Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fun Motorcycle Flicks: Bike Movies for Enthusiasts!

Fun motorcycle movies in no particular order:

On Any Sunday

A very fun motorcycle documentary by Bruce Brown (of Endless Summer fame) following the lives of motorcycle nuts. Shows actor and bike enthusiast Steve McQueen. Not to be missed.

Why We Ride

Interesting bike documentary very reminiscent of Bruce Brown's most excellent flick. (Description from the film): A story about who we are. Individuals with a desire to dream, discover and explore. Seeking a life outside our daily confinements and sharing those moments together. It’s a story about the journey, not the destination. Motorcycles represent the milestones of our lives. From a kid’s dream come true, to a retiree’s return to freedom. From a family riding together on the sand dunes, to hundreds of choppers carving through the canyons – the bond is the same. It’s about the passion of the riders and the soul of their machines. Your senses will heighten as the world rushes in, your heart will beat to the pulse of the engine, your mind will race and set you free. Once you let a motorcycle into your life, it will change you forever.

Here are three movies my Indian film maker, adventurer and high altitute motorcycle enthusiast Gautav Jani. Both are filmed on or around the Changthang Plateau.

Riding Solo to the Top of the World (Documentary 2006).

A unique experience of a lonesome traveler who rides his motorcycle to one of the remotest places in the world. Indiscribable beauty and subtle toughness in this amazing and harsh environment. Beautifullycapturestheplacesand people.Themotorcycle aspect is what brought me to this film; the cinematography kept me spellbound. Super.

One Crazy Ride (Documentary 2009).

A motorcycle expedition on uncharted roads across the Himalayan state of ArunachalPradesh, situated in North-eastIndia. Butmore than anexpedition,it'sa film on friendship, camaraderie and the "never say die" attitude of five motorcyclists in the face of unforgiving terrain. Shot in the same format as "Riding Solo To The Top Of The World" with no back-up vehicle or film crew, in parts of India hardly seen, filmed or explored, the documentary captures the interactions and experiences of the riders who are trying to chart a route, which according to everyone does not exist.

Motorcycle Changpa

A film about the journey which Gaurav did for almost an year exploring ChangThan plateau, another virtually unexplored region in the Himalayas.

I salute to the courage & determination of Gaurav.

His films, along with others of this genre (watch the most excellent trailers), can be found on this site:

Long Way Round/Long Way Down

These are some extremely enjoyable documentaries...buddy flicks, really.
For all the bashing and bad press these flicks received, they're really just two friends--Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman--on a motorcycle trip around the world. The two friends travel through Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Alaska before ending the journey in New York. The filming is done by on-board cameras and one ride-along cameraman. Sure, they have a support crew, but that's such a small part of the story. The interaction of the two pals as they encounter beautiful people, stunning countryside, frustrating setbacks and potentially dangerous situations with senses of humor is fun to watch. These guys capture the passion of traveling, riding bikes with your mates and best of all, friendship through it all. They're both "must watch" movies (LWR is a bit better than LWD, IMHO).

Cycles South

A 1970's movie about 3 American dudes traveling south from Denver to Panama on some reliable Japanese 2-stroke motorcycles. Tight budgets, no real time limits and no specific reason for their travels. More of a "mockumentary" than a documentary, with laughs and good times a-plenty. The boys have a great time in any circumstance they run into. Bobby Garcia provides comic relief throughout. In his words, this movie is "Muy Bueno." You will love this flick for several reasons.

The World’s Fastest Indian

Based on the true story of New Zealand bike racer Burt Munro, depicted by Anthony Hopkins on an Indian motorcycle. At the time of the record attempt, Munro was 68 years old riding an Indian motorbike that was also 47 years old. That record still stands to this day.

Wild Hogs

Don't hate me for this one, but this is a fun flick. It's a story of four middle aged friends (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macey) who take their Harleys on a memorable cross country ride. The HDs featured in the movie include a XL1200C Sportster Custom, FXSTS Springer Softail, Black Fatboy and a Screaming Eagle Fatboy. And Marisa Tomei isn't too shabby, either.

