Rider Turned Cartographer: Turning Motorcycle Adventures into Fantasy Maps - Moto Camp Nerd - motorcycle camping

Rider Turned Cartographer: Turning Motorcycle Adventures into Fantasy Maps

Preface - I (MCN Ben) came across a post about a rider making fantasy maps in the TAT Group. Of course my nerdy self was instantly entertained as I have been looking for a fantasy map cartographer within the riding community to work with on future projects. I reached out to Wyatt about how he came to start making these style maps, and ended up sending him a bunch of questions that turned into this blog style article. He's since opened an etsy store where you can buy his map creations. Check them out in the links at the beginning and end of this article and help support a fellow rider with a cool map in return!
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Article by Wyatt Karnes
Artwork can be purchased at the RidersforRansom Etsy
Youtube Riders For Ransom

I started my journey in motorcycling at 7 when my dad got a 2002 Harley Road King while we were living in Florida. I was a kid then, but I loved getting picked up from school on the bike. Many years later, I started riding myself when a cousin got a Kawasaki KLX140 and let me learn on it.

A year later, in 2014, I bought a blue Suzuki DR200 at an incredible deal: $1500, 300 miles, a full tank of gas, and brand new tires installed. I used that bike as my daily driver from age 18 to 22. I even rode it to church. I only had my learners permit at the time, but only a few miles after taking the bike from the seller’s house I had it on the freeway, having never driven a motorcycle anywhere but a trail. You will see that the theme of “trial by fire” is a common one for my first-time motorcycle experiences.

 

Even though the DR was not a pretty machine, I still felt like the coolest guy around, and I gained a lot of experience. I had my first crash on the DR and learned the importance of proper gear other than a helmet. I almost got arrested when my license plate fell off near Washington DC and the officer misread the DR’s VIN, causing it to come up as a stolen one from California. A mouse once even built a nest in the airbox, which caused some serious issues - though the little DR never quit, even with the mouse’s corn kernels rattling around in the engine. Then, after only a few months of owning the DR, I was fortunate enough to go with my dad on a trip to New Zealand where we rented two VStroms (a 650 for me, a 1000 for him) to tour the south island.

I was still riding on a permit - we even had to front the money for the bike as collateral in case I wrecked it as I could not be put on the rental insurance. Fortunately, I kept the bike fully upright all the way. I still remember how freaked out I was to be getting on a much bigger machine, in the rain (on that first day), in a country that drives on the left side of the road! Ultimately, that trip sealed the deal for dad though. He wanted to get into adventure bikes. I just wanted to have a bike that could go freeway speeds.

However, neither of us made good on our dreams until after I graduated from college in 2018. At 22, I moved from Virginia to Utah for work, selling my DR200 to my dad so my younger brother could learn on it. I didn’t own a bike again until January 2020. I only rode a motorcycle 3 times in those two years, and I only drove them for an hour or so each time. In other words, I became badly out of practice. I am very fortunate to have a wife who supports my hobbies, so that wasn’t an issue. But getting the money to buy a brand new adventure bike in your early 20s takes time.

While I was saving up, my dad and I were constantly watching the adventure bike scene; which was exploding. The first bike to make a splash back then was the Africa Twin, and it was the first time I saw a bike that could really rip on and off road (that wasn’t a 20+ thousand dollar BMW). I thought for sure that would be the machine I spent my money on. Then, in 2019, KTM announced the 790 Adventure models. The reviews began to roll in one after another - this bike was the new king. All the power of an Africa Twin - but with much less weight and much more off-road ability. I set my sights on getting one, and put in an order in late 2019 for a sold out bike I wouldn’t actually get until January 2020.

 

The day I picked up my brand new 790 Adventure R, it was 19 degrees. One of the guys in the parts department even offered to trailer the bike back to my house at the end of his shift. I decided to just “send it”, so instead he gave me a pair of gloves that were warmer than what I had, and I got on top of the tallest, most powerful bike I had ever ridden to get on Utah’s (very busy) Interstate 15 to head home. Halfway there, it started snowing. My helmet was fogging, and my fingers were numb. I was alternating between keeping the helmet shield up to see as long as my face could take it, and then closing it for as long as the fogging would allow. A bad idea? Sure. I thought I was going to wreck my brand new motorcycle. Fortunately, once again, I made it home safely and without issue, probably thanks to my sister who had taken me to the dealership that day letting me stop for a bit to warm my hands in her car.

In the years that followed, I have put over 20,000 miles on my 790. In the summer of 2020, I rode it from Utah to Virginia, explored West Virginia and then rode back. The following summer, I rode the Trans America Trail with my dad, brother, uncle, and cousin. Last summer (2022), my dad,uncle and I took a break from offroad to do the Pacific Coast Highway from Ventura to the top of the Olympic Peninsula. This year, we intend to do the New Mexico BDR. Once again, I am very grateful to have a wife who puts up with being left at home (not that she likes it) for extended periods of time. Maybe one day she will join me.

To make a long story short, I have actually only been riding motorcycles since I was 18 - not quite 10 years at the time of writing. If we count the two year hiatus, I have only been in the saddle for a little under 8 years. Yet in that time, I have been lucky enough to have experiences that most people don’t have until they retire, and I have loved every second of it.

As a kid, I loved reading Robinson Crusoe and the Swiss Family Robinson, and wanted to be an explorer. In many ways, riding motorcycles has let me achieve that dream. However, I wasn’t done with it yet. I started a YouTube channel, Riders For Ransom (a play on my middle name), which I admittedly don’t post to enough, and I got deep into bike parts, trip videos, and more. All on the side of course - I do have a full time job as a high school teacher.

More recently, I have gotten into making fantasy styled maps. The inspiration is simple. Almost all of my friends live in other states, so the only way we can hang out anymore is to play video games and more recently, Dungeons and Dragons. DnD has been a blast, and I have always liked creating worlds and just fantasy in general (I am a huge nerd), so I started searching for a way to make good looking maps without having to become an amazing artist overnight.

There are a lot of options out there, but I eventually found one that wasn’t a subscription service (I am so tired of subscription models) and set to work. After about a week of learning the software, I was able to produce a map that I thought looked pretty good. My dad’s birthday was right around the corner, so I decided to make a map of an area called Tenmile near Buckhannon West Virginia. We spent a lot of time there as a family growing up, just like dad did when he was young.. It is one of our favorite places on planet Earth. It turned out so well, I thought I should start cataloging my trips in a similar way. I started with the biggest one - the Trans America Trail - and then posted some of the results in a TAT Facebook group. To my surprise I quickly had people asking if they could buy a copy, which only inspired me to work harder to make the map better.

Thanks to cartography, I have finally done something I have never done before - found a hobby that can make me a little money instead of costing a fortune. I am excited to see where it goes, and where my bike will go in the future.

Article by Wyatt Karnes
Artwork can be purchased at the RidersforRansom Etsy
Youtube Riders For Ransom

 

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