Kind strangers impress Woodstock brothers during road trip

Aaron Cooper looks over the Colombian landscape a few hours away from Ecuador.
Aaron Cooper looks over the Colombian landscape a few hours away from Ecuador.

Aaron and Nathan Cooper returned with a clear takeaway from their two-month motorcycle trip through the U.S., Mexico, Central America and South America: People are good, even strangers.

In Colorado, a man donated a day of maintenance work on the brothers’ bikes. A guy near Mexico City bought them empanadas because he saw the crumpled bread on which they were spreading peanut butter. A family in Colombia locked up Nathan’s bike after he crashed while Aaron drove his hobbled brother to a hospital.

“There’s many times where we would have been dead in our tracks or at least slowed down if not for the help of genuinely kind strangers,” Aaron Cooper said.

The Woodstock brothers returned last month from what was to be a trip to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the southern tip of South America. Their journey ended early in Colombia, in the northwest part of continent, because of the broken leg Nathan suffered in a crash there.

Aaron Cooper, 30, had finished a 10-year career in the military and was taking classes at McHenry County College when he thought up the trip. Nathan, 25, had just completed a year of teaching English in Vietnam.

They share a sense of adventure and a love of travel, and set off in early September on their enduro motorcycles – racing motorcycles generally used for long trips over rugged terrain.

The trip had its share of challenges.

Long hours on the road were taxing. And while the brothers had booked stays at some nicer resorts, other nights were spent in shakier quarters – or none at all. More than once, the two caught rest on the side of the road.

“There was one day where we rode all day, 20-something hours,” Nathan Cooper said. “We pulled over – ‘Welp, it’s about an hour until the sun comes up. We can sleep for maybe 45 minutes. We’re not going to be falling asleep when it’s sunny.’”

At times, “I was waking up riding off-road,” he said.

But the goodness of people continued to shine. When Nathan’s bike broke down on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, the two sought financial help, and received it. Donations came from people they knew around Woodstock and from their travels. Strangers who’d read about their trip kicked in, as well.

The brothers kept going. In Colombia, riding in the darkness two hours north of Ecuador, admittedly exhausted to a point of delirium, Nathan Cooper lost control and laid down his bike on his left leg, breaking his tibia and fibula and tearing a tendon.

The two made it to the nearest home, where a Colombian family made room for Nathan’s bike by carrying the table they’d just eaten on outside. Aaron Cooper drove his brother an hour to a hospital, where he had surgery. A few days later, the brothers boarded a flight back to the United States.

They said they plan to make it back to Colombia, where their bikes await, later this year.

The brothers said they had wanted to make service a larger part of the trip than they were able to because of time constraints. But when they go back, they’ll have more time and said they’d like to use some of that time for charity work.

“We’re trying to look at the silver lining in this whole thing,” Nathan Cooper said. “Yeah, I broke my leg and we didn’t get to follow through on the promise of, in one stretch, doing this. But it’s more of a part one, and part two will be coming up.”

To learn more

Aaron and Nathan Cooper documented their journey in detail through photos, video and blog posts. Visit www.endurobros.com to learn more about their trip.

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access nwherald.com from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.