Easy Rider

Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper seek freedom against a backdrop of the hippie movement showing that there is no better way to see the USA than from the seat of a Harley Davidson.

Dust to Glory

A 2005 documentary on the Baja 1000, the annual off-road race held in Baja California, Mexico that attracts hundreds of racers and thousands of fans. The cameo of Mario Andretti is icing on the cake. A film by Dana Brown, Bruce's son.

The Girl on a Motorcycle

A 1968 gem with Marianne Faithfull as a married woman who leaves her husband, hops on her motorcycle and speeds off to see her lover. Sure, reviews will state that his is a "pretentious and nearly completely pointless film and "a rather unintelligent piece of psychedelic excess that won't entertain anyone but those who enjoy this kind of kitsch." Sure, that's fairly accurate.

Electra Glide in Blue

Robert Blake is an Arizona cop who rides a Harley Electra Glide. Some fine cinematography of Monument Valley and other places you might've ridden your cruiser.

One Week

Ben Tyler (played by Joshua Jackson) learns he has terminal cancer with a survival rate of 1 in 10. On a whim, he buys a 1973 Norton. His girlfriend tells him something all of us has heard: Riding a motorcycle is the height of stupidity. Yup.

Knowing he will die soon, he hops on the Norton (hearing jeans, a tight leather jacket and an open-faced helmet. OK!

He leaves Toronto for British Columbia to see big things along the way. You know, BIG things. Along the way, we are treated to a lot of beautiful Canadian roadside. You might like this flick.

The Motorcycle Diaries

I'm conflicted on this one. One one hand, there are some great scenes of two guys hopping on an overloaded bike and exploring the world. On the other hand, it glamorizes the scumbag killer, Che Guevara. I dunno.

21 Days Under The Sky

If you enjoy motorcycle flicks, and I'm guessing you do, you'll like this very cool documentary.

Available on Netflix, This 1:10 minute flick goes back and forth between a recent cross-country ride by 4 friends on their way to a New Jersey chopper rally and old video of the El Forastero Motorcycle Club doing the same thing in the 60's.

Worth watching...unless you really don't like watching Dope-smoking hipsters doing their thing...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bikes I've Owned

I've been riding since the age of 12 or 13. I've had more than a few bikes. I sure wish I still had a few of them.

Here they are:

It all started with a 1975 Honda XR75...

Soon followed by a Honda SL100, circa 1977

My mom somehow came into possession of a 1980's Kawasaki KZ LTD 250

I acquired two bikes from friends while in the Marine Corps.

A 1984 Honda XL600
And a 1980 Honda 500 Shadow (that I still own...looking good, Pops).

I then bought the following bikes in rapid succession:

A 1981 Honda Goldwing 1100

A 1981 Yamaha TT500

A 1987 Yamaha TT600

A 1986 Yamaha XT600

A 1978 Suzuki RM400

A 1987 Yamaha YZ490 (widowmaker!)
A Kawasaki VN1500 Vulcan Nomad 1500

A 2005 Yamaha Raptor 660 quad

A 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring (a 2300 cc monster bike)

A 2004 BMW R1150GS dual sport

A 2011 Kawasaki KLR650

Hmmm, what's next?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Selected Motorcycle Quotes

Motorcycle Quotes: Here are some gems about riding motorcycles for those of us who enjoy being on two wheels, headed somewhere; maybe nowhere.

Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle.

One of the things that make motorcycling so great is because it never fails to give you a feeling of freedom and adventure. - Steve McQueen

"Dad, can I get a motorcycle when I grow up?"
"Son, you can't do both."

I'd rather be riding my motorcycle thinking about God than sitting in church thinking about my motorcycle.

I spent all my money on motorcycles, guns, rock and roll music, whiskey and women...the rest I just wasted.

If I could marry my motorcycle, I'd roll her right up to the altar.— Flip Wilson

Love is the feeling you get when you like something as much as your motorcycle — Hunter S. Thompson

You can't go faster if you're wrapped in plaster.

