The archetype of the rock star biker is cool, but are they real? This one is. Meet singer songwriter Mark Kasprzyk, front man for alt rock band Redlight King. Kaz talks about how motorcycles fit into the life of a touring musician, why so many rockers ride, and the challenges and rewards of piloting a 1950 Harley Davidson Panhead with a suicide clutch in LA traffic. Not only is this wide-ranging interview one of the most fun yet, it also turns out that rock and roll might just have one more thing to teach us.

Show Notes

Mark Kasprzyk of Redlight King (Photo: Parts + Labor Records)

If you’re interested in supporting this podcast by donating to the Movember Foundation, you can click here or on the logo at the bottom of this page. If you’re thinking of a bigger gift and you live in the US, Australia or the UK, you might want to wait until I have local pages set up for those markets so you can get a tax receipt. And if you live in the Greater Toronto Area, I’ll see you at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride this fall… hit me up for a TML souvenir!

To learn more about Redlight King, their web page is a great place to start. Follow Kaz on Instagram to get news on their upcoming album. He’s @redlightking. You might find his label, artist-led Parts + Labor Records interesting, too.

Here’s the video for Born to Rise, the one that sparked the idea for this episode.

This interview with Kaz provides some more background on how it came together. For information on the Unknown Industries crew, check out their web site. Indeed, they are now a more commercial venture than was the case when this video was shot, but, hey, everybody’s gotta make a living. And these guys can still make those Harleys dance.

In our conversation, we also talked about a track called ‘Old Man’, and Neil Young’s song by the same name. This was a huge hit for Redlight King, and I’m happy to report the story is true that Young himself approved sampling the original song when he heard what Kaz had in mind. I think it’s brilliant, and all the better for being so personal.

Here’s some background on motorcycle racer and bike builder Paul Bigsby, inventor of the electric guitar. And here’s a video of that very first instrument being played.

Googling around for inspiration while I prepared for this interview, I found this essay on how bikes and rock and roll came together. I don’t know that it’s the most thorough or nuanced telling of history, but it’s a fun read.

Musicians who ride are literally too numerous for there to be a definitive list, but my pals at EatSleepRIDE keep a Pinterest page on the subject that should get you started. If you want to fall very, very far down this rabbit hole, the short lists here and here ought to point you in the right direction.

Here’s the video for Redlight King’s cover of Rush’s ‘Working Man.’ You can tell that Kaz is proud of his roots, and he clearly brings that work ethic to his music, too. I think recording this track was a natural.

Thanks to Mark Kasprzyk and Redlight King for helping make this happen. It was a blast. Best of luck with the new album… I can’t wait to hear it.

Could you really leave it all behind and live on your motorcycle? Meet James Bai, a cubicle dwelling engineer who decided to do exactly that. James and his wife carefully planned their entire lives to make the dream of a never ending road trip come true, leaving nothing to chance… or so he thought. In this conversation, James talks about that process, what it really takes to live as a nomad, and how for him even more than most wanderers, it was what he hadn’t planned on that transformed his journey into a new beginning.

Show Notes

James Bai, on the road with his all-business Honda CB500X.

James’ journey – both personally and literally – began as something else entirely, a kind of hybrid of perpetual motorcycle touring and RVing, an experience he shared with his former partner. This was their blog. James said it was she who did most of the writing there, and the content definitely emphasizes the RV side of the equation, but it’s an intimate glimpse at how the life we plan isn’t always the life we get.

Wobblycat has done some travel writing for Ontario Tourism, and you can find that here. It’s great stuff, and a welcome resource for people planning to ride in this sometimes underappreciated part of Canada (at least by motorcyclists).

Wobbly’s solo travels in 2019. Riding a lot of miles is one thing, and for many riders the thing that counts. But I admire James’ preference for wandering… finding places he likes, and staying long enough to understand and enjoy them.

If the life of a moto-vagabond appeals to you, James shared some resources that will be invaluable, starting with Bunk-A-Biker, the community of motorcyclists who host riders on road trips. You can learn more about them by following them on Facebook, here. Another Facebook group focused on this lifestyle is Minimalist Motorcycle Vagabonds. If you’re a listener to Motorcycles and Misfits, you might remember Zee Traveler… I believe she runs both of these groups. You can learn more about her here. And finally, a resource that has come up a few times in this podcast, Horizons Unlimited.

