Touring is never boring

Individuals can sum up touring generally and incredibly to ignite curiosity in anybody. There appears to a culture now of gaps years, back packing, yearly holidays and world travel. Fortunately Motorhead existed and before Ian Lemmy Kilmister died he offered fantastic insight into the realities of touring as part of a rock n roll band. He goes beyond the joys of travel and self-exploration instead focusing on the job at hand and the realities that come with it.

When combing through Motorhead’s lyrics you get a sense that touring and travelling was part and parcel of their job. Motorhead were on a cycle of touring, writing and producing a record every year since the 1970’s. Lemmy considers this part of the Bands success explaining that ‘because we didn’t fucking die’ is why the band is still relevant thirty years after its inception. They ground out album after album and tour after tour with rock solid work ethic and life changing shows.

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The excitement that you may have when crossing borders or seeking out hotels in your first year of travel you can expect to become a banality of everyday existence when you do it eights months of every year your adult life.

Conversely to this is your gap year back packer. A virgin to world travel and foreign customers they are out to discover and explore. This is where colourful stories of travel and experience grow. It is easy to be engaged and enjoy everything when you are living a life of constant first experiences. Using a foreign land as your school is an experience that is becoming a right of passage for many.

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I cannot imagine the stories Motorhead would have about different countries and touring but I know their stories would be better than mine because of experience. They have seen it all so only the juicy stories come forward. They have the world experience of what to expect and knowledgeable of anomalies over expectations. Whereas, backpackers are wilfully taking everything in with little time anything else. Not being able to draw true understanding from the experience.

This musing reminded me and talking to someone at a local bike meet who, as a rule, did not like Kawasaki’s motorcycles; specially the ZX10r. His reasoning was that he used to have one for a number of months and got on with it fine until one day under ‘forceful’ acceleration the headstock started to protest and gave a hint of instability. This quickly resulted in a touch of back brake that settled the machine.

As he was carrying some speed the approaching corner was taken with some under steer and he was thrown wider than he would have liked – over the white line and onto the right hand side (approaching traffic) of the road. Fortuitously there was no car waiting for him there and he nipped back over to the other side of the road. He promptly stopped, reminded himself to breathe, readjusted his leathers and remounted after a short prayer and a ‘thank you’ directed at the sky.

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The bike was quickly sold and he got a more powerful and more gracious machine. So I asked when this all happened which he had to think about. ‘Well the machine was a 2006 which I got second hand so it must have been about 2008’. Therefore this happened almost ten years ago but it was prominent in his mind and coloured his view of Kawasaki motorcycles negatively.

He understood what happened because of the ham fisted acceleration the front of machine became light and could have progressed to a ‘tank slapper’ (when the handlebars shake uncontrollably and eject the rider). Not too uncommon when riding hard and something to be aware of if riding hard. A simple fix would be a steering damper and more throttle control. However the rider did not have this experience of vehicle control and therefore did not rationalise the event.

If you watch any sort of motorcycle racing especially the coverage of the Isle of Man TT you will see lots of this kind of behaviour. With professional riders on-board you will see motorcycles sliding, shaking, weaving, complaining, warping and bending numerous times around any given lap. As it happens often enough experienced riders anticipate and allow for it. Watching an on-board lap of a TT a rider will have a number of ‘moments’ – moments that would shake your nerves and leave you in a cold sweat in an instant. But these riders ride on. In one lap of a TT they will experience enough to put you off motorcycling for the rest of your life and have ten stories to tell. Lap after lap, practice after practice as these moments become a normality they are seldom mentioned because of their prevalence.

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The man with the Kawasaki in this instance is the backpacker of travel and the professional riders are Motorhead. The K man, as we will now call him, superficially scratched the surface of something special and because he was overwhelmed was unable to make sense or learn from it. He now tells that story to anyone who will listen and rides more sedately never fulfilling the experience.

Because professional riders are constantly pushing the boundary of self-discovery and discipline they draw different meaning from the experience of fast road riding than the novice. It is not enough to have an isolated experience and let it colour your view of the world. Facing that experience and reliving it draws a rounded accurate view.

When I challenge people who have gone travelling by asking them what there experience was I get repeatable vague overreaching responses similar to ‘it was amazing, really eye opening, great to see a different culture’.

This is not fulfilling to me for two reasons. One is the limit of the English language. You cannot expect someone to describe an experience like a year of travel verbally, you have to see it in their actions and thinking. Secondly, is that the experience is so overwhelming that they have not made sense of it themselves and it could be argued that they never will. Asking an experienced traveller they speak more accurately as to the true nature and culture of a foreign land opposed to the impact of them it had. Reading the Motorhead lyrics from songs about travel it offers a gritty realistic view over and above the surface experiences of one person seeing something for the first time. Which to me has has more substance.

 

We are the Road crew                                        

 

Another town another place,
Another girl, another face,
Another truce, another race,
I’m eating junk, feeling bad,
Another night, I’m going mad,
My woman’s leaving, I feel sad,
But I just love the life I lead,
Another beer is what I need,
Another gig my ears bleed,
We are the road crew
Another town I’ve left behind,
Another drink completely blind,
Another hotel I can’t find,
Another backstage pass for you,
Another tube of super glue,
Another border to get through,
I’m driving like a maniac,
Driving my way to hell and back,
Another room a case to pack,
We are the road crew
Another hotel we can burn,
Another screw, another turn,
Another Europe map to learn,
Another truck stop on the way,
Another game I learn to play,
Another word I learn to say,
Another bloody customs post,
Another fucking foreign coast,
Another set of scars to boast,
We are the road crew

 

Going to Brazil

Here we go again, on a 747
Looking at the clouds
From the other side of heaven
Smoking and drinking, never gonna stop
Reading magazines
Stop me looking at the clock
Wanna watch the movie, can’t keep still
Flying down to Rio, going to Brazil

Watching all the road crew
Attacking little girls,
Joined the mile high club
Goin’ round the world,
All the booze is free,
Airline going broke,
Here come the lady
With another Jack and Coke
Wanna watch the movie
Can’t sit still,
Flying down to Rio, going to Brazil

Steve, Clem, Hobbsy, John
Crazy Dil and Pappy
Had to travel second class,
They ain’t too fucking happy,
Elevator music, butter in my ears
Think we’re gonna die,
Just the pilot changing gear,
Wanna watch the movie, can’t sit still
Flying down to Rio, going to Brazil

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