Each week we’re taking a look at profound moments within amazing trips taken by interesting people. See what happened this week in travel history and come back every Monday and Friday for more historic moments.
Midwinter Motorcycle Odyssey from Alaska to Argentina with John Binkley
Week of February 1-7
When the haul road was completed so Alaskan Pipeline workers and supplies could travel between Prudhoe Bay and Fairbanks, local resident John Binkley saw it as an opportunity to do something insane – get atop his BMW 750cc and become the first to ride on two wheels from the top of Alaska to the bottom of South America.
Greeted by temperatures as low as 62 below zero right after leaving Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on December 2nd, 1975, John would overcome multiple challenges on his 18,264-mile, 142-day odyssey that wouldn’t end until he reached Ushuaia, Argentina on April, 21, 1976. It was the events that happened during the first week of February, however, that not only altered the course of the trip but had a massive impact on his life.
A close friend rode beside John from Arizona deep into Mexico the two competitive bike racers couldn’t help but open it up in a few places. High on a twisting mountain pass on the first day of February, John lost control of his bike, went airborne and came within a few feet of flying down a deep ravine. While frustrated not being able to ride for a bit, he didn’t realize at the moment what a fortuitous accident it actually was. Instead of being atop the Pan-American Highway zipping through Guatemala three days later, he laid in a hospital bed, in a cast, on his 23rd birthday and learned about a 7.5-magnitute earthquake that devasted the Central American nation and took more than 23,000 lives.
That week, the entire trip, was about overcoming obstacles and reaching a lofty goal – lessons learned young that powered John Binkley through a very successful career as an entrepreneur, politician, businessman and third-generation boat captain.
Explore the early inspiration for steampunk travel and one of America’s most iconic creations.
For more travels in Alaska, read about the author’s adventures with bush pilots, a vaudevillian musical in Skagway and the Russian Bishop’s House.