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Motorcycle Journeys Travel Guide Books - wBW Book Review

Motorcycle Journeys Travel Guide Books

Motorcycle Journeys Through the Rocky Mountains Motorcycle Journeys Through California and Baja Motorcycle Journeys Through the American South Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps & Beyond
by Toby Ballantine by Clement Salvadori by Scott Cochran by John Hermann
ISBN 1-884313-58-2 ISBN 1884313604 ISBN 978-1-884313-61-5 ISBN 978-1-884313-70-7
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wBW Book Review by Bill C.


The "Motorcycle Journeys" series of books has been very popular with motorcycle riders from all over the world and they have been a huge hit for Whitehorse Press, a publisher of many different types of motorcycle books, guides and technical manuals.

We reviewed a few of the books from this series in the past, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I've been hording the four books shown here for too long; I think Clement Salvadori's Motorcycle Journeys Through California and Baja has been sitting on my desk since 2006, waiting for a review!

I had all good intentions of using each of these books as a guide for motorcycle trips to each region, but, as often happens with many good intentions, I just haven't been able to pull it together. Yet...

I guess I'm like a lot of armchair adventurers, building the perfect all-around world touring bike; poring through the details of the next piece of farkle that's absolutely necessary to make the trip a success; and imagining what it will all be like as I'm attacking a switchback in the Alps, a dirt road leading down to an unknown beach in Baja or taking in the sights on Main Street U.S.A.

Although the "Journeys" series is meant for real-world use out on the road, if I haven't been able to use them in that capacity yet I at least get a certain satisfaction by just thumbing through the pages and looking at the interesting photos, maps and lists of places to see and things to do.

If you're not familiar with these guide books, they follow a pretty standard formula -- some background information, tips and tricks for the journey that is the subject of the book, then maps and routing information along with things to see. The books are mostly broken up into favorite rides or side trips of the authors -- who, by the way, are all well-known or experienced riders, writers and raconteurs.

So the focus of the books is on the ride, as it should be for a motorcycle journey, and not necessarily all the nitty gritty details about hotels and logistics. These are not Michelin guide books; they're more like reading the personal journals of a local, who knows the back roads, what to look for and what to look out for, and a few of the local places to eat that you'd probably never find yourself.

Thus, they are worthwhile not only for riders who have never been to the area; they're also useful for anyone living nearby who wants to get up to speed, so to speak, as quickly as possible on all the interesting motorcycle places in the area.

These books are also well suited, by the way, for adventurers from other countries who are taking advantage of the wimpy American dollar to rent a bike and tour the incredibly varied landscape in the U.S.A. And since the entire "Journeys" series is broken up into the various regions of the United States, they serve as a perfect guidebook for that use.

I picked these four books out of the "Journeys" series because these locations are places that I am familiar with through my own personal wanderings over the years. So even though I will admit to not actually using these books on a motorcycle tour, I can speak to the general advice and directions given in many of the trips that are described.


Motorcycle Journeys Through the Rocky Mountains

Motorcycle Journeys Through the Rocky Mountains
If you've never been there, you really must make the effort. If you're thinking of touring the U.S.A. by motorcycle and can't decide where to start, the Rocky Mountains would be perfect (although I could also say that about the Southwest, New England, the Pacific Northwest...!).

I've been through the Rockies quite a bit during various trips through the years, and I'm always amazed at the awesome landscape, beauty and the mountains. Coming from the East Coast of the U.S., I never realized there were mountains like that, and I'll never forget the first time I laid eyes on them, on a motorcycle trip we took on a whim, traveling from New York all the way to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The trip was a total bore until we left Kansas and started across the flats of eastern Colorado, when we first caught a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Since then, I've been up and down the "spine", and it never ceases to amaze.

Toby Ballentine is the author of Motorcycle Journeys Through the Rocky Mountains. He's lived in the area for over 20 years, and his parents were raised in Idaho, and he's covered tens of thousands of miles riding and camping in the Rockies, so he knows where to go and what to see.

This one covers the popular spots like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Glen Canyon Dam and the "Sedona Vortex" in Arizona -- a very windy road perfectly suited for motorcycle thrills.

The locations covered include Flagstaff (Arizona), Taos (New Mexico), Durango (Colorado), Jackson (Wyoming) and Boise (Idaho), along with a few other lesser-known places. He also describes a huge Rockies Loop, covering nearly 5,000 miles from Phoenix, Arizona all the way up to Whitefish, Montana and many places in between.

For visitors from overseas, this trip covers "only" 6 states out of 50!  I know that from talking to my European friends, many first-time visitors to the United States don't realize how large and varied the country can be -- it takes about as long to fly from London to New York as it does from New York to Los Angeles, and double again to get to Hawaii!

