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.