Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: "One Life to Ride" (Kindle Edition)

The following is my review of One Life to Ride - A Motorcycle Journey to the High Himalayas by Ajit Harisinghani. The is the second book for the Kindle that I have reviewed. A Google search indicates that the book is available in paperback, but I have a feeling it may be a bit difficult to find. As of this writing the book is $4.99 for the Kindle.

The book is different from many motorcycle related travel stories. It is written by a middle aged, Indian speech therapist with little cross-country riding experience and no mechanical background. This story is about a man and his beloved Royal Enfield motorcycle taking a beautiful trip through his own beautiful country. He rides 2500 miles and climbs to elevations over 15,000 feet. It is interesting to get descriptions and perspectives of riding through India written by a native rather than some wealthy American hipster.

Ajit Harisinghani on his Royal Enfield

I took a near immediate liking to Dr Harisinghani. In the foreword he talks about choosing a motorcycle and compares a street bike (aka crotch-rocket) to a Royal Enfield: "...Lighter and easily excited into full flight with her (the crotch rocket's) '0 to 100 in x seconds' flat! To an Enfield, that's premature ejaculation. It was staying power she (the Enfield) valued." As you probably know, I ride scooters and I can identify with the "staying power" comment. I don't ride to get anywhere fast.  This dry sense of humor is found throughout the book.

In addition to excellent descriptions of the countryside, villages and towns, the author also includes some of his personal philosophy about life. He deliberately stays in very questionable lodging from time to time because "I believe that we should periodically put ourselves through some physical discomfort, even disgust, to better appreciate the good things we take for granted in our everyday, privileged lives." This idea gets implemented on his trip to Goa, where he stays in a tiny, cobweb filled, room with a single window and non-working fan. This is followed by a very entertaining description of the "hotel's" privy.  It is known, locally, as a "pig toilet" and it is basically a platform suspended over the farmer's pigs. This system saves the trouble of plumber the toilet, as well as the need to feed the pigs.
Indian Highways are a bit less "developed" than American ones.

While some stories of epic rides spend a lot of time discussing the minutia of preparing for a ride, One Life to Ride virtually skip that, since our hero is not a mechanic nor hard-core adventure rider. He is simply an ordinary guy wanting an adventurous ride. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy books where every detail of a major ride is covered, but this is also enjoyable.

Another thing included as Harisinghani rides is the camaraderie of motorcyclists. As he rides some of the highest roads on the planet, he meets people on various bikes and from multiple countries. However, the fact that they are all riding gives them something in common that overcomes their differences. I have experienced this myself and it is a good thing. He has no experiences with people in Winnebagoes, however.
There are some great passages in this book about the author's encounters with soldiers and riding along a contested border. (from

The author has an easy to read, casual writing style that I didn't expect from a physician. He covers a lot of ground and he writes just about as much about the ride home, as he does the rest of the ride and it is all good. I will say that I am glad I read this on my Kindle. I used the feature where you can click on a word and get its definition. There are a lot of local words (mostly food dishes) that I otherwise would have skipped over were it not for my Kindle. This is a good read. There are better, but this is worth the time. Read it, you'll be glad you did. 4 stars.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: Zero to Sixty

The description of this book really caught my eye. "Nearing 60 and diagnosed with heart disease, what's a man to do? Road trip of course." It  talked about Gary Paulsen, author of numerous children's books, and fellow New Mexican, who uses this book to "recount his life-affirming ride from New Mexico to Alaska." Well, I'm now over 50 and enjoy good health, but you never know. I bought it with eager anticipation.

Zero to Sixty - The Motorcycle Journey of a Lifetime by Gary Paulsen. A memoir by the author of WINTERDANCE. As mentioned, I was looking for ward to a good read about an epic motorcycle trip done by a guy not too many years older than myself. I am sure that the journey was, indeed, fantastic. Just after purchasing his first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Gary decides to ride his blue Heritage Softail to Alaska. A friend hears about it and comes along with him.

This has all the makings of a great story. Recently diagnosed with heart disease, our hero buys the bike of his dreams and almost immediately decides to take off on a 10,000 mile trip with a buddy. Right? Wrong!

