It’s not every day you see a motorcyclist driving along the road with a German Shepherd dog on the back of the motorcycle.
So it’s not surprising that the sight of content creator Jess Stone and her beloved dog Moxie cruising together usually gives viewers double-takes.
“Every car that drives next to us, they [the people inside] they pull out their phones and almost cause accidents trying to get the shot,” she tells CNN Travel. “It’s hilarious.”
Stone and Moxie, who weigh about 34 kilograms, are currently 10 months into an epic bike ride that will see them travel through about 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 set out, along with Stone’s husband Greg, who rides behind them.
“I’m always up front,” Stone explains. “I want to get through the obstacles first.”
Originally from Canada, Stone first learned to ride a motorcycle more than a decade ago on the side streets of Liberia where she and Greg lived at the time, and admits it was far from easy.
“Letting your partner teach you how to drive isn’t the best thing,” she adds. “He didn’t have much patience with me.”
When she finally felt comfortable on the bike, the couple, who have been married for eight years, took an eight-month 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 chose me 100%,” says Stone, recounting the moment she first saw the dog while checking out a litter of German Shepherd puppies in one of the neighboring towns.
“She was right there on my heels, waiting for me to love her.”
While both Stone and her husband were determined to take Moxie on their travels, she explains that she “didn’t want to have a sidecar or a trailer or anything that would really change the dynamics of riding” now that she’s finally comfortable on a motorcycle.
They quickly set about designing what would later become the K9 Moto Cockpit, a motorcycle dog carrier that they manufacture in Guatemala, along with a range of outdoor dog gear, through their company Ruffly.
“Everyone always asks how long it takes to teach your dog to drive,” says Stone. “Honestly, it took Moxie the weekend.
“It took me a lot longer to get comfortable with so much weight on my back because I’d never ridden with a passenger before.”
After deciding she was ready for another big adventure, this time with Moxie on the trail, Stone contacted the global non-profit organization Girl Up – a girl-focused leadership development initiative – and the GoRUFFLY Around the World adventure was born.
“Of course I wanted to travel the world,” says Stone, who wants 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.”
The opportunity to take Moxie on this particular journey has made it that much more special for Stone.
“It’s like living the adventure twice,” she explains. “You experience it yourself. And then you experience it from her perspective, because she is right behind me.
“I see her [Moxie] all the time in my mirror. Her head is right against my side. Sometimes she even puts her big muzzle on my shoulder with her chin up.
“It makes me so happy that she really goes through everything. It is always new sights, sounds and smells that she looks at and experiences.”
Traveling with a dog also has its drawbacks, of course. They are largely confined to dog-friendly places and rely on wild camping and the occasional Airbnbs while on the road so that Moxie can roam freely.
“You have to be the type of person who likes natural places and the outdoors,” adds Stone.
“Because those are the places we can take her. If you want to be in the city and go to all those fancy restaurants, traveling with a dog makes it a bit more challenging.”
Although they originally planned to run from Guatemala to the Arctic Ocean and then 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 because of her size, Moxie must be shipped in a giant crate as unaccompanied cargo.
This meant the total cost to her alone would have been about $6,500, including vet fees, freight shipping, and international pet exporter fees from Toronto to Spain, had they stuck to their original plan.
The price of shipping their motorcycles had also increased significantly by the time they started the journey.
“It’s just gotten really expensive,” says Stone, who chronicles the journey via Instagram as well as a weekly YouTube series.
They ultimately chose to travel “tip to tip and top to bottom”, en route from Guatemala to Mexico, the US, Canada and on to the Arctic Ocean.
From here they started riding to the top of North America, before turning around and heading back to South America.
Before leaving, Stone booked some private off-road training lessons to ensure she had the skills needed to navigate some of the more difficult sections of the route.
“Of course I’ve ridden off-road a lot, 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 that she’s especially afraid of driving the remote Dempster Highway, a long dirt road in Canada that leads to the Arctic Ocean.
“I was afraid 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 do the most.”
Fortunately, they were able to pass without incident, but Stone says she is often plagued with thoughts of something going wrong during the journey.
“My biggest fear is not being able to continue the journey and something happening to the bike on the off-road tracks,” she says. “Fortunately, nothing like that happened.”
While Stone emphasizes that her driving skills are constantly evolving, that doesn’t stop her from doubting herself on a regular basis.
“Am I still worried about the dirt roads coming up? Yes. Am I afraid that we will go down and that 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. That makes the experience a lot more positive.”
While things have been relatively smooth so far, Stone has occasionally lost her balance while driving, causing her and Moxie to “pop”.
The fact that she has behind her husband, whom she describes as the “gear mule,” has undoubtedly 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 way or I want a different way and then we meet afterwards. But I am self-sufficient as I am.”
Their biggest hurdle so far has been replacing her bike in May. After experiencing several “oil leak problems”, Stone learned that her 2013 BMW G650GS would need a massively expensive engine overhaul.
She ended up buying a newer used model of the bike for about 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.
One of the many highlights for her so far has been being able to stop at Girl Up clubs and share stories, along with camping by the Arctic Ocean where they marveled at the sight of moose crossing the road, and also a saw grizzly bear.
“Moxie trembles with anticipation when she sees these creatures on the side of the road,” she adds. ‘She’s so excited. We did some fishing along the way, which was really spectacular.”
Currently in Los Angeles, Stone is preparing for the next leg of the journey, taking a ferry to Baja, Mexico, then to Guatemala and on to Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama.
They plan to fly from Panama to Colombia, where they will drive to the ‘tip’ of Argentina, and then fly to South Africa.
Once they reach South Africa, they travel up the east coast of Africa to Egypt and then Greece, before “doing a tour of Europe” and driving through Turkey and Central Asia.
On the next leg, they ride from India to Malaysia, where they ship their bikes and Moxie to North America, then head back to their first and final destination of Guatemala, which Stone describes as her “adopted home.”
Stone estimates they will be on the road for at least another two and a half years. But for now, she’s focusing on getting to the next stage of the journey and building her driving skills all the time.
Her four-legged companion continues to be an inspiration, and Stone never tires of seeing the way others react to Moxie, joking that every visit to a gas station 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 puts a smile on everyone’s face. And that’s what I like. She makes sure everyone has a good day.”