Opinion: Writers who ride

Tomorrow is the official launch for Motorcycle Messengers 2: Tales from the road by writers who ride, the second published collection of short stories and travellers’ tales compiled by CMG’s own erstwhile columnist, Jeremy Kroeker. He’ll be at the Pages on Kensington bookstore in Calgary on Thursday from 7-9pm, where he’ll sign books, talk about the stories in the book, play a little guitar and generally have a good time. If you can be there, you should be there.

I’m not shamelessly plugging Jeremy’s book because I have a story of my own published in it (though that helps. It was published on CMG too), and not because Zac also has an original story published in it. I’m shamelessly plugging it because we need more books like Jeremy’s sitting beside our bed or favourite chair, or on the toilet cistern. Pick up Motorcycle Messengers 2 and you can travel around the world on a motorcycle with some of the most experienced and entertaining riders on the planet: Ted Simon, Ed March, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, and a couple of dozen others. They’re short stories, so you can go to Africa for 15 minutes or all of Asia for an afternoon. Sounds like a deal to me.

Ted Simon and the Triumph Tiger 100, somewhere on his classic road around the world in the 1970s.

It was Ted Simon who first inspired many of us to travel on a motorcycle. I read his classic book Jupiter’s Travels about riding around the world on a Triumph Tiger 100 for four years back in the mid-1970s. I was a teenager and his adventures captivated me. I’m not alone – Jupiter’s Travels was a best-seller, and so influential that Ted did it again in the early 2000s on a BMW R80GS, and wrote about it in Dreaming of Jupiter.

There are plenty of classic motorcycle travel books in the same vein – Mondo Enduro, Lone Rider, Around the World on a Motorcycle and One Man Caravan – and if we can stop watching screens, they’ll take our imaginations to wherever we want to go.

“The adventure is your adventure, something that challenges you a lot or even just a bit,” writes Charley Boorman in the foreword to Motorcycle Messengers 2. “You don’t have to ride around the world, the Simpson Desert, Antarctica, or Death Valley. My message is about having a go – about trying new things, about taking a chance. What I’ve learned from the likes of Ted Simon and others is that the journey itself is the adventure. Failure doesn’t matter. The problems, the breakdowns – both mechanical and personal – are often magical keys that can unlock doors to incredible personal experiences.”

Charley Boorman, who’s just discovered the magical key that is unlocking his door to an incredible personal experience.

Of course, the thing that differentiates motorcycle travel from any other form of powered travel is the openness and inherent vulnerability of putting yourself out there. You’re not locked into a car or a truck, but you’re sitting on a saddle in the wind, smelling the smells, feeling the warmth and the cold. You’re actually in the moment, like it or not.

Good writing also puts you in the moment, sitting right on the pillion with the author, and Jeremy’s anthology delivers these experiences in bite-sized chunks. It’s enough to get you inspired to sling a leg over your bike and take off for yourself, and indeed, Jeremy’s getting ready to do that once again. He’s already ridden to Central America and Europe and Iran, but this fall, he’ll be loading up his bike for a year’s journey to South America. Tomorrow morning, here at Canada Moto Guide, he’ll tell us all about those plans and how he’s going to make it happen.

Jerey Kroeker, at the opposite end of the Americas to where he’s headed this fall.

Such a life is not for everyone. “Today we live in a world that often drains our opportunity and our motivation to take that leap of faith,” writes Charley Boorman in the foreword. “We have busy jobs and families, mortgages, and school plays to attend. I know it’s not easy to make that adventure happen.”

But with some planning, some preparation, and some inspiration, anyone can do it. If you’re in Calgary, head out tomorrow night to Pages on Kensington to ask Jeremy how. And if you’re anywhere else, order the book through Amazon or your favourite bookseller, or any of his previous books through his website, to take the first step. What have you got to lose?

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