on 28 May 2012
This book is a trip and not an ego trip.
Giving the author 4 stars instead of 5 is my way of keeping him with his pen poised and ready to continue writing, as he should. Maybe you'll just give him 5 and be done with it. Read on and find out why.
Regular travel books these days range from the sublime to the pathetic. The range of specific motorcycle travel books has increased to where it now truly crosses over into the realm of regular travel books. This is a book about travel that happens to include a motorcycle, not just a motorcycle travel book.
So why is this important? I enjoyed this book because it fills in a lot of the gaps, the empty spaces that reside between arriving in destination x, y, and/or z, the places along the road that really do make up the journey.
Too many motorcycle travel books are tied up in making the author out to be a: hero, introspective guru, a lightning rod for cultures (though subjective analysis abounds usually), a sage expert in two wheeled travel, and/or some oddball mix of these. Graham Field presents a refreshingly glib and thought provoking look at travel and he does it from the seat of his motorcycle, the floor of a yurt, the edge of a cliff or two, the deeper part of a river crossing, and countless chairs in roadside eateries that offer fare from the delicious to the suspicious.
It is a flowing mix of details, thoughts, pithy random observations, and provocative paragraphs that will keep you reading and feeling like you are part of the "ride".
For regular travel book fans there is plenty here, ranging from a peculiar small black thing that happened to slip down a very foul hole in India and why anyone would bother to chase it, to an insider's "been there and done that" view of the accuracy of some travel guides that tend to embellish things a little too much. For motorcyclists, it is just plain fun to read, the trials and tribulations of the tent and camping, lost and found treasures in the panniers, and what it means to be a motorcyclist in some places that are off the beaten track. The comings and goings of temporary travel companions that range from the retentive to the really, really retentive.
It is probably not the way that many would choose to visit Mongolia, starting by going on a TV game show!
If you are a motorcyclist, by all means please read on.
We all know the bottom line is always going to be, "How does it stack up to the Ewan, Charley, Ted, Helge, Sam, and the tall Aussie brigade of bike travel writing?" That is the dirty little secret of motorcycle travel writing, as in other areas of life, comparisons are unavoidable, likely to result in some degree of red faced embarrassment, disappointment, depression, and all sorts of nasty things.
The answer here, though, is quite simple.
It is nowhere near the big budget adventure of Ewan and Charley, though the showbiz angle of how Field gets started is fun.
It is quite vacant of the deep, dark, and umbrella laden musings of Ted, in this case think Lichtenstein rather than Monet.
I don't know how well Field would have traveled with Helge but he, Field, probably would have tried to break him down with copious amounts of the local brews.
The tall Aussie, Adrian Scott? Well, let's see, umm, hmmmm, ok, they both have ridden Kawasaki KLR 650 bikes through Russia and that is the only place where the two authors intersect as far as similarities go in their writings.
Sam? I think if Sam had done a few more miles and lived a closer life with motorcycles prior to setting off on his first epic trip, he might have had a lot in common with Graham Field.
Who are Ewan, Charley, Ted, Helge, Sam, and the tall Aussie? If you don't know them, this book will be a good place to start to get to know them, they are all motorcycle travel authors and this book by Graham Field will likely get you wanting for more motorcycle travel reading.
It is a fine place to start if you are new to this, well, "field". He can hold his own here.
Will you enjoy this book as much as I did? Hopefully you will, though if you are a bellicose American politician you might find yourself offended, ditto for if you are a Russian bureaucrat. But if you enjoy a damn fine read that you can pick up, ponder, put down, and pick up again at anytime, you will like this book.
This is the first time I have hoped a motorcycle travel writer will write another book, rather than simply find out that a motorcycle travel writer has written another book.
I still laugh at the lines, "And who are you? A passerby?" and the context in which he presents them.
That alone was the worth the price of admission.