It’s festival season, a time when teenagers across the country travel great distances to see their musical heroes perform live in front of thousands. I know that it’s not just teenagers who go to festivals, but it’s the teenagers that interest me the most ...... and I don’t mean in an inappropriate way. Mature festival fans are simply that; ‘Mature’ and ‘Fanatical’. They tend to plan ahead and the festival weekends are like annual pilgrimages, they arrive with everything that they need and they leave with everything that they brought with them. Teenagers on the other had are quite possibly visiting Glastonbury, Reading or Chelmsford simply because it’s something that every teenager should do, a rite of passage, a once in a lifetime event. They enjoy the live music, they revel in the 72 hour party atmosphere but over the course of the weekend, many of those teenagers will discover that camping just really isn't their thing. Come Monday morning their festival experience will be history, Sebastian and Samantha will move on to planning their gap-year experience and behind them in a rubbish strewn field will be a veritable smorgasbord of abandoned camping equipment. Post festival access to the Glastonbury site might be quite difficult, but after many of the smaller festivals you can lightly grease the palm of a contract worker and the Blacks Adventure tent, the Karrimor sleeping bag and the Big Greta air mat can be yours for a song. If you’re planning a journey then ‘Free-Cycling’ can save you hundreds of pounds and those savings will convert directly into extra days on the road. Try it ..... it's not very 'British' but you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
This weekend I've been attending the 'Horizons Unlimited' annual gathering near Denby in Derbyshire. Five hundred current and future adventure motorcyclists all in the same place. I'd been invited to speak but I'd never done anything like that before, I felt like a fraud amongst the worthy. I was on the same menu as Ted Simon, Paul Pratt, Sam Manicom, Simon Gandolfi and the king of public speaking, Austin Vince. I was rubbing shoulders with the real hero's of adventure motorcycling, the people who'd bought the tee-shirts long before Google Earth had been there to help them along the way. I hope that I did alright, my rooms were full, the folks seemed to laugh in most of the right places and nobody seemed to sneak out early. A big 'Thank You' to everybody for their support, the feedback was humbling and it's ignited a new flame ...... it's time to buy another map.
The photograph above is of Peter and Kay Forwood with their trusty Harley. In the thirteen years since they retired, they've ridden this seemingly inappropriate bike in 193 Countries ..... that's every Country in the world. Please don't ask me to name them because I couldn't. I'd whined like a spoilt child crossing one single border in Russia but these people have crossed hundreds and are still smiling. When you talk with folks like Peter and Kay, you begin to understand that you really could do more than you ever thought possible.
I suspect that the introduction to Adventure Motorcycling for many people came through watching the 'Long Way Round' and 'Long Way Down' series with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. The series was amazingly successful, the books and DVD's were read and watched by millions and after their release, the streets of London were awash with BMW GS's dripping with Touratech bling. On the bikecentric areas of the Internet, people began throwing stones at Ewan and Charley, not for doing what they did, but for the amount of money that had been lavished on their projects. I didn't mind about their budgets, that was just a reflection of their own good fortune and if I'd ever had the choice, I would have gone for 'Rich Circulation' every time. When a problem arises on the road, that problem is often easier to solve if you can beat it to death with a bag full of money. Unfortunately, that's just the way that this world increasingly works. As I see it, the problem with Ewan and Charley's adventures, is simply that they made everything look so bloody difficult and dangerous. I can understand that as a commercial venture, there was a need to sensationalise their adventures, but I worry that in doing so they've dashed the dreams of many by making them worry about problems that simply really don't exist. Travelling on a motorcycle obviously raises problems that will need to be solved, but because you're riding a motorcycle, people will always stop and help you to solve them. (Once you're outside of London that is).
The overriding message from the Horizons Unlimited weekend was to sell your BMW R1200GS with it's Touratech garnish and to spend the money that you've saved on fuel for your next journey ...... my kind of people.
Over the weekend, I seemed to be the only speaker who didn't have a book to sell, but I'm working on that. Anyway, at least my hefty pile of 'Rejection Letters' got Saturday nights bonfire off to a very good start.