Justin Kuhns: Riding life’s highway all the way to Alaska
Justin Kuhns’ first bike, which he bought almost seven years ago. It doesn’t run right now, but it’s too sentimental to be sold. He also owns a red Ducati and the one he’s riding to Fairbanks, Alaska, a BMW RG1150GS.
Justin Kuhns bolted an old gun box to the back of his bike, which will hold laundry detergent and other essentials for the road. He also added gas cans to the top just in case he runs out in the middle of nowhere.
Al, Kuhns’ dog, gets some attention before Kuhns takes his trip. Al grew up having several motorcyles surrounding his kennel in the garage.
The bike’s previous owner, Joe Payne, fastened Reggie next to the gas guage. He told Kuhns it’s someone to talk to when riding long distances. Kuhns is going to keep Reggie, who lights up, along for the ride.
If nothing else, Justin Kuhns will have underwear.
At 28, Kuhns doesn't have a job ¬– he quit as a computer specialist at Best Buy a few weeks ago. But he has a motorcycle and a dream to ride across country and then to Alaska. Kuhns says he hopes to find "the sheer goodness in people" along the way.
He also has a fiancee, Jennifer Boatwright, and she's promised to send him underwear if he needs it.
If you have a goal, Kuhns says, "figure out a way to do it and find out what's within your means" to just do it.
Kuhns, who has been riding bikes since he was 15, says he is doing something he's planned to do for years. He sold one of his motorcycles, made profitable stock decisions and saved money from his job to support himself along the 5,000 miles and two months he expects to be on the road to Alaska.
While he's eager to start, he worries he'll be far away if something happened to a loved one here.
"I guess there really is no way to really overcome that, you know. It's just something that's always going to be there," he says.
Boatwright says watching this journey unfold for Kuhns has been exciting. She will meet him in Fairbanks, Alaska, where they will stay with some friends for several days and then ride back to Columbia together.
In the meantime, Boatwright will track his progress while maintaining her busy life as a pharmaceutical sales representative, social media coordinator for Columbia Style Week and model.
"I cannot wait to see and hear about the adventures he has on his journey," she said.
The Carolina Reporter talked to Kuhns about his trip and his advice for others who want to fulfill a big dream. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
So why go across the country solo on a bike?
It's always something I've wanted to do. I'm sure you'll hear a lot of guys who ride motorcycles say that, but I didn't want to be the guy that would just talk about it. I wanted to be the guy to actually do it. I've been watching a bunch of videos of other guys who have done it, and there was a big thing with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman who did it from London to New York – actually, they call it "Long Way Round" – on similar bikes that I'm doing this smaller trip on; small by no means, but small compared to what they did.
What are you hoping to gain or learn from this trip?
That if I set my mind to do something, that I'm actually going to do it. I don't want to be that person that's always been kind of what if. I just want to do it and show other people that they can do it as well. … You know, just to do it. Just to really do it before I turn 30.
And why 30? Why is that the pivotal age?
Well, it's because I had, it's not into, not even close to middle age. I know that whenever I started getting older that I'm going to be more set in where I'm at in my life. … I've heard guys that have done it whenever they're 60 and thought it was terrible because their backs couldn't take it. You know, their families were essentially pissed off that they were going. Just kind of stuff like that.
So what do the most important people in your life think about you doing this?
Well, my fiancee, Jennifer, is really supportive about it. … Granted, it's only for two months, so it's not a super long time, but still, she's been really supportive about it, saying she's going to send me underwear if I need some and if I need any money or anything along the way, that she'll help me out. I don't foresee that happening, but you know, just in case, it's nice to have that support.
How do you plan to document your trip? …
It's going to be more of a photo trip, just out of sheer convenience, I guess. … I'm going to have a blog, or actually I have a blog already set up. … But it's just wherethehellisjustin.tumblr.com. … I have this spot GPS that I found a few years ago that they had made that essentially tracks your progress through Google maps and can post it onto websites or for just a website for anybody to look at and see where you're at. …
What is your advice to others who want to do something big like this?
Just do it. Don't, you know, not to coin Nike phrases or anything like that, but just kind of figure out a way to do it, and find out what's within your means. And do it. … You'd be surprised all the people that just kind of help you along the way, seeing that you're a solo traveler, just out of the goodness of their heart. And that's another thing I kinda hope to see along the way is just that sheer goodness in people. Everybody thinks everybody's so cynical, that they don't want to help anybody out if they see anybody that has a problem or if they see somebody who's just sitting there alone by themselves. Most of the time, from what I've seen, especially being on a motorcycle, everybody talks to you. They wanna talk to you about your bike; they wanna talk to you about what you're doing. They just wanna know about you, and I wanna know about them, too, and that's what's great about it. So, it's this great back and forth. I guess my real advice is to just get to know people on the way. Save up a little bit of money, of course. And if not, stop some place, work some place.