Instructor Spotlight: Jess Stone

Overland Expo is thrilled to congratulate Jess Stone on launching her GoRUFFLY Around the World ride to benefit Girl Up, a global non-profit that aims to “advance girls’ skills, rights, and opportunities to be leaders.” According to Jess, riding her motorcycle has helped her “gain confidence in her abilities and has become a defining part of her identity – an experience she hopes will inspire girls to dream big and persist in their goals.” 

Image by Victor Hugo Xalcot

The Toronto-born rider is no stranger to spending time abroad, having lived in Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, South Sudan, Liberia, and Guatemala while working as an aid worker for seven years. Nor is Jess a stranger to adventure: she learned to ride on a 160cc TVS Apache in Liberia in 2012, and her 8-month long two-wheeled journey around North and South America was launched when Jess had just 1000 miles in the saddle under her belt.  

After her first motorcycle trip, Jess settled in Panajachel, Guatemala, to support a women’s Microfinance and empowerment non-profit. While there, she adopted her 75-pound German Shepherd, Moxie. Two years later, in 2018, RUFFLY ethical outdoor dog gear was born to combine the skilled artisanship of indigenous Guatemalan women with durable outdoor materials that allowed woman’s best friend to go along for the adventure. Given Jess’s love for motorcycling and Moxie, the K9 Moto Cockpit became part of the RUFFLY line, and was made available for medium and large-sized dogs. 

Image by Victor Hugo Xalcot

Jess and Moxie took off on a 15,000-mile “test ride” around Mexico and Central America, chronicling their journey on the GoRUFFLY “on 2 wheels + 4 Paws” video series. Jess plans to publish weekly travel episodes documenting her, per partner Greg, and Moxie’s upcoming five continent journey, where they will be visiting Girl Up clubs along the way around the world as they aim to raise $100,000 to support the non-profit. 

Overland Expo is looking forward to hosting Jess, Greg, and of course, Moxie in Flagstaff, AZ, this May. The trio will be pausing their travels to give hands-on demos and slideshow presentations about traveling with a (large) dog, running a successful business from the road, and how to “do good as you go.”

READ MORE: Instructor Spotlight: Walt Middleton

To learn more about Jess, her favorite spot to camp, and what can happen if you blow through a police checkpoint, please enjoy our interview with this intrepid traveler below:

Tell us about your rig(s):

I ride a 2013 BMW G650GS (custom painted in my favorite turquoise color) with a RUFFLY K9 Moto Cockpit motorcycle dog carrier mounted on the back for Moxie, my 75-pound German shepherd.

All-time favorite campsite?

Lagos de Colon in Chiapas, Mexico. It’s filled with 44 crystal clear lagoons, and you can camp right by the water. A perfect place for Moxie to practice her water fetch! The only issue with getting there is you need to ride through a few of the smaller lagoons until you get to the prime camping locations – which can result in a wipeout on the slippery, water-covered rocks!

What’s your go-to overlanding meal?

If it’s about quick prep because we are starving, I like to make a deconstructed spicy guacamole with flatbread. If we are taking our time, I go back to my Swiss roots with a cheese fondue with fresh bread, veggies, and fruits for dipping. Or for something a little different, a vegetarian butter chicken with cilantro rice. I love cooking from scratch and doing it at the campsite brings me a lot of pleasure.

Image by Victor Hugo Xalcot

Best silver-lining story? 

While riding in Bolivia, I unknowingly blew through a police checkpoint. I thought they were waving down the minibus in front of me, so I continued, with Greg behind me. We stopped after an hour or so, and Greg informed me of what I had done. Not thinking anything of it, an hour later, on the way into La Paz, two large SUVs came up beside me and forced us onto the shoulder. Eight officers came out of the cars and started to question us. Where were we from, where were we going, what did we have packed on our bikes? It turns out that after I passed the checkpoint, they called ahead to the FALCON in La Paz (the DEA of Bolivia) and told them that they suspected we were carrying drugs. So for the next two hours, they took apart all of our luggage, and looked in every nook and cranny of the bikes (including the fuel tank) while we were on the side of the road. Greg was carrying Quartem in a little baggie (we had malaria a number of times in Africa, and so had the treatment in the first aid kit), so they brought out the drug testing kit to identify it, but thankfully, everything came back negative. They were very professional, gave us a number of great recommendations of places to visit in Bolivia, and then they were on their way. Leaving us with all of our luggage splayed out in the dirt on the side of the busy road! While a little stressful during the actual search, it left us with a great story and stellar recommendations!

What is an area of overland travel that you think you have nailed? And what is an area of overland travel that you feel you could use some improvement in? 

I am the best when it comes to logistics! Specifically, finding interesting places to visit and camp that are pet friendly. I love doing the research and coming up with unique experiences – A crocodile farm (only $100 to buy your own as a pet and exchange it for a baby when it gets too big!), monkey island (I got pooped on by a spider monkey), a haunted finca (cows invaded our campsite, but unfortunately we didn’t see the ghosts), and a llama farm in Guatemala (llamas all dressed up in Christmas attire).

I still struggle with off-road riding and get anxious when I see that the route we will take is unpaved. But I am getting better at stopping for a moment before we reach that stretch, taking a breath, and remembering that I’ve likely done worse and got through it!

Image by Victor Hugo Xalcot

Photo by Brett Willhelm

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