Sam Manicom is about halfway through a seven-week visit to the Western USA. In presentations at a series of events along the way, he’s sharing some of the inspiring stories from his round-the-world and other motorcycle adventures.

If you’re not already familiar with the name “Sam Manicom” and the four books he’s written about his eight-year, 200,000 mile journey around the world, read the backstory in the Q&A I did with him a few months ago.

Sam and I have known each other for around 10 years, been colleagues organising previous HUBBUK events for Horizons Unlimited, and become great friends. I’ve helped a bit with his website and digital marketing too. Despite all that, until he arrived in Arizona last month, we’d only ever had the chance to ride together once – and then only for a couple of miles.

Sam Manicom on his BMW F800GS with Jesse Luggage

Sunrise over Phoenix – ready to ride

Al Jesse of Jesse Luggage had very kindly lent Sam a BMW F800GS for the duration of his trip, and fitted it out with the latest ‘Traveler’ system of hard luggage. I’d not long had the DR650 project bike and we were both eager to get some miles under our belts. With a plan to ride back to my home in the Verde Valley via the Apache Trail, Roosevelt Lake, and Payson, I rendezvoused with Sam at Al’s place in Phoenix ready for an early start the next morning.

On what ended-up being a 300-mile day, here’s how the first part of the ride went along the incredible Apache Trail (tracked with Rever)…

Perhaps best known for the red rock formations of Sedona and the characterful, mile-high town of Jerome, the Verde Valley offers a wonderful array of riding opportunities. Making the most of the time before our focus shifted to Overland Expo, we took full advantage of the chance to play in the sand and enjoy the breathtaking twisties of Mingus Mountain…

In the few days before Overland Expo near Flagstaff, we were joined first by Nigel Grace and then Tiffany Coates – both long-time friends from the UK. Naturally we all rode to the event together and the ‘shortcut’ to the venue via Stoneman Lake Road was the obvious choice (Rever track)…

Sam’s presentations at Overland Expo proved as popular as ever with the audience, who all went away more enlightened about the wonders and practicalities of travelling by motorcycle in Vietnam and Norway.

After four days at the event, and with an ‘Into Africa’ presentation at the BMW ’49er Rally near Yosemite in California beckoning for Sam, we set off from Flagstaff to follow some memorable sections of the original Route 66 before going our separate ways at Oatman.

Other than the Hackberry General Store, which is well-worth a rest-stop, it’s probably fair to say that much of the old road from Seligman to Kingman is less interesting than you might imagine. Peach Springs is a particular low-point in more ways than one. Once past Kingman though, the 28 miles to Oatman offers exhilarating riding through some truly remarkable scenery…

Looking back on his time in the ‘Grand Canyon State’, Sam had this to say…

Arizona turned out to be a complete delight to ride. So many different types of terrain to explore! You want a type of road, from desert sand to twisty back roads and mountain trails, they’re all there – along with some of the most varied and stunning scenery the USA has to offer. As for the history, you’re constantly reminded of those first settlers and the challenges they had to face. With ease, I place Arizona in the ‘I’ll be back for more’ category!

Fast-forward into June and Sam is now enjoying California’s Pacific coast roads and some time-out with the Adventure Brothers, Shawn and Lance Thomas.

If you’re in the area and would like to catch one of Sam’s presentations, he’ll be reprising his ‘Into Africa’ talk on June 9th at San Diego BWW Motorcyles, at Santa Clarita BMW on June 11th, and finally at Riverside BMW on June 18th.

Back in the UK, Sam will also be presenting at the Overland Event near Oxford in August.


Iain Harper