Riding in a car is like watching a movie. Riding a motorcycle is like starring in a movie.

Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it. —Evil Knievel

Never dress for the weather, always dress for the fall.

Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere; and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.

A motorcycle functions entirely in accordance with the laws of reason, and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself. That's all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. — Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

It didn’t look that far on the map...

Riding a motorcycle isn't a matter of Life or Death. It's much more important than that.

Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death. —Hunter Thompson

And I to my motorcycle
Parked like the soul of the junkyard
Restored, a bicycle fleshed
With power, and tore off
Up Highway 106, continually
Drunk on the wind in my mouth,
Wringing the handlebar for speed,
Wild to be wreckage forever.
James Dickey (Cherrylog Road)

Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.

Respect the person who has seen the dark side of motorcycling and lived.

Young riders pick a destination and go... Old riders pick a direction and go.

There’s no such thing as bad riding weather, just bad riding gear.

The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.

A friend is someone who'll get out of bed at 2 am to drive his pickup to the middle of nowhere to get you when you're broken down.

Calling upon my years of experience, I froze at the controls.– Stirling Moss

There's something ugly about a new bike on a trailer.

Everyone crashes. Some get back on. Some don't. Some can't.

Only a Biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.

"Oh crap!" is usually the moment when your plan parts ways with reality.

Got a $5 head? Get a $5 helmet.

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. - Robert M Pirsig

If you think you don't need a helmet, you probably don't.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, Wow! What a Ride! —Hunter S. Thompson

Never trade the thrills of living for the security of existence.

A zest for living must include a willingness to die.

NEVER argue with a woman holding a torque wrench.

The only good view of a thunderstorm is in your rearview mirror.

Pie and coffee are as important as gasoline.

Sometimes it takes a whole tankful of fuel before you can think straight.

Riding faster than everyone else only guarantees you'll ride alone.

Never hesitate to ride past the last street light at the edge of town.

A cold hamburger can be reheated quite nicely by strapping it to an exhaust pipe and riding forty miles.

Never do less than forty miles before breakfast.

If you don't ride in the rain you don't ride.

A bike on the road is worth two in the shed.

I want to leave this world the same way I came into it: Screaming and covered in blood.

A good mechanic will let you watch without charging you for it.

Sometimes the fastest way to get there is to stop for the night.

Two-lane blacktop isn't a highway it's an attitude.

When you look down the road, it seems to never end, but you better believe it does.

A motorcycle can't sing on the streets of a city.

Keep your bike in good repair: Motorcycle boots are NOT comfortable for walking.

Remember to pay as much attention to your partner as you do your carburetor.

Well-trained reflexes are quicker than luck.

Learn to do counterintuitive things that may someday save your butt.

The twisties, not the superslabs, separate the riders from the squids.

Catching a yellow jacket in your shirt at 70 mph can double your vocabulary.

If you want to get somewhere before sundown, you can't stop at every tavern.

Practice wrenching on your own bike.

Don't argue with an 18-wheeler.

Never be ashamed to unlearn an old habit.

Maintenance is as much art as it is science.

A good long ride can clear your mind, restore your faith and use up a lot of fuel.

No one ever complains about the cost of their second helmet.

If you can't get it going with bungee cords and electrician's tape it's serious.

If you ride like there's no tomorrow there won't be.

Gray-haired riders don't get that way from pure luck.

Do not mix whiskey and gasoline.

There are drunk riders. There are old riders. There are NO old, drunk riders.

Thin leather looks good in the bar, but it won't save your butt from road rash when you go down.

Always replace the cheapest parts first.

You can forget what you do for a living when your knees are in the breeze.

Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly.

It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end. —Ursula K. LeGuin

Middle age starts when you have been warned to slow down, not by a motorcycle cop, but by your doctor.

What do you call a cyclist who doesn't wear a helmet? An organ donor.

Remember folks, street lights timed for 35 mph are also timed for 70 mph.

