Review: Bonneville Go or Bust

In the incredibly hot summer of 2012, Zoë Cano of England, started out on a dream of a lifetime to ride a Triumph Bonneville across America from Boston to Los Angeles. It was four years in the planning. Last year, I interviewed her about her travels, and now the dream has continued with the publishing of her book Bonneville Go or Bust, published by Road Dog Publications.

Before the book, and only reading her blog, I was very impressed with her adventure. That’s what prompted the first interview. Now, having read the book from cover to cover, I am in awe. Zoë Cano is a wonderful writer and she spins the tale of her travels as only a talented writer can do.

We have tried to conduct another interview, but schedules and a five-hour international difference in time have kept that at bay. So, I wanted to get this review out. You will want to buy a copy of her book, or maybe give a copy to a friend.

With the publication of her book, Zoë Cano caught the attention of the motorcycling community including Triumph Motorcycles. She has been busy making appearances in Europe at places like the famous Ace Café, and recently, Triumph of America brought her to the USA for an appearance at the Barber Museum Vintage Days and also AIMExpo. Yes, she has been a very busy lady, and you can keep up with her activities and book signing events on her blog.

It sure seems like a dream come true, and it all began with that ride across America—her dream ride, the one that took her four years of planning. I’m not sure she expected all of this success and attention.

Zoë takes us on a journey from Boston where she picks up a rental Triumph Bonneville—like the one she owns back in England—and travels a route of back roads and busy interstates staying at out of the way places and visiting the real America of local communities. What is most amazing is that she spent four years planning her route, and she kept to that schedule almost perfectly. As I read about the places she stayed and ate, I found myself saying, “I’d like to go there.”

Zoë Cano is not a stranger to the United States having a few friends scattered across the country. She certainly makes friends easily, and even meets a few road angels along the way. It’s a fascinating read, one that will make it hard to put the book down. Involved with equestrian events in Europe, and riding two wheels, she finds a lot of common ground in America with cowboys and bikers, all who find her journey fascinating and lend a hand on a few occasions. Upon reaching Los Angeles, she turns in her rental Bonneville and flies home with the reality of a concluded journey that she wished would continue. And as a reader, so do I.

As I was preparing to write this review, I showed this book to my Mom, who looked at the cover, thumbed through the pages, asked me about it, and then said, “When you’re done reading it, I’d like to read it. It looks interesting.” THAT from my 86-year-old mother who absolutely forbade me to own a motorcycle when I was in high school.

The book is very well written. It’s a page turner, and you’ll have a tough time putting it down, wanting to read about the next stage of her journey. It is much more than a motorcycle travelogue, it is a travelogue of a dream come true with encounters with other riders, people, cowboys, horses, museums, great places to stay, and restaurants. It could be a travel guide for crossing the country.

The unexpected bonus of the book is the appendix, complete with details about the motorcycle, gear she carried, costs of her travels, and a list of her lodging accommodations and eateries. The extra bonus in the appendix is her “Essential Music for the American Adventure,” which could easily be anybody’s list of travel music, and it has me humming “Take it Easy” by Jackson Browne as I write this review!

Thank you, Zoë, for your wonderful book. I think this one will be a classic, maybe even reaching the same status as that other Triumph rider in the 1970s, Ted Simon, who rode his Triumph around the world.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you out on the highway.

Brent

P.S. I bought my first motorcycle after graduating from high school. Only recently did I learn of my mother’s youthful motorcycling adventures. Smile

Review: Forks by Allan Karl

FORKStheBookcoverMockup5-580x400When I first learned of Allan Karl’s Kickstarter project, I thought it to be an intriguing idea and quite different than the usual memoir of “I rode around the world on my motorcycle.” It’s not only unique, it is brilliant.

Had Karl taken this trip after the Ted Simon Foundation was in operation, this book would be the poster child for meaningful travel and sharing culture. More about that in a bit.

Currently on a book tour, Karl starts out his presentations with “I lost my job. I got a divorce. I might as well ride a motorcycle around the world.” And so he did. Three years. Sixty-two thousand miles. Five continents. Thirty-five countries. One motorcycle.

