Why does motorcycling inspire so much creativity in the people who do it? From true artists to passionate amateurs, something ineffable about these machines compels many of us, including this podcaster, to share the ride with the rest of the world… or at least with each other. For its fiftieth episode, TML turns the mic on its host in a conversation with fellow podcaster, Chasing The Horizon’s Wes Fleming. A frank confessional about why motorcycling’s creators do what they do, how podcasts like this happen, and why it might be time to let your own creative muse out to play.

Show Notes

Wes Fleming and his GS, which I don’t think is even a little bit ugly.

Wes’ R90/6. I understand why it would have been cool to find a bike like this in black, but this cream colour is stunning.

Wes on stage with his extroverted Fender Jazzmaster.

Humble thanks to the listeners who suggested doing this episode, both for thinking the 50th was worth celebrating and for thinking the show’s host would be a good subject. I couldn’t quite make myself take center stage like that, but this seemed like a fair compromise. And it opened the door to meeting a pretty great person in Wes Fleming. Funny how that get-outside-your-comfort-zone thing works…

And thanks to Wes for enthusiastically agreeing to do it, and for saying all those nice things. I recommend adding Chasing the Horizon to your podcast menu almost no matter what you ride. Wes’ show is a two-fer, as they say around here: nobody I know puts the effort into following and reporting on developments in the motorcycle industry that Wes does, and that’s just the appetizer. He has had some great guests, one or two of whom have also been on this show, and I envy – that’s the honest word for it – his natural and easy interviewing style. A recent favourite episode of mine was his interview with Melissa Holbrook Pierson, which adds a ton of colour to what she shared a couple of years back on my show. His recent look at the impact European motorcycle regulation has on the sport worldwide is great, and shines a light on a force in this sport that isn’t widely enough acknowledged. Here‘s a link to Mark Barnes’ podcast on Apple Podcasts, and here‘s another to the BMWMOA’s YouTube channel.

You may recall that I attempted to acknowledge a generous serial donor to the Movember Foundation at the beginning of this episode. Let me do that properly here: he is Urspeter “Upe” Flueckiger. Upe has an Instagram account that features some soul-nourishing photos of his Beemers… he’s @moto_zen_upe.

Below is a photo of the Yamaha Twin Jet 100, my earliest memory of a motorcycle. I’ve borrowed it here from Bike-urious , who I hope won’t mind. After this machine, my father would take a long break from riding for the usual career and parenting reasons, and return to the sport with his affection for vintage Japanese iron undimmed. The Twin Jet is a pretty interesting bike, technically speaking, but it’s the design that impresses me. Never has this style of bike looked so badass, and Yamaha’s tradition of sexy fuel tanks clearly has deep roots.

I mentioned in passing a book called Riding With Rilke, by fellow Canadian Ted Bishop. After our conversation, I got to thinking about the way motorcycling had been screaming at me all my adult life before I finally paid attention… this book was an example of that. I read it at least ten years before I finally did anything about it. It’s lovely and meditative, and just a little off the beaten path of motorcycling reads. Recommended. And yeah, Ducati Monsters still turn my head.

Wes mentioned a well known motorcycle writer named Clement Salvadori. Well known to everyone but me, apparently… here‘s a bit more about him and his work. He seems like one of the sport’s true characters.

We talked for a couple of minutes about Omar Petralis, my guest for Episode 40: The Worst That Could Happen. If you’re inclined to cherry pick your TML episodes for the ones that seem most relevant to you, I strongly recommend investing the time in that one. So much inspiration from so much tragedy, and surely the last word in how much riding motorcycles means to the people who do it. You can say hi to Omar on the socials: he’s @oomis on ADVRider, GTAM and Instagram.

7th Grade Girl Fight. Photo: 7thgradegirlfight.com

When I introduced this episode’s playlist recommendation, I mentioned that four guests had ended up providing their own music for the episodes in which they were featured. Respect if you could name them from memory… you probably deserve a prize. They are Erik Buell, Redlight King’s Mark Kasprzyk, Chris Mara (who did not perform but produced the track), and of course Wes Fleming.

If you’d like to see 7th Grade Girl Fight live, the place to go is their web site, which is here. You can find their music on all the usual platforms, though not all of it in any one place… it’s worth looking around to get the full picture. And here‘s their YouTube channel. They look like a blast live. I don’t want to sound like a pretentious rock critic, but I get great 90s alt rock vibes from this band. High praise, since that’s my favourite decade, musically.

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett. Harry just released a new album in December, I believe his first. You should give it a listen.

