Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: The Longest Ride

This is another review of a book provided to me by  I had selected it since the title and description on the motorbooks site was intriguing:

For his eighth birthday, Emilio Scotto received a World Atlas. Promptly he announced his plan to make a route that would pass through all the countries of the world, a route he named BLUE ROAD ONE. When, some years later, he found himself astride a black 1100 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, Blue Road One beckoned, and Scotto set off on a journey that would last more than a decade, take him virtually everywhere in the world, and land him in the Guinness Book of World Records. This is his story, a thrill ride that begins in his native Argentina, crosses Panama in the tumultuous time of Noriega, Mexico in the midst of an earthquake, and finds him broke in L.A. where, in a chance meeting, Muhammad Ali gives him fifty dollars and a signed book. Breaching the Iron Curtain, crossing the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie, being blessed by the Pope, set upon by cannibals in Sierra Leone, fleeing Somalia on a freighter, Scotto's adventures would be unbelievable if they weren't true. His tale of touring the world from Tunisia to Turkey, Petra to Afghanistan, Yugoslavia to Singapore, traveling miles enough to take him to the moon and back, is unlike any ever told. Come along, for the ride of a lifetime

 At the Pyramids of Egypt

I write this review with mixed feelings about the book and its contents.  On the one hand, it's truly an epic journey which Emilio Scotto made on his Honda Goldwing motorcycle, circling the world twice and passing through damn near every country in the world!

On the other hand, the way he did it, with a motorcycle that was truly unsuitable for some of the terrain he rode it on;  sketchy finances at best, mooching his way through the globe and counting on the generosity of strangers is not quite the way I'd see myself doing the same thing.  His perseverance and seemingly indomitable will to continue the mission are quite admirable however.  I would surely have turned back at several points in his journey.

He's probably thinking, where the heck am I?

There are large gaps in his account and periods of travel where no pictures are evident, just some brief verbiage accounting for large distances or several countries traveled.  I mean, I could see why no pics from his start, he was robbed the third night out!  Still, the gaps and short tales that he used to describe parts of his vast travels were annoying at times.  Then again, the book is only 222 pages long, with more written stuff at the beginning and basically just pictures with short descriptions towards the end during his second riding around the world. 

The book also is quite the tribute to Honda Motorcycles design, workmanship and quality that they built into the Goldwing Motorcycle Scotto rode.  He sure didn't give me the impression he did much to take care of servicing her properly, rode her in really bad terrain, dropped her countless times, several crashes, lots of parts replaced and I think the engine was replaced at least once.  Through all this, she kept on going where other motorcycles would have given up the ghost!

Think of this book as a series of brief vignettes, sometimes with a picture or two to go with the respective vignette, that describe some of the major events he chose to account for the reader.

He confirmed for me that Africa is a continent I'll never ride in, his experiences there were pretty much negative in terms of border crossings, war, violence, and crappy roads.

I wonder, what his wife (whom he knew before the trip, and then asks to join him during the journey) thought about all the romantic trysts he very briefly alludes to at the beginning of his journey northwards from Argentina towards the USA and thence to Europe.  He gives the impression of being quite the ladies man, which apparently came in handy in order to get aid, lodging and such when riding damn near broke across the world.

Still, after all the above, he did ride about 460,000 miles in the space of a bit over ten years!  He's quite entitled to write the book any way he wants!  His journey started January 14, 1985 and ended on April 2, 1995, a decade on wheels exploring the world.  He did this in the days before the widespread use of the Internet where one can seek aid and gather information easily for one's journey.

This book, is an analog version (in my mind), of the current ten year voyage being done by a fellow sidecarist: Hubert Kriegel, he's on his sixth year of a ten year trip on sidecars around the world.  Hubert is of course, different from Emilio Scotto is many ways, not the least of which is their selected mode of transport.  I feel more akin to Hubert than to Emilio Scotto and his way of traveling but then again, both are "riding their own ride", and in the end, that's really what counts.  LINK to Hubert's Timeless Ride.

If you end up getting this book in part due to this review, let the folks at motorbooks know will you?

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