Gilbert Nicoletta sits opposite me on a tall wooden stool. He’s gently pouring sugar into a steaming hot coffee.
Beside us, two newborn babies nestled in strollers start to cry. Their mothers try to quiet them before they stir the lunchtime rush lined up at the glass counter.
The peak-hour crowd pays no attention to the man dressed head to toe in dark leather, with long, curly black hair pulled back behind him. They are oblivious to the biker and the excitement that flashes in his eyes as he explains the images that flicker in a slide show across his laptop screen.
The photographs are scenes the Cayman tour guide captured while completing his personal goal of riding his motorcycle across the 50 U.S. states before his 50th birthday. With his personal deadline falling in February next year, Nicoletta has already knocked off all 50 states, completing his challenge last month with North Dakota.
It’s a goal that fueled the desire to publish a photo book depicting his journey before completing similar treks through Europe and Canada.
Nicoletta says he didn’t consciously set out to ride across all 50 states until a moment of clarity while riding through the Ocala National Forest in Central Florida.
“I was questioning my own sanity and logic of riding unsupported, up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. As those first seeds of self-doubt were firmly germinating in my mind, out of nowhere, a gorgeous Bald Eagle with giant outstretched wings screeched down out of the sky straight towards me, about 20 to 25 feet above, talons bared and eyes blazing, before it swooped away,” Nicoletta says.
“It really rattled my nerves at the time, but later that day I thought I would have no doubt missed that entire wildlife encounter if I had been driving in a car on my road trip. It cemented the fact in my mind, that road trips by motorcycle was the way to see the world for me.”
He is now the proud owner of seven motorcycles, a spiked helmet and numerous pieces of chunky silver jewelry but not yet one tattoo, he admits.
“I rode my first motorcycle in upstate New York one summer when I was about 8 years old and I was hooked. I can close my eyes and still easily remember the wildness and freedom I felt that day,” Nicoletta says.
“After 30 years of deadlines and schedules, as a journalist, TV reporter and radio personality, I couldn’t wait to unshackle myself, and I could think of no better way than to do a road trip, and that’s where the idea of setting out on my ‘50 States before 50’ quest took root. I was crazy enough to ride through 11 U.S. states on my first-ever road trip in 2010 with no support vehicle and not even a cellphone or GPS. Stupid yes, but determined, and I never looked back.”
He says he feels “extremely accomplished.”
He is now looking forward to conquering the European Union by motorcycle, as well as all the provinces in Canada.
Nicoletta runs Joe Tourist Cave Tours on the island and hopes to have his photo book published by Christmas.