If you’d like to help keep This Motorcycle Life podcasting, be sure to visit the ‘Support’ page on this site. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. They could use all the help you can give, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

What drives motorcycling’s late bloomers? Are mid-life bikers trying to turn back the clock, or is there some wisdom in putting on that helmet just when life is getting comfortable? Meet Catherine Meade, who jumped into motorcycling with both feet at the age of 46. From the grumpy streets of Toronto to the cavernous potholes of Botswana, Catherine chose motorcycles as her next chapter in a lifetime of adventure… and they’ve repaid her with fresh eyes for the world and excitement for the road ahead. An inspiring conversation about how it’s never too late for a motorbike to transform us.

Show Notes

Catherine Meade, somewhere in the desert, still smiling.

Definitely treat yourself to a visit to Catherine Meade’s blog, which was an invaluable resource to me. What started out as a homework assignment for the perpetual student became a record of her amazing first few years as a rider, and there are lots of photos. She absolutely wasn’t exaggerating about those potholes. See a sample below…

Here’s a link to the page on WomenRidersNow.com where I first got a sense of Catherine’s story, and where she shares her experience in Colorado. When I first read and watched this content, I kind of glossed over her profile’s title, “Overcoming Obstacles Through Training,” but WRN got it – and Catherine – right. As you heard in this conversation, it’s something she believes in strongly. So do I. For everyone, but maybe especially for those of us not born on a motorcycle. At this writing, WRN’s video player wasn’t working for me, but I’ll update these notes with a viewer once it is. In the meantime, here are a few photos to whet your appetite.

We spoke recently about Catherine’s latest trip, earlier in the fall, to Nepal. Here are a couple of photos from that adventure, and I think the confident smile pretty much tells the tale… and makes a strong case for the benefits of continuous learning.

Here’s a link to Renedian, the outfit that organized Catherine’s life-altering trip to Africa. I had never heard of them, and they’re a great find… and even Canadian. Catherine also wanted me to mention the folks who organized the Nepal trip. They are Two Wheeled Expeditions, and you can learn more about them by clicking on the link. Likewise ADVWoman, who were behind her sink-or-swim Colorado training adventure. Although I have to say, I would not personally dismiss one of those fancy tours she referred to…

This lovely newsletter provided that Anaïs Nin quote in my closing comments. The issue from which it comes happens to be a meditation on living fully, and it probably helped me with this episode more than I realize.

The incomparable Barbra Lica.

Many thanks to Barbra Lica for being so generously into sharing her music for this episode. Barbra is almost universally described as a jazz singer, which she most certainly is. But her wonderful voice and personality demand a broader definition of that genre, even if we did choose a classic from the Great American Songbook for this episode. You can learn more about Barbra here, and get to know her and her music better on her YouTube channel. She’s also on Instagram… @barbralica. Say hi, and wish her luck with that mint green Vespa.

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett. Harry just released a new album this month, I believe his first. You should give it a listen.

If you’d like to help keep This Motorcycle Life podcasting, be sure to visit the ‘Support’ page on this site. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. They could use all the help you can give, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

 

How can we find goodness in a world gone mad? Obviously, the answer is on a motorcycle…  just maybe not the way you think. Meet Harold Serrano, a kid from New Jersey who’s begun a global odyssey not to escape reality, but to reimagine it. In a lively conversation that careens from Plato’s Cave to facing bandits on a lonely Columbian highway, Harold’s unconventional take on moto-touring reveals yet another trick a bike has up its sleeve: the power to reconnect us. Get ready for a long solo ride story like you’ve never heard… along with just a dash of magic.

Show Notes

Harold Serrano, on the road.

This interview features a bit of colourful language, most of which I have left intact because I really want you to get to know Harold Serrano the way I did. It would be easy to see Harold as a scrappy “kid” on a bike (he’s not a kid, of course) who we might think from the comfort of our living rooms is doing something a little reckless. Only with time do we get to see his big heart and the passionate inner life that drives him. That’s clearly what his hosts have seen. And by the time I was finished editing this episode, I realized that the openness to see things like that in each other was maybe its most important theme.

If you’d like to connect with Harold Serrano, here are a couple of social media options: On Instagram, he’s @WhereisHarold, and onTiktock, he’s Wheresharold

Harold wrote and self-published a memoir of his South and Central America adventure. I was unable to get a copy in time for this interview, but you certainly can. It’s here, and apparently also on Amazon.

There were some fun cultural references tossed into this conversation, a couple of which I have to admit I had to catch up with afterwards. You can start doing that the same way a lazy scholar like me does… with Wikipedia.

First, and most delightfully, the story of Don Quixote, which is more complex than most of us (who didn’t study literature, at least) remember from Man of La Mancha. Start here, and don’t blame me if you end up in a glorious rabbit hole.

Harold added a cultural flex by recalling the name of Don Quixote’s horse, Rocinante. Delightfully, it, too, has a Wikipedia page. Looking at you, DR650 owners…

The reference to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave was right on the money, and competed strongly as a theme for this episode. Here’s a bit about that.