James, somewhere near the northernmost point of his 2019 travels…

… and somewhere near the southernmost. His license plate seems like an invitation to say hi, if you happen to see him out there.

One of those mountain lakes that made such a strong impression. James told me in our pre-interview correspondence that he found nature “healing” during his solo travels. This image makes a pretty strong case.

James wrote me after our interview, feeling as if he’d somehow under-delivered on the question of what he thinks about during those long hours on the road. He said, “I often have incredibly deep thoughts — like black hole level deep. Insights into life, human nature, relationships, motivations, and other random things. It’s quite possible I solved world peace and the saved the environment, but I never remember these thoughts by the time I get off the bike.” Me, too, Wobblycat. Me, too.

If you want to connect with James Bai, Instagram is your best bet. He’s @wobblycat , of course.

This episode’s playlist recommendation, ‘Ol’ 55′, is from Owen Campbell’s album ‘In The Shadow Of The Greats’. He’s actually recorded this classic early Tom Waits track twice, and I flipflopped a few times before choosing this version, won over by its bluesy simplicity (the other version includes some piano, making it more Waits-like). Fittingly, Campbell was a globetrotting busker, a bit like Episode 1’s featured artist Denmantau, before being discovered on ‘Australia’s Got Talent’. You can find out more about him on his web site, which is here. His music is widely available on the usual platforms, and he has a notably strong following on Spotify, which might be a great place to start getting to know his music better.

What is it about soldiers and motorcycles? The connection between military culture and the machines we love is deep and goes back decades, but it turns out there’s more to this affinity than ancient history. Meet Valerie Lower, a combat veteran whose passion for riding took on new meaning in the aftermath of war and her struggle with PTSD. Her inspiring story is a reminder of what motorcycles can do for all of us, if we let them… and that we should never take those gifts for granted.

Show Notes

Valerie Lower in 2005, during her first tour of duty. Here, she’s just replaced a hydraulic pump in an M88A1, an armoured recovery vehicle.

Fittingly, my conversation with Valerie Lower took place the week of Remembrance Day in Canada and other Commonwealth countries, and Veteran’s Day in the United States. This episode is dedicated to people everywhere who serve their countries in uniform.

Valerie’s battle with PTSD would eventually find her homeless before she was able to build a new life. She asked to acknowledge here the help of two organizations on that journey. The first is Blue Star Mothers of Pennsylvania, who gave her vital financial assistance when there was nowhere else to turn. The second is Equines for Freedom, who provided her with trauma therapy that the Veteran’s Administration c0uldn’t. Motorcyclists aren’t the only ones who rely on their communities, it seems, nor on the vital role volunteers play in creating and sustaining them.

Valerie also wanted to correct a detail regarding her time in Iraq: “I am pretty sure that at some point I said that when I was in Iraq for my first tour, that I was between Fallujah and Baghdad. That is not accurate. I was between Fallujah and Ramadi.”

Here’s the article I cited on the percentage of military personnel who ride motorcycles. The data isn’t fresh, I’m afraid, and the article actually deals primarily with the problem of safety, but I bet those numbers are still basically accurate, and I loved Valerie’s answer. And here is the article from which I quoted a veteran who, on the subject of overland motorcycling, talked about “controlling danger” and “[deciding] if you want to live.”

In our conversation, you may have caught our reference to something called ‘BDR’, which stands for Backcountry Discovery Routes. You can find out more about this amazing organization here. If this kind of riding is something you’d like to try, start by visiting adventure riding forums online… the people who ride these routes seem like a happy lot, and more than willing to share what they know.

Valerie’s beloved Suzuki VanVan has come up in two interviews over the last few months, which is probably because it’s awesome. Here’s the latest model, for those not familiar. Photo: Suzuki Canada

 

A photo of Geoff Hill’s new best friend in Pakistan, Saif, on tour with his daughter. Nice road. Nice bike, too.

