by Sev Pearman
The average U.S. motorcyclist rides about 3,000 miles annually. How many years would it take you to reach the 1,000,000-mile total of author Piet Boonstra? After a lengthy career of Enduro wins, Mr. Boonstra began long-distance touring in 1977. His off-road background leads him toward lonely unimproved roads avoided by RVs and other traffic.
Motorcycling Stories is a collection of thirteen of the author’s travels, including seven trips to Alaska. Preferring to ride alone, the author simply roughs it and makes do in a time before cell phones and GPS receivers.
The author titles his second trip to Alaska “The Tough One.” He starts out from New York in May, 1981 on a chain-drive Suzuki GS 750 with 52,000 miles. Mr. Boonstra faced bad weather his entire trip, meeting hail, rain, sleet and snow, sometimes all four in a day. Despite the cold and wet he makes it to Eagle Plains on the Dempster Highway where he is finally stopped by a blizzard. Did I mention that he rode with an open-face helmet?
He spends the next two nights huddled in a simple nylon tent repelling the cold that freezes his boots and sleeping bag solid. Surviving on cans of SPAM and coffee heated with a butane stove he is finally rescued by a road crew that thought him dead. Unfazed, he continues further north, 65 miles past the Arctic Circle to the Peel River.
Mr. Boonstra is one tough buzzard. Riding in the days before heated grips, he made do with his WWII Army-issue mittens. Instead of $1,000.00 aluminum panniers the author improvised canvas saddlebags from an old pair of Carhartt work pants. Fuel cell? How about two empty Prestone jugs. The man is amazing.
His other trips are equally illuminating. Rally riders will knowingly smile when he shares his discovery that he can eat from his tankbag while underway, and eliminate a lunch stop. The author laments legendary BMW ruggedness in his fourth Alaska trip, where the three German bikes in his group are plagued with mechanical troubles throughout the 10,000-mile journey. (The other bikes, Boonstra’s bone-stock Gold Wing and a Suzuki VX800, ran fine) In Chapter Four, he fights a barn fire in Tennessee. Later, riding near Ashton, Idaho he stumbles upon bank robbers transferring their take between vehicles.
Mr. Boonstra’s simple, relaxed writing style placed you on the road beside him. You feel as if you are riding with a trusted mentor.
The one downfall in this month’s selection is the lack of imagery. Despite numerous references to scenery breaks and photo stops, there are no photographs or maps. Images would add greatly to the author’s descriptive writing. Text-only content aside, we recommend Motorcycling Stories with three out of four cylinders.
V-twin–“People actually ride that far?”
Gold Wing–Its never too late to reconsider Americade®
R1150 GS–“Screw the MOA National. I’m going to Prudhoe Bay.”