Riding out a dream: Geri Hongeva hopes to bring motorcycle tours to the Navajo Nation
NAVAJO NATION— When she’s on her motorcycle the rural scenery and open road of the Navajo Nation are a welcome site for Geri Hongeva.
Hongeva is an avid motorcycle rider and wants to share the experience with others through her business, Native Moto Tours. The company would provide motorcycle tours across the Navajo Nation and Arizona.
The joy of riding started when she was in elementary school. She shared a little dirt bike with her siblings and cousins as they spent hours riding through the reservation dirt. As she got older, the bikes started to get a little bigger.
Growing up on the reservation, “there’s only two ways to get around as a kid, either on horseback or on a motorcycle. We were taught at a young age to survive and learn how to ride both,” said Hongeva.
She bought her first street bike in 2008, while working for Northern Arizona University; she was three years old. “Parking permit was cheaper on campus for motorcycles and a prime location up front,” explained Hongeva. She was educated more about land preservation and learning more about sacred sites when she worked with the Anthropology department at NAU.
Later, Hongeva began riding her new street bike to different tribal parks across the reservation while working for the Navajo Nation. Not only did it save on gas but it also gave her a sense of freedom and excitement.
For eight years she worked with the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department promoting tribal parks across the reservation as their Media Representative. Through this experience, she knows the tribal parks very well and wants to share the stories, history and beauty with travelers.
When people think about travel, they are likely looking to fly or drive, Hongeva said. But she wants to give people another option to their travel plans. She also wants to provide motorcycle enthusiasts with a unique experience as they travel through the reservation.
The idea came after a few visits with her biker friends. They would take trips to nearby parks, including the Grand Canyon. They were usually day trips but when they got to their destination, Hongeva would share the Native American perspective about the area.
“I let them know from the Navajo way, this is how we see the land and share our stories,” she said “I also want them to understand that the land here, the way we see it needs to be mentioned.”
Her friends enjoyed the trips so much, they encouraged her to do it full time.
“Other people have the faith and the belief that I can do this, " she said. “So really the last thing was to convince myself and to believe that I can do it because there are so many other people that say ‘you got this.’”
Hongeva said her motorcycle tours would offer a brand new opportunity for the Navajo Nation because there currently aren’t any tours on motorcycles, let alone one led by a Navajo female tour guide.
Not only does she have the ambition, she has the expertise. She’s been on the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association board since 2008 and she’s also one of the board members for Navajo Hopi Honor Riders.
Hongeva’s traveled across the country from California to the Atlantic Ocean many times and during the pandemic she found herself riding more often and putting in more mileage.
Riding became an escape from the shutdown. Being alone on her bike was healing and being on the open road meant she wasn’t around anybody for miles.
“You’re just inside your helmet and you’re on your bike and you’re just thinking,” she said. “Being on a bike is not just therapeutic but it’s pretty much meditation as well because there’s a lot of time to just be within yourself and even some time to pray.”
Not only does she want to share that sense of ease riding can provide, she also wants to educate people on what it means to be a rider. She’s always asked questions about crashing or feeling safe as a lady rider but riding doesn’t cause her any insecurities, it gives her confidence and it boosts her self esteem.
“I think sometimes, negative remarks, you just have to disregard that because you know you're doing it with a positive intention not for a negative outcome. It’s just the way you set your mind for that day,” she said.
She is eager to share her stories. Her occupations and education has shaped her to start a new adventure. She has been a sales person, creative director, public information officer, media representative and currently a casino host. Now, she’s ready to be a Native Tour Guide.
Hongeva hopes to help local economy by partnering with local restaurants and hotels, bringing visitors to some of her favorite establishments. She enjoys talking to visitors about the Navajo culture and the language. Her first language is Navajo and speaks it fluently. She is originally from Black Mesa but went to school in Flagstaff, Arizona.