If you want to complain about the pace being set by the road captain, you better be prepared to lead the group yourself.

It takes both pistons and cylinders to make a bike run. One is not more important than the other.

If the countryside seems boring, stop, get off your bike, and go sit in the ditch long enough to appreciate what was here before the asphalt came.

It’s a world with 20,000 television channels...get as far away from it as you can.

Work to ride and ride to work.

Burn rubber, not your soul, baby.

Sometimes the best communication happens when you're on separate bikes.

When I finished high school, I wanted to take all my graduation money and buy myself a motorcycle. But my mom said no. See, she had a brother who died in a horrible motorcycle accident when he was 18. And I could just have his motorcycle.

I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.

Life may begin at 30, but it doesn't get really interesting until about 150.

That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. — Robert Pirsig

Time spent riding a motorcycle is not deducted from your lifespan.

The wet, cold and miserable days are the ones when legends are born.

You can go as fast as you like on a motorcycle - just never hurry on a motorcycle.

Saddlebags can never hold everything you want, but they CAN hold everything you need.

Life without pleasurable pursuits is hardly worth living, and while the best things may be free, some pretty excellent ones cost money and have wheels. — Paul D’Orleans

A good rider can overcome marginal equipment. However, even the best equipment can’t overcome a marginal rider.

I have to lead...I'm allergic to dust!

Sometimes I get off the bike before it has come to a complete stop.

Ride a BMW'll make your butt look smaller.

When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour. — T.E. Lawrence

Get your kicks on Route 66

The lyrics of this very fun road tune are all about The Mother Road: US Highway 66.

This is still very rideable, if only for nostalgia's sake. I've ridden parts of this historic stretch of road on motorcycles, though it's now paralleled by other major US highways. Its demise is glaringly apparent and extremely sad. If you're riding along a major US highway, and happen upon a Route 66 road sign, it might be worth a quick detour.

Once the larger highways were built, businesses along The Mother Road were no longer needed and all that's left are abandoned homes, closed-up stores and the occasional souvenir shop (Seligman, AZ is a nice stop).
The famous road sign is often the only reminder that the traveler is on the legendary road that once carried hordes of post-war travelers West, from Chicago to LA.

US 66 was officially removed from the US Highway System on June 27, 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System.

(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, often rendered simply as "Route 66", is a popular song composed in 1946 by American songwriter Bobby Troup. It was first recorded in the same year by Nat King Cole, and was subsequently covered by many artists including Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and Depeche Mode. The song's lyrics follow the path of the U.S. Route 66 highway, which used to run a long distance across the US, going from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California.

The song mentions the names of towns and cities on the highway that Route 66 passed through, celebrating the romance and freedom of automobile travel.

St. Louis, Missouri
Joplin, Missouri
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma;
Amarillo, Texas;
Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona
Winona, Arizona
Kingman, Arizona;
Barstow, California
San Bernardino, California

Length: 2,451 miles

Existed: November 11, 1926 to June 27, 1985

Of the eight states that the actual route passes through, only Kansas and its cities are not mentioned by the song.

Winona is the only town out of sequence: it was a very small settlement east of Flagstaff, and might indeed have been forgotten if not for the lyric "Don't forget Winona," written to rhyme with "Flagstaff, Arizona."
I've Been Everywhere, Man!
Well, here's an interesting idea: take an old travel song, identify the cities and towns along the way, then visit them all! It would be fairly easy to visit the places mentioned in the very fun road tune (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, but how about the sites in "I've been Everywhere" by Geoff Mack?

The song (as originally written) listed Australian towns. It was later adapted by Hank Snow for North American (predominantly US) place names. There were four versions from the original record: Great Britain, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Are you up for a challenge? Well, here's a fun contest for people who want to do just that. One of my Long Distance Rider heroes, Ron Ayres, was able to document visits to 75 of the 92 sites.

