Here at we’re no strangers to tales of ambitious adventures on small motorbikes. But it is rare that a ride captures the imagination and support of the community the way this one has. Wan Lee, from Seoul, South Korea circumnavigated the United States on a 50cc Honda Ruckus. He made plenty of friends along the way and is especially grateful of the aid and advice of friends he made online at

We caught up with Wan on his latest trip in Australia to ask him a few questions about his now legendary US trek.

250: What interested you about travelling to the US instead of another destination?
Wan: I really wanted to learn English. I would have liked to travel all over the world, but at the time Korean was the only language I could speak.

250: Were you always planning to do such an ambitious journey?
Wan: Actually,  yes. I had always dreamed of motorcycle travel.  I wanted to feel the freedom, meet local people, camp, and fall in love with a beautiful girl who worked at a countryside gas station. And now it’s all come true – except for the part about the girl!

250: How did you come to decide on using a Honda Ruckus as your ride?
Wan: I wanted to buy a bigger bike at first. I thought of maybe a Yamaha XT or any of the Dual-sport motorcycles. But then I realized that I would have had to get a car license, and then get motorcycle one, and pay a lot more insurance. This was just was just too expensive for me at the time. Then I found out that with scooter I would only need a helmet to ride. Bingo!

250: Tell us about the special relationship you’ve developed with
Wan: I joined the Total Ruckus website to find about the scooter but also about US laws and insurance. I told them that I was planning to ride across the US and they were really interested.

After I started my travels I uploaded a short ride report and pictures that I had taken on the road. People from the forum were incredibly kind.  Some  invited me to their homes. They even gathered enough donations from their membership to buy me a new camera when I had lost mine. They would come out to meet me and ride together. It was amazing. I still get in touch with them. They provide me with the motivation I need to keep going.

250: Did you do any modifications to the scooter before or during the trip?
Wan: No it was completely stock. I never had any problems with it.

250: How did you plan the route for your trip?
Wan: Google maps. Check the ‘avoid freeway’ option!

250: Tell us about the route you took.
Wan: I started in North Carolina and went down to South Carolina,  down into Florida all the way to Key West. From there is was up and to the West across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona finally arriving in California. After I got to San Fransisco I flew to Hawaii where I rented the same Honda Ruckus scooter and rode around the island. Upon my return I went from California to visit the Grand Canyon on my way to Las Vegas. From there I went North to Seattle. Then I crossed the Rockies again as I rode through Chicago, and back to the east coast to New York City. From there I returned to my home base in North Carolina!

250: So what was it like to cross the Rockies on a 50cc scooter?
Wan: Cold and slow! Only about 10 – 15 mph on the uphill. But I figured, it’s still better than riding a bicycle!

250: Where did you sleep? What did you do for meals?
Wan: I nomally camped beside the road, but I was also invited into homes many times by people from the website or people I met on the road.
For food,  I carried cooking stuff with me. And, of course, a whole lot of of noodles.

250: Tell us about your most memorable group ride.
Wan: When I went to LA, 40 scooter people came out and we rode together. Most of them had the same scooters as me, although a lot of them were highly modified.
Everywhere we rode people looked at us. Some would ask questions, and my riding buddies would explain to them my travels. “This crazy man rode from North Carolina!!!”

250: What was your favorite place to ride?
Wan: Zion national park!

250: Did you have any major problems along the way?
Wan: Nothing serious – just flat tires. Oh, and a hangover every morning.

250: What was the scariest moment of your trip?
Wan: I’d have to say camping in bear country. I’d hear some strange animal sounds in the middle of night!

250: Were you ever tempted to just quit?
Wan: I never thought of quitting. But I have to say that camping in the dead of winter was really hard.

250: What did you learn from the trip?
Wan: I met some rich people, with big houses, nice cars etc., and I also met some not-so-rich people. Some didn’t even have a car, or TV,  or laundry machine for instance. But they still invited me into their homes and cooked for me. I guess I learned that no matter how rich you are in life you can always help people from heart.

250: How many miles did you put on the ruckus and how much did you spend on gas?
Wan: 18,000 miles and 600 dollars!

250: What happened to the ruckus after you were finished? Does the new owner know that it’s probably the most famous Ruckus in the world?
Wan: We (by which I mean myself and the people) raffled it off online. We invited people to buy tickets for $20 each. In total we gathered $5000 all of which was donated to charity in the name of When I got back to North Carolina where I started, they organized a farewell party. People came from South Carolina, Florida, New York and even as far away as Canada!  I drew the ticket to pick the winner of my scooter and we broad-casted the event on the internet so everybody from the website could watch.
In the end the scooter went to a guy from Connecticut.

250: We know you’re currently doing a trip around Australia, we’ll save that story for another time! But tell us, what’s next for you?
Wan: Well, the plan is to meet a beautiful Aussie girl from a countryside gas station, fall in love, and travel together!

You can follow the latest exploits of Wan on his website: Tattoo & Travel

If you liked this story you might want to check out David Dennis’ Transcontinental Ninja, and Lois Pryce’s African Adventure.


2 Responses

  1. Jon

    04/24/2011, 02:28 am

    Beautiful, I have ridden around Crater Lake on a bicycle, but have not had the opportunity to ride it on a scooter or cycle yet, beautiful.


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