It’s not every day you see a motorcyclist riding a German Shepherd on the back of his bike along the road.
So it’s no surprise that the sight of content creator Jess Stone and her beloved dog, Moxie, out for a walk together usually does a double take.
“Every car that pulls up next to us, they [the people inside] take out their phones, almost causing accidents as they try to get a shot,” he tells CNN Travel. “That’s fun.”
Stone and Moxie, who weighs around 34 kilograms, are currently 10 months into an epic cycling journey that will see them travel through nearly 90 countries in Central America, North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
The pair have been on the road since last March, when they hit the road with Stone’s husband, Greg, riding behind them.
“I’m always ahead,” Stone explains. “I want to go through the hurdles first.”
Originally from Canada, Stone first learned to ride a motorcycle on the back streets of Liberia, where she and Greg were living at the time, more than a decade ago and admits it was far from an easy process.
“Having your partner teach you to drive is not the best thing,” she adds. “He wasn’t very patient with me.”
When he finally felt comfortable riding a motorcycle, the couple, married for eight years, embarked on an eight-month motorcycle trip from North America to South America. A few years after their return, they moved to Guatemala and Moxie entered their lives.
“He chose me 100%,” says Stone, recounting the moment he first laid eyes on dogs while watching German shepherd puppies in a neighboring town.
“He was there at my heels, just waiting for me to love him.”
Although Stone and her husband were determined to include Moxie on their trips, she explains, she “didn’t want a sidecar or a trailer or anything that would really change the riding dynamic” now that she’s finally comfortable on a motorcycle.
They quickly began designing what would later become the K9 Moto Cockpit, a motorcycle dog carrier they manufactured in Guatemala, as well as a range of outdoor dog gear through their company Ruffly.
“Everyone always asks how long it takes to train your dog,” says Stone. “Honestly, Moxie took the weekend.
“It took me a lot longer to feel comfortable with that much weight on my back because I would never ride with a passenger.”
Deciding she was ready for another big adventure, this time with Moxie, Stone reached out to global non-profit Girl Up, a girl-focused leadership development initiative, and the GoRUFFLY Around the World adventure was born.
“Obviously, I wanted to travel the world,” said Stone, who aims to raise $100,000 for Girl Up’s global empowerment programs. “But I also wanted to show people that you can do it with a big dog.”
Being able to take Moxie on this trip made it even more special for Stone.
“It’s like experiencing the adventure twice,” he explains. “You feel it yourself. And then you experience it from his perspective because he’s behind me.
“I see him [Moxie] in my mirror all the time. His head is right next to mine. Sometimes he even puts his big snout on my shoulder with his chin there.
“It makes me feel so happy that he’s really going through it all. He is always seeing and experiencing new sights, sounds and smells.”
Of course, traveling with a dog has its drawbacks. They are mostly confined to dog-friendly places and rely on wild camping and occasional Airbnbs when on the road so Moxie can roam free.
“You have to be someone who enjoys nature and the outdoors,” Stone adds.
“Because those are the places we can bring him. If you want to be in the city and go to all these fancy restaurants, traveling with a dog makes it a little more difficult.”
Although they had originally planned to sail from Guatemala to the Arctic Ocean and cross into Canada before flying to Spain and heading to Africa, significant cost increases due to a number of issues, including rising oil prices and supply shortages, forced the trip. they change their route.
Stone notes that Moxie must be shipped in a giant-sized box as unaccompanied baggage due to her size.
This meant that the total cost for him alone would have been about $6,500, including vet fees, freight and international animal export fees from Toronto to Spain, if they had stuck with their original plan.
The shipping price of their motorcycles had also increased significantly when they started the journey.
“It’s just really expensive,” says Stone, who documents the trip on Instagram as well as a weekly YouTube series.
They eventually decided to travel “end-to-end and top-to-bottom,” making their way from Guatemala to Mexico, the United States, Canada, and the Arctic Ocean.
From here they began riding to the top of North America before turning around and heading back to South America.
Before setting off, Stone booked some private off-road training lessons to make sure he had the skills required to navigate some of the more difficult sections of the route.
“Obviously, I’ve gone off the road many times, but I’ve never felt comfortable,” he says. “And I wanted to feel really good about it because I’ve got my Moxie behind me.”
He admits to being particularly worried along the remote Dempster Highway, Canada’s long gravel road that leads to the Arctic Ocean.
“I was worried I was going to crash and damage my bike,” he says. “It’s funny, I never really think about hurting myself. My bike is what I’m most concerned about.”
Fortunately, they made it through without incident, but Stone says she is often haunted by thoughts of something going wrong during the trip.
“My biggest fear is not being able to continue the trip and something happening to the bike off-road,” he says. “Fortunately, nothing like that happened.”
While Stone stresses that his riding skills are constantly evolving, that doesn’t stop him from regularly doubting himself.
“Am I still worried about the dirt roads going up? Yes! Am I worried that we will go down and I will 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 so much more positive.”
Although things have gone relatively smoothly so far, Stone occasionally loses her balance while riding, causing her and Moxie to “tripping”.
Having her husband, whom she describes as “a mule of a mule,” behind her is no doubt a great source of comfort.
“I carry the shepherd, he carries the camping equipment,” he adds, before explaining that they don’t necessarily have to ride together all the time, sometimes on different routes.
“Sometimes he wants to try a different path, or I want to go a different path, and then we meet each other. But I’m self-sufficient the way I am.”
Their biggest hurdle so far has been replacing his bike in May. After experiencing various “oil leak issues,” Stone learned that his 2013 BMW G650GS required a hugely expensive engine rebuild.
He ended up buying a new, second-hand model of the bike for about the same price as the rebuild.
“It was an unexpected expense,” he says. “But that [new] the bike will take me the rest of the way.’
Some of her highlights so far have been being able to stop at Girl Up clubs and share stories, as well as a hike in the Arctic Ocean where they marveled at the sight of moose crossing the road and spotted a grizzly bear.
“Moxie is giddy with anticipation when she sees these creatures on the side of the road,” he adds. “He’s so excited. We did some fishing along the way which was really, really spectacular.”
Currently in Los Angeles, Stone is preparing for the next leg of the trip, which will include taking a ferry to Baja, Mexico, then down to Guatemala, and on to Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama.
From Panama, they plan to fly to Colombia, where they will travel to the “tip” of Argentina, then fly to South Africa.
Once they reach South Africa, they will travel down the east coast of Africa to Egypt and then Greece before “circling Europe” and passing through Turkey and Central Asia.
The next leg will see them from India to Malaysia, where they will ship their bikes and Moxie to North America, before returning to their first and final destination, Guatemala, which Stone describes as his “adopted home”.
Stone thinks they’ll be on the road for at least another two and a half years. But for now, she’s focused on getting to the next stage of her journey and constantly improving her riding skills.
Her four-legged companion continues to be a source of inspiration, and Stone never tires of seeing how others react to Moxie, joking that every visit to the gas station is like a “selfie palooza.”
“People just get out of their cars,” he adds. “And the first thing everyone says is, ‘Oh my God, he’s wearing glasses.’
“It puts a smile on everyone’s face. And that’s what I love. He just makes everyone have a good day.”