever since I could ride,” said Karen, 45, who learned the hobby from her two motorcyclist parents. “My dad and my granddad rode, so it was in the genes,” echoes Kevin, 42.

But these days, Karen is the navigator. She flags Kevin to stop if ever anything interesting appears in their path.

“We don’t want to go too quickly because we wouldn’t enjoy the moose on the road or someone waving at you, inviting you in (to their place),” Karen says.

They respect speed limits, usually driving around 80 to 100 km/h, she says.

Their love for fast bikes almost literally married the pair four years ago. Friends set them up on a blind date in 1999 because of their shared passion for motorcycles.

Has this trip rekindled the fire? “It was never lost,” Karen said, looking up to Kevin with glimmering eyes.

“But doing a test like this is hard for anybody,” she adds.

“It’s 24/7, you never get away from each other,” Kevin says.

“There’s nowhere to escape. We’ve only got each other to blame,” Karen says, chuckling.

They evaded certain countries to avoid political turmoil, opting instead for safer routes. “Some of our journey initially was going to take us through Iran, Iraq. And then war happened,” Karen says. They rerouted their trip to Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia.

And their next stops might have them derail them again when they go into Central America from the Mexican border.

Last Thursday they headed to Watson Lake. They’ll cross back into B.C. through Fort St. John and then visit Alberta through Jasper and Banff.

From there, they plan on going into the U.S. to see Montana, Idaho and Utah, then cut across the country into California before making their way into Mexico.

The couple said they figure out how to avoid unstable political climates simply by talking to locals. They’ll find out which is the best place to enter after talking to Californians.

“We might go down the Baja Peninsula, gets you around the hairiest part of it. I heard it’s a bit lively right now (in Juarez),” Kevin says.

But the couple’s decade-worth of savings are running thin. Kevin predicts they’ll live off of it for another six months to a year before they have to head back to the U.K.

They said they’re not worried about going back to their home country empty-handed. “We have family,” the two say in unison.

But they don’t have kids. “We couldn’t afford to do this with children,” Karen says, laughing.

They have an extensive following on their blog, www.guzzioverland.co.uk, because they’re leading a not-so-cookie-cutter life, she adds.

“Most people say we’re living the dream for them, and we need to not stop doing it because they can’t afford to do it because they’ve got children or they’ve got ties.”

Contact Krystle Alarcon at

krystlea@yukon-news.com

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