Storm – A Motorcycle Journey of Love, Endurance and Transformation –
by Allen Noren
355 pages, $24.00
Travelers’ Tales, Copyright 2000
by Sev Pearman
All of us have dreamed of making a big ride. Some desire that trip to Sturgis. Others hope to bike to Panama and back. Author Allen Noren set his sights on circumnavigating the Baltic Sea by motorcycle. Storm is his true story.
With many extended trips under their belt, Mr. Noren and his girlfriend Suzanne plan a summer ride through Germany, Denmark, Sweden, across the Arctic Circle, Finland, the former Soviet Union, the Baltic States and Poland. Full of hope, they purchase a used BMW (the model is never revealed) and ship it to Germany.
The title reflects both the travel-induced strain on their relationship and the ceaseless rain, wind and storms they endure. Almost every person they meet tells them, “It usually never rains this time of year,” or that, “This is the worst summer for rain…” As anyone who has done extensive wet riding will confirm, the rain begins to take a toll on both their ride and relationship.
Mr. Noren doesn’t hide the fact that before his trip, he wasn’t much of a rider. The few sections that detail operation of his BMW are awkward. Seasoned riders will grimace at his lack of understanding of how motorcycles work and his failure to comprehend countersteering. Particularly unsettling are the passages where he battles his “regular foe,” the wind.
The author is much better at capturing the flavor of each country he visits. With a minimum of words, he illustrates the subtle changes in the people and topography. As they circle the Baltic, Mr. Noren carefully notes shop window contents, the upkeep of homes and towns and the friendliness of villagers. Many times I felt the relief of their arrival in a warm and dry place for the night. These observations make you feel present at each point along their journey.
Regular readers of this feature will enjoy Mr. Noren’s meeting with fellow distance rider Dave Barr, author of Riding the Edge, in northern Sweden. “He looked like a mechanic, complete with black grease embedded into the creases of his skin like tattoos. He wore…a shirt of indistinguishable color, and what looked like a Mao vest.”
We’ll leave it to you to find out if Allen and Suzanne complete the journey and remain together. Riders seeking specific travel pointers about riding in this part of the world will be disappointed with this month’s title. If you wish to read a personal account of a challenging ride, or have ever traveled with another person for an extended period of time, you’ll find the personal details that make up Storm well worth your while.
Casual Reader – Little motorcycle specific content to hold your interest.
Gear Head – Mr. Noren is a better writer than he is rider.
Serious Rider – Done the Great Lakes? How about the Baltic Sea?