Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Headin' to the Boneyard

I stopped to fill up at the Pilot station in Sligo, KY and spotted this whole flatbed full of bad luck. Seriously, I hope none of the riders ended up at that great Hole in the Wall in the sky. Just a none too gentle reminder to ride like you're invisible.


Back in August, my wife and I attended a special screening of Long Way Down, the two-hour director's cut, in a local theater. Unfortunately, I wasn't a subscriber to the channel on which the entire series aired starting later that same evening. I thought I'd post the preview from that series here. Enjoy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Long Way...Through?

As a big fan of the original book and television series, Long Way Round, I was excited to learn that Ewan and Charlie planned another epic adventure. This time, the pair planned to ride from the point farthest north in Scotland to the furthest point south in Africa, a trip of nearly 15K miles. They rode in the shadow of the pyramids, cruised along the Nile, and dodged elephants in the deserts of Namibia. The two visited several charities throughout the trip, including Unicef and Riders for Health, an organization of motorcycle riders delivering medications to those without access to those medications throughout rural Africa. The friends stopped in Rwanda to visit the sites of horrific genocide. As usual, they sampled the cuisine of each country through which they passed.

So why am I not as satisfied with Long Way Down as I remember being when finishing my read of Round? I picked up and read Round as a paperback before I watched the TV series. When I finally purchased and viewed the actual video series, I was doubly amazed with the magnitude of the journey. With Long Way Down, I'm already aware that the series for television exists. The book, constructed in the same manner as Round, that is, Ewan and Charlie alternate as the narrator of their tale, served merely to whet my appetite for what I believe will undoubtedly be another monumental piece of motorcycle film making.

I cite only minor annoyances with the book. At one point, Ewan's wife, Eve, visited the pair and traveled with them for about one week. The book's narrator's continue unaltered in their telling of their tale, though they separated following Eve's arrival. I would like to have seen entries in the book by Eve, as she becomes such an integral part of the story for a short while. While the pair do little to acknowledge the effect of Eve's arrival on the overall mood of the journey, it's clear that she acts as a sort of antagonist against the two friends. Permitting Eve to use her own voice as a narrator could perhaps have diminished her standing as an outsider. It also would have created structurally in writing what occurred thematically in the book.

Though I found the book to be a slower read than the first time I experienced Ewan and Charlie's writing, Long Way Down's worth the read. In the least, it peaks the interest and may act as a primer for the video series. I spent most of this last weekend watching the Round series again and hoping that Long Way Down would live up to the legacy of it's predecessor. What I truly enjoy about the books and the series is that it steers readers and viewers away from the stereotype of the biker as an American outlaw. We can ride long and hard, be free in the wind whether on this continent or another, sleep under the open sky, and still retain our sense of compassion for one another and the human race in general.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shifting Gear

Time really can get away from me. I was trolling around some of my favorite forums and reading blog entries when I realized that I haven't posted to my own blog in over a month. And a lot has happened in the previous thirty days to post a few updates. I put the Ninja in the shop for a few days...well, a few days transformed into about three weeks while I waited for a valve cover gasket to arrive from Jupiter or some place. I replaced the rear tire. I chose another Bridgestone Battleaxe as I'm drawing between 12 and 15K miles from each one. The valves were adjusted, the air filter replaced, fuel filter renewed, rear brake pads installed, and oil and filter changed. Despite the wait for parts, the bike was returned to me by the shop dialed in and running as if I'd just ridden off the showroom floor.

I finally got around to replacing my aging Joe Rocket Ballistic 4.0 jacket with the Motoboss 3/4 textile jacket in the photo above. The Rocket leaked at each vent and, I believe, some of the seams. Given that the Ballistic was over three years old and had seen nearly 50K miles in weather ranging from light rain to snow, I figured it worthy of retirement. I'm pleased with the Motoboss thus far. I've had the occasion to be caught out in heavy rain while wearing it and wasn't disappointed with the quality of rain resistance. Waterproofing has always been tricky at best when it comes to motorcycle gear.

"Is it waterproof," I've asked.

"That depends," is the response. "Waterproof like light drizzle...yes. Waterproof like a midget dipped in liquid latex...no."

I'm pleased to announce that the salesman for my Alpinestars boots was indeed correct. Over the previous month and then some, the stiffness gradually faded away. These boots are indeed some of the most comfortable road boots I've ever had the fortune in which to stomp around. While not at the stage of a comfortable well-worn pair of sneakers, I'm pleased that I can spend the day in them and not pull them off in the evening nursing blisters. Did I mention they're Italian. Oh, yes....Italian.

I spent a few days at the beginning of April camped in the Cherokee National Forest of eastern Tennessee. I'll post the photos I've taken later, including some shots from the Dragon by Killboy. I met a variety of individuals in the few days I camped and rode the area. The hospitality shown to motorcyclists in the region always amazes me. Whether I've visited in the height of summer or during the birth of the season as I did this most recent trip, I'm never disrespected by the locals. My thoughts inevitably spin to planning the next ride into breathtaking Appalachia, sometimes before the mountains have even disappeared from my mirrors.