The recently released motorcycle epic “The Long Way Down,” (starring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman) has me thinking. The U.S. is routinely crisscrossed by bikers every year. In fact, they have gotten rather regular about it. Two 70-year-olds have recently ridden Vespas across the country without batting an eye. Doug Raymond of the Mac-Pac Eating and Wrenching Society rode a BMW street bike from Philadelphia to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (on the Arctic circle) and back again in 13 days. (This included about 1,000 miles on the Haul Road, which is gravel.)
Even the world has been circumvented on two wheels. Beyond McGregor and Boorman, Edde Mendez (Moto Edde another Mac-Pac member) rode east from Morocco to Philadelphia, through the Sahara in Africa, up through Turkistan, through China and Russia, and across the U.S. for a total of 29,000 miles. He did this on a K75. Ted Simon of Jupiter’s Travels and the Raven brothers are just two other examples of riders whose combined efforts have left little pavement or dirt track unexplored.
All of the great motorcycle exploration rides have been taken. I recently heard of a rider who pulled into a remote African village on a dung and mud-covered BMW GS, opened his arms to say “Hello,” -- and caught a rock on his helmet just above his left eye. He was the 53rd rider to stop at this village in a month, and they were sick and tired of sharing what little they had with BMW riders who insisted on “separate checks.” According to Chief Mogube Alazumbo, “BMW riders arrive here with a one undershirt and a ten dollar bill. They stay a week without changing either one.”
Another village admits to offering adventure riders half-fermented goat’s milk and dried yams as a means to discourage their visits. “We ourselves eat a rather diverse menu, with various meats cooked to perfection, and several exotic vegetables that have a great taste and a Viagra-type effect,” says village headman Matua Nuttususi. “We would never share these with the hoard of visiting BMW riders. They’d be on us like locusts.” A third village hides their women when approaching motorcycles can be heard, letting goats wander about the streets untethered. “The appetites of these riders can be very strange,” said Utsi Baluka, a shepherd and nontraditional matchmaker.
Most of South America has been traversed by bikers too. The only parts left untouched are malarial swamps, snake and leech infested bogs, and stretches of virtual road jealously guarded by bandits to the point where riding on them is tantamount to suicide. Riders looking for manageable adventure at a price can enlist the services of specialty companies like Enduro Himalaya (http://www.endurohimalaya.com/gallery.htm), to be guided over ribbon-like roads bordering certain death in the highest mountain range on earth. You should look at their web site. Take the slide show. It is the only motorcycle tour I know where riders are encouraged to wear parachutes. (The slide show on this site has changed. The current pictures are certainly colorful and exciting, but the previous collection showed stretches of road that would scare the shit out of anyone.)
But this raises the question, “What adventure is left for the common man?”
I am proposing to make an epic ride, to be documented on film, that will cover a side of motorcycling that has yet to be presented on the pages of any book, or on the silver screen. It will be called “The Hard Way Down -- And Slightly To The Left.” This epic run will start in New York City and will be the story of one man’s -- and three women’s -- ride from Fifth Avenue to Key West. Using little advance planning, the group will be forced to stay in Deluxe or First Class hotels, eat only in four-star restaurants, and share jacuzzis under the harshest of conditions. In some cases the group will be forced to ride in light drizzle, heavy dusk, and and some extreme cases, bright sunlight. It will be the story of how room service meets the open road.
I have begun a search for sponsors, and for three women who would be interested in making this trip with me. Ideally, I am looking for a blonde, a brunette, and a red head, who share my philosophy of the open mind, the open road, and the open kimono. If necessary, I will consider Swedish twins as one rider. Now some of you will read this and laugh. But I am dead serious. The finished product will have the complexity of “Easy Rider, the technical polish of “The Blair Witch Project,” and the rakish dignity of “Jackass -- The Movie.”
Let’s face it... There something about conquering the elements that appeals to the primal man or woman in all of us. Yet there is also a degree of satisfaction in besting a head waiter or in getting a suite for the price of a regular room, that when coupled with motorcycling, is almost as good as the first five miles of gravel in Turkistan. It’s certainly better than the yurts I’ve seen in Turkistan.
Any ladies interested in making this run with me should indicate so in the comments below. Prospective sponsors should use my e-mail at the upper right of the blog.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)