 Each chapter starts with two or three paragraphs about where they are at in their rather spontaneous journey. Then, the author is reminded of some childhood, or Army or some other memory, then spends the rest of the chapter on it. Don't get me wrong, Mr Paulsen has had a rather interesting life, but I got this book to read about RIDING and motorcycles and overcoming (at least temporarily) the effects of aging.
He could have had a great photo like this, but didn't. (from
In later chapters, he does write a bit more about the journey, but by that time, I was disappointed by the lack of coverage about the rest of the trip, that I couldn't thoroughly enjoy it. I will say, that his opinion of RV'ers is consistent with Tiger Edmonds'. In Chapter 10, he writes: "I'm not going to say that every person driving a motor home is a road-ignorant old fart who couldn't pour piss from an old boot with the instructions written the heel..." and "They're like lemmings, except that most of them seem to have less cognitive ability..." Come to think of it, Chapter 10 probably makes the book worth buying and reading.

Like so many books and movies about grand journeys, the first half or so gets all the coverage. The end is an after thought. In Zero to Sixty, the ride from Fairbanks back to New Mexico is covered in just under three (yes, 3) pages. Really? There was nothing of note seen, no awesome section of road, no example of incredible stupidity by a guy in a Winnebago? Furthermore, he does not use the last chapter, or the last portion of the last chapter to describe what he learned about life, the universe or everything.

I've never read any other of Gary Paulsen's works. If you are a fan and want to learn some really interesting things about his childhood and time spent in the Army, you will probably love this book. If you're wanting a read about a great ride, skip it.

I have an idea for a rating symbol, but don't have it ready yet. In the meantime, I give Zero to Sixty 2 stars. It would have been one star except Chapter 10 earned its own star.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"The Ghost of Scootertrash Past"

The Ghost of Scootertrash Past – Memories & Rants of a Longrider by Mark "Tiger" Edmonds

 “Tiger” Edmonds is at it again. True be told, this one is my favorite, so far. Tiger reminds me of a biker version of Baxter Black. His musings on riding and "the road" are obviously heart felt as well as thought and emotion provoking. 

Scootertrash is his second book and it is a random collection of Edmonds' stories from the road. He writes in a unique style. He is profane at times. He has no respect for political correctness, so if you're easily offended, this may not be the book for you. Parts of this book are poetic and deserve to be read aloud.

Here is one such poetic excerpt where Tiger is talking to a young lady. They have very different ideas about being on the road: 
“She giggled and asked about the sunshine and unfrozen rivers and flowers and birds and butterflies in the air. She asked about alligators and the Southern Cross and the Spanish moss. And she wanted to know about manatees.
But I told her about the heat and the cold, about just getting' old, and about thousand mile days. I tried to tell her about border towns and local citizens' frowns and about how the highway will wear you down out there between the Mohawk Valley and Tampa Bay.”

This exchange goes on for several "stanzas" and sounds great when read aloud.
Here's to being on the road less travelled

Other parts are humorous in the way he chooses to describe something. Here is Tiger talking about tunnels: “Way I figure it, you got to have a lot of gopher in you to be comfortable riding into a hole in the ground. The trouble is that riding a motorcycle is basically an outdoor activity, and tunnels are seriously indoors. It’s one of them things, like eating oysters,that makes you wonder who was the first guy tried it, and what the hell was he thinking?”

Riding through an old rail tunnel at the Scoot NM rally

Some of his thoughts on "super-slabs": "Interstate highways permit the inept to drive. Hell, they encourage the incompetent to travel cross country. .... It's a real mindless activity, and it can be done by the mentally deficient." (Remember what I said about those who are easily offended?)

I love this book and give it 5 stars. (I hate using "stars" as my rating symbol. Does anyone have an idea about a scooter-appropriate symbol? If so, please leave your suggestion in your comment.)

On days the weather or something else keeps you from riding, find a great book like this. It helps.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: Life is a Road, the Soul is a Motorcycle

Life is a Road, the Soul is a Motorcycle by Daniel Bryan Meyer is a free Kindle book which I highly recommend. The first thing that drew me to it is that it has the word "motorcycle" in the title. The second thing is that it said "free" next to the cost. I will say that it is worth paying for, though. It is a great read.
Not my pic, but this is a Valkyrie. Beautiful bike!

