The Long Road Home

May 21, 2013

By Tad Haas and Gaila Gutierrez

Issaquah couple recall a year of touring North and South America by motorcycle

Just over a year ago, we left behind our jobs and home in Issaquah and set off on a motorcycle journey that took us through the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America. We didn’t know what to expect other than to expect the unexpected.

Having fulfilled the dream and accomplished the goal of arriving safely back into the states, we can’t help but congratulate ourselves for a ride well done. It has been the most rewarding year of our lives.

Photos contributed Above, the bright blue waters of the Rio Celeste are created by a chemical reaction from the Tenorio Volcano in Costa Rica. Below, the deepest lake in Central America and surrounded by three active volcanos, in Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala, was a favorite.

Photos contributed
Above, the bright blue waters of the Rio Celeste are created by a chemical reaction from the Tenorio Volcano in Costa Rica. Below, the deepest lake in Central America and surrounded by three active volcanos, in Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala, was a favorite.

We have traveled through 32 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces, Mexico and Central America — 10 countries in all and more than 38,000 miles. Our travels have taken us as far north as Labrador and as far south as the Darien Gap in Panama, an 80-mile stretch of impassible jungle where you either stop and turn around or figure out a way to ship your vehicle to Columbia. In our case, we didn’t have the budget to continue into South America … not this time.

Yep, we’ve already got our eyes on the next adventure. When and where that takes us we don’t know, but what we do know is that you can’t take an extraordinary journey like this and not be changed forever. It awakens your senses, leaves you with a broader perspective of the world and a fierce desire to see it all. What’s not to love about seeing fresh and unique places, crossing paths with tons of fascinating people and experiencing something different with new landscapes every day?

Our most frequently asked question is, “What is the most amazing place we’ve seen?” We have struggled to answer this question many times and have ultimately resigned ourselves to the fact that it is simply impossible to answer. Was it the enchanting turquoise-colored water of Rio Celeste, Costa Rica; the mysterious rock walls of the Samoto Canyon, Nicaragua; erupting volcanos of Antigua, Guatemala; the Atlantic ocean breaking on the shores of Newfoundland; jungles in Honduras; or the fall colors of New England? Multiply this by a gazillion and you have an idea of just how much we’ve seen. We do, however, have our favorites – those being Mexico, Guatemala and Newfoundland. There’s something magical about these countries that stood out among the others. And of course, there is the United States. You don’t have to cross borders to see incredible geography and noteworthy pockets of culture; we have it all right here at home and often wonder how many people tend to overlook what a treasure our country is. The intriguing thing about crossing borders is that the people and way of life are so diverse; you never know what to expect. There is definitely no shortage of entertainment, frustration and plain old ‘what the Hell?’ head scratching to be had in trying to figure it all out.

We reflect on the year and how we felt when we first left; the uncertainly, the excitement, the trepidation. We still shake our heads in disbelief (yeah! We did it!!) and frequently give each other high fives. Looking back, even the crappy parts of the journey are solid deposits in the memory bank because they all contribute a page (or at least a paragraph) in the escapades of adventure.

We learned to be okay wearing the same socks for 3 days and having salt rings from sweat on our T-shirts. We learned to live with less, but experienced more. We learned the sad realities and hardships people endure just to survive. We learned how our environment is taken for granted. We learned how resilient people are in the face of adversity. We learned of the generosity and kindness of strangers. We learned what a miracle our planet is. But most importantly, we learned to follow our bliss.

Life on the road has its ups and downs, it’s fun and engaging, both easy-going and challenging. When you find yourself in a place or have a human encounter so incredible that it tugs your emotions and moves you to tears, you are reminded what a phenomena roaming the world without reservation can be.

The conveniences of home were rarely missed as we fed our souls a heaping plate of joyfulness while driving through the buffet line of life. How do you return to your ‘normal’ life after a journey like this? Or perhaps a better question; is that life normal? An undeniable provoking thought indeed. Who’s to say, but for us, it will definitely be a challenging adjustment. We expect to be home the first week in June. Meanwhile, our goal is to simply soak up every minute of our last couple weeks on the road as we make our way back to Issaquah.

To read more about Gaila and Tad’s journey, visit their website at

Find more photos from Tad Haas’ and Gaila Gutierrez’s journey by motorcycle

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One Response to “The Long Road Home”

  1. Mary Ellen Houston on May 27th, 2013 11:28 am

    Welcome back Tad and Gaila! It sure was a pleasure to accompany you via and Facebook on your amazing journey across North and South America! You’ve really ignited a spark for Stuart and me to hopefully challenge ourselves with a similar trip someday. I thank God for your safe return home! Can’t wait to see you guys!

    Mary Ellen

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