This episode’s playlist recommendation, ‘Line of Fire’, is available on iTunes and elsewhere, and you can sample the whole track on SoundCloud. Many thanks to Junip and to YesKnow Management for letting me feature this track. You can find out more about Junip on their web site, which is here. Junip’s haunting vocals are by Jose Gonzalez, who also has an active solo career. You can find out more about him here. Bonus points if you recognized this tune from ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘The Blacklist’.

What makes a road legendary? From Route 66 to the Pan-American Highway, Geoff Hill is an award winning travel writer and long distance motorcyclist who’s ridden his share of the roads the rest of us dream about. In tales that are by turns romantic and hilarious, Hill’s self-described “boy on a bike” makes these dream roads seem suddenly more accessible, and their call all the more insistent. In this delightful conversation, Geoff reveals that it’s their very ability to make excited kids of us all that gives these places their magic, and leaves us with a message: just go.

Show Notes

Above is a picture of Geoff Hill, taken around the time of the ‘Clancy’s Boots’ trip. I call your attention to the fact that he’s flat footing a GS with his knees still comfortably bent, and invite you to draw your own conclusions about his height. The photo is borrowed from this article on the The Telegraph’s web site. I hope they don’t mind.

Here’s the playlist Atlanta rapper Wyldthang wanted me to share with you. Whether or not rap is your thing, it’s always inspiring to me to see motorcycle culture expressing itself, and what a unifying force it is.

If you haven’t read any of Geoff Hill’s motorcycle adventure books, here are some links. They direct you to Amazon’s US site, just because that’s where the majority of my listeners live, but Geoff’s books are widely available throughout the Amazon world. I’m following his recommendation to read them in the sequence in which the trips took place, and it definitely adds to the experience:

Way to Go’, about the Delhi-to-Belfast and Route 66 trips.

The Road to Gobbler’s Knob’, which chronicles the Pan-American Highway adventure.

Oz: Around Australia on a Triumph’, which is self-explanatory. You can see Geoff talking about that trip on YouTube here.

And ‘In Clancy’s Boots’, about his ‘round the world tribute ride to Carl Stearns Clancy.

On the subject of books, here is a link to Chris Scott’s ‘Adventure Motorcycling Handbook’, which plays a role in the story of Geoff’s decision to tackle the Pan-American, and which he recommended during our conversation.

He also had good things to say about Horizons Unlimited, which you can find here. ADVRider also has many fans as a resource for trip planning… just avoid the general discussion forums, unless you want to participate in endlessly circular flame wars about countersteering, car tires and octane ratings, and completely lose your faith in humanity.

Geoff Hill isn’t an Instagrammer, but you can find him on Twitter if you want to say hello. He’s @ghillster.

And Hugh Francis Anderson, whom I owe my thanks for making this conversation possible, is still living our lives for us on Instagram. You should definitely follow him if you don’t already. Not everything he does is on motorbikes, but everything he does is still pretty damn cool. He’s @hughfrancisanderson

Finally, you should definitely spend some time getting to know Daring Greatly, who provided this episode’s playlist recommendation (apologies for the sub-optimal sound… the featured track is actually from a YouTube video and, as far as I know, is not for sale). You can learn more about them on their web site, sample their sound on SoundCloud, and purchase their music in all the usual places.

I’ll confess that I’m amused by little serendipities like this, but America’s “Ventura Highway” is even more appropriate to this episode than it seems. It turns out that the genesis of this song was a childhood memory of a road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway. The “alligator lizards in the air” were clouds, as remembered by the writer and his brother as children, standing by the side of the road while their father changed a tire. You can see why it was irresistible.

Do motorcycles matter? In a time when the industry worries about its survival and riders quietly wonder if we’ll one day be legislated out of existence, it’s fair to ask why the rest of the world should even care. In this conversation with motorcycling advocate and industry troublemaker Robert Pandya, we explore why it ought to. Frank and passionate, Pandya dares us to think about why we ride, what would be lost if there were no motorcycles, and how all it takes for our joy to make the world a better place is simply having the courage to share it.

Show Notes

Robert Pandya, walking the walk.