The Motorcycle Diaries is well known to a lot of us in both book and movie forms, so I won’t belabour that here. Harold told me that the subject of Che Guevara is still a touchy one in parts of South America.

Harold also mentioned The Alchemist, a book that has apparently made countless questing souls feel understood. Here’s a bit about it.

And I mentioned in passing a movie called In And Of Itself. It was sort of an aside when I brought it up, but on reflection it’s a film about identity and magic, soooo… If you’re curious and love a movie that gets talked about for weeks after you see it, it’s an hour and a half you won’t regret.

Harold shared a generous album of photos with me, too many to post here, but below are a few that give you a flavour for how he travels. Although he was also understandably proud that there were indeed some ‘epic’ accomplishments during his south-to-north adventure, there is no denying from seeing the journey through his eyes that it was all about the people.

Harold leaving Milwaukee shortly after this interview, heading west, in a Gerbing heated suit given to him by his host. Magic indeed.

Harold and his Brazilian biker family, the Pteradactilos.

 

I don’t know who this is or where this photo was taken, but I loved it, and so maybe it doesn’t matter.  It’s typical of dozens in Harold’s growing album… all heart, and happy.

Harold’s collection is full of pictures like this one, arms around the latest members of his ever growing family.

… and like this one, celebrating, well, anything. Life and being together, would be my guess.

A closeup of the Andes-conquering Zongshen, accompanied as always by smiling new friends.

Harold’s current rig, a DR650, manifesting the do-it-all toughness that makes people love these bikes. And the sheer genius of strapping a suitcase to the back has me rethinking my Touratech fantasy…

Harold and Kelly, in Chicago, about to take that ride.

A smiling Kelly, in one piece, reunited with his partner and Harold’s Chicago co-host.

Harold in Philadelphia, and in character.

A million thanks to Drapht and his crew for sharing “Don Quixote” with us in this episode. Besides being so delighted with the track, I was fascinated to see what a rich and vibrant hip hop scene there is in Australia. It’s proof again of what a universal and enduring form this is, easily making room for the culture, humour and issues unique to that country. And with a pile of platinum and gold records and two Aria awards under his belt, Drapht is clearly among its greats. If you’d like to know a little more about him, start here. He’s on all the socials, of course. And he happens to have a new album, which you can find right here. As for the rest of his music, it’s in all the usual places. I purchased “Don Quixote” in the iTunes store.

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out the merch store. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

 

 

 

How do you pass on your love of motorcycles to the people who matter the most?  Sometimes, the answer is a motorcycle. Meet Larry Gibson and grandson Eric Clingenpeel, two of four generations to own and ride the same 1947 Indian Chief since its discovery in a barn in 1954. After nearly 70 years, the love and adventure invested in this machine have given its motorcycle-loving family a wealth of stories, and the Chief a vibrant life of its own. A heart-warming reminder of what a motorbike is really for, and a recipe for making a great one last forever.

Show Notes

Larry Gibson and the 1947 Indian Chief that helped inspire four generations of riders.

If you’re up for this year’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, you’ll find everything you need to know – including how to dress – here.

Thanks again to Eric Clingenpeel for reaching out to share this wonderful, personal story. And thanks to grandpa Larry Gibson for providing a treasure trove of photos that made our conversation even more so. Generosity seems to run in the family.

First things first: If you, like me, were not very familiar with this particular motorcycle, here’s a reference to catch you up. To my uneducated eye, the word ‘quintessential’ seems to fit, here… this is the American big twin rendered exuberantly as art.

Here’s a selection of photos and videos that document some of the stories you heard in our conversation, starting with three from that fateful trip to Sturgis circa 1992. Pictured are Larry and his wife, Dixie, as well as a close-up of “how we packed the horse”, as Larry put it.

A playful scene from the Gibson living room, sometime after the Chief’s temporary retirement. While life goes on, the bike hides behind the partition in the background on the left, waiting to cast its spell on the next generation. For me, this was one of the best parts of the story. Somehow, someone knew this machine’s job wasn’t done yet.

What is it about motorcycles and guitars? This frame did some time as what Larry called “a very expensive guitar stand.” Pictured at center is Larry’s dad’s 1930 Gibson guitar, which has been played by the same four generations that have shared the Chief.

Fast forward to 2018, and here’s Larry starting the completely rebuilt Indian for the first time. Note the confidence… I think that runs in the family, too.

Larry’s YouTube channel yielded this companion piece, a short demonstration of what it’s actually like to ride this bike. I was struck by three things: First, it looks kind of hard. Second, the rider makes it look easy. And third, once you’ve mastered it, there seems to be a languidness about this big, old horse that you’d be hard pressed to find in a modern bike. In Eric’s words, “it’s like a clock.”