Allan-Karl_Cincinnati

Karl says he started out with the intent he would write a memoir about his travels. Somewhere along the way, he realized that ordinary people in the vast mix of cultures greeted him with friendship and invited him to share a meal. That became the common denominator for the book. We all eat, and when we sit down to share a meal, we are no longer strangers.

The book is filled with travels in each of the countries—one country, one chapter, and a recipe. The book tour events build upon those stories—some which never made it into the book, like the Mexican police officer on a motorcycle who stopped Karl for “speeding.” Karl knew it was all about a bribe and tried his best to avoid payment. But it became clear the officer was not going to let Karl go without some kind of payout.

Trying to out wit the officer, Karl says he explained he had lost his wallet with an ATM card and passport and needed to get to the next town to get replacements. All he had was a $20 bill in his pocket, and Karl was trying not to give that up. “How do you ask for change from a police officer who will probably take $2.”

Finally insisting that he was nearly out of gas, the officer noticed Karl’s fuel bottles on the back of the bike. He takes the empty bottles, walks over to his motorcycle, pulls the fuel line and fills the empty bottles! Leaving his own motorcycle nearly empty.  Shortly, Karl was headed down the road minus the $20. The cop had an answer for everything including giving up his own gas.

That’s the energy of attending one of Karl’s book events. The extra stories. You can read about his encounter with guerillas (the AK-47 armed kind) in Columbia, or crossing the border into Syria. Fascinating stories.

Crossing into Syria, after several days of delays, the chief inspector would not let Karl go until he shared a tea, and then the chief inspector wished Karl safe travels. Several hours down the road at a gas station, the attendant insists Karl share a meal for it is many miles to Damascus. They sit with tea and share a Fattoush Salad.

That’s one of the things Karl tries to do in  his book events—share a sample of the foods as he did in Columbus, a Fattoush Salad.

Sharing a Fattoush Salad at Columbus book tour event.

This is a wonderfully colorful book, 264 pages, incredible color photography, fascinating stories of travel, recipes that will make your mouth water. This is where this book transcends the usual travel memoir. It is a book about meaningful or purposeful travel that brings cultures together and the sharing of a meal.

In 2011,  a group of individuals created the Ted Simon Foundation to promote world travel for the purpose of sharing culture, unfortunately, after Allan Karl had finished his travels. Currently, the foundation is sponsoring 88 travelers from 15 countries. The foundation mission: “… encourages those who adventure into the world to go the extra mile and transform their experiences into something of value for the world to share.” Allan Karl could be their poster child. Maybe he still can.

You can learn more about Allan Karl and his book at WorldRider.com or ForksTheBook.com. Look for him at a book tour event near you.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Testing the Anakee 3 motorcycle tire Part 1

I am ready for a new rear tire on the V-Strom, but decided to wait until Spring. That turned out to be a fortunate decision.

A couple of weeks ago, Glen from Sport Tour called to say their Michelin rep is looking for someone who could write a review for a new motorcycle tire they have developed for the adventure bike market—like the V-Strom. Would I be interested in testing a set of tires? Tell me more, I said. What are the conditions?

Michelin-Anakee3-test-1

Turns out, Michelin is looking for an honest and fair review of this new tire, and so I agreed to write a review and also produce a couple of You Tube videos.

In that first phone conversation, Glen said, “They look different.” Yes. They are quite different looking from the typical adventure tire. But, that seems to be part of Michelin’s research and design. Most adventure bike miles are on paved roads, so it appears there is a sport tire component to the design. The deep tread appears to be for the unpaved roads, and the interesting part of the tread are those little bevels and wedge cuts. Michelin says the tire is designed to release mud and gravel and give the tire more bite in the dirt. Interesting. This could truly be an adventure.

After agreeing to write the reviews, the tires were mounted on the wheels, and I installed them on the bike.

Here’s Part 1 of the video review:

Testing Michelin’s new Anakee 3 motorcycle tire

 

After producing that video, I had the opportunity to take the bike out for a few more miles. I purposefully chose a couple of local roads that have a twisting, up/down hill component with an off camber surface. I wanted to see how these tires were going to grip, and attempt to compare them to tires I am comfortable with—the Metzeler Tourance.

I was quite surprised. These tires have a very good trip on the twisties. I found myself leaning through the curves at a higher than my usual pace. And, the bike just tracked where it was pointed. Secondly, and this one is very hard to quantify, I think these tires are actually quieter on the road than the Tourance.