My friend and fellow KLR enthusiast Jeff in Illinois (Spiderman), put together this fine video: I've Been Everywhere video


I was totin' my pack
Along the dusty Winnemucca road
When along came a semi
With a high and canvas covered load
If you're going to Winnemucca, Mack
With me you can ride
So I climbed into the cab
And then I settled down inside
He asked me if I'd seen a road
With so much dust and sand
And I said,

Listen, Bud I've traveled every road in this here land

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
'Cross the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere

Been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota
Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota
Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma
Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma
Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo
Tocopilla, Barranquilla, and Padilla, I'm a killer

Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana
Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana
Monterey, Ferriday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa
Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa
Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake
Grand Lake, Devil's Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete's sake

Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika
Shefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica
Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport
Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond Du Lac, Davenport
Idaho, Jellicoe, Argentina, Diamontina
Pasadena, Catalina, see what I mean, sir

Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravellburg, Colorado
Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado
Larrimore, Atmore, Haverstraw, Chattanika
Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika
Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
'Cross the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I've had my share, man
I know some place you haven't been
I've been everywhere

Here's a map: Google Map

So, all a rider needs to do is visit these places and snap a photo. Easy!




La Paloma




Santa Fe
Glen Rock
Black Rock
Little Rock

Spirit Lake
Grand Lake
Devils Lake
Crater Lake

Costa Rica

Fond du Lac




Kansas City
Sioux City

Cedar City
Dodge City


(BTW: I've hit 46 of these places.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Asphalt Adventure with Exciting Photos!

I thought I'd add a little story about my high-side "get-off" earlier this year. I'm patched up and so is my bike, so here's what happened:

While out with some friends on Sunday, March 13, at about 2 PM, I took a pretty good spill on some beautiful California backroad asphalt.
I was on the S-22, about 4 miles west of Borrego Springs, heading up the Montezuma Grade at about 50 MPH, when my rear wheel lost traction while in a steep right hand turn.

These photos show the turn, post-accident. The terrain, road conditions and weather are shown pretty clearly.
I might’ve hit gravel, a stone or oil. Might've been those ultra hard Dunlop E3 tires. Whatever it was, the bike fishtailed and I was thrown fairly violently into the oncoming lane. I was extremely fortunate that no cars were approaching or I wouldn't be writing this. I went airborne, landing on my back and left side. I was able to immediately stand up, though the wind was knocked out of me. My helmet and jacket sustained considerable damage.

My Triumph Rocket III Touring ended up facing the other way; it wasn't totaled but couldn't be ridden: Bent handlebars, broken clutch lever, scratched sidebag and tweaked crash bars.
The tow truck arrived 3 hours later while I picked up bike parts and nursed my wounds.
I was sore but nothing was broken. Busted up foot, back and shoulder. Road rash on my back and both legs. My Joe Rocket helmet, Triumph jacket and Sidi Canyon boots took most of the damage. I was sore for a while.

The wife was understandably upset that I didn't tell her right away, but understands now. She doesn't like me riding, but understands.

The bike sustained surprisingly minimal damage. It was actually less than $1000, and that includes new chrome parts and some painting. My mechanic, Ivan @ Ivan's Fast Bikes, took care of everything as I recuperated. He replaced what needed replacing, fixed what needed fixing and contracted the paint work. The total ended up coming in about $200 less than his initial estimate! How do ya like that? There was no frame damage, so the repairs consisted mainly of replacing the crash bars, handlebars, clutch lever and some cosmetic repair to a side bag. Since I didn't tweak the frame or forks, it wasn't an insurance job.

I arrived home about 5 hours after the accident and cleaned up, hoping to dodge a hospital visit. Unfortunately, the pain was progressively worse, and I had banged my head during the fall, so it was off to the ER at 10 PM; we were there until 5:15 AM, as I suspected would happen. The kind medical profesionals at Kaiser ran a full battery of tests to rule out head, neck, and spleen damage. Lots of road rash and bruising--and a sprained ankle--but nothing broken and all tests looked OK.
Bottom line: The old guy was very sore--everywhere--after a near-disastrous 50 MPH get-off. I doubt I'd have been that sore at 25 (years old or MPH).