This episode’s inspiration, Eric Clingenpeel, astride the resurrected Indian Chief.

Larry, Eric and brother Reece, in Wyoming. For sheer soul, there’s not an ad agency on earth that could have done a better job for this storied brand than the picture below.

There could be no better way to wrap up this story than to meet the kids who will write the next chapter, thanks to the proud grandpa who got them on film. Below, members of the family racing a hand-built facsimile of the chief in a local soapbox derby, and young member of the clan at the helm of an electric replica Larry found at a garage sale. He’s lucky I didn’t get there first.

Thanks to Mark Kasprzyk of Redlight King for once again letting me feature his music on this show, this time his brilliantly reimagined “Old Man.” The famous story about Neil Young personally approving the use of his iconic 1972 track for this project is, I’m happy to report, absolutely true, and I think Redlight King’s performance is genius. Written early in his career, Young’s original feels almost like a wistful glimpse into the future, a rising star wondering aloud where it will all go. Redlight King’s interpretation is like a coda to that, a look back in gratitude to the people who make us what we are. I love it. Redlight King has been hard at work throughout the pandemic, despite being the challenges of performing. A new album is in the works, and they’re thrilled to be booking festivals again. Follow Mark on Instagram @redlightking, and on music platforms like Spotify.

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out my new store for TML merch… the link is at the top of this page. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

 

Are motorcycles really as therapeutic as we think they are? Are we just having fun when we ride, or is something more profound going on under our helmets? Meet lifelong rider Dr. Joe Leondike, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. A psychiatric nurse practitioner who treats PTSD patients, Joe says the conditions that help a mind heal itself are a lot like the ones we experience in the saddle. His take: motorcycling can be self-care, but only if we’re willing to put the work in. A fascinating perspective, and maybe the best answer yet to why we ride.

Show Notes

Joe Leondike and his current ride, a Harley-Davidson Road Glide CVO.

Joe pauses to take in the scenery with his favourite riding companion.

This image is from the 9/11 10th anniversary ride Joe mentioned when we spoke. Here‘s a link to the organizers’ web site, if you’re curious to know more. The deep and complex connection between American military and motorcycle cultures seems underappreciated to me, respectfully speaking as a member of neither. I hope Joe writes that book.

As I mentioned in my opening comments, and as Dr. Leondike echoed, nothing we spoke about in this episode should be considered a substitute for the care of a mental health professional. If you’re feeling in distress or overwhelmed or this conversation raised difficult issues for you, please ask for help now. From the Movember web site, here is a list of local crisis resources here in Canada.

A great deal has been written about EMDR, and while science is still building the empirical case for how it works, the results are pretty compelling. I can’t identify a best single authoritative resource for explaining the process, but this seems like as good a place as any to start. Scroll down to “For Laypeople”. The personal stories you can find elsewhere online are amazing, but given the material involved I thought it best not to choose any to share here.

In our conversation, Joe cited a study on the mental state riding a motorcycle puts us into. It was funded by a grant from Harley Davidson and conducted by UCLA neuroscientist Dr. Don Vaughn, and you can read more about that study here. The last research I remember seeing on the health benefits of riding is now quite old, so it’s exciting to see some fresh learning on this.

Many thanks to Dave Gunning for letting me share “All Along The Way” with you. The track appears on the album ‘No More Pennies’, and he chose it just for us. Dave hails from Pictou County in Nova Scotia, and his rootsy East Coast sound is something I have an ancestral soft spot for. You can learn more about his music at his web site, which is here. That’s also where you can find all his social feeds (if you’re an Insta pal, he’s @dave_gunning).

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out my new store for TML merch… the link is at the top of this page. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

 

Can an epic ride really change your life? Meet Chris Donaldson, whose unplanned 39,000 mile odyssey still burns bright forty years later. Bright enough to write a vivid book from his original diary. Bright enough to keep the motorcycle he rode. Bright enough to want to finish the intended journey on that same bike at the age of 63. Interrupted then by a revolution and now by a pandemic, Chris remains undeterred. And his incredible story proves the best thing about epic rides isn’t that they grow you up, but that they guarantee the best part of you never will.

Show Notes

Those keen of ear will have noticed some strange internet noises during this interview. Sorry about that… the battle with satellite connectivity continues, though I’m promised that there might be an alternative by spring. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, thanks for putting up with it, and with my complaining.

If you’d like to hear a little more about the original trip, Chris Donaldson was interviewed on Adventure Rider Radio exactly a year ago, when the book first came out. You can find that conversation here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Chris Donaldson’s book is called ‘Going The Wrong Way’, and depending on where you live, you can purchase it on Amazon or directly through Chris’ web site, which is here. Do yourself a favour, though, and visit his site even if you buy the book elsewhere. One of the most amazing things about this story is that Chris was able to get, and keep, so many candid photographs from the original trip, so don’t miss the gallery. Meanwhile, the image of young, grinning, fearless Chris on the cover is timeless.

