American Legion Rider Jim Althouse got a taste for riding his motorcycle on foreign soil years ago in Europe. That gave him a bit of a bug, one that has since taken him to South America and, most recently, with fellow American Legion Rider Sammy Granderson, to Africa.
The pair, both members of American Legion Post 284 in Colonial Heights, Va., spent more than two weeks in January traveling across Africa with their wives: Mari Althouse, a dual Legion-Auxiliary member at Post 284, and Brenda Granderson, a retired Army master sergeant and member of Post 284.
Althouse, who serves as the Department of Virginia American Legion Riders chairman and is a past Post 284 commander and member of the post’s Sons of The American Legion squadron, has been on four full and three partial American Legion Legacy Runs. It was on one of those that started Althouse on his globe-trotting adventures.
While on a Legacy Run, Althouse met some Royal British Legion Riders who were taking part in the ride. The British Riders invited Althouse to ride in Europe; he and a few other American Legion Riders took them up on the invitation and rode with them through France.
“I thought ‘this is fun riding in a different country,’” Althouse said. “Two years after that my stepson and I went down to Cusco and rented some bikes, and went to Machu Picchu. And that was fun.
"When I came back I got this surge for ‘man, I want to go on another motorcycle tour somewhere.’ So I found a company that has tours worldwide and read about Africa because it just seems so out there. Everybody goes to Europe or the United States. So about four years ago I started making the plans and saving money.”
Althouse mentioned it to Granderson two years ago, and the two began planning for the trip a year later: making reservations, getting the necessary vaccination shots, “all the things you have to do to go over there, which are a lot,” Althouse said.
Once in Africa the pair rented Harley-Davidsons in Capetown and headed out on a 12-day ride that covered 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles), heading as far east as Port Elizabeth and then heading back west to the Karoo – a semi-desert region – by way of Route 62. The American Legion Family group passed through the wine country of Stellenbosch before returning to Capetown.
The group also made a stop at Cape Agulhas in Western Cape, which is the geographic southern tip of the African continent and the start of the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Other stops included visits to the Knysna and Addo Elephant Parks, Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve, and the Cango Wildlife Ranch, where the travelers got to see and sometimes interact with several native animals, including Africa's Big Five: the lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard and Cape buffalo.
The pair brought an American Legion Riders flag with them and posed with it while their wives took pictures of the two, posting the flag “like we were explorers,” Althouse said. And doing so generated some interest from fellow tourists.
“A couple from England said ‘look, they’ve got some Yanks here. You’re with the Legions,’” Althouse said. “They knew the British Legion. We had a nice conversation with them.
“Every day was a new adventure. The African summer made the vacation a nice alternate to Virginia's snowy weather.”