You can catch up on Robert Pandya’s Give A Shift initiative here. I first met him (electronically, at least) when I contributed an article on the Canadian perspective of motorcycling’s future. You can find that here.

I generally think that an apocalypse for motorcycling is unlikely, even in the self-driving future of North American transportation. Still, urban riders might have a different view. This piece from the New York Times on being a motorcyclist in that city was just a bit chilling. Sorry if this content is behind a paywall for you.

A major media outlet characterizes bikers in black and white, and hints at a future of irrelevance.

There are four other current initiatives Robert Pandya wanted us to know about and be a part of:

The first is Discover the Ride, which is operated under the aegis of International Motorcycle Shows. Learn more about that here.

The second is All Kids Bike. You can learn more about this here. This one is worth a read, because it goes at the issue of social good very directly.

The third, also working with Strider, is Double Down, which raises money for, among other things, the All Kids Bike program. You can learn more about this one here.

And finally, though not directly about motorcycle advocacy, there is the Suffragists Centennial Ride, about which you can learn more here.

In our conversation, I brought up a project Pandya worked on with Indian Motorcycle six years ago, “The Spirit of Munro”. Here’s the video. This promotional campaign turned out to be the opening gambit in an effort that took the brand from oblivion to heartburn for Harley Davidson impressively quickly. Fun fact… the rider in the video’s action scenes is Todd Eagan, who was my guest for the second episode of this podcast.

You may have heard Robert mention something called TROG. The acronym stands for The Race Of Gentlemen, an event taking place in New Jersey the week this podcast was published, as it happens. You can find out more about it here. TROG is one of those acts of performative nostalgia that tend to divide opinion among motorcyclists. There are some grumpy folks who think it’s simply cosplay hipsterism run amok. And then there are those, me among them, who think that this kind of thing is an essential part of the recipe for keeping motorcycling alive and relevant.

The Art of the Motorcycle has come up on this podcast more than once, and not just because I wish I’d gone. That show at the Guggenheim in 1998 has turned out to be of enduring importance to motorcycle culture, and a turning point that we probably still haven’t fully digested. If you didn’t make it either, you can learn a bit about it here. Wikipedia is also worth a visit, doing an efficient job of explaining the controversy around this show at the time.

When I was wool gathering online in preparation for this interview, I stumbled on a number of academic attempts to understand why we ride, and why that should matter. Most were too nerdy, even for me (by the way, did you know there was a Journal of Motorcycle Studies?!). But this one caught my eye, mostly because of this quote from the abstract:

“As a nonspatial community realized on the nation’s transportation infrastructure of roads and highways, motorcyclists have endured discrimination and risk of injury by cars because of the meaningful connections with people which motorcycling engenders. Such connections also enable motorcyclists to resist the social fragmentation which characterizes postindustrial urban society.”

Whatever we do, let’s not forget this is who we are. If the world became more like the motorcycling community, that would mostly be a good thing. But if we become more like the world can often be these days – judgmental, divisive, tribal – that will put motorcycling at more risk than anything it faces today.

Finally, thanks to the very talented Kyler Morrison for being so enthusiastic about having his latest single, “No Drugs,” featured on this podcast. You can follow Kyler on Instagram, of course… he’s @morrison_kyler. Learn more about his music here, and buy this episode’s playlist recommendation on iTunes, among other places.

 

Does riding motorcycles scare you? For more riders than we imagine, nagging fear is one part of motorcycling nobody talks about, and just feeling it can undermine our confidence. Meet Dr. Mark Barnes, a clinical psychologist who thinks that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and he should know: Mark also happens to be an avid rider on road and off, and a veteran motorcycle journalist. In this conversation, Dr. Barnes talks about how controlling fear is a skill we can learn, how every rider feels it, and how just the right amount might be the secret to getting the most out of your motorcycle life.

Show Notes

Here I am with William, my last horse. His calm, patient way might just have made a horseman out of me in the long run, but fate had other plans. When we lost him, I found motorcycles again. As Mark Barnes says below, “Life is funny, at least with enough distance.” Photo by Lindan Courtemanche

I must confess that I had not previously invested the time to get to know Motorcycle Consumer News, but I’m impressed. If you don’t know it, a visit to their web site would be a good place to start.

