It isn’t every day that you spot a motorcyclist riding along the road with a German shepherd dog on the back of their bike.
So it’s not surprising that the sight of content creator Jess Stone and her beloved dog Moxie cruising along together usually has onlookers doing double takes.
“Every car that rides up beside us, they [the people inside] take out their phones, almost causing accidents because they’re trying to get the shot,” she tells CNN Travel. “It’s hilarious.”
Stone and Moxie, who weighs around 34 kilograms, are currently 10 months into an epic bike trip that will see them travel across around 90 countries throughout Central America, North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
The pair have been on the road since last March, when they set off, along with Stone’s husband Greg, who rides behind them.
“I am always in the front,” explains Stone. “I want to go through the obstacles first.”
Originally from Canada, Stone first learned to ride a motorbike on the side streets of Liberia, where she and Greg were living at the time, over a decade ago and admits that it was far from an easy process.
“Having your partner teach you how to ride is not the best thing,” she adds. “He wasn’t very patient with me.”
Once she finally felt at ease on a motorbike, the couple, who have been married for eight years, went on an eight-month long motorcycle trip together from North to South America. A few years after they returned, they moved to Guatemala, and Moxie came into their lives.
“She picked me 100%,” Stone says, recounting the moment she first laid eyes on the canine while viewing a litter of German shepherd puppies in one of the neighboring towns.
“She was there at my heels just waiting for me to love her.”
While both Stone and her husband were determined to include Moxie in their travels, she explains that she “didn’t want to have a sidecar or a trailer or something that was going to really change the dynamic of riding,” now that she was finally comfortable on a motorcycle.
They quickly began designing what would later become the K9 Moto Cockpit, a motorcycle dog carrier they manufacture in Guatemala, along with a range of outdoor dog gear, through their company Ruffly.
“Everybody always asks how long it takes to teach your dog how to ride,” says Stone. “Honestly, it took Moxie the weekend.
“It took me a lot longer to feel comfortable having that much weight on the back, because I’d never rode with a passenger.”
After deciding that she was ready for another big adventure, this time with Moxie along for the ride, Stone reached out to global nonprofit Girl Up – a girl-centered leadership development initiative – and the GoRUFFLY Around the World adventure was born.
“Obviously I wanted to travel the world,” says Stone, who aims to raise $100,000 for Girl Up’s global empowerment projects. “But I also wanted to show people that you can do it with a big dog.”
Being able to take Moxie on this particular trip has made it that much more special for Stone.
“It’s like you get to experience the adventure twice,” she explains. “You experience it for yourself. And then you experience it from her perspective, because she’s right behind me.
“I see her [Moxie] in my mirror all the time. Her head is right up against my side. Sometimes she even rests her big snout on my shoulder with her chin up there.
“It makes me feel so happy that she’s really experiencing everything. It’s always new sights, sounds and smells that she’s looking at and experiencing.”
Of course, traveling with a dog has its disadvantages. They are largely limited to dog friendly places and rely on wild camping, and occasional Airbnbs, while on the road so that Moxie can roam free.
“You have to be the type of person who enjoys natural places and outdoors,” adds Stone.
“Because they are the places where we can bring her. If you’re looking to be in the city and go to all these fancy restaurants, traveling with a dog does make it a bit more challenging.”
While they’d originally planned to ride from Guatemala up to the Arctic Ocean, and across to Canada, before flying to Spain and heading to Africa, the significant cost increase due to a number of issues, including rising oil prices and supply shortages, forced them to change their route.
Stone points out that Moxie needs to be shipped in a giant sized crate as unaccompanied cargo due to her size.
This meant that the total cost for her alone would have been around $6,500, including vet fees, cargo shipment and international pet exporter fees from Toronto to Spain, if they’d stuck to their original plan.
The price of shipping their motorcycles had also risen significantly by the time they began the trip.
They ultimately chose to travel “tip to tip and top to bottom,” making their way from Guatemala to Mexico, the US, Canada and on to the Arctic Ocean.
From here, they began riding to the top of North America, before turning around and heading back towards South America.
Before setting off, Stone booked in some private off-road training lessons to ensure that she had the skills required to navigate some of the trickier sections of the route.
“Obviously, I’ve ridden off road many times, but I never really felt comfortable,” she says. “And I wanted to feel really good about it because I have my Moxie on the back.”
She admits to being particularly anxious about riding along the remote Dempster Highway, a long gravel road in Canada that leads up to the Arctic Ocean.
“I was concerned that I was going to crash and hurt my bike,” she says. “It’s funny, I never really think about hurting myself. My bike is what I’m most concerned with.”
Thankfully they were able to pass through without incident, but Stone says she’s often plagued by thoughts of something going wrong during the journey.
“My biggest fear is not being able to continue the trip and having something happen with the bike on the off road stretches,” she says. “Luckily, nothing like that happened.”
While Stone stresses that her riding skills are developing all the time, that hasn’t stopped her from doubting herself regularly.
“Do I still worry about the dirt roads that come up? Yes. Do I worry that we’re going to go down and I’m going to break my bike? Yes.
“But I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice those skills. It really makes a difference. It makes the experience that much more positive.”
Although things have gone relatively smoothly so far, Stone has occasionally lost her balance while riding, causing her and Moxie to “plop over.”
Having her husband, who she describes as the “gear mule,” behind her has no doubt been a great source of comfort.
“I carry the shepherd, he carries the camping equipment,” she adds, before explaining that they don’t necessarily ride together continuously and sometimes take different routes.
“Sometimes he wants to try a different road or I want to go a different way and then we meet up with each other after that. But I’m self-sufficient the way I am.”
So far, their biggest hurdle has been having to replace her bike in May. After experiencing various “oil leak issues,” Stone learned that her 2013 BMW G650GS would require a hugely expensive engine rebuild.
She ended up buying a newer second hand model of the bike for roughly the same price as the rebuild.
“That was an unexpected expense,” she says. “But that [new] bike is going to take me the rest of the way.”
Among the many highlights for her so far has been being able to stop off at Girl Up clubs and sharing stories, along with camping at the Arctic Ocean, where they marveled at the sight of moose crossing the road, and also spotted a grizzly bear.
“Moxie shakes with anticipation when she sees these creatures on the side of the road,” she adds. “She’s just so excited. We did some fishing along the way, which was really, really spectacular.”
Currently in Los Angeles, Stone is preparing for the next stage of the trip, which will involve taking a ferry over to Baja, Mexico, and then riding down to Guatemala, and on to Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama.
From Panama, they plan to fly to Colombia, where they’ll ride to the “tip” of Argentina, and then fly over to South Africa.
Once they reach South Africa, they’ll travel up the east coast of Africa to Egypt and then Greece, before “looping around Europe” and riding through Turkey and Central Asia.
The next leg will see them ride from India to Malaysia, where they’ll ship their bikes, and Moxie, to North America and then head back to their first and final destination Guatemala, which Stone describes as her “adopted home.”
Stone estimates that they’ll be on the road for at least another two and a half years. But for the time being, she’s focused on making it to the next stage of the journey, and constantly building on her riding skills.
Her four-legged companion continues to be a source of inspiration, and Stone never gets tired of seeing the way others react to Moxie, joking that every gas station visit is like “a selfie palooza.”
“People just get out of their cars,” she adds. “And the first thing everyone says is, ‘Oh my God, she’s wearing goggles.’”
“It brings a smile to everyone’s face. And that’s what I love. She just makes everybody have a good day.”