The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

Road Maniac Cover

My new book will be available on the Kindle platform within the next twelve hours.  I’ve decided to share the first chapter here in my blog.  This is a very personal book for me as it covers my travels for the last eight years and why I’m driven to do them but it also shows that you don’t need a crap load of gear or money to have an “Adventure” on your motorcycle and that’s really what I’m trying to get across here.  So if you’d like to purchase the full version through Amazon after reading this excerpt, just click here.  And if my non fiction works for you and you’d like to see how I handle a tense nuclear thriller, then just click here and check out my other book Devil’s Gambit.

Below is an excerpt from my new book Two Wheeled Maniac

Humble Beginnings

Sometimes you ride for fun; sometimes you ride to survive. I think for all of us drawn to two wheels in one form or another, it’s like that. I mean, how many times have you found yourself in the absolute thick of horrendous weather or tough terrain and the thought crosses your mind, “What the Hell am I doing here? This is nuts!” Only to be followed by the next thought, “Shut up, ride and get through it.”

I came to bikes later than some. I’d just turned seventeen. The family had had some ups and downs financially and we were renting a farmhouse just south of Abbotsford, BC. We’d emigrated from Scotland in the mid-seventies and I’d grown up in Abbotsford, BC over the previous ten years.

My younger brother Richard brought home a beat up Honda 80. Rough as it was, it ran sweet. It was mechanically sound (mostly), and since we were out among all that farmland, there were plenty of places to ride the thing and not have to worry about the local police busting us for riding on the road without proper insurance. Not that they didn’t try every chance they got.

Every junkie remembers his first hit and that Honda 80 had me hooked the first time I rolled on the throttle. It also started me down the course of always seeking the path less traveled or seeing where that dirt road leads.

The Honda turned into a 1980 Yamaha DT 175 (the one with the nice red frame), then a brief and ill-advised affair with a 1976 Kawasaki KH400, which lasted until I got married at twenty. This might seem to be too young for most, but we’re still together, so I’m guessing I chose well. Marriage and kids put the bikes to rest for a few years as we, built our first house and I started my training to be a welder. The kids came one two three, a daughter, Kathleen and two sons, Colin and Sean. It’s a good job the welding thing worked out.  I eventually became an aseptic TIG welder and pipe fitter, building food plants all over Canada and sometimes the US.

Because I was away so much, it was rare that I got on any bike, including my own. I was in that early-marriage head space of providing for my family and creating – along with my wife, of course – a future for us. Not everything was smooth sailing. My middle son, Colin, was diagnosed with autism. Classic autism, to be exact. Off hours were spent going to support groups and reading about the disorder to get a handle for what we were in for. It was rough at times, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Then a horrible thing happened.

We were a week in a new house when there was an explosion in my garage. Colin and my youngest son, two-year-old Sean, had gone in there. Sean was probably just following his older brother; they were never far apart. To this day, we don’t know what happened or the cause of the explosion, but the end result was that both boys were badly burned. Sean passed away that night in mine and my wife’s arms and our world for the next few months revolved around Colin, who was first in the ICU at Children’s hospital and then in the burn ward at Vancouver General Hospital.

The world as I knew it was pretty much over; at least it felt that way.

Of course the world does not stop turning, but it does get pretty shitty for a while. I ended up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The emergency room experience put a pretty big twist on my brain. This, coupled with the guilt of not being there to protect my sons and daughter… Well you get the idea of how deep that particular rabbit hole can go. I was not in a good place and I was pretty textbook when it came to the harming yourself and others clause of the PTSD handbook. Lucky for me, I was able to find a good psychologist who helped me through the trauma. She gave me coping mechanisms to help me identify and ward off the variety of PTSD attacks / behaviors. I used to think flashbacks were bullshit until they started happening to me. It was about a four-year process to put me back together, mentally to where I could function in the real world.

Deep as I was in this blackness, I knew I needed to get back on two wheels. The beauty of riding for me is and always has been the level of focus required. A bike is not a good place to let your mind wander. You need to be aware at all times of what’s going on. This focus allows you a brief reprieve from those other voices in your head.

My friend Kelly, a guy who is much more bike mad than me, who works in the motorcycle industry and who is a best friend in every sense of the word, put out feelers and found me a slightly used 1990 Yamaha XT600. A big old thumper of a bike and exactly what I needed. She’d do 120kmh downhill with a tail wind and not much more, but I loved that bike and I rode it for the next ten years. It was a sad day when I sold her.

In November of 2001, we moved from Abbotsford, BC, to Mississauga, ON. What followed were another couple of bikeless years until I bought a 70’s era CB350. My usually supportive wife said I looked like a gorilla at the circus on it. Next up was a 1980 Yamaha Seca 550, which was fun until the engine blew. Then it was ungrateful after I found a replacement engine, which also blew (actually the drive chain snapped and seized the engine) and left me stranded eleven kilometers outside of Grimsby in the middle of the Niagara Escarpment. In hindsight, maybe my first test ride should have been just around the block.

I was all set to get myself another older bike, but my wife put her foot down and told me to get a modern bike; one that I could ride instead of “fix” all the time. As it is with all things bike, I called Kelly and laid out my dilemma.

“You should check out a V-Strom,” he said. “A bunch of guys in the race club have them as their runaround bike. They swear by them. It’ll fit your riding style.”

I’d never heard of a V-Strom before. Lucky for me, I had a job coming up in BC and one night after work, I visited Kelly. He took me to a friend’s house. The friend had a Strom and I got my first chance to sit on one. Yeah, it fit really well. I’m six foot two and about two hundred and twenty five pounds; leg room is an issue. It was roomy compared to the last couple of bikes I’d ridden. It was definitely a bike I could get used to.

When I got back to Ontario, I found an ‘04 with just twenty four thousand km on the clock and we started our life together. My wife calls her “The Mistress” and she’s not wrong. We do spend a lot of time together. On the plus side, she’s very discrete.

This short book is a commentary and collection of my trips from around 2006 forward. Yeah, I come to things late. It’s a common theme in my life, but once I’m there, I’m committed. I’ve just turned forty nine and my Strom has just rolled over 100,000km. I plan on taking her all the way to 250,000km and further if possible. Though by then, it might be a Mad Max world and I’ll be in assless chaps and a hockey mask.

I guess what I want to get across is touring is fun and there’s plenty to see out there just in Canada and the US and you don’t need to break the bank to do it. I’ve met some great people all over and had some interesting encounters. I’m usually riding to go somewhere, but not always, and that’s fun too.

And the bike is still saving me.

Every day.

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