And so, apparently, is this Moto Guzzi. Below, Chris Donaldson today, en route once again to Australia.

At the end of ‘Going The Wrong Way,’ Chris has included a delightful easter egg for readers, a poem by C. P. Cavafy called “Ithaka”. It’s a lovely and perfect summary of the truth that this episode, his book – and perhaps Chris’ life – are really about. If you’d like to read it, you can find the full text here. I hope it inspires your own journey as much as it does mine.

If you’re not familiar with the Moto Guzzi Le Mans, Wikipedia will be happy to get your feet wet. You’ll find that article here. Besides being one of the great Guzzis of all time, it’s also one of the most important classics of its era. You can still find its styling cues on Guzzis today, along with a fiercely dedicated following. Besides being a Guzzi fan, I’m not sure why it delighted me that Chris rides one of these and not a more predictable Brit bike. I should have asked him, I guess… instead, I’ll just put it down to youthful rebellion.

What I would have paid to listen in on Chris and Ted Simon talking about their adventures, and about writing. I have to confess that I haven’t yet read Jupiter’s Travels… it’s one of those canonical motorcycling books that is so inevitable we somehow never actually get to it. Now, I will. Ted Simon helped cast the die for modern adventure motorcycle travel, and for how to write about it. A remarkable person. Here’s an interview with him.

As you heard, Chris aims to finish this trip (I’m told the riding in Australia will make it worth the effort, although he may not want to avoid the desert bits). Here he is below with his ‘young’ traveling companion on Guzzi’s V85TT.

After our conversation, Chris offered to share some notes on the adventure ahead, and here they are, complete with his darkly funny working title.

Adventure before Dementia
When the Ayatollah Khomeini took over Iran in 1979, he pissed of a lot of Americans. He also screwed up my overland ride to Australia. I had just left Belfast on my Moto Guzzi Le Mans, so I ended up going to the Middle East, Africa, and North and South America
Everywhere but Australia! So this year after the publication of my book, Going the Wrong Way, at the age of 63, I decided to take the same 44 year old bike and try again.
Together with my young 50 year old mate Liam on his new Moto Guzzi V85, we left the UK in September leaving the Overland Event in Oxford, before stopping at the Ace Cafe in London and the Brighton Burnout. After crossing to France we headed south through the Black Forest and Switzerland, before stopping in Mandello del Lario for the Moto Guzzi Centenary (that was canceled, but in typical Italian style they changed their mind the week before, and it went on anyway.) Covid can’t stop the Italians having a party.
Down to the coast to Genoa, we joined a huge motorbike demonstration to complain about the state of the roads, after the bridge collapse that killed 43 motorists in 2018. Then we followed the Italian coast south from Portofino to Rome, then on to Pompeii, where our bike boots walked where the chariots had left groves in the cobbled streets.
We had had no problems with Covid restrictions since we left the UK, but decided not to go to Albania when we discovered that due to the virus the Greeks were only letting 140 people a day to cross the border. The country is the most corrupt and dangerous in Europe so we opted for an overnight ferry from Bari to Greece, and the next day we cruised into Athens, from where a much younger but just as stupid me had left for Israel 42 years ago.
The two Guzzies performed well, with a bit of competition between my 44-year-old Le Mans and Liam’s young pretender V85. We left the bikes at a Moto Guzzi shop, and flew home to replenish our wallets and relax our brains for a couple of months before flying out again in November.
On starting the next leg, we shipped the bikes to Israel, and spent a few days seeing the sights before we rode to the Jordan border post in Eilat. Then disaster, the Israeli guards warned us that the Jordanians might no let us and we wouldn’t get back as Israel only issues Visas at the airport. We could be stuck in no-man’s-land forever! Tom Hanks, eat your heart out! The Israelis checked with the Jordanians and sent them pictures of our bikes, but the Jordanians said they didn’t like them. (Probably BMW owners!) We would be forced to take the boat out of Israel, just as I did 42 years ago.
Egypt had very bad Covid numbers. We could go out though Syria… but while the civil was over, I wasn’t as brave as I was when I rode through there in 21. That evening in the bar Liam and I had a huge argument. I wanted to leave the bikes with my cousin in the Golan Heights until we got the paperwork, Liam wanted to take them back to Greece, but I relented the next day, and we shipped back to Athens.
Then the new Covid strain appeared in S Africa and Israel, which immediately stopped flights. Our worst fears becoming reality. Liam jumped on the V85 to head back to the UK, while I parked up the Le Mans with some friends from the Hellenic Moto Guzzi club.
We would return to ride another day.
The next leg of our epic Covid beating adventure ride to Australia will be through Turkey and Iran, to Dubai, but with the Omnicrom virus in full swing, everything is on hold. But hopefully, war and pestilence allowing, we will get back on the road in March.

