Hubert (pronounced U-Bear) is holding his breakfast dishes and standing next to his Ural 2WD sidecar motorcycle.
He has ridden a sidecar around the world – Arctic Circle, the Americas, the Middle East, Africa, India (the list goes on) – for twelve years.
Ever since February 16 2005 when he motored away from New York City at precisely 6:04 am.
Ever since an incident with an incredible, life-changing cucumber salad while dining with his friend Jean-Louis. But more on that in a moment.
We’re at the top of the South Island in New Zealand. Hubert approaches my campervan while we’re both camped in Collingwood, Golden Bay. It’s the last major town (population 235) before the road tapers into a narrow 26km long sand bank, Farewell Spit. Where seal pups learn to swim and where suicidal (or confused?) whales beach themselves in large numbers frequently.
Hubert introduces himself and stops to admire my campervan’s antique dresser I picked up from a charity store a few weeks earlier. Hubert’s French, it figures.
His glasses are bold and round and an unforgettable deep acrylic red. He has an old, severe-looking scar brimming from under his chin, running down his chest. I don’t ask.
He tells me about his wife Lorraine who has a campervan a little bigger than mine, but just as unconventional. He says she’d like my dresser.
“We see each other about 3 times a year,” says Hubert. “It works for us.”
But back to the cucumber salad.
It’s November 2005, in l’Orange Bleu, Manhattan. Hubert’s friend Jean-Louis laments between mouthfuls of cucumber, “When we live in a big city like New York, on December 31 our pockets are empty because we spend it all.”
They move onto the couscous.
Jean-Louis asks Hubert a question (best imagined in a French accent), “Now that your younger daughter Jessica is finishing her college, what are you going to do?” He’d never considered his answer before now.
As they talked, Hubert and Jean-Louis established that if he were to sell everything he had, he’d have enough money to travel with his sidecar for ten years.
“By the time we ate a creme brulée, it was clear to me that I had 2 choices: 1 – I keep working for the next 10 years and I will be poor after that! 2 – I sell everything I have, I go travel for 10 years on my sidecar and I will be poor after that!”
It was a common sense decision, says Hubert, that he took while drinking his coffee.
Three months later, on February 16, 2005 at 6:04 am, he was on his way to the Arctic Circle on the first leg of his ‘Ten Years on the Road’.
It’s been twelve years on the road now. In 2008, Hubert discovered some retirement money he was entitled to from France and the USA. He has no plan or reason to stop now.
Parked in my new campsite later that evening, I examine the black and white printed business card he gave me. The timeless ride dot com. Goodbye evening.
Hubert’s website appears to be a series of lovingly hand-coded html pages. I can almost smell 2005.
“Warning: You are entering this web site at your own risk. Danger of contagion!!!” Choose from over 52 languages. “New to the site? Start here.” I click.
“Who is Hubert?” A link with a French accent jumps off the page at me. “Open it if you dare to know the truth.” I click again.
“Click on the photo if you can handle the truth!!!” I can handle it Hubert! I’m hooked.
I have the choice to find out even more about Hubert by date, by occupation, by sidecar, by support team, by philosophy, by favourite photos, by the “most” rides and by Q&A.
Hubert was born and raised in Paris where he lived for 37 years. He moved to Los Angeles and then to New York. He’s been married 3 times, he has 3 daughters and held numerous occupations including real estate broker, sidecar messenger and owner of a graphic design business.
When he upgraded to his current Ural 2WD sidecar in 2008, Hubert gifted his original BMW motorbike and Ural sidecar to his younger daughter Jessica. She drives it daily around California.
His blog is a colourful photo journal, captioning his adventures and the people he meets along the way.
But I’ll describe him no more.
Hubert is best discovered through his own information architecture, caption craft and exclamation marks. This is one French rabbit hole you will want to go down. You’re welcome.
We exchange emails. I tell him he’s an inspiration. He thanks me for my photograph and sends me pictures of his wife’s campervan. He tells me he’s already published a photo of my partner and I and our antique dresser in his Golden Bay collection.
He signs off his email, “Don’t forget to take a risk today.”