Traveling the Rockies can be daunting, not only because it's so huge and remote, but also because the environmental conditions can easily catch even the most experienced riders unaware. But Motorcycle Journeys Through the Rocky Mountains pretty much covers it all and it's a good guide to the region.


Motorcycle Journeys Through California & Baja

Motorcycle Journeys Through California and Baja
Clement Salvadori is a well-known author and motorcycle magazine columnist. He was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer before he became a motorcycle journalist way back in the '70's, so he's an experienced traveler and a great writer.

Motorcycle Journeys Through California and Baja is one of the larger books in the "Journeys" series, at 383 pages. It has to be to cover a huge and varied state like California, with Baja thrown in as a bonus.

Recent travelers to Baja have some interesting and scary stories to tell, so I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a place to travel on a motorcycle just now, but there's plenty to see in California, which is an awesome state for travelers and sightseeing.

This books starts with the obvious, in Los Angeles, yet another place that everyone should experience for themselves and not just on old Rockford Files TV shows. But Salvadori's Los Angeles isn't the haunts of the too-rich and why-famous; he takes you to the motorcycle hangouts like the Rock Store, Mulholland Highway, Malibu and up into the hills, where all of those great Sportbike photos are taken, the ones that show up in the print magazines each month.

The trips include the Central Coast and Big Sur Highway; San Francisco; Lassen National Park; the Northern Sierra Nevadas; Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks; Death Valley; Palm Springs; Eastern San Diego County (a very interesting place); and Baja.

This is another good one, useful for first-timers, locals and even for those who only plan to travel on four wheels, rather than two.


Motorcycle Journeys Through the American South

Motorcycle Journeys Through the American South
I've also spent a lot of time in the South, a place that many Northerners seem to find puzzling, scary and strange. In fact, I'd say that the American South is probably one of the least-known travel destinations in the U.S., for some reason.

I've traveled quite a bit through the region over the years, having first gone there not by choice, but due only to work-related travel. Being a New York City boy, I had no idea what to expect, and I'll never forget feeling like I was in a foreign land at first, only because once I got out into the rural areas, I had such a hard time understanding the non-Brooklyn accents!

But that's probably an unfair generalization, and I'm here to tell you that there are some amazing sights in the South, beyond the obvious, like New Orleans, Memphis, Daytona and Atlanta. Not that those aren't also wonderful places to see, just that the rural areas are amazing and they have a rich and varied history.

And who better to act as a tour guide than a local?  Scott Cochran is the editor of the U.S. Rider News and a native of Keysville, Georgia. Here's an interesting factoid courtesy of Whitehorse Press: did you know that the American South has more registered motorcyclists than any other region in the U.S.?  I didn't...

This book has routes covering the five state area of Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, and  it features "base camps” to leave your luggage and explore a nearby area for several days.

The routes include a three-day ride on the old Natchez Trace; where to get a fried green tomato “sammich”, a famous Southern specialty (and don't forget the brains and eggs for breakfast; if they're on the menu, you know you're in an authentic Southern local diner!); where to see an authentic Southern juke joint; and, of course, a visit to Elvis’ birthplace with lunch at the actual un-restored drive-in diner he went to after school and the hardware store where his mamma bought him his first guitar.

And by the way, speaking of Elvis, even if you're not a fan, but are interested in history, I can highly recommend Peter Guralnick's two-part biography: "Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley" and "Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley". This is excellent and serious research and writing, and not just another shallow fan biography.


Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps & Beyond

Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps & Beyond
This is it -- the Big Kahuna, the Mother of All Motorcycle Trips, right?  Seemingly every motorcyclist wants to someday make the pilgrimage.

Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps & Beyond is so popular that it is now in the Fourth Edition. Author and “King of the Alps” John Hermann has over 1,000,000 miles since 1960 in his tours of Europe and beyond, so this guy really knows his stuff.

Another relatively big book for this series at 416 pages, there are so many interesting tours and trips in here that it would probably take a decade to see everything. It starts in Andermatt, Switzerland, a great place to begin, and it takes you just about everywhere you'd want to go. The "& Beyond" even covers a trip down to Corsica!

The trick here is that a European motorcycling adventure can be so daunting, and the choices are so huge and varied, that I think it actually puts some riders off. But Hermann's advice boils down to a "just do it". Believe me, you can put on a blindfold, open the book and stick your finger anywhere and choose it as your destination, and you'll have a marvelous time.

And unlike the old days, now we have the Euro, GPS and more motorcycle rental places than a Harley has vibes, so a European adventure is pretty much a piece of cake, or should be.


More Motorcycle Touring Books at Amazon.com

Conclusion
The "Motorcycle Journeys" series of books is a wonderful and thorough resource that every motorcyclist needs on his or her trip. Whitehorse Press should be commended for forging ahead with new volumes in the "Journeys" series and for all of the other fine motorcycle books they publish.

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