Professor plans cultural road trip with his son
News | Greta Sowles
Jay and Conor Rasmussen pose by their motorcycles that they modified for their long trip. | Photo of The Clarion courtesy of Jay Rasmussen.
Unless the snow, ice or freezing cold prevents it, Jay Rasmussen, professor of education, rides his motorcycle to Bethel nearly every day. While this may seem crazy, it is nothing in comparison to the 12,000 mile motorcycle journey Rasmussen plans to take with his son this next summer.
For the past two years, Rasmussen has been planning a father-son motorcycle trip from his home in Roseville, Minn. to Argentina. The idea came from watching a documentary called "The Long Way Around," which follows two motorcyclists in their trek around the world. Rasmussen and his son, Conor, became interested in taking a trip of their own after watching the program.
Eventually, Rasmussen brought it up to his wife. To his surprise, she suggested going sooner rather than later. They have been planning the trip ever since.
Rasmussen’s motorcycle of choice is the Kawasaki KLR 650cc, which he bought last summer. This motorcycle is used by the United States military, primarily because it is built for durability. Rasmussen and his son have spent many hours modifying their motorcycles in preparation for the trip. Some of the modifications include a new windshield and seat, heated grips, a truck horn, lockable aluminum panniers for storage and metal crash bars.
Rasmussen has already planned the route, which he ran by Professor Jeff Port of the biology department a couple of years ago. After leaving Minnesota on May 21, the route will take them through the States, across the Texas-Mexico border at Laredo, through the Mexican cities of Guadalajara, Puebla, Morelia and Oaxaca, and farther south from there. “I think it is a fantastic opportunity and a great experience to share with his son,” Port said. “The Pan-American highway through the South American continent takes you past some amazing vistas and through incredible countries.”
Rasmussen’s primary planning concern was an area of jungle between Panama and Colombia called the Darién Gap. This piece of jungle stretches for 60 miles with no road and is controlled by “narcotraficantes,” or drug traffickers. Since flying the motorcycles to Colombia is expensive, Rasmussen researched and found a boat that would take them and their motorcycles from Panama to Colombia.
The German sailboat that will take Rasmussen and his son to Colombia only leaves once a year in June, so it is imperative that Rasmussen and his son get to it on time. The boat operates somewhat like a youth hostel — helping operate the boat cuts down travelers’ expenses. The boat trip takes four to five days and stops at islands along the way, where Rasmussen and his son will snorkel and do other fun things. “It’s all about the experience,” said Rasmussen.
Upon reaching Argentina, Rasmussen, his son and the bikes will fly back home. If all goes as planned, they will arrive in Minnesota by the middle of August, almost three months after they departed.
Although Rasmussen is aware of the trip’s risks, he is not nervous. “Every day something unpredictable is going to happen,” he said. “You can’t expect that everything is going to be fine. You’re better off expecting that you’re going to hit difficulties and challenges every day; but every one of those challenges is an opportunity to meet some people and to experience something new.”
Both Professor Rasmussen and Conor are highly interested in Latin American culture and language. “The big thing is to experience the culture,” Rasmussen said. He believes a motorcycle is the best way to experience a culture. “You feel the weather, you smell things, you hear things and people want to talk to you, unlike the isolation of a car with windows,” he said.
For Rasmussen, the second main objective is to connect with his son. Conor is looking forward to the trip from a ministry perspective. He wants to carry Spanish Bibles and evangelize throughout the trip.
Conor described the evangelical advantages of riding a motorcycle. “People just want to talk to you,” he said. “You’re a novelty. Here in the States riding a motorcycle, nobody pays attention much, but in these countries they notice the bikes and are super curious.”
Conor is currently taking a gap year to be involved in the International House of Prayer. He will be attending Bethel next year and is interested in psychology and Biblical and theological studies.
The duo will be taking pictures and videos to document their experience. Their photo blog will be sent to select people via email. As of now, with six months left before they begin, anticipation of the trip is what keeps Rasmussen and his son motivated.