Photo: SimonHardemanMusic.com

Many thanks to Simon Hardeman for sharing “Ton Up” with us for this episode. Mercury Heart has not performed together since the pandemic began, but he has been hard at work on a solo project, “Nights Under The Moon.” You can give that a listen and find out more about Simon’s other work at his web site, which is here. And in case you can’t picture a Moto Guzzi California Black Eagle, behold:

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out my new store for TML merch… the link is at the top of this page. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

 

What makes a great mechanic tick? Meet Miss Emma Booton, a ‘humble wrench’ who builds, restores and fixes some of the Bay Area’s most special motorcycles. What begins as an inside look at life in the back of the shop becomes an expansive conversation about the role of machines in motorcycle culture… and a profile of someone who’s dedicated her life to keeping our love for them burning. An affectionate look at ourselves in the mirror of the people who do this work, and proof that keeping our bikes running and our hearts aflame can often be the same job.

Show Notes

First things first: Miss Emma is a principal character in one of my favourite motorcycle podcasts, Motorcycles and Misfits, without which I may never have discovered her. If you’re not already a fan, check them out on all the usual platforms or here. Besides being on the show, Miss Emma is a frequent fixture at Santa Cruz’s Recycle Motorcycle Garage, a cooperative space for motorcyclists to gather, learn and work on their own machines. I’ve never been, but I have the impression things go just a little more smoothly when Miss Emma is holding court.

In case you don’t subscribe to my newsletter, below is the video that provoked my gushing about British riders. Of course, my generalization actually makes no sense at all. But watch this, and tell me there’s not something to Emma’s assertion that constant rain breeds smoother motorcyclists.

Below is a picture of Miss Emma with ‘Tubbo’, the turbocharged Gold Wing referenced a couple of times in our discussion. Reverent, it’s not. Awesome, it is. This photo is from The One Show, and borrowed here from Women Riders Now.

Emma talked about a lot of motorcycles that mattered to her over the years, too many to list here. But this one deserves special mention, not least because it’s the bike on which she won that Birmingham-to-Germany bar bet. The photo below isn’t of her particular bike, but you get the idea… this is what trouble looked like in 1979.

Shown is a 1980 GS1000L. Photo: SuzukiCycles.org

I wasn’t sure someone with Emma’s experience would have a quick answer to the question, “who’s the best mechanic you ever knew,” but was thrilled that she did. And what an answer. Stan Stephens turns out to be a legend, and someone you can very pleasurably find out a lot more about by reading his autobiography, “The Mechanic Who Got Lucky.” More about that here. Here‘s a great read about one of his “terrifying” two-stroke builds. And below, the man himself.

Photo: StanStephens.com

After Emma opened Moto Town, it wasn’t long before word got around. This screen grab from Reddit gives you a hint of how highly she’s thought of in the community there.

Emma can be found on Instagram, where she’s @emmabooton1962. Say hi, and be sure to check out her vintage El Camino bike hauler. Style for days.

I would love to include a link to Moto Town in these notes, but there is none to share. I have a feeling business is brisk. And that if I were to show up for an oil change, I might be in for a lecture. Below is her Instagram invitation for the shop’s opening, which will tell you how to find it… and give you a pretty good idea of the vibe of the place.

Thanks, of course, to Miss Emma for doing this interview with me. But thanks also to Liza Miller of Motorcycles and Misfits, for being so quick and gracious about introducing us. I owe you one.

Many thanks to Storyhill for allowing me to share their music with you. The featured track, “Long May You Run,” comes from an interesting project called Duotones, a tribute anthology to the great singer/songwriter duos of the 70s. You can find that album right here. This or any of these tracks are also available for purchase on iTunes, if you’re more of a downloader than a streamer.  And Storyhill’s web site is here, if you’d like to learn more about them.

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out my new store for TML merch… the link is at the top of this page. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

What is a motorcyclist? And are we really as different as we feel under our helmets? Meet documentary photographer David Goldman, whose continuing odyssey to document our community might just be the most ambitious attempt to find out ever… even if that wasn’t the plan. Goldman’s growing collection, The Motorcycle Portraits, portrays the faces and voices of motorcycling with an authenticity that suddenly seems long overdue, and he’s not done yet. And the answer? As with so much about having motorcycles in your life, discovering who we are turns out to be far more about the journey than the destination.

