The trip of two lifetimes: P.E.I. man embarks on a motorcycle journey covering North America

The trip of two lifetimes: P.E.I. man embarks on a motorcycle journey covering North America

STORY CONTINUES BELOW THESE SALTWIRE VIDEOS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Summerside’s Pat Doyle always rode motorbikes with his dad growing up, but even that didn’t have him imagining a trip to Mexico on his Kawasaki KLR 650.

“At a young age, I was introduced to dirt bikes by my father who absolutely loved anything with two wheels and that was a great bonding for us for many years,” said Doyle, when he spoke to SaltWire Network Jan. 31 from La Paz, Mexico. 

Pat Doyle dips his late father's license plate in the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories. Contributed
Pat Doyle dips his late father’s license plate in the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories. Contributed

For years, he and his father, Steven Doyle, rode dirt bikes and worked on them together when they broke. 

In August 2009, after years of wishing and waiting, his father took his motorcycle to Newfoundland 

“A great, big trip, his first ever motorcycle trip,” said Doyle. 

He remembered his father calling home often and hearing the enthusiasm in his voice. 

But that happiness didn’t last. 

“Unfortunately, he didn’t make it home from that trip,” he said. “Just a few hours before he was to board the ferry back to Nova Scotia, he was involved in an accident that claimed his life.”

Pat Doyle snaps a memory of his campsite in Death Valley, California. Contributed
Pat Doyle snaps a memory of his campsite in Death Valley, California. Contributed

Doyle said the news was devastating. Days went by, and the family received his father’s things. 

“I just remember being so excited to get his camera back – the whole family was – just so we could see his journey,” said Doyle. “I just remember seeing the pure joy in his eyes and a smile so big. Wow, he was having the time of his life.”


The essentials

Pat Doyle quit his job and sold all his possessions to be able to go on a great, big motorcycle trip. He started with the goal of reaching Alaska and has continued to travel to the Arctic Ocean and south to Mexico. Here’s what he considers his key equipment:

  • Kawasaki KLR 650
  • Tent
  • Sleeping mattress
  • Sleeping bag
  • Water and food enough for three to five days
  • Single burner stove and fuel
  • Two pots and a pan

First steps

It took a few more years, but Doyle embarked on his own “great big trip” in July 2015 at 19 years old. Riding one of his dad’s bikes, a road-legal Kawasaki KLX 400, he circled the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton on his first trip off-Island alone. 

The bike wasn’t very comfortable but somewhere on the twisty roads in Cape Breton, something clicked for him. 

“This is what I gotta do … I want to go great distances on my motorcycle like my father did,” he realized.

Pat Doyle stops for a quick snapshot near Mount Itsi, Yukon. Contributed
Pat Doyle stops for a quick snapshot near Mount Itsi, Yukon. Contributed

Doyle spent years working at a steady job, behind the parts counter at a Summerside Honda dealership, saving up, choosing a bike and planning. His goal was to ride to Alaska.

“I bought the exact same motorcycle my dad had, a Kawasaki KLR 650. I knew it was the bike, there was no question about it,” he said. “This was the bike that was good enough for my dad; it’s going to be good enough for me.”

He said online, the bike is described as “a jack of all trades and a master of none,” but it has great fuel efficiency, said Doyle. It also has an easy-to-repair single-cylinder motor and no electronics to break.

“Just an absolute freight train of a motor, a very reliable bike,” he said. 

Friends from Stewart, B.C., Edgar, Alejandro, Julio and Ricardo join Pat Doyle with his Kawasaki KLR. Contributed
Friends from Stewart, B.C., Edgar, Alejandro, Julio and Ricardo join Pat Doyle with his Kawasaki KLR. Contributed

Taking the plunge

He rode around the Maritimes, putting around 80,000 kilometres on the motor. Then, in spring 2022, he said signs were telling him “now or never.”

“So, I really took the plunge. I quit my job, I sold all my possessions. What I own is what I have now – the motorcycle and luggage.”

When his mom, Debbie Barlow, first heard the plans, her reaction was immediate. 

“Oh, no, you can’t do that,” she remembers thinking. 

“It was hard to embrace it,” she said when she spoke to SaltWire Network on Feb. 15. 

