by Victor Wanchena
It is rare to have a chance to meet someone that is truly remarkable. Vladimir Alexeevich is definitely one of those people. Vladimir is circumnavigating the globe by motorcycle, certainly a tremendous undertaking by anyone. The motorcycle he has chosen for this journey is a 1990 Jawa 350, a two-stroke lightweight built by the Czechoslovakian firm CZ. It’s not the best bike for this sort of travel, to say the least. On top of that, Vladimir is both deaf and mute. The odds would certainly seem to be stacked against him, but for the past three years, Vladimir has been slowly but surely making his way around the globe and into the record books as the only deaf mute to circumnavigate the globe by motorcycle.
Hailing form Minsk, Belarus of the former Soviet Union, Vladimir lost his hearing as a baby during World War II. His eardrums were shattered by a Nazi bomb blast. As a child, he had a map of the world that he studied intently, telling his father that he wanted to visit every place on the map. His father assumed that it was only the idle dream of a young boy, but the desire to see the world by motorcycle burned in Vladimir.
In 1967, Vladimir began pursuing his dream. Riding a Jawa, he began to tour Asia and Europe. After conquering the USSR, including trips out through the remote regions of Siberia to the outpost of Magadan, Russia, Vladimir took a break until 2000 when he began his round the world trek in earnest.
His machine is a sight to behold. Stickers and dirt that tell his story heavily obscure the orange paint of the Jawa. In the Russian tradition of making due with what you have, the bike is a model of function over fashion. A pair of Igloo coolers act as saddlebags, held in place by tie down straps. Bungee cords hold many other items in place. The many miles on the Jawa have taken their toll, but the machine continues to soldier on.
As you might imagine, communication with Vladimir can be difficult, but I was surprised at how well he was able to relate stories of the road through the stacks of photos he carries. He would point to a photo then a point on the map; hand signals and the understanding of one rider to another conveyed the rest. His humble yet unbreakable personality seems to endear him to anyone he meets.
Now at 62 years old, Vladimir has traveled over 84,000 km by road as he has made his way through Europe, North Africa, the Caribbean and North America. He has visited 29 countries thus far. His journey in North America has covered 47 states, including all Canadian provinces, Alaska and Hawaii. His next plan is to travel down through Mexico and Central America then work his way to South America. Turning west, he plans to take in New Zealand and Australia then begin to work his way through the Far East. Never in a hurry, Vladimir expects that it will take him several more years to complete his journey.
An adventurer of the rarest sort, no team of support personnel or high tech gadgetry, he is simply a man riding his motorcycle. We at MMM wish Vladimir the very best on his travels.
Ride fast, take chances.