With just two motorcycles, a tent, a change of clothes and $100 in their pockets, UT alumnus Barron Peper and his lifelong friend Jacob Hoeffner began their journey west.
Their expedition, Shift West, will cover eight states and 10 national parks in a 45-day journey. From Waco to the Pacific Northwest, the duo will share stories of people they meet along the way, hoping to inspire their blog followers to “shift west” themselves.
Their graduation from college left Peper and Hoeffner questioning their future and longing for adventure. After a motorcycle ride to the park one day, the two realized they could begin their journey west on wheels.
“We used to sit around and cook up ideas, thinking about what we wanted to do with our lives,” Peper said. “We knew we wanted to do a big trip post-graduation. We wanted to explore more of the U.S. and what our home has to offer. All of the places we wanted to see and things we wanted to do were out west.”
Peper said they both acknowledged the struggle their trip would entail, but they were ready for the challenge. Before leaving, the duo created a GoFundMe account and raised $2,720 to purchase helmets, jackets and Kevlar pants to help prepare them. Now, they find work along the way to support themselves. Their blog features a detailed log of their expenses from the start of the trip, which includes donations given to them from people they meet.
“Sometimes it seems like the stars align, because we think, ‘How the hell is this working?’ It’s almost like someone has gifted us,” Peper said. “What has made it worth it has been meeting great people and engaging in communities.”
One of their favorite stories they picked up along the way was from Durango, Colorado, where they met “All-American Randy.” Randy served as a flight surgeon at Bosnia, Desert Storm and Afghanistan. War stories soon turned into talks about his travels to New Orleans to help with reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina and other memories about his life.
Another encounter in Telluride, Colorado, led them to the “Boulder Brady Bunch,” a group of women who share a passion for photography. Peper and Hoeffner said meeting these people motivates them to move on to the next town.
“We have the freedom to spend time with who we want, but it’s not as easy as it seems,” Peper said. “We’ve created a lot of strong friendships, which have turned into hard good-byes.”
For Peper and Hoeffner, Shift West is about living in the moment and experiencing life with the people they encounter along the way. As they move on from their current destination in Moab, Utah, the duo plans to end their trip in Seattle.
“It’s exhilarating to do something that is unexpected,” Hoeffner said. “It is like riding a surfboard. You shouldn’t think it’s possible to ride on top of water, but it is.”