When Javier Basaez left Argentina 11 months ago, he didn't plan a specific route, didn't pack a GPS, didn't bring along much more than a tent and some clothes.
He knew only this: His destination was Alaska. On a motorcycle.
Basaez, 32, arrived in Bakersfield on Christmas Eve after journeying roughly 20,000 miles. He said he left everything behind to make the trip.
"Now my life is the bike," he said.
On Wednesday, Basaez spoke from a home in northwest Bakersfield, where he's resting before he climbs back on his bike and sets out for the final 2,500 miles to Alaska, city to be determined. Before he leaves, he needs some heavy winter clothing, and his bike, a Beta 250, has to be outfitted for rugged, icy terrain.
Longtime friend Carlos Cuellar doesn't doubt he'll make it. Years ago, when the two worked together in a Spanish nightclub, Basaez told him of his plans to see the world from the seat of a motorcycle.
"At first it sounded crazy, but he's doing it," Cuellar said.
Basaez is an easygoing, overwhelmingly positive individual, but even he concedes he'd better be prepared before he faces temperatures that could plunge as low as minus-50 degrees F.
"I don't want to die," he said.
Early dreams of riding
Born and raised in a city near Buenos Aires, Basaez was 14 when he purchased his first motorcycle. He loved riding, and figured he could one day see the world inexpensively using that method of travel.
He moved to Spain when he was 21, expecting that it would be easy to find a job and make money. It wasn't.
Basaez spent years bartending and performing odd jobs. He rode his motorcycle and indulged in other activities such as parkour, a training regimen that involves swinging, jumping, vaulting and other acrobatic feats to get past obstacles.
But during one parkour outing he fell and broke his neck. Recovery took time, Basaez said, and it was during that period that he decided to follow through on his dream.
Once he healed, Basaez began making lengthy motorcycle trips, one from Spain to Kazakshtan, another from Spain to Siberia. On his first trip he set out with just $20 in his pocket.
His friends said he was crazy. But he wasn't worried.
He relied on the kindness of others, and his own ingenuity, to see him through.
Basaez made money for food and gas by creating wallets out of aluminum Coca-Cola cans, he said. He'd sell the wallets for whatever people wanted to pay for them. It was easy to replenish his supply of raw material for the wallets: Coca-Cola is everywhere, he said
Hardships came along. On the trip to Siberia his motorcycle broke down and he ended up hitchhiking for long stretches. He covered some of those miles aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway.
On another trip, he slept in the jungle wrapped only in a tarp. He was scared that time, he said.
But now he travels without fear.
"I stopped being afraid," he said. "I decided not to be. I wanted this."
Argentina to Alaska
Embarking from Argentina on his latest journey happened, as many things do with Basaez, with a little luck and a lot of confidence.
He approached the manager of a Betamotor shop in Argentina and orchestrated a donation: the Beta 250. That's how impressed the shop's manager was after hearing of his plans. In return, Basaez publishes regular updates and videos from his phone to social media, giving the Beta plenty of screen time.
Once he'd secured the bike, Basaez packed jeans, a few T-shirts, a tent and a few other small items, then he hit the road.
The most important item, at least from an emotional standpoint, was the ashes of his dog, Marley, who died last year. When he first came up with the idea to travel to Alaska, he'd planned to make it with the half-Rottweiler, half-German shepherd. But the dog died of old age before he could climb aboard behind his master.
Now the plan is to spread Marley's ashes in Alaska.
As for expenses, this time Basaez won't be selling aluminum wallets. He saved up $4,000 for the trip; about $1,000 remains.
He's stretched the money by eating just once a day. A typical meal is a can of beans that he heats up by placing it on the bike's engine; after about 20 miles it's just right.
The only other regular expense is gas. The Beta gets about 200 miles per tank, he said.
Other needs are just fulfilled naturally. He's met dozens of people while on the road. Some have invited him to rest for an evening or more with them. Others have given him clothing or food.
And he has reciprocated. Basaez travels with a minimum of supplies but he said he's encountered a number of people on the road in far worse circumstances.
"I only need gas, a little food, and I'm good to go," he said.
After leaving Argentina, Basaez traveled through Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico before entering the U.S. at the Texas border.
Everywhere, he said, the people have been kind. Other than a minor accident in Mexico that left his bike slightly banged up, he hasn't encountered any problems.
A break in Bakersfield
Since arriving in Bakersfield, Basaez has been living like a king— at least by his recent travleing standards. He's enjoyed hot showers, home-cooked meals and sleeping surfaces considerably comfier than the ground.
He made the Bakersfield connection through Cuellar, the friend he met in Spain and who now lives in Portland, Ore. Cuellar's in-laws live in Bakersfield, and his brother-in-law is a bike enthusiast and organizer with Golden Empire Supermoto.
The brother-in-law, Wes Miller, 34, immediately offered Basaez a place to stay. Miller said he's never undertaken a journey the likes of Basaez's trip — he couldn't be away from his family that long.
"His family is the motorcycle," he said of Basaez.
Miller and other relatives are hoping a sponsor will come through to help Basaez get the clothing and add-ons to his motorcycle that are necessary for Alaska.
Basaez isn't certain how long he will be in Bakersfield. Also unclear is where he'll go once he reaches his destination. He said he wants to keep traveling for as long as possible, but he doesn't know what the road holds after he arrives in the 49th state.
For now, however, he's enjoying a reprieve from the road. He harbors no doubt that he — and the Beta — have plenty of miles left in them, though.
"But it's tired," he said of the bike. "And I'm tired too."