According to the bio at the end of this book, Daniel Meyer is a "six-foot, three-hundred pound, blue-eyed
Texan, supremely confident and strong as an ox, though I don't usually smell like one." He rides a bike suitable for a big man; an Honda F6 Valkyrie.

I knew I was going to like this book by the end of the first paragraph of the introduction by Mr Meyer. He was just preparing to pull out of a gas station when a bike, it's rider and a passenger pull in. "Memories stirred as I watched a father and his young son dismounting their motorcycle in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant. As the boy removed his helmet, the grin I knew would surely be there shone brightly for the entire world to see." As a kid, I never got to ride with my dad or any other family member, but as an adult, I have gotten to see that "grin" under the helmet as I have given my grandchildren rides. It is, indeed, a treat for me and something, I hope, that they remember doing with me after I am gone. I knew I would like a book written by a rider who recognized that riding joy.

Life is a Road, according to the author, is the result of him recalling his many travels, the sights seen, people met and the magic experienced. Each chapter is a short story which describes a ride and/or incident in Mr meyer's motorcycling life. As it happens, he is a very good story teller.

My favorite chapter is called "Valkyrie Magic" and is Daniel giving a ride to a naked woman he find along a deserted stretch of highway. He describes the conversation that goes on between 4 parts of his brain when he first spots the woman. The Analytic Brain, the Motorcyclist, the Texan and the Male:

"Analytical: Whoa guys, get off the brake, get your hand back on the gas. Something is wrong here.
Motorcyclist: Somebody is standing beside the road. She may be in trouble.
Texan: She needs help. Let's stop.
Male: There is a naked woman beside the road. We're stopping.
Analytical: All I'm saying is that something is up. We should go on. People just do not step out into the road. This could be a trap.
Motorcyclist: There is no sign of an accident, and we have not passed any broken down cars. there are no houses anywhere near here. Maybe he's right. Something is up.
Texan: She needs help. Let's stop.
Male: Did you guys not hear me? There's a naked woman beside the road!"
What would The Duke do?

This continues in a predictable, but hilarious manner. As a male and a rider myself, I fully understand the conversation as well as its inevitable outcome.

If you read through the Kindle reviews of this book, you will see that a number or people doubt the veracity of Daniel's stories. I thought, too, that some of them may have stretched the truth a bit. However, when I got ready to do this review, I noticed two little words at the bottom of the cover page: "a novel." I believe that the basis for all these stories is authentic. I also believe that Mr Meyer added a few things to the stories, when needed, to make them a bit more fun. It's called artistic license.

This book is self published, and it shows. It could use some professional editing to clean up typos and errors in grammar, but the book is still well worth the read. Do yourself a favor and download this book.

Ride on my friends,


Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing

The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing - Long Distance Motorcycle's Endless Road by Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Ms Pierson is an excellent writer with a fluid, easy to read and understand style. I also read her first book, The Perfect Vehicle: What is it about Motorcycles? That book was good, but she has improved a lot and The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing is really super.

The Iron Butt Association: who are they and what possess them to ride extreme distances? (like 1000+ miles a day for 10 or more days in a row) Who does someone who has ridden through all of the lower 48 states in 6.6 days (Mike Kneebone & Fran Crane) look up to? What does it take to make your own butt into Iron? What are the risks and benefits of this kind of riding?

Ms Pierson answers all of these questions and a lot more. She is a lifelong motorcycle rider and it shows in her writing. She spends most of the book talking about Iron Butt riders and events, but there is also a section where she describes her own attempts at endurance riding while preparing to write this book. There is a lot more to it than just hopping on the bike and twisting the throttle.

I really enjoy endurance riding, so reading this was easy and delightful for me. However, I think that anyone who rides, even if it is just for a couple of hours on the occasional weekend, will enjoy it too.

The man most of this book is about, John Ryan, is a true man who stops at nothing. His exploits are nothing short of legendary. Unfortunately, because he rides a motorcycle, rather than flies an airplane or drives a stock car, he will never be heard of by 99% of Americans. This fact is probably okay with Ryan, because he doesn't ride for fame or to win events, he rides for the love of it.