Mark Barnes has published a book, which he graciously declined to talk about in service of this episode’s theme. It’s called “Why We Ride: A Psychologist Explains The Motorcyclist’s Mind, And The Love Affair Between Rider, Bike And Road.” It’s essentially an anthology of columns from MCN, and I’m very much enjoying it. Here’s a bit more about it, and one way to buy it. 

In our conversation, Mark mentioned something called the Yerkes-Dodson Law. He was obviously paying attention in school, because it turns out that the study behind it is more than a century old. There is plenty to read online on this subject (including predictable efforts to debunk it… science can be a rough and tumble business). Wikipedia is a good start, if you’re curious. And this video also provides a pretty tidy explanation. It makes perfect sense to me, though… I can’t think of anything worthwhile I’ve ever done in my life that didn’t happen on a just-so bubble of ‘optimal anxiety’. Including this podcast.

Mark also mentioned a therapist named Brenda Bates, who treats riders suffering from PTSD after crashes. She has, indeed, written a book about this. Here it is on Amazon, along with a short bio of the accomplished Ms. Bates. A quick tour of Google suggests that this book has played an important role in a lot of riders’ lives. Perhaps most remarkable about her work is the fact that there are riders who love this so much that they’re willing to work this hard to come back. She might make an amazing podcast guest.

In an email exchange the day after our interview, Mark offered a coda to his story of being frozen with fear near the summit of Mt. Antero, and I’m sharing it below with his very kind permission. As I so often am by fellow riders, I’m humbled by his courage and honesty, here. I’d love to meet everyone I’ve interviewed for this podcast, but Mark Barnes surely has a special place on that list. Here in his own words is the rest of that story:

Mark’s bike on Mount Antera. This is the photo he was looking at as he shared that story.

“This morning I awoke with what can only be called a mild “flashback” of that harrowing trip up Mt. Antero that I should have labeled “Nightmare at 13,000 Feet” (an allusion to a famous Twilight Zone episode, if you’re too young to remember) [I’m not].  Recounting that event to you yesterday, albeit briefly, must have stirred up some PTSD within me that didn’t reach full intensity until the final feature in last night’s dream lineup.  While pondering this fleeting phantasmagoric re-visitation, I realized the terror associated with that event exerted a (mostly) unnoticed influence on our dialog: I remember feeling like I’d lost my place after summarizing the story, but I couldn’t recall the point I’d set out to make.  I had wanted to say a bit about what I ended up doing while waiting for my riding buddies to return from that final 1000-ft. leg to the top that I was unable to make, even though the remaining terrain was less difficult than what I’d already traversed – I was too locked up mentally (and therefore untrustworthy physically) from the protracted trauma of the ascent thus far.  I now realize that just telling you that tale was enough to reactivate my right amygdala sufficiently to disrupt/freeze my cognitive flow and prevent me from following through with what I’d meant to say.  This struck me as a perfect recreation of what had happened on the mountain.  And it’s the kind of abstracted parallel we psychologists are always excited to discover.

Anyway, my truncated version of the story may have left you and listeners wondering how the hell I made it back down the mountain.  If I was unable to proceed that final, relatively less treacherous, thousand feet, how could I possibly have gone back down all those many thousands of feet that had just rendered me paralyzed?  Pausing where I did helped, in that it gave me a chance to do a variety of fear-management activities.  I practiced some deliberate breathing exercises, no doubt rendered less effective by the altitude, but still useful.  I came to grips with the shame and anxiety about being “that guy” in the group who fell below everyone else’s levels of courage, ability and achievement (and I’m still at peace with my decision to hang back).  And it was soothing to simply stare out over the vastness of the surrounding landscape in that shockingly silent and isolated environment – not unlike looking out over the ocean from a deserted beach in its involuntarily calming effect on my psyche.  Of course, there was one more consideration, the one you highlighted later in our discussion: there was absolutely no other choice.  This was also true in the story from the Fearless article that you may have expected me to recount, since I think I labeled that one as the scariest experience in my motorcycling history.  In that instance, I was as angry as I was terrified, because our being lost at nightfall was something that could have easily been avoided with more attentive navigation.  That anger helped me rally and served as very powerful propulsion during my stretch of resurgent bravery and riding acumen.  It may have been more accurate to call that one my all-time zenith of despair, rather than fear, although the fear factor was just a tiny tick behind.  The Mt. Antero ordeal was definitely the most afraid I have ever been, including when I had to face highly invasive brain surgery a year prior to the Colorado trip.  Ironically, I’d planned that trip as a celebratory counterpoint to the horrors of having my head opened up!  Life is funny, at least with enough distance.”