Show Notes

David Goldman, the urban edition (Photo: TheMotorcyclePortraits.com)

First and foremost, you have to visit The Motorcycle Portraits. It’s here. But what I think makes this project especially interesting is that the photographer isn’t just a cultural tourist or an ‘influencer’. He’s spent his career showing us corners of the world that we can’t, or sometimes won’t, see for ourselves. Though I suspect David would wave off the compliment, it’s a set of eyes we’re very lucky to have turned our way. That’s why I think it’s also worth getting to know a bit about David Goldman’s professional background, and you can do that at his web site, here.

I mentioned that I’d first discovered The Motorcycle Portraits through his profile of Bobbee Singh. That appeared on the Vintagent, and you can find it here. Watch the film, too, if you have a few minutes. Though Bobbee Singh lives thousands of miles away from most of the people reading this, he will seem at once completely familiar to any motorcyclist. I loved his passion.

 

If The Motorcycle Portraits fascinate you the way they do me, you’ll also want to follow David Goldman on Instagram. He’s @thedavidgoldmanphoto. There are at least two reasons following him is a great idea, besides the quality of his content. First, he’s posting up photos from his trip this summer in the order in which they were apparently taken, and you’ll likely see them here before they turn up on his web site. And second, for each one, he tells a short story of his impressions of the subject and how they connected, a little extra insight that you won’t find in the final work. David is also on Facebook, and he’s made search simple with a single social hashtag that works on both platforms, #themotorcycleportraits.

Below is the route for David’s 2021 ride. I had a couple of reactions, contemplating this map: One is that it’s like a greatest hits of North American motorcycle riding, missing only some epic inland regions like the Black Hills. And the other is, imagine the stories that are still out there…

Whatever you do, if you think this project is cool or important (or both, as I do), follow and like and do all the other social things. The more of an audience The Motorcycle Portraits can win, the better the chance David Goldman can keep going.

Here‘s a link to that wonderful commencement speech by the late David Foster Wallace (it’s easily found all over the place, actually, including on YouTube). Like Ted Talks, these things became a bit of a genre after a while, but this was a good one, fresh and provocative, and with a streak of Gen X realism I think David Goldman might appreciate.

Discovering Scott McKeon (was I the last blues fan to figure this out?) was a pleasure from the first moment. This is a supremely skillful blues guitarist whose fire was lit by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and who has gone on to find his own awesome sound in a genre where that is no small feat. I lost a good hour listening to him play before I came to and emailed him. The reply came quickly and enthusiastically, something I don’t take for granted when I’m finding these playlist recommendations. Sometimes, the latter is the hardest part of getting an episode finished. This time, it was the easiest. You can learn more about Scott McKeon here. His music is on all the usual platforms, including Apple Music and Spotify , and you should follow him on Instagram, too. He’s @scottmckeon33. Thanks, Scott, and congrats on the release of ‘New Morning’!

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out my new store for TML merch… the link is at the top of this page. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

 

Is dirt riding as good for us as everyone says it is? Meet retired NHL power forward Scott Thornton, whose transition from life in professional hockey began in earnest with a ride in the woods. Unsurprisingly for an elite athlete, Thornton’s off-road riding career would draw him to the unforgiving world of hard enduro. But what he found was something more satisfying than adoring crowds and more universal than victory, and it’s there for anyone with the courage to ride where there is no road. A compelling conversation that just might leave you thinking you’ve got room for one more bike.

Show Notes

Scott Thornton at Red Bull Romaniacs, 2021

Here’s a link to a story quoting the MIC dirt bike sales numbers for 2020. It’s a huge jump, and no doubt includes a lot of new riders. But still, something happened, here, and it’s hard to imagine that it won’t have a lasting effect on motorcycling of every kind.

This interview would not have happened without the suggestion and help of Todd Topper and the folks at Mission Cycle, in Angus, Ontario. I’ve been a happy customer for years.

You can find Scott Thornton’s complete NHL record here (my summary was woefully cursory). And here, to give you a sense for his character, is a profile of Scott as a mature player. It’s where the ‘fittest player in the NHL’ comment came from.

At the beginning of our conversation, I rather randomly made reference to Scott and I sharing a home town. That town is actually London, Ontario, where Scott was born and raised, and where I grew up. Sorry for any confusion, especially if you’re a proud Londoner.

Here’s a piece about Scott’s experience with the Rallye du Maroc, in 2018.

The interview in which Scott mentions ‘the beginner mind’ and talks about searching for his ‘why’ can be found here. This story also provides a window into the Corduroy Enduro, billed as Canada’s toughest race.

During our conversation, I mentioned a film about privateer motocross racers called “Banch,” which made the motorcycle film festival circuit last year. I loved it. If you’d like to watch it some snowy evening, it’s available free here.

