From Ethiopia to Arizona—two travelers meet again

The Overland Expo has developed a reputation for bringing people together—both those making new friends and those reuniting with old ones. However, few such stories we’ve heard match this one from Mario Donovan, of AT Overland, who ran into an acquaintance at the 2014 Overland Expo WEST he last met 40 years previously . . . and 8,000 miles away.

"I was a teenager growing up in Ethiopia in the 1970s. At the time my mother worked for the Ethiopian Ministry of Tourism as a publication consultant. Many a traveler, hitchhiker and overlander came through her office, and sometimes they’d end up crashing on the floor of our apartment. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen at the time, and at the height of adolescent reverie.  I lusted over motorcycles every waking moment, even more than girls. 

I remember my mom introducing me to a British fellow who was on hiatus from his journalism job so he could ride around the world on his motorcycle and write about it. It was a super cool bike because it was a twin, not a single-cylinder as most of the bikes were there. What a dream of independence and freedom for a young man. At the time I was still without my driver’s license, but learning how to pop wheelies on my friend’s bike, and occasionally hot-wiring my neighbor’s bike when he was out of town. 

Although I only met the British rider briefly, I thought he was stud for doing what he was doing. Then, maybe five years ago, I read Ted Simon’s book Jupiter’s Travels, and when I got to the short section about his time in Ethiopia it hit me: That was the guy! Not much of a story but a happy coincidence—the Kevin Bacon thing. When I shared it with Ted he seemed rather moved by it, and I was honored to have met him again nearly 40 years later—and to share a drink with him no less!"