Book I of The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing is about the Iron Butt Association (IBA) in general and about John Ryan, specifically. There are wonderful comparisons between endurance riders and fighter pilots in one part and to cowboys of the old west in another. You learn about people in other disciplines who have done extreme things (like running 350 miles without sleep.)

In Book II, Ms Pierson gives her personal perspective of doing a Saddle Sore 1000 accompanied by none other than John Ryan.
The "hump" on top of the fuel tank, is actually the tank. Mr Ryan's bike has a fuel capacity of about 10 gallons.

Book III is my favorite. It gives an account of what may be John Ryan's most amazing ride. One of the IBA's sanctioned rides in the 50CC. The "CC" stands for Coast to Coast and the "50" means that you must complete the ride in less than 50 hours. One variant of this is the UCC or Ultimate Coast to Coast. It means that you must ride more than 5600 miles between Key West, FL and Prudhoe Bay, AK. In June of 2005, Mr Ryan left from Prudhoe Bay in an attempt to break the record time of 96 hours. After a couple of delays, he finally sets out and shatters the mark by almost 10 hours. Amazing!

Incase you are new to my blog, I, too, rode a Saddle Sore 1000 in 2010 (Has it been that long already?) If you are interesting in reading my account, you can find it HERE

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Another Review: Scooters - Red Eyes, White Walls & Blue Smoke

I first saw Scooters - Red Eyes, White Walls and Blue Smoke at my local scooter shop, Scoot Over. It sat on the table near the chairs for people to read as they were waiting for service to be done, sales person to be available, etc. It is filled with great pictures of great scooters and people doing great scooter stuff. When my wife asked me what she should put on my Christmas list, this was one of the first books that came to mind.

Scooters is written by Colin Shattuck. He has an easy going, easy to understand writing style and clearly, he knows about scooters and those who love them. This book covers the American scooter scene from its beginnings in 1915 to the present. I really enjoyed the first two sentences of the Foreword: "Let's get one thing straight from the get-go. If we have to explain the wonder and allure and coolness of motorscooters, you simply won't understand." by Michael and Eric Dregni

Scooters is only 136 pages long, with plenty of photos, but even so, it covers a lot of ground. The first chapter, The Evolution of a Revolution starts with the 1915 American Motoped through the Suzuki Burgman and even touches on fuel cell, electric and hybrid bikes. Naturally, most of the print talks about Piaggio/Vespa and Innocenti/Lambretta, however, British, German, Japanese and Chinese scooters get covered as well. Don't worry, the two biggest American scooter manufacturers (Cushman and Salisbury) get their share  as well. If you want a succinct history of motor scooters, Red Eyes.... is THE place to get it.
A beautiful Heinkel that I photographed at High Rollers in 2011

Chapter 2 is called Scooter Breeds. This chapter not only talks about "modern" vs "vintage" scooters but some of the other ways out bikes are categorized. There are commuters, sport, mid-sized and maxi-scooters on the one hand. Vintage bikes are broken down into unrestored originals, restorations, customs, radical customs, racers, choppers, rat bikes and mods. There is also a nice section titled "Step by Step: A Restoration Guide which gives a simplified look at the stages of scooter restoration.
A Radical Custom as seen at Friki Tiki 2010

Chapter 3: Can You See the Real Me discusses the different kinds of people who ride scooters. He talks about the stereotypes as well. Some of the scooterists portrayed are the Mod, the Racer, Scooter Girls, Scooter Boys, the Old Man, and New School. The second half of chapter 3 is called "Join the Club." it gives a list an small description of a small sampling of scooter clubs around the US, divided by region. While I found this section interesting, I'll probably catch some flak for this, but I also found it a bit disturbing. I find it a bit bothersome that so many clubs find their identity in alcohol, mayhem, hooliganism and other immature behavior. I suppose I'm just getting old.
Gratuitous promotion of my own club

