Monday, January 12, 2009

Book Review: Obsessions Die Hard

I just finished reading Ed Culberson's short but well written book on his obsession to motorcycle his way across the Darien's Gap. An 80 mile stretch of jungle terrain between Panama and Columbia.

Source: Google

He followed the projected path of the Pan American Highway, a system of roads that stretches from Alaska to the Southern Tip of Argentina. The Darien Gap is where finances, loss of political interest and will, and tree huggers contributed to the road building effort to stop.

The book details the many reasons involved with the gap's existence and the lack of roads through it and how it became the author's obsession to be the first person to traverse it on a motorcycle. In his case, he did it with a 1981 BMW R80 G/S! This book resonated with me as Culberson's motorcycle was basically the same motorcycle in terms of engine/frame specifications as my own 1987 R80, Brigitta.

The G/S however had better suspension and offroad wheels of course and still it was an epic struggle on the part of Culberson and the indian guides he hired to help him along the way. He had to deal with crooked cops, scam artists, accidents and near-death experiences along the way and his writing style keeps you turning the pages to see how he gets out of the situations he finds himself in.

Just picture yourself doing this: Using hand winches/pulleys to lift a 500 lb motorcycle up hills and down ravines in the middle of thick jungle terrain. Employing the local natives to hack a path for your motorcycle along barely discernible remants of trails and past failed expeditions by other types of vehicles!

This book should be available to you from your local library system as it was for me. I may actually have to buy my own copy as reference and inspiration as Culberson did stuff in his mid-50s that I would never even dream of now. Unfortunately for me, I'll never get a chance to meet Ed Culberson as Lou Gehrig's disease took him in 1995, truly a legend in BMW and motorcycling circles.

ISBN: 1-884313-06. Get it, read it, then try and keep it in mind when encountering some tough stretch of road.

Me? I know I'll wimp out and bypass the gap if I ever get the urge/time/wherewithal to ride the length of the Pan American Highway.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6:

I am embarrased to tell you that I like my adventure within the boundaries of practical scale. For example, it should be no harder to summon a Tom Collins or to lower the temperature in the room (to 64ยบ if necessary) than by pressing a button at the end of a hard day of winching motorcycles up and down cliffs.

This is my personal philosophy and it has served me well over the past quarter century.

Nevertheless, I will order this book on your recommendation. Do you smoke cigars?

Fondest regards,

redlegsrides said...


tried cigars, did not have a good time shall we say?