Jess Stone – rider, dog owner, entrepreneur, and advocate – is one member of the motorcycle community we’ve been keeping close tabs on.
Stone is the founder of Ruffly, an ethical dog gear company. She has spent much of her life doing aid work in different countries, operating with a compassionate and eager eye that has remained at the center of her current business.
Not only that, but Stone has an upcoming ride around-the-world with her husband Greg and their German Shepherd Moxie, for a cause rather than pure enjoyment: the ride will serve as a fundraiser in support of the organization Girl Up.
Stone first came onto our radar as a contributor to our sister publication Rider with her story about the original K9 Moto Cockpit she engineered with Greg, which you can read here. It is safe to say that both motorcycles and Moxie have been an incredible influence on her. Now, the go-getter is planning her unique Moxie-centric fund-raising mission.
Every rider has a story about how they got their start on motorcycles, and Stone entered the moto world because of her husband.
“I started riding in Liberia,” Stone began. “My husband always had this idea that he wanted to complete his north to south trip [through Africa]. He told me, ‘You can come along, but you’ll have to learn how to ride.’ So that’s how that started. I wasn’t ready to give up on Greg yet, we were brand new together, and so I was like, I can do this, I can learn. We just bought some small, little 160cc sportbikes. He taught me, which was not a good idea,” she laughed.
Stone and her husband Greg are do-gooders by nature, moving to Liberia at the beginning of their relationship for their jobs as international aid workers.
This line of work then landed the couple in Guatemala, where one significant change led to another: first, a new addition to the family, and from that, a new career.
Adding Moxie to the fold was another development for Stone that was greatly influenced by her husband.
“I think Greg was tired of me pining after a dog for so long because he essentially said: ‘We’ll make it work. You’re getting one.’ I think it was the encouragement I needed,” Stone said. They adopted their new partner from an American who had a litter on the other side of Lake Atitlan, where they live.
This new member proved to be a strong inspiration for Stone, being the main motivator behind the launch of their ethical dog gear company Ruffly.
“Ruffly has been around for about three years now,” Stone explained. “Traditionally, you had to make a choice between durable and beautiful. Instead, I wanted dog gear that captured the beautiful colors and artisan techniques that I discovered in Guatemala, but it also had to be extremely rugged and sturdy since my shepherd would grow up to become a big, rambunctious, outdoor dog. I searched the web for gear like that – like if The North Face and Vera Wang got together and had a litter of dog gear! It didn’t exist so I decided to create it – and, as an ex-aid worker, to create it in a way that does good for the environment and the artisan craftsperson as well.”
The artisan craftsperson in this case refers to local Guatemalans. “The nonprofit that Greg was supporting out here, they have an artisan program where they’ve got Indigenous women who do their traditional weaving techniques. And so we were able to get in contact with them, we created the designs and we had them create these beautiful ribbons, and then from that we were able to create collars, and then we grew from there for all of our different products.”
Through this work, Stone prioritizes equality. “We work with all of the Indigenous Guatemalan women here, paying them for what they’re really worth. That’s always a struggle, and we just wanted to make sure that we were paying them a decent wage for everything that they’re providing,” Stone explained. “One of our head artisans has employed a whole bunch of people under her to help her meet the demand that we’re asking for, so it’s just really helped employ a lot of people, and we’re really proud of Ruffly.”
To find out more about Ruffly, visit goruffly.com.
All of these lifestyle changes – the riding, the dog, the career – culminated in one big move for Stone. In March 2022, she, Greg, and Moxie will embark on an around-the-world motorcycle ride to raise money for the organization Girl Up. Their journey will span five continents and take at least two years.
How did the idea for this trip come about?
For starters, Stone understands what Girl Up is about. “They were founded by the United Nations Foundation, and their mission is really to create change-makers in girls around the world,” she said. “They work in 120 different countries, and they do leadership development training, and provide them with advocacy skills so that they can advocate for the issues that matter most to them.
“I came across Girl Up at some point while I worked in international aid,” Stone explained. “I always had Girl Up on the back of my mind and would think about what I could do to support it. Greg and I have always dreamed of riding around the world – what motorcycle traveler doesn’t? Earlier this year it just hit me that we could channel that dream into a way to support Girl Up. I mean, a woman riding around the world with her big dog on the back of the motorcycle – it’s a pretty powerful symbol of empowerment, right?”
To find out more about Girl Up, visit girlup.org.
Their goal is to raise $100,000 for Girl Up. As the starting date approaches, more of the excursion details are being locked into place.
“We said it would take 18 months. And then looked at it more closely,” Stone said. “It’s going to be closer to two, two and a half years, because the way that we had planned it, where we will probably ride three or four days of the week and work the other half of the week and be stationary, so that we can maintain the business and keep things going. It cuts down on the time that we’re riding.”
Even with the extended timeline, the route is already well mapped out.
“March 5, 2022 is when we’re leaving Guatemala. The plan is to go north through Mexico for the month of March, and our goal is to enter into the States in April.”
The plan for the rest of the trip route is to spend April, May, and June in the U.S., then move from Alaska to Toronto, followed by arrival in either London or Frankfurt in September or October. From there, the trio will move south into western Africa, Liberia, and then South Africa, before looping up the eastern side of Africa to South Sudan. After re-entering Europe for the duration of spring and summer 2023, they will go east towards India, China, and potentially Malaysia, where they would ship their bikes to South America. After a circuit of the continent they’ll return to their home in Guatemala.
“I’m really excited to visit Girl Up Clubs in various countries,” Stone said. “Hopefully the challenges and excitement of this journey will inspire them to dream big and persist towards their own goals. I’m also really excited to hear their stories and share it with our on 2 Wheels + 4 Paws audience,” she said, in reference to the YouTube series where the ride around-the-world will be documented through weekly episodes, giving donors and followers a chance to share in the experience.
“Also, I love cooking at the campsite so I’m really excited to buy local ingredients, try out creating recipes like what Lisa Thomas [of 2RidetheWorld.com] shares in her cookbook, and maybe come up with some of my own.”
Excitement about the impending adventure is tempered with some concern about the logistics of the ride. How will it work to bring a dog – a 75-pound German Shepherd at that – across five continents on the back of a motorcycle?
“Some riders immediately see how much better riding can be when you bring your dog along and others worry about the perceived drawbacks,” Stone explained. “They think they can’t ride off-road, can’t go to certain destinations, finding accommodations will be difficult, or it’s a big to-do to get the dog up and strapped in.
“My experience has been that having Moxie along only enhances the original motorcycle travel experience,” she continued. “For example, we spend more time outdoors beside rivers and fields during rest stops so that Moxie can fetch and swim, rather than sitting in McDonald’s or snacking beside the pump at gas stations. There are plenty of pet-friendly accommodations, but we spend more time moto camping than we ever used to because Moxie enhances the fun of the experience.”
Rather than a hindrance, Stone argues that dogs enhance the motorcycle journey.
“The dog is at its best when outdoors and experiencing things – that gives us as the riders the additional push to seek out additional experiences when out on the motorcycle.”
The Girl Up fundraising goal is $100K, and donations can be made at fundraise.unfoundation.org/campaign/ruffly-for-girl-up/c356968. Stone has also committed 10% of Ruffly gear sales to Girl Up.
Follow along with Stone and her companions as they traverse five continents and support Girl Up via their YouTube channel here. The action starts March 5, 2022.