By Ted Simon
by Victor Wanchena
Helen of Troy is said to have had the face that launched a thousand ships. Ted Simon very well may have the book that launched a thousand journeys. That book was Jupiter’s Travels. It was the account of Simon’s first round-the-world trip during the early seventies. Simon, self described as a writer, not a motorcyclist, set off around the world on a Triumph in search of inspiration. He found that and more. Jupiter’s Travels became a hit with motorcyclists and inspired riders to set off around the globe. Ewan McGregor credits Jupiter’s Travels as the seed that grew into both “Long Way Round” and “Long Way Down”.
I first read Jupiter’s Travels 15 years ago and loved it, but in some horrible oversight it was never reviewed for MMM. It wasn’t until I received Simon’s latest book, Dreaming of Jupiter, that I realized the oversight. I decided to tear into the newest book and was rewarded with a wonderful read.
Can you go back? And if you do, will it be the same? Those questions are at the heart of Dreaming of Jupiter. Simon is wonderfully introspective in his account of his second round-the-world motorcycle trip. In Dreaming of Jupiter, Simon looks back twenty-five years to his first trip. In a rather nonchalant way, he ends up embarking for a second time. The realities and pressures of the world today find Simon and he deals with them in kind. The fact that he is 70 years of age makes his journey even more amazing.
He heads south through Europe and then into Africa. The pressure of a film crew meeting Simon at a couple points weighs on him. His state of mind alternates between disappointment and elation. Some of the places he remembers are gone, but he is ecstatic to make connections with old and new friends. Simon continues on and is the better for it.
Simon is a very honest writer. There are many sections of Dreaming of Jupiter that feel as if you’re reading his diary. He doesn’t hide behind the façade of an experienced world traveler or invoke celebrity status. He records his genuine thoughts and feelings as he tries to recreate the route he took 25 years earlier. This openness in his writing ultimately makes you feel much more connected to Simon than with writers expressing more bravado.
I was continually amazed by how good fortune seems to find Simon. The kindness of strangers appears at many turns, which adds to the adventure. Having read Dreaming of Jupiter, I am convinced that Simon’s easy going, unassuming nature opens doors that would slammed shut for a more boisterous traveler. His laid back style should be noted by aspiring world travelers.
Dreaming of Jupiter parallels Simon’s first book in his style of writing and ease of reading. Riders and non-riders will both enjoy it because the motorcycle is not the center of the story. I give it a resounding 4 out of 4 cylinders.
Verdict: Where’s Patagonia? – Simon is a rock star.
Planning a trip to Patagonia. – Simon does it again, good read.
Been to Patagonia. – Why fly there when you can ride?
MMM welcomes your ideas for future book reviews. Send your suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org Please put “Book Review” in the subject heading.