I have a theory about travel writing. In part, this theory states that in today’s world of up-to-minute information the travel writer gets a bit lost in the noise. There are so many people who are able to write “travel” blogs or books that the market is a bit flooded. Maybe I’m wrong, but the second part of the theory states that travel writing is something special a few years after the traveling has happened. This is due mostly to the fact that it gives the prospective traveler, the reader, a picture of how things used to be and allow the traveler a much more complete picture of where they’re going. Obviously, there is also an element of living vicariously through the writer’s experiences.
Substantiated theory or not, that’s exactly how I experienced Jupiter’s Travels. I read it immediately after One Man Caravan which left my experience a bit on the boring side. A circumnavigation by motorcycle had been done before, and this time around there was many more roads. However, it was absolutely invaluable in perpetuating my plans for a circumnavigation of my own, one day. This is primarily due to the fact that the world Ted Simon saw, and the world Robert Edison Fulton Jr. saw, was completely different with 50 years between the two trips. That means that the world I’d be seeing today would be completely different from the one either of them saw, being another 30 years after Simon’s trip, and 90 years after Edison’s trip. I would anticipate the world has changed as much between Simon’s trip and today, than it did between Edison and Simon’s trip.
Strangely enough, both trips were done on British motorcycles. Today, the stereotypical adventure bike is a BMW because of their dependability and capability. To me however, it seems that those two characteristics, although desired, tend to dampen the adventure. People like Nathan the Postman who’ve done great distances on a postie seem to be after adventure with a bit more hunger than Ewan McGreggor and his support crew on BMW’s. Maybe that’s what got me about Jupiter’s Travels, and why I like the genre of motorcycle travel so much. Each adventure is so different, and the value of each book is in the interpretation of the world by its author.
Ted Simon is a very easy going character, but he does exhibit the general tendency toward worrying about little things that most Brits I’ve come in contact with have. I wonder if it’s in there genes… Simon spends 4 years running around the world on one of the last Triumph 500cc T100-P built before the massive British factory strikes of the 70’s. Today it is still known as XRW 964M and spends its time in the Alfred Herbert Museum in Conventry, UK. It is also still unwashed since Simon took it through Istanbul. That’s 40 year old dirt folks!
The themes of growth, coming of age, or dealing with life’s issues which most traveling books communicate at some point or another are also present in this book, being most prevalent in the conclusion. I find the theme is an afterthought, as it should be. Nobody should set out on a circumnavigation with preconceived ideas of what they’re going to find, but simply with the desire to find. The “what” will be disclosed soon enough, on time, every time. That’s the beauty of adventure, isn’t it? To know something is coming, something is going to happen, but not really know what that something is.
Simon tells his story wonderfully, and it is absolutely worth the read. On the cover of the book I read it said the Ewan McGreggor’s “Long Way Down/Around” was motivated by this book, and I can see why. Why Mr. McGreggor decided to overly prepare for the trip and ham it up during the filming boggles me. Well, no, it doesn’t, it makes good money, and he is an actor. Obviously, they really did go through the tribulation they went through, no make up here, but really, Mr. Simon did it in such better style, if only for the sword he transported across multiple borders. I won’t spoil that part of the book for you though; you’ll have to find out why he carried a sword by yourself! Is Jupiter’s Travels worth buying? Absolutely. It’s on my shelf!
A few notes/comments on this post for those NOT engrained in the ADV culture:
– ADV usually denotes “Adventure” and most specifically, advrider.com – a community of adventure riders who share knowledge and sometimes hospitality and resources.
– Nathan the Postman is a fellow who rode from Sydney, Australia to London, United Kingdom on a Postie – a Honda CT110 (110cc) step-through ex-mail delivery moped. I classify these bikes as mopeds, and not motorcycles because they have pegs like a motorcycle, but the rider can step through the frame as with a scooter. To me they have more cred than a scooter, but less than a moto. That’s irrelevant however. What Nathan did was awesome and amazing, check it out!
– Ewan McGreggor and Charlie Boorman are two of my heros, having done Long Way Down/Around, but they did loose some respect when they showed up on brand new BMW’s in Belstaff kitt. I’m sorry, but that’s a ton of money and if it weren’t for the fact I saw McGreggor’s face on a charity poster a few days earlier asking to donate money, I wouldn’t have thought that all that expensive gear could’ve helped out a lot of kids in some developing countries. I see McGreggor’s trip as high profile, celebrity advertising. Again, not to knock what they accomplished, but an older more broken bike would’ve gotten much more respect from bastards like me.