My first thought when I met Rob was, “Wow this guy is really big.”
Zac Kurylyk: For some reason I had this pre-existing notion that all motojournalists were compact little guys, like jockeys, and Rob certainly didn’t fit that mold. But I found out over the years I worked with him that not only was he large in size, but he also had a big heart. He took a risk on me, giving me his wife’s bike for a whole summer for a tester after only meeting me once or twice, and when I managed to crash it in the middle of city traffic after blowing a tire, he still kept me around. I’m still with CMG all these years later, thanks to his patience.
Some of the best rides I’ll ever remember were with Rob: our fall tour to Quebec in 2012, our scouting trips for the Dawn 2 Dusk Rally and the Fundy Adventure Rally, and our spring tour in Nova Scotia in 2014. The Nova Scotia tour is a particular favourite because it was the one time I managed to beat Editor ‘Arris at his own game – thriftiness.
Rob and I had a running gag over his Yorkshire roots, and the thriftiness his background implied. On this trip, as we did whenever possible, we lined up sponsorship from the tourism board, but not just pre-arranged hotels. No, we also lined up a per diem budget of $50, to cover food costs.
Thus was born the Per Diem Challenge. Along with Michael Uhlarik, who was also along for the ride, we set down the rules: The day’s winner would be the writer who came the closest to spending their $50, excluding tip, without going over our limit. Also, you had to clear your plate — no ordering a big dinner and wasting it all. Exceeding your limit disqualified you from the day’s win.
Forget the scenery, forget the curves! The Per Diem Challenge quickly became the real point of the tour. I warned ‘Arris that no Englishman could ever compete with a native of PEI for frugality, but by the last day, we were tied with two wins apiece. It all came down to the last restaurant stop of the tour, when it appeared ‘is Editorship’s dinner was slightly more expensive, meaning he would win by a measly 17 cents.
Grumbling, I scoured the menu, then asked the waitress: “How much is a dinner roll?” The answer was 25 cents.
Victory, snatched from the jaws of defeat! I added that to the order and took the win. Of course, I reminded Rob that if he’d ordered something with meat in it, he could have won …
I miss Rob every time I see a twisty road and think I’d like to share it with him. I miss arguing with him over the respective merits of KLRs and DR650s. I miss having his experience on the other end of the phone, when I want to bounce around story ideas. I miss his refreshing lack of bike snobbery; whether it was a 200 cc made-in-China Konker, or a 1200 cc made-in-Italy Ducati, he always had fun on two wheels.
But most of all, I just miss him—the guy who made working in motojournalism so fun. He gave me my start, along with several other writers, and for that I’ll always be grateful. It was a pleasure to work and ride with someone who enjoyed life so much, who wasn’t afraid to have fun. I’m glad I had the chance to work with him when I did, and learn what I could.