Granted, this is just a first impression, but it is a very positive one. The real test of these tires is yet to come, and how many miles will I get out of them. The Michelin rep wants them tested “all the way to the end.”

Look for more review of these tires in the upcoming riding season.

See you on the highway.

Brent

 

A conversation with Sam Manicom

Into Africa by Sam ManicomSam Manicom had only been riding motorcycles for three months when he started out to ride around the world on his BMW motorcycle. His lack of riding experience and riding skills might be considered by some to be foolhardy, but it sure provided the fuel for misadventures and a really good read. He wrote and published his first installment of the adventure, Into Africa, and then the subsequent installments, Under Asian Skies, Distant Suns and Tortillas to Totems.

Into Africa begins with a story from the middle of his African adventure, an accident in Tanzania that includes loss of limb, police, jail, fear, African courts, and the incredible generosity of strangers, and fear. Did I mention fear? Sam craftily lays out the scenario and action, and the only way to describe the printed word is “it’s a page turner.” You will not be able to put the book down, or in the case of the new audio release, stop listening to Sam tell his story.

Sam says he only had two concerns, fears actually, in setting out on an around-the-world motorcycle adventure, having an accident and ending up in jail somewhere. He experienced those fears and survived to tell his stories.

Sam Manicom

Encouraged by readers and fans, Sam was pressed to produce one of his books in an audio book format, and the recently released Into Africa audio book is now available. Printed copies of the books are available directly from Sam’s web site or from Aerostich if you live in North America. Visit the web site for details, www.Sam-Manicom.com. You can listen to sample of the audio book. All of the e-books are available in Kindle format from Amazon.

With the release of the audio book, Sam and I had chatted for a couple of months about an interview. His travels to Spain and my own schedule hindered a conversation until recently.

With Sam in Great Britain, and I in the USA, we decided to “chat” using Skype, and I recorded the conversation. The audio is incredible. It sounds like we’re sitting in the same room rather than thousands of miles apart.

Here is our conversation, recorded November 8, 2012.

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Thanks for listening. See you on the highway.

Brent

Movie Review: The Highest Pass

Showing now, in select theatres across the country, is a documentary film about a group of individuals following a spiritual teacher, all on Royal Enfields riding to the highest pass in the world at 18,380′ in the Himalayas, Khardungla Pass. In August, the film will be available on DVD, and it’s one you just might want to watch … several times.

Written by Adam Schomer and co-produced by Schomer and Jon Fitzgerald, it is a film about relationships between student and teacher, and stepping outside one’s comfort zone … way outside. The motorcycle adventure is the medium. The lessons learned are deeply internal and personal.

“Only the one who dies truly lives. Then there is liberation from fear.”  –Anand

The movie starts with the writer saying, “I am ready … to truly live.” And the narration begins with how this documentary came to be—an introduction to the teacher Anand, a motorcycle riding, iPod using, yogi. Although, it falls a little short on explaining how the other riders came to be on this adventure, and why they are all on new Royal Enfield motorcycles. One can only imagine there was some sponsorship for the film. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable film full of drama, hardship, contention, accidents, personal growth, camaraderie, enlightenment, joy and euphoria of achievement.

“Challenges reveal who you really are.” –Anand

The motorcycle adventure is 15 days to reach the highest pass, more than 2,000 kilometers. There are many instances and lessons about riding in India. Anand says to ride aggressively defensive! You get the picture—narrow roads with traffic barely staying in their own lanes and every vehicle out for themselves.

There are two components of this film: 1) A motorcycle adventure with incredible cinematography and 2) Lessons in spirituality for personal growth. There is no one religion preached here. It is wisdom and universal truths shared by all religions. It certainly gives one pause for reflection, and isn’t that what it’s about? The film does it well.

The Highest Pass, released by Cinema Libre Studio, will be available on DVD in August, 2012. The music, composed by Michael R. Mollura, will have you looking for the CD.

“The highest road in the world is within us. This whole journey is to know that.” –Anand

The movie trailer:

See you on the highway.

Brent

(Note: Cinema Libre Studio provided a pre-release DVD of the movie for screening purposes only.)