By Stuart Shakespeare
This book is essentially a travel journal by the author, covering several long distance rides that he took from the age of 79, riding from the east coast to Alaska, California and Daytona. Mr. Boonstra is an Octogenarian, and an avid motorcyclist. He has ridden over 1.25 million miles in his motorcycling career, and is winner of three AMA awards, including Rider of the Year in 2002.
In the trips he booked one or two motels in advance, and those were at Thanksgiving. Other than that, he chose to work his way around in a casual manner, with a basic set of turn directions for each trip, choosing en route whether he needed to change course or alter the plan – and finding motels and accommodations as required; his attitude very much one of “be thankful for what you have, and keep going”.
At some points, I found myself shaking my head as he is not afraid to admit the effects of his advanced years and difficulties he has, but between the lines came out a real passion for motorcycling, and seeing the sites that the USA has to offer. Each of the trips he described detailed these difficulties, and his joy at overcoming them. Naturally it is clear that he is very proud of his achievements, but I really found his writing to be unassuming, not pompous and self inflated. He deals in a very matter of fact manner with problems such as running out of gas and severe weather, but even so the drama of these situations, and the pleasure of the positive experiences, really stands out. As a result, illustrations are not essential, and there are only a few photographs included with the text, as basic highlights to the narrative.
In this book the author covered the entire North American continent, travelling throughout the year on simple, medium sized bikes. Equipped with basic travelling gear, he travelled freely and at every opportunity, refusing to let arthritic pain, Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis from ending his career. He was still riding across country, in the winter, at age 84.
I enjoyed the book, and I found it inspirational. On the downside, the writing is not complex, and might even be described as pedestrian, with no poetic narrative of vistas and scenery; instead it is very much a recording of what happened on his trips day to day, with a mention of the weather, where he stopped to eat, and the miles ridden. On the significant upside, it demonstrates how much fun and excitement is to be had riding around this great country, and above all how casually you can do it and cope with any problems along the way (Mr. Boonstra hit a Stone’s sheep at speed on the Alaska highway for example, and still finished the ride).
This book is a great read for riding enthusiasts, and as an example of the possibilities of motorcycle touring for new riders and experienced riders alike. Learn more about Boonstra at PietBoonstra.blogspot.com