Chapter 4: Runs, Rallies, Raids... Mayhem is the final chapter. Since I have helped organize a number of rallies in the Tucson area, this was the first chapter I read. I wanted to see what other were doing and see what I could integrate into our rallies. The first part of this chapter talks about European rallies. (The 1984 Isle of Wight Rally had 12,000 people in attendance!) Then is returns to the states with a quick description of the elements of a rally then moves to cover (as with the scooter clubs) a variety of rallies broken down by region. I was thrilled to see that our own Tucson/Nogales Fall Classic is included.
Camp Scoot 2010

High Rollers 2012

Tucson/Nogales Falls Classic 2009
For A Few CC's III 2013

Scooters - Red Eyes, White Walls & Blue Smoke is an excellent primer on scooters and scooter culture in America. If you are new to scooters and want to what you may have gotten yourself in to, I would start with this book. It is informative, quick, down and dirty. For those with ADD, it has lots and lots of great photos.

Ride On!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trying it Again . . . . with a review

I have missed writing. (Although, with a year and 8 month absence, that is probably a little difficult to believe.) For what it's worth, I have written a very few entries on the Sky Island Riders site. As we all know, "life happens" and priorities change, as does the amount of time one has to write on a blog.

One thing I have had a bit of time to do is read. I was watching a bit of television (usually NetFlix) most nights before I went to sleep. I realized that I had several books about scooter and motorcycle riding, that my loving bride had bought for me, laying around and that watching the tube was a poor way to show my appreciation for those gifts. I started spending some time reading most evenings. I have read some really good books, some average and some below average books over the past few months.

I have been feeling bad about not posting here and was trying to think of a good way to break back into the habit. Something quick and relatively easy to write sounded good. Then it occurred to me that I could start writing reviews of the books I have been reading. Some of the people I know may discover a good book or two, after all, the books I have been reading are not "high profile" and while some are very good, i don't think any have made the Billboard charts (with one exception, although I haven't decided for sure if I am going to review that one.)

Let's get one with it, shall we?

Long Rider - A tale of just passin' through by Mark Tiger Edmonds
. From the back cover: "Take a BMW motorcycle, one million miles and Mark Edmonds. Distill for 35 years. Result?You get an insightful, compassionate (and passionate) view of America and what it means to all of us who, after all, are "just passin' through."...Mr Edmonds' assessment of this country and the changes it's undergone remains as unswerving as his assessment of himself as he rides his own pilgrimage, just passin' through."

Tiger Edmonds is a motorcycle riding, poetry writing professor at a college in Florida. He writes like he talks and he talks like a biker. If you are offended by profanity and use of the "f-word" books by Mr Edmonds are not for you. For those who can appreciate passion, even if you don't agree with its author, you may love reading Edmonds' work as much as I do.

Longrider is Edmonds' first book. It is not his best, in my opinion, but it is still very good. As mentioned above, mark has more than a million miles on motorcycles. He has a poet's heart and a painter's eye and he writes and passionately about what he sees and experiences on his rides. I will review some of his other books soon, I hope.

I think, no, I KNOW, that my favorite chapter of Longrider is called Roadsongs. In this chapter Edmonds explains that "different roads have different songs." He describes different roads he has been on and that many roads have "songs" that they sing to you as you ride. A road in West Virginia along the Tug Fork "sounds more like "Amazing Grace" than anything I ever heard." Another road between Austin and Abilene, he says, sings "a slow polka with a pretty heavy oompah beat to it." Personally, I had noticed that different roads have given me different feelings (other than the differences in pavement/asphalt) but when I read this chapter I had an "Ahah!" moment. Now I am more attuned to the songs that various roads sing to me.
This road has a different song to sing.....

than this one. Don't you think?

Chapter Eleven is another favorite. In addition to amusing roadside repairs, there is a section about signs. I have a tendency to notice and take photos of interesting and/or humorous signs I see. I was glad to see someone else who has similar observations about such signs as I do.
Sorry for the poor quality, but this was taken with my cell phone, through the drive thru window at a local burrito shop.

Other things he muses about in Longrider include Dead Animals, Savior Waitresses, Ex-Wives, Winnebagos (he hates them)Zen, Truckers and the Girl with the Paisley Paint Job and many others.