I was in a temporary cast pending an ortho visit to determine if a hard cast was needed or not; on crutches and some great pain meds. I was back to work after a couple of days' rest. My pride required physical therapy but recovered... nothing was broken except my ego. Road rash and soreness all over.

The safety equipment did its job. I was fortunate. I'll take this as a wake-up call to slow it down in unfamiliar territory.

My family and friends came through with calls and texts and much-appreciated prayers.

So, a question for the peanut gallery: Is it true that there are two kinds of riders? Those who have gone down and those that will? Ouch...

My bike gave me a few problems (as you'll see from ride reports since the accident) and I'm wondering if the fall and subsequent repairs had anything to do with it. Regardless, I'm back on the old steed and ready for new rides.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Motorcycle Writing: Selections for Armchair Riders

Is your bike put away for the winter? Are you recuperating from a "get-off" while your mechanic puts your bike back together? Looking to do some riding in far-off lands and doing research on how to best go about it? Do you just love motorcycling and enjoy reading about it when you're not in the saddle? Well, if any of these examples apply and you have some time to read about what you'd rather be doing, then I have some recommendations -- for and against, as it were. Please enjoy my motorcycle-specific book reviews.


Jupiter’s Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph: Ted Simon A snapshot of a 70's ride around the world by a journalist (not really a motorcyclist at first) with a jones for adventure travel. The author holds little back, documenting his experiencing unwincingly (I winced often as I read this book). No support team, no real plans, no fear. Quite a book. Quite a man. A true pioneering motorcycle adventurer.

One Man Caravan: Robert Edison Fulton Jr. Not too bad for a 1932 motorcycle ride around the world. I've gone through a few of these motorcycle books in the recent past (see my other reviews). Some were really good, others not so much. This book by Robert Fulton is not too shabby for a 1932 account of a 'round the world motorcycle ride. And not as dated as one would think. I kept thinking to myself as I read this that the stories aren't that unfamiliar and sound like the author might've just finished the ride.

Some may cringe at Mr. Fulton's very non-politically correct manner of describing foreign cultures. I wasn't offended in the least and accepted his descriptions as "snapshots" of the past. Hey, the guy doesn't like monkey meat or the manner in which the animals are prepared for cooking -- and he said as much. If you are prone strict PC reading or easily offended by those that aren't, perhaps a more modern telling of a motorcyclist's travels would better suit your needs. If you want to read about a pioneer's experiences in an easy-to-read style, this book is for you.

One thing is certain--the author respected and admired the people he met as he sojourned through their lands and obviously enjoyed each experience without being patronizing. As well, he's one lucky dude. He lucked into many situations that could've ended or severely hampered his travels.

All in all, I enjoyed this much more than some of the other comparable -- and more recent -- books on the subject.

Long Way Round/Long way Down: Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman With all of the grief these boys have received from critics, it's a wonder that anyone reads the books and watches the video series. But indeed they do. A lot. These series are extremely popular. So they're actors with huge budgets, extensive support teams and unrealistic goals. So what? Their narratives are extremely entertaining and human. Both books document the ride, but more importantly, they show the logistics of taking on such a feat -- warts and all. Blood, sweat, tears and fears -- it's all there for the reader to see, to judge for themselves. And in the end, both books show down-to-earth friends accomplishing what they set out to do.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values: Robert M. Pirsig I enjoyed this profound novel on life, fatherhood, friendship, slipping-away sanity, love and, of course, riding and caring for motorcycles. Not unlike James Joyce's Ulysses, this may be difficult to follow at times, but will be worth the effort. This book has remained with me over the years.