Here are a few links to give you a flavour for the Red Bull Romaniacs event. This one shows you the race class descriptions I mentioned in our conversation. Here is Scott’s competitor page on the Romaniacs’ site. And below is a highlight video of the event. I get what Scott was saying about how these highlight reels are produced, but still… damn.

During that part of the conversation, I mentioned Spanish enduro rider Pol Tarrés, who rode the Romaniacs event on a Yamaha Tenere 700. Below is my favourite video showcasing Tarrés’ superhuman abilities. And here’s a link to a video about the reaction to his choice of bikes for Romania.

 

I didn’t catch a few of the names that flew by in our conversation, but this one deserves calling out: Lawrence Hacking. The first Canadian to finish the legendary Dakar Rally, he is surely Canadian dirt bike royalty, and obviously remains passionately involved. Here’s a link to his book about the Dakar experience.

During our discussion about ‘Throttle Therapy,’ Scott mentioned Doc Cotton’s Motorcycle Missions. Here’s how you can find out more about that.

The Roosevelt quote – ‘The Man In The Arena’ – wasn’t maybe the most original choice, but it’s hard to beat for relevance to this episode. You can learn a bit more about its history and read the text for yourself here.

Here‘s a random example of a ‘motocross playlist’, which, as I said in my closing remarks, are a significant feature of the sport. You won’t be able to listen to the ones here unless you’re a subscriber, but the song list gives us a definite flavour of how these riders are feeling when they’re in the zone.

This turned out to be one of the most quotable interviews I’ve ever done, judging by my scribbled notes. But here’s the one I think wraps the whole thing up beautifully:

“Every time I kick a bike over and get on it, I’m winning.”

Thanks, Scott.

Many thanks to Ontarians for being so excited about sharing their music with you. You can find out more about the band at their web site, of course. I was thrilled to discover them, and partly for a reason that’s hard to convey to a global audience… they come from where I come from. Which means not just Canada, but the kind of rural and exurban Canada where I grew up, and where I eventually returned. The kind where dirt bikers are born, where kids learn life lessons by being responsible for machines, and where the most awesome parents surprise them with motocross courses in the back yard. There are lots of great places to be from in the world, but this one feels like home to me, and I hear it in Ontarians’ music. Good luck with the new album!

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out my new store for TML merch… the link is at the top of this page. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!

Is progress costing motorcycles their souls? Not if we do it right. Meet Nashville recording engineer and avid rider Chris Mara. In his business, the war between the analog past and the digital future was settled a generation ago. His take? It’s all good. If the music industry can teach motorcyclists anything, it’s that yesterday and tomorrow can get along fine together, if we simply decide to let it happen. Bikes are just “stuff we use to go places,” he says… and as long as that’s what we do with them, there will always be more than enough soul to go around.

Show Notes

Chris Mara (center), in his element. Photo: Welcometo1979.com

Below is the Colville painting I referred to in my opening remarks. Painted in 1954, it stands up, if you ask me. Maybe now more than ever. You can learn a bit more about the painting’s history here.

Horse and Train, Alex Colville (1954)

If you’re as much of a music geek as I am, or even half as much, you’ll enjoy this tour of Chris Mara’s studio, Welcome to 1979. As creative spaces go, I think it’s kind of brilliant and makes me wish I’d kept up my guitar lessons a little longer. I wonder if ‘Harmony Ranch’ is still in business…

You can learn more about this and Chris’ other businesses by visiting Welcome to 1979’s web site. You’ll find that here. Welcome to 1979 is also on Instagram, if you want to say hi. They’re @welcometo1979

Chris has recorded a lot of artists you’d know, but I couldn’t resist a Pete Townshend name drop. I mean, OK boomer, but come on… PETE TOWNSHEND. After our conversation, Chris shared this link of Townshend talking about his experience recording at Welcome to 1979. It’s delightful.

Sincere thanks to Cory Chisel for sharing his music with us in this episode. These days, it can be a little reductive to put music in a genre box, but if I can be forgiven here, this kind of ‘Americana Folk Rock’ is right up my alley… and this band have mastered it with an intense and thoughtful originality. I’m thrilled that Chris introduced me to them.

The band doesn’t appear to have an active web site, but you can learn more about them here and connect on Facebook. Their music is spread across the major streaming sites, and much of it is available for purchase, if you’re old school, in the usual places. Unfortunately, “Seventeen” is hard to get hold of if you’re in Canada unless you can locate a CD. But if you’d like to hear the whole track before you commit, check out this unofficial video on YouTube. Just trust me on this: YouTube’s can’t deliver the superb production of the original. Yeah, I’m fanboying.

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Don’t forget to check out my new store for TML merch… the link is at the top of this page. And finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Especially now, they could use all the help you can give them, and you’ll be letting me know how much you value this content. Thank you!