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Common Tread

The art of doing: One man's journey across the globe

Jan 12, 2017

“I am learning, as I make my way through my first continent, that it is remarkably easy to do things, and much more frightening to contemplate them.” 

This quote adorns the home page of the website Keen to Been, documenting one man’s solo journey through South and Central America. Considering the parallels between Erron Burns and the author of Jupiter’s Travels (arguably the most famous motorcycle travelogue ever written), it seems appropriate that Burns’ website starts off with a Ted Simon quote.  

Much like Simon, Burns began his journey in England, and while he currently calls London home, he originally hails from Australia. Simon was a transplant from Germany. Both men opted for a Triumph motorcycle. Neither Burns nor Simon had any real experience with long-haul motorcycle travel prior to packing up and setting out. And both men decided to document their travels.

Erron Burns Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Starting the journey. Photo by Erron Burns.

Technology has changed a lot since Ted Simon embarked on his grand adventure in 1973. His story wasn’t published until 1979. Burns, on the other hand, can post dispatches from his web site as the trip unfolds.

I was first introduced to Erron back in October via an old high school buddy, Steve Melervey. Steve, an avid traveler, met Erron on one of his many adventures around the globe. Upon learning of his plans to take a Triumph Tiger 800 XC halfway around the world, he felt we should be introduced.

Erron Burns Scuba Diving
My buddy Steve (far right) met Erron (middle) on a scuba diving trip off the coast of Australia. Photo by Erron Burns.

“We met on a scuba diving trip to Osprey Reef, which is part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef,” Steve told me over the phone, while sitting in a Costa Rican airport. “Erron is a seasoned scuba diver with all of these cool gadgets, including this crazy underwater camera. He began snapping everyone’s photo and we’ve been friends since.”

Steve put us in touch via Facebook and we quickly found common ground discussing possible gear selections, luggage options, and a mutual soft spot for the Triumph Tiger. The bike that Erron found for his trip was a modified 2014 Triumph Tiger 800 XC with a storied past all its own.

“The Tiger got its start as a press bike for 'Adventure Bike TV',” Erron told me. “They used it for a bunch of different rides, including a trip to the Arctic Circle. After two years of service with them, I bought it off of Tom, the show's producer.”

Erron Burns Adventure Bike TV
The Tiger 800 XC fully loaded. Photo by Erron Burns.

Erron immediately began prepping the Tiger for its next journey: South America. The one minor hiccup was the fact that he had never planned a motorcycle road trip before, never mind one that would take him halfway around the world, far from any familiar faces and helping hands.

After much packing and repacking, he managed to whittle down his gear selections to fit in two Metal Mule panniers, two dry bags, and a tank bag. He even figured out a way to use one of the panniers as a center stand when removing the wheels in a pinch. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Chatting with Erron during his planning phase of the trip, I could almost feel the excitement in his words. So many folks have big adventure bikes with all the trimmings and never leave their home state. Here is a guy with no real experience or deep pockets, but with enough dedication and blind ambition to make up the difference.

Erron Burns Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Crossing Argentina. Photo by Erron Burns.

When I approached Erron in late December about writing an article about his trip, he was sitting at the border of Argentina and Chile, waiting for his turn to cross. Having just traversed Argentina, he laughed as he told me that the biggest challenge of the day was shoddy internet service. He let me know it would be New Year’s Eve before he would reach the port city of Valparaiso, Chile, where he would be able to connect to the internet and send me photos while updating his website.

Erron Burns Triumph Tiger 800 XC
With his home rented for the year, camping allows for the ultimate mobility. Photo by Erron Burns.

Three days riding across the Andes with no internet service sounds to me like a pretty damn amazing way to roll in the New Year.

Chatting with Erron, it is clear that his attitude is everything. Much like Simon, he attacks each day with a positive energy and excitement for what lies ahead. He’s got no time to sit around and contemplate what could happen, as he is too busy figuring out what will happen.

Erron Burns Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Meeting friends on the road is all part of the journey. Photo by Erron Burns.

It’s funny how words first written nearly 40 years ago still ring true today. We live in an age of GPS, SPOT locators, and satellite phones. Seeking out adventure is easier and safer than ever before. Yet so many of us find ourselves spending way too much time contemplating and not nearly enough time doing.

Experience is only gained by those who dare to do. Where to go in 2017...