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.