Gary Saunders’ mesmerizing cover of “Don’t Fear The Reaper” is excerpted here with the artist’s kind permission. You can find this track on Soundcloud here. And if you want to say hello and tell him how much you liked it, here is his Facebook page.

Finally, some listeners may have noticed an annoying little crackle in their right headphone during this podcast. It wasn’t you, it was me. The audio input/output jack on my computer is wearing out and causing signal issues. I’m sorry… I’ll figure it out. Thanks for putting up with it.

Does riding ever get old? For a lot of us, Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s book “The Perfect Vehicle” is a perfect record of how we felt about motorcycles in the rush of those first few seasons. Now, 35 years after her first ride, I talk to the author about what time does to – and for – that relationship, how it feels to be “riding toward the end”, and what motorcycles can bring to your life even after they’ve saved it. Passionate and insightful as ever, Pierson’s story shines an inspiring light on the road ahead for, as one critic put it, everyone who ever “loved a motorcycle”.

Show Notes

My Ducati, the day we met. Sorry, baby… it’s not you, it’s me.

In fact, I did sell my Ducati, shortly after this episode dropped. I wrote her a farewell letter, which you might find amusing. It’s on EatSleepRide.com.

If you don’t know Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s work (and assuming you’re a motorcycle person), start with “The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles”, and then read “The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing”. You can get to know her a little better at her web site, where she also shares some more of her writing on our favourite subject. Here’s the rather more formal introduction to Melissa as an author. You’ll enjoy Anthony Swofford’s description of her literary voice. I’m sure she did, and I know I would.

“This book, a polished, winding meditation on the theory and fractiousness of motorcycles, celebrates both their eccentric history and the wary pleasures of touring.”―The New Yorker

As far as I can tell – I should have asked, I guess – Melissa is not on Instagram. However, she does have a presence on Facebook. Here’s her page for “The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing.”

In our conversation, Melissa graciously avoided naming a favourite book, but was pretty clear that this one meant a lot to her: Robert Edison Fulton’s “One Man Caravan.” Here’s a nice piece on this proto-adventure rider from Revzilla. Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to be a single repository for this man’s remarkable story, so I’d suggest you simply buy the book and discover it for yourself. That’s my plan.

Finally a big thank you to the very talented Cadence. Ross Lynde was quick and generous to respond to my request to excerpt “Still Crazy After All These Years”. You can find out more about the group here, and Ross had some suggestions for new fans: Our newest album “Home” (2018) featuring all Canadian composers.  Listen on Spotify or iTunes.  Includes David Clayton Thomas singing lead on ‘Lucretia McEvil’.  Cool sand art video of our version of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’:  click here

David Clayton Thomas? Lucretia McEvil? I’m in.

What is ‘adventure riding’? In an age when the spirit of adventure is sometimes eclipsed by horsepower, technology and fashion, it’s easy to forget that it still comes down to having the courage to take a chance, and then let ourselves be transformed by it. Meet Melanie Cowpland, who rode from her home in England to the southern tip of Africa with her autistic daughter Sofia, unsupported, on a sidecar-equipped Ural. Far from easy, comfortable or safe, this nine-month odyssey left mother and daughter changed forever, and offers us a powerful reminder that true adventure only begins when we give ourselves no choice.  

Show Notes

Here’s where you can find out more about this year’s Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival. Director Caius Tenche often talks about the amazing feeling you get from watching a film about motorcycles in a theater full of people who love them, and it’s true. If you can get to this year’s festival, or if there’s one like it near where you live, go. You’ll be supporting some people who keep this community alive and fun, and you’ll have more fun than you can imagine.

