By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 1/9/2017

For the fourteenth installment in our on going interview series here at Dirt Orcas we are proud to speak with Tim Burke. Tim is a well traveled adventure motorcyclist who takes breathtaking pictures of his travels. Based in Seattle, Washington his city and outdoor playground is a measure of world class beauty.

I came across Tim’s adventures through Instagram. I highly recommend checking out his page and giving him a follow. As a BMW GS owner myself, I I find that Tim’s work ends up eventually being shared within many adventure circles and eventually by the people at BMW themselves. His Instagram is @timburkephoto if you want to get it from the source.

You can also follow his work though his Facebook page, Tim Burke Photography. You can get a bit more from Tim and his travels here. Quick updates on rides or even links to his articles for Upshift Online like this one on his trip to Alberta.

Where ever you follow Tim and his adventures you’ll find it rewarding. His images are not only crisp and beautiful but they really hit home and make you want to get out and explore yourself. There is useful information in his writing that will help you build trips of your own as well.

Tim is an excellent reminder that having a motorcycle is the embodiment of freedom. It gives you access to a huge world that begs to be explored.

Year, Make, Model of your bike?

2015 BMW R1200GS Adventure

Did you name your bike? What do you call it? 

21 bikes – Not one has had a name! It’s well over 500 lbs…600 when fully loaded… So sometimes I call it a tank.

When and how did you get it?

My previous bike was involved in a trailering accident at the end of the summer (Don’t buy tie down straps from Harbor Freight!). I found this bike in Boulder CO, bought a one-way ticket and flew out to pick it up. I drove it back to Seattle in 2 days.

What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought? 

I was looking hard at the new Africa Twin for a while but no Honda dealerships were being very cooperative with test rides so I never had the opportunity to see how that bike felt. With almost 75,000 combined miles on various BMW bikes and absolutely ZERO issues, I decided sticking with a GS was my best option.The other major incentive for me is the fuel range. My bike has an 8 gallon tank which allows me to travel well over 300 miles between gas-stations.

Have you made any upgrades or changes to it? 

Not too many actually. These bikes come ready for almost anything right from the showroom floor. Typical off-road accessories:  I have a heavy-duty skid plate on the underside of the engine and oversized foot pegs, both made by Black Dog Cycle works. On all of my bikes, I mount a Pelican case to the rear luggage rack to haul around my camera and an extra lens. I’m currently set up with Mosko Moto soft luggage. These are the best soft-luggage motorcycle panniers on the market right now.

What do you consider to be your current job or goal? 

 I am an Airfield Operations Manager – Basically, I oversee the function of airports on a day-to-day basis: Emergency Response, Airfield Inspections, Airfield Construction, Safety, Security, etc. It’s a fun job and it allows me to be around my other love: Airplanes!

What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle? 

Well right now, I live in a house… But I spend most of my weekends on the road and living off the motorcycle. I like being on my own schedule. I love meeting strangers. When I’m on the road, knowing nobody at dive bars along the way is my favorite part of travel. I love being places that I can get to know people. The worse a bar looks from the outside, the more interested I am in seeing who’s inside and having a pint! I’d be perfectly content just traveling the world, snapping photos, and bouncing between dives and breweries

What is your least favorite part about it? 

The weather. There’s no denying that the weather doesn’t always cooperate. I have no issues driving or riding in the weather since I wear a Klim Badlands Gore-Tex suit and I am always comfortable once I’m suited-up. It’s that whole getting out of the tent and getting your sh*t together in the morning though, when it’s freezing, snowing, or pouring rain that is a pain in the butt!

How many miles have you put on your bike? 

My current bike I’ve only had for about 3 months and I’ve put 5,000 on it. The one prior, I put on 50,000 in 2.5 years. The 17 or 18 motorcycles before that, I have no idea; I imagine it’s beyond 100,000!

What is the best place you have taken it? Is there just one? 

That is a hard question! I’ve had my bikes up and down both coasts, over mountain passes in Colorado…All through the Florida Keys. Driving to the very edge of the remote North Rim of Grand Canyon via dirt roads was pretty epic. I think the most memorable trip though was a 4-week, 9,500-mile trip to the Arctic Ocean. Alaska is absolutely mind-blowing with its beauty. British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies never disappoints either. I’m not sure I can pin-point one spot!

Favorite road you ridden? 