Against the Wind: A Rider's Account of the Incredible Iron Butt Rally; Going the Extra Mile: Insider Tips for Long-Distance Motorcycling and Endurance Rallies; Against the Clock. These three books by Ron Ayres are made for the long-distance rider (LDR). Dry writing but exciting details. Like the title of the first book states, this is an accounting of the infamous IBR by long distance rider extraordinaire, Ron Ayres. Although he was a first-time competitor in the IBR, he managed to do very well, finishing in the top 10. Not too shabby. The last book is a fascinating read describing Ron's Guinness World Record ride visiting the 48 contiguous US states in 6 days and 31 minutes, then setting a new record by adding Alaska in exactly 7 days and 20 minutes. There was some serious teamwork involved, and it was a testament to Ron's character that so many other folks assisted him in achieving this seemingly impossible feat. I enjoy Ron's writing, for the most part -- he writes what he knows and the reader feels as if he's right there on the ride. He can be a bit tedious, explaining every little action in minute detail. He can also come off as curmudgeonly, but maybe that's understandable. These books are three of my favorites in that they show how a mere mortal can overcome apparently unattainable odds to...ride a motorcycle unbelievable distances.

Investment Biker: (On the Road with) Jim Rogers Jim and his leggy model-like gal pal Tabitha made it into the Guinness Book of World Records by riding their BMWs around the world. The bikes were probably not the best ones to use, but, hey, he had money to fix and replace them along the way. And that's one of the issues I had with this book: Mr. Rogers threw money around like it was an afterthought and it apparently crafted the way in which he viewed his international experience. If the regular rider had the option of dropping $3000 to get out of a tough spot, he or she might have a different perspective of the "adventure." I'm not taking anything away from these two travelers, as they rode those Beemers through some rough terrain, to be sure, it's just the manner in which they did it that sticks in my proverbial craw.

And then there's his naive and very opinionated political observations. Since he's very wealthy, all of his views are skewed by mainly financial aspects (For example, "Oh, the USA would be so much better if they'd just keep their hands off my capital those french geniuses!"). Well, that kind of thinking really spoiled the overall feeling of the book. I kept saying to myself: "Just ride your dang bike and shut your filthy rich mouth!" But I say that a lot.

The author's persistence -- and that of Tabitha -- definitely pulled them through some tough situations. And it likely caused some of their grief. He seemed to be saying, "Don't you know who I am?" as he waved yankee dollars under the border guards' noses.

All in all, it's a good and entertaining read. Like many other similar books recounting worldwide adventures on motorcycles, it could've been so much better.


One More Day Everywhere: Crossing 50 Borders on the Road to Global Understanding: Glen Heggstad This book could've been so much better. I got the impression that Glen was a USA apologist who felt that ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE was better than America.

In many, many parts of the book he ridiculed silly Americans for visiting sterile foreign countries and enjoying themselves! And, for shame, they even spent capitalist dollars in ritzy restaurants!

His mantra of, "Why can't everyone be like me?" got old very quickly. While traveling through filthy, corrupt countries where he was robbed and threatened by the "wonderful" natives, he constantly reminded the reader of the evils of America. Classic example: the way he yearned to be back in his beloved California, while three pages later he tore down the USA's way of life as decadent.

No, Mr. Heggstad missed numerous opportunities to write about the facts and keep the America-hating vitriol to himself.

But, like others of his ilk, he just couldn't help himself and all the reader gets from reading his account is a bitter, angry "world citizen" who attempts to shed his American skin by celebrating the "rich" cultures of 3rd world countries.

Another beautiful and ironic example of Mr. Heggstad's naïve and misguided perspective: He ridiculed US State Department warnings as silly and intended to scare Americans from visiting wonderful countries. Hmmm, tell us about your experiences with the "wonderful" natives in Colombia. Were you treated like a world citizen? (SPOILER ALERT: Fore those of you who haven't read Mr. Haggstad's book about that trip, he was taken hostage and tortured by Columbian terrorists...just like the State Department warnings had cautioned Americans about.)

I sold this book for $1 and bought Jupiter's Travels. I have read--and prefer--One Man Caravan; I recommend those two books for those who loving adventure motorcycling AND love this country.