This episode’s title came up during my conversation with Melanie as a metaphor for the point of no return, or “no choice”, as Melanie put it. In case you haven’t heard the expression before, it’s a reference to historical incidents in which this was literally done so that the people on those ships would have no option but to carry on with their original mission. Wikipedia, naturally, provides a bit of a primer on this concept, which has become a staple of leadership, business strategy, and – some would argue – a well lived life.

To attempt to summarize the details of Melanie’s and Sofia’s journey to Africa would be foolish, there is so much to tell. It would also be unnecessary, since Melanie kept a detailed record of their travels on their own web site. The more you read, the more amazed you’ll be at what they’ve done together. Most important, this is also where you’ll find the information you need to contribute to their mission to raise awareness for autism. And, of course, you can follow them on good old Instagram @adventurewithautism . Below, some photos from their African adventure (all courtesy of adventurewithautism.org)

Melanie and Sofia, before and after the African odyssey. A proud mother notes, “Sofia looking relaxed and happy.” Photo from adventurewithautism.org

A bird’s eye view of a Ural, Melanie’s and Sofia’s African home for nine months. Honestly, even with all their quirks, I’d love one of these. Photo from Ural’s web site.

Johnny Clegg made his name as a musician in South Africa during the apartheid era, and surely made a cultural contribution to its eventual end. Collaborating with black musicians, Clegg and his first band – Juluka – faced censorship and legal obstacles during those years, producing a passionate and fascinating body of work, including this episode’s playlist recommendation, “Scatterlings of Africa.” You can read a little more more about his remarkable career here, and you’ll find his web site here. And you can purchase the track on iTunes, among the other usual places. Heartfelt thanks to Johnny Clegg for letting me share it.

Builders are some of the most fascinating characters in motorcycling today, with fame and influence that reaches every corner of the sport. But what makes them tick? Are they just fellow riders with more skill and ambition than the rest of us? Meet Eric Gorges, founder of Detroit’s Voodoo Choppers and host of the American Public Television series, “A Craftsman’s Legacy.” Besides creating bespoke motorcycles, Gorges has made a career out of studying people who work with their hands. In this candid conversation, he reveals that the drive to make things is an obsession all its own, even if it happens to mirror everything we love about riding motorcycles.

Show Notes

Eric Gorges of Voodoo Choppers, at home in his shop. Photo by John Roe.

Since this is a motorcycle podcast, let’s start with a bit more about Voodoo Choppers. Voodoo was founded in 1999, comfortably ahead of today’s chopper resurgence, and I think it shows in Gorges’ bikes. A lot of these machines have a kind of purity of intention that’s only possible when you’re not being blown around by the winds of fashion. Voodoo is actually located in Auburn Hills, now, but Detroit remains a convenient shorthand… for its location, and maybe for the attitude of its machines, too. Check ’em out on Instagram, @voodoochoppers

There is no ‘typical’ Voodoo bike, but this one – called Black Star – shows off both Gorges’ art and craftsmanship persuasively. Photo from Voodoo Choppers’ web site.

Gorges talks more about bike building – and how he came to do it – in this Esquire interview from 2015. Worth the read.

Eric Gorges’ new book is called ‘A Craftsman’s Legacy’, and it’s on sale May 7. You can buy a copy here.

Eric’s new book, festooned with my Batman stickies.

You can learn more about Eric’s show, ‘A Craftsman’s Legacy’, here. There is a list of stations that carry the program on his site, and you can find his YouTube channel here. And you can follow him on Instagram, where he posts as @ericgorges and @craftsmanslegacy

The builder community lost two of its own this spring: the legendary Arlen Ness, and rising star Jesse Rooke. Follow the links to learn more about both of them, and why they mattered.

The forum post I quoted in my closing comments is from ADVrider, post #92 on this page. The thread was about growing old, but rider33’s trenchant observation seemed to transcend the topic.

If you’re interested in learning more about – and following – the Women Riders World Relay, start here. The Motorcycles and Misfits podcast is providing great updates as the event unfolds, thanks to the fact that the tireless Liza Miller is a volunteer organizer. Here’s a link to the most recent one.