Similar feelings about this question as the one above! I can name a few!

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is pretty epic. All of the roads on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska blew my mind. Titus Canyon Road in Death Valley is stunning. The icefields parkway in Alberta, Canada is epic. Almost everything that Moab, Utah has to offer is fantastic!

This is hard!

I think if I had to choose one, that I could ride again right now, I’d say “Top of the World Highway” between Chicken, Alaska and Dawson City, Yukon! The gravel road follows the crest/ridgeline across a massive mountain range for 80 miles and you really do feel like you’re on top of the world! Eventually, you descend down to the banks of the Yukon River and take a ferry across into Dawson City – which is a whole different story. Dawson is awesome!

In one word, what describes your approach to life?

It’s more of a phrase: “Work Hard, Play Hard!”

If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living and traveling off of a vehicle, what would you tell them? 

Don’t overthink it. You’ll figure it out! Safety related: Always be ready to spend the night without heat. Don’t go anywhere without the ability to start a fire, feed yourself for a few days, and filter drinking water! First AID kits are a plus, of course, but the primary things I tell people is to not leave home without the ability to spend at least one night away. If you have the necessary safety supplies, everything else will fall into place!

It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people? 

Motorcycling evolved for me from a hobby with friends to an obsession during a 3 day road trip in Colorado. I was on a Kawasaki Z1000, a bike NOT meant for touring the country and 8 hour days in the saddle. I was on Highway 550 “Million Dollar Highway” in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Though I was on my way to see a friend in Durango, CO, that road is so absolutely beautiful that I realized that the drive was as much fun as being in the destination. From there, I’d plan trips with the specific goal of traveling through certain areas and hitting certain roads. It slowed me down a lot too. Instead of taking the interstate to cover distance and rack up mileage, I’d purposely seek out the back roads, through small towns that weren’t even on the map. Even now, when on local trips, if I’m on two wheels, I avoid the freeway..

You have found a strong place in the community of adventure riders, as well as photographers, do you see yourself as someone who gets more out of adventure riding by documenting your travels? 

Easiest question so far! Absolutely. I’ve turned around and backtracked 100 miles because I’ve forgotten my camera battery… or Memory Card… Or tripod.

Documenting the trip; capturing photographs of the sights along the way, as I want to remember them, is as important as being on the trip. My goal with the photography is to bring people to where I was: People that have no interest in leaving there comfort zones or living so simply that you can fit a month’s worth of belonging in a duffle bag… I want the photography to make them want to be there. And I think it works. I’ve gotten comments before along the lines of, “You make me want to pack my bags…” or “…I don’t even like motorcycles but THAT is cool!”

What values do you think your job in aviation instilled in you that you take on the road and bring to your trips? 

Preparedness: Everything we do in aviation (whether in the cockpit, an Air Traffic Control Tower, or out in a Crash/Rescue Firetruck on an airfield) revolves around training for worst case scenarios. Aviation is extremely safe and there is a lot of monotony but sometime, it’s punctuated by incredible stress when sh*t DOES actually hit the fan! Travel (especially solo) is pretty similar, I think. Everything is fine and dandy when your engine is running properly but things get  pretty sketchy when your without cell phone coverage, something breaks and you have to spend the night with temperatures dropping below freezing. I think my job in aviation blends with adventure travel in that I do everything I can ahead of time to set myself up for success in the event things go south.

Do you see yourself as somebody who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened? 

I don’t think that yet. I still maintain a full-time job and just do my best to cram in as much travel and as many miles as possible during my days off. I think there are big things on the horizon though which will require this “leap of faith.” That’s all I can say about that right now!

Where do you want to go next? (geographically and career wise)

I’m itching to explore every nook and cranny of Europe. I’d like to spend 5 or 6 months doing so, taking pictures and documenting the journey via motorcycle. Career wise – I really love what I do. I’ve loved airplanes and airports since I was a child and found a job that pays me to be around what I love. For now, I’ll keep on keepin on!

3 replies
  1. Joanie Saltzberg Virgil
    Joanie Saltzberg Virgil says:

    Wow Tim, what an interesting, and informative, and entertainin interview…and I like that it”s peppered with pictures. This particular auntie is sufficiently proud of her travel-bug nephew. Congratulations and continued best wishes for decades years on the road and miles on your roster. Love Auntie jbid


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