The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles: Melissa Holbrook Pierson A real man-bashing epic short on the motorcycling zen. Oh, what promise this book had and oh, how I enjoyed the first couple of chapters. However, the author's consistent criticism of everything white American soured the entire book for me. I sent it back to Goodwill Industries, from whence it came. Like other reviewers have commented, the start and finish show potential--it's everything in between that really sucks.

While it's apparent that Ms. Holbrook-Pierson has a motorcycle jones, she can't help but spew disdain for white, male, Harley-Davidson riding Americans. Her theme of, "Why can't we all be strong women-- without men-- riding Italian bikes in a true socialist society?" gets old really fast.

The tears she sheds for lost loves seem hollow after the considerable man-bashing dedicated in chapter after chapter of vitriol disguised as. "oh, poor me!" One wonders why she ever married a man and if she's still married.

I find it ironic in one chapter where, while championing her prison pen-pal--a black felon imprisoned for crimes the author chooses to leave out of her narrative--she chooses to further savage the white male motorcycle enthusiast, referring often to that species' penchant for yelling, "TITS" at any and all females.

I can't imagine what took place in this author's past to bring about such hate, but the motorcycle enthusiast would do well to find another source of motorcycle literature. The author's work will find its place not in describing the essence of the bike culture, but instead in joining fellow liberals in documenting/gushing over famous motorcycle lovers like Che Guevara's, "pre-killing-spree" cycling adventures.

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart I just don't know what it is about some folks who can't hide their distaste for Americans. They come to the USA, enjoy our beaches, ride on our roads, see the sights, then go home and spout anti-American nonsense. It's frustrating when the french do it, but, hey...consider the source. But friggin' Neil Peart? One of the best drummers from one of the very best rock and roll bands ever? That really stung.

Worse yet, I read two other books he authored (about cycling and motorcycling). It's apparent the guy can write. Nice writing style, wonderful subject matter -- horrible choice of attacking his core audience.

He's managed to turn motorcyce touring literature into a communist manifesto when there was potential for so much more.

Cases in point: 1) He goes on and on about staying away from fat, dumb, white Americans who seem to keep getting in his way! How dare they try to enjoy the Grand Canyon while SIR PEART is here! At every turn he is grousing about them Damn Yankees and our penchant for having a good time while he's trying to be an "artist." He constantly "lets it slip" that he's "someone famous" but remains perplexed as to why them stupid Americans won't leave him alone. To be fair to Mr. Peart, he carried that crappy attitude all over Cameroon and parts of Europe, too.

2) His political rants fall flat as everyone knows he chooses to reside in California, USA. He even married an American girl. For all the USA-bashing he does, and all of his snide comments about our politics, he somehow manages to leave his beloved canada and grace us with his presence. Thanks, Neil, thanks a whole lot.

Turns out Mr. Peart is just rotten inside, and I doubt that the untimely deaths of his wife and daughter caused it...he just seems like a miserable person altogether.

In a way, reading his books turned out to be like discovering there was no Santa Claus or seeing your hero without his hairpiece. It just ruins the experience and it's never the same. Now I can't even listen to a rush song without hearing the commie chant.

Stick to writing pop lyrics, Neil. And do it from canada if you really hate us that much.

Endless Horizon: A Very Messy Motorcycle Journey Around the World by Dan Walsh For the record, this is the US release of "These Are The Days." Same book, different title.

This piece of work should be on everyone's "not recommended" book list. Like Heggstad's "TWTT", how many times can one man boast of his prowess under the covers in one book?!

No one is going to put this guy in the same class as Ted Simon, and he can't be compared to any serious adventure motorcyclist. His lack of understanding of bikes, other cultures, basic history, politics, geography and social norms is astounding. I'm amazed that the editor didn't inform Walsh of the erroneous information he piled into this...pile.

Regardless, he ignorantly rides through some great parts of the world, blissfully unaware of the facts or anything interesting that he's missing. It's sad really, that he had such an opportunity but was such a putz that he drunkenly rode on by, jotting down his asinine observations between the many women he allegedly beds.

Truly not worth reading -- even if you find it for free.