Tyler Childers. Photo by David McClister, from Tylerchildersmusic.com

I was thrilled to discover Tyler Childers and his Appalachian-tinged sound which, as a hack folk guitarist, I have a special affection for. Here’s the Rolling Stone article I mentioned reading. ‘Detroit’ is featured in this episode with the very kind permission of Tyler Childers. You can purchase it, and also his breakthrough 2017 album ‘Purgatory’ in the usual places, and you can get to know him better and check out his 2019 tour schedule here. Give him a follow on Instagram, too, where he posts as @timmytychilders

And finally, if you heard a weird squeaky noise from time to time during this recording, there’s nothing wrong with your device. Those are frogs. Spring has come to the farm.

Why do gatherings and gathering places matter so much to motorcyclists? In this episode, I talk with automotive journalist Kyle Cheromcha whose story “Mulholland is Burning” chronicles how California’s historic 2018 wildfire season nearly claimed the legendary Rock Store, even as it destroyed land, homes and lives on every side. With more than a half century of history as one of the world’s most beloved biker hangouts, its near-loss reminds us of how vital community is to what we do, of the sometimes unsung people who keep it alive, and of how sometimes a ride really is about the destination.

Show Notes

The Rock Store on a chilly Saturday morning, three months after the fire.

Here’s a link to Kyle Cheromcha’s “Mulholland is Burning.” I’m admittedly a sucker for this kind of reporting, but I’m pretty sure this story will have an impact on anyone who loves motorcycles and motorcycle people. It’s a killer piece of writing.

Although Kyle is a car guy – for now – TheDrive.com also covers the motorcycle beat. Here’s a shortcut to that page.

In case you thought I was kidding about “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” here’s a link. I’m strongly tempted to add this to the library for little ones in our clan, current and future, no matter what their mommies think 😉

There is obviously a lot of media coverage of the Woolsey fire available online. For a basic sketch of what happened, though, good old Wikipedia is as good a place as any to get a sense of where and how it unfolded.

Looking east from Kanan Dume Road, three months after the fire. This is where you’ll find Mulholland Highway, the Snake and, happily, the Rock Store.

The ‘melted’ bridge in Cornell, near the Rock Store. It’s supposed to be back in service by May, restoring access to the Rock Store from Mulholland Highway.

Yours truly on Mulholland, heading home. Never mind the rider, though… look at that green. This area was in the burn zone, and on this day it seemed like a perfect metaphor for resilience.

There is also a lot of YouTube footage about the fire, not surprisingly. This isn’t the most harrowing to watch (and includes some extraneous material at the beginning), but for riders, being real time footage from a motorcyclist’s helmet cam, it does a particularly good job of taking you there as the disaster is unfolding. For similar video of the aftermath, look for “Riding Through Fire Damage” by the same person.

The Rock Store’s web site provides some good information about where to find it and what it has to offer. In the aftermath of the fire, they were apparently active on Facebook, keeping regulars up to date on the condition of things and when they would reopen. If you plan a visit, it’s probably worth following them there. I’m sure you can tell I was an instant fanboy, but don’t let that discourage you… if you’re riding in that area, it’s worth a significant detour to visit, especially on Saturday or Sunday. To give you a sense of how welcome you’ll be, consider Rich Savko’s quote at the end of the article that inspired this episode: “God must be a motorcycle fan.”

You can follow Kyle Cheromcha on Instagram at @kylecheromcha. The Drive also has an Instagram feed, and you’ll find them at @thedrive.

For fans of Redlight King – and I know several listeners who are – you can find him on Instagram at @redlightking. The new single breaks cover on 04.05.19

Indi and the Vegas’ home on the web is here. You can listen to more of their tracks free on Soundcloud and, of course, buy the ones you like in the usual places. Many thanks, Indi, for wanting to be a part of this podcast, and best wishes for the new single. We loved your beach set!

A note about the photographs on this page: for obvious reasons, they resemble a lot of photographs of this area, especially those taken recently. All of these are mine, however, except for the picture of me, which was taken by Victory Jon (@victoryjon).