IF THERE IS ONE TRIP THAT CAPTURES
ALAIN ROUSSEL’S love of traveling, motorcycles and
the unpredictability of the road, it’s a visit to India three years ago.
Roussel is the owner of La Ferme, the venerable French
country restaurant in Chevy Chase. When he’s not standing over a hot sauté pan, he’s usually astride his BMW. ;at’s
where he was in the spring of 2016 when he and a friend from
France biked through the Indian subcontinent during the Holi
festival, a Hindu religious celebration also known as the festival of colors. Followers paint their faces—some even paint
their dogs, Roussel says—in an array of bright colors to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
Roussel and his friend stopped along the road one day, awed
by a vast field of cow dung that had been arranged in neat brick
piles. ;e mayor of a nearby village appeared, clad all in white,
and urged them to join him and the locals for three days of
merrymaking. A wrestling match, a fair amount of whiskey,
and more escapades followed.
Whether it’s crisscrossing America or navigating treacher-
ous mountain passes in the Himalayas, “we travel generally
on the smallest roads we can find on a map, if there is a road
on the map, if we have a map,” Roussel says. “Sometimes we
don’t. We just follow the sun.”
;ey do get lost. During one of his many trips to India, Rous-
sel and his friend took a road in Rajasthan that, unknown to
them, led to a wild elephant reserve. “We were stopped by a
guy who did not speak English, but was pretty convincing that
we would be in great danger if we had continued,” Roussel says.
Roussel, 67, is a classically-trained chef from Lille, France,
near the Belgium border. He settled in Washington, D.C., in
1982 by way of Mexico City, where he ran the kitchen for an out-
post of Maxim’s, the legendary Parisian restaurant. His first long
trip was down through Mexico and Central America to Panama
in 1985. He has since driven throughout South America, toured
many of America’s national parks, and biked through the Yukon,
Alaska, Canada’s Atlantic provinces, and parts of North Africa
and Europe. Nearly 50 states and about 50 countries in all.
Roussel and his wife of 43 years, Marinette, live in Chevy
Chase and have two grown sons. Neither shares their father’s
wanderlust. Marinette used to ride with her husband, until
they went on a motorcycle trip to South America that involved
some di;cult roads in Bolivia and a small accident in Argen-
tina. “She decided from now on, whenever you go on those
trips, you are on your own,” Roussel says. Still, they’ve shared
other travel experiences, like a 34-day walk on the 500-mile-
long Camino de Santiago, the route of a medieval pilgrimage
through the Pyrenees.
Among Roussel’s favorite destinations: India, Machu Picchu,
and Salar de Uyuni, the legacy of prehistoric Bolivian lakes that
left behind a breathtaking 4,200-square-mile expanse of bright
white salt, where land and sky become indistinguishable.
“You don’t see the horizon,” he says.
Roussel at Easter
Island off the coast
WE TRAVEL GENERALLY
ON THE SMALLEST ROADS
WE CAN FIND ON A MAP, IF
THERE IS A ROAD ON THE
MAP, IF WE HAVE A MAP.
“Roussel hopped on a fully loaded bike used by a traveling vendor in Kerala, India.