To help keep him safe, she gave him a GPS satellite phone in 2019, which he uses to call home when there is no cell service. There is also a button that will send a signal to rescuers in an emergency, she said.

“As a mother, as much as it’s a worry for me – and I would much prefer to have him close by – at the same time I don’t want to be the one to hold him back from his dream.”

Frost covers Pat Doyle's tent and motorcycle after he camped in northern Yukon hoping to see the northern lights. Contributed
Frost covers Pat Doyle’s tent and motorcycle after he camped in northern Yukon hoping to see the northern lights. Contributed

Setting out

On June 15, 2022, Doyle left P.E.I. heading for Alaska with the goal of getting to the Arctic Ocean.

“I had the license plate from my father’s KLR, the bike that he was riding, and I thought it would be really cool to dip that in the Arctic Ocean,” he said.

“I kind of took this on as a soul-searching journey, if you will. I didn’t know how long I wanted to be on the road, I just knew I wanted to get to Alaska, and if that took a long time, it’ll take a long time.”

Travelling mostly by backroads, Doyle took two months to get to the farthest northern point of Alaska, a place called Dead Horse.

That’s when he realized you can’t drive to the Arctic Ocean from Alaska. So, he headed south then east through the Yukon and into the Northwest Territories before turning north again to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean where he dipped his father’s license plate in the water. 

“A real sense of accomplishment came over me. Holding that license plate in the water and just taking in the scenery was as good as if he was right there with me.”

Pat Doyle stops for a photo in the Atigun Pass, Alaska. Contributed
Pat Doyle stops for a photo in the Atigun Pass, Alaska. Contributed

New friends, new places

Since that feat, the journey has snowballed into a bigger trip than Doyle imagined.

On his was back south, he stopped in a town called Stewart in British Columbia and picked up work as a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant. 

He got to know the other employees and learned they were from all over Mexico, and they offered him connections and places to stay. 

Combined with friendships he forged with two Oregonian overlanders – folks who travel almost full-time – and a fellow motorcyclist from San Diego, Doyle felt comfortable planning a southern extension to his big trip.

Not everyone understands the appeal of a long bike trip.

“I just feel like travelling on a motorcycle is a much more raw way of doing it. You feel, you see, you smell, you hear everything. You’re exposed and it’s awesome.”

He plans to spend a few more weeks near La Paz before heading further south into Mexico to meet some more friends in Uruapan, a city in Michoacán state.

Pat Doyle sets up camp along the Dempster Highway in Yukon. Contributed
Pat Doyle sets up camp along the Dempster Highway in Yukon. Contributed

Staying in touch

Doyle, who is “grateful to have such a strong, supportive mother back home cheering me on,” says keeping in touch is important, so he checks in with her every day.

Barlow says hearing from him daily and learning about the new friends he makes along the way warms her heart and tells her there is still good in the world. 

To avoid “being a nervous wreck all the time,” she has learned not to immediately assume the worst if she doesn’t hear from him when she expects.

“His father is the inspiration for him wanting to do this trip, and I know it has been a dream of his for so many years,” said Barlow, adding later, “I just know Steven would be so proud of Patrick and this journey. I’ve seen Patrick grow as a person on this journey.”

As for when he’s coming home, she said, “he’ll just know when that time comes.”

Pat Doyle gives the thumbs up from the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Contributed
Pat Doyle gives the thumbs up from the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Contributed

Doyle said his plans are to “keep being open-minded and see what happens” since he has no set schedule.

“If there’s one thing I can tell anybody, it’s just if you have a dream, follow it,” he said. “You meet people on the road, seemingly when you put yourself in a position to be open to anything. Incredible things happen, things I can’t explain. People come out of seemingly nowhere and they offer you some advice, they offer you a place to stay, they motivate you and that just kept happening over and over and over again until I made all the connections.”


Alison Jenkins is a reporter with the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island. She can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ReporterAlison.

Tier 1 Automotive Supplier Accelerates AMR Deployment from Warehouse to Line-Side Production Previous post Tier 1 Automotive Supplier Accelerates AMR Deployment from Warehouse to Line-Side Production
Maintenance 4.0: Seeing is believing Next post Maintenance 4.0: Seeing is believing