A Long Way Round

Charley Boorman and Russ Malkin in Duncan, BC

I awake the morning of July 25th, 2011 with my head pounding from one too many glasses of vodka with Darryl the night before. I muster the energy to pick myself up off the couch, and perform my hangover curing ritual. It involves extra-strength Tylenol, several glasses of water, and a serious brushing of my teeth. Then we prep our gear for our trip up to Duncan, BC.

 

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Towards the end of my first European backpacking trip, I was broke. I didn’t want my journey to end, but it was clear that it was going to be over soon. With the knowledge of my impending financial crisis looming, I did what every traveler does in a time of need: I went to visit my family. They live in Coventry, England. That’s one of the perks of having family abroad. Not to mention getting a home-cooked meal.

When packing for my trip to Europe I grabbed two books to read while on the road. The first was Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and the second was Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels. Towards the end of my trip I had finished both books, and at the end of the Jupiter’s Travels it mentioned that his bike was now sitting in a motor museum in Coventry. Despite the book being over 30 years old, according to my research, it was still in the museum. I figured seeing Ted’s old Triumph would be a perfect way to end my trip.

Tyson and Charley's bikeAs I rounded the corner to the motorcycle area a wave of tingling washed over me. Not ten feet away was Charley Boorman’s BMW R1150GS Adventure that he had ridden around the world with Ewan McGregor. I’m not sure if it was the surprise or that I was in the presence of something that had inspired me to get on the road. I reached out and touched the bike to see if it was really real. It was. Seeing Ted Simon’s bike was just as moving for me. It really did signify the end of my trip in a lot of ways.

 

On a rainy February several months before I left, Darryl pointed out the book Long Way Round while we were in a local bookstore. I picked it up, and I couldn’t put it down until I was through. I’ve often cited the book as one of my main inspirations to travel.
 
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Now, here I am on a highway hurtling at 90 km/h in the passenger seat of Darryl’s car going up to a town I would normally would never be bothered with. Charley Boorman and his crew are on the last stage of their latest adventure: Extreme Frontiers, a cross-Canada trip weaving through the easternmost part of the maritimes to the prairies, territories, and the west coast of Vancouver Island. Today is the final leg — a motorcycle convoy starting at Kickstart Coffee in Duncan and ending in Tofino, BC. There was no way we were going to miss it.

 

 

 

Charley Boorman on KickstartDespite not having motorcycles, Darryl and I blend in with the crowd, and I’m quite sure we’re not the only ones up there just to see Charley. We talk with riders, fans, and people excited for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be in a convoy with Charley Boorman. We talk about trips we all want to take. Charley greets us and jokes around from the rooftop of Kickstart Coffee. Eventually he makes his way out on his bike with the rest of his crew and makes a speech with the cameras rolling. He comments on how thankful he is that more than three people showed up for the convoy, and how humbled he is by how beautiful Canada is.

 

The convoy kicks off shortly after Charley’s speech and I’m left with a feeling of closure. I may not have gotten to talk with Charley, but being here is being part of something bigger than just me. The travelers’ spirit is present in all the people here. It’s never been clearer that everyone who rides a motorcycle, even if only locally, carries the adventurer’s spirit. Nobody I can think of better embodies that spirit than Charley Boorman. He’s honest, humble, and truly respects the opportunity he has to travel the world like he does.