Motorcycle Book Reviews
This is a two-in-one book review of a couple of moto-novels I read over the winter, and they could not have been more opposite from one another.
Firstly, the Terry The Tramp in K. Randall Ball’s book is not to be confused with the famous Terry The Tramp Hells Angel member who many know from Hunter S. Thompson’s interviews.
The Terry The Tramp in Ball’s book was the long-time International President of The Vagos – a California one-percenter MC. It tells the tale of a boy who grew up in poverty-like conditions and quite frankly, it seems to be something of a miracle that he even survived his early years.
Conversely, the author of “There And Back Again To See How Far It Is” is a new rider who is seen planning his first long moto-adventure with his wife Anne on their two Harley-Davidsons.
Tim Watson is a transplanted Brit who has lived all over the world working for various automotive companies. Calling California his home now, he falls in love with the idea of riding a bike and literally starts from scratch learning how to do so. Though he is very humble, his frequent self-deprecation comes off as cute at first but gets plenty annoying by the time you make it to the end of the book.
I think it was mainly in the switching back and forth between these two books that I found myself increasingly annoyed by Mr. Watson and his rookie mistakes. Here was Terry the Tramp – a kid from the 1940s who led a bleak but happy existence. As a child, he met a girl whose honor he defended and through her, met her father. Her dad was a Hollywood stuntman and his compassionate and helpful actions had a huge influence on Terry.
Terry landed work in the film industry thanks to this man and that solid career stands as an example of a life-path he could have followed. That job most likely would have been an exciting and fruitful adventure for him had he stuck it out.
But Terry was fully committed to his MC and it clearly stood as the priority in his life. Had he chosen the “straight” path in life, he would never have had to deal with the immense legal expenses he incurred while helping other club members fight their various court cases.
Terry truly was a brother to the MC members some might even say, to a fault. I write that because the brothers he fought so hard for eventually ousted him from his own club. So much for 42 loyal years of service.
It was in brash comparison to Tim Watson and his cultural observations of small town America that Ball’s book just seemed to ooze real life and true motorcycle grit. Had I read these books separately, I think I would have been OK with Tim’s accounts of meeting people throughout America and what those experiences were like. But I didn’t.
Ball’s book essentially tells the tale of how The Vagos became more and more important in Terry’s life and the many hair-raising incidents that took place along the way. It leads you up to his being accused of tax evasion and having to actually do jail time in the sunset years of his life.
He did his time and got out albeit with a number of heart-related health issues. All in all it is a pretty sad tale of honor and commitment that was sold at a huge, huge price.
But back to our 99%’er crusin’ duo on the west coast. Tim and his wife routed themselves on obscure backroads, which I must admit was a very cool premise. They hit some wide open, desert highways full of wide open throttle and also experienced some bad weather as you might expect but they handled it well. And though I still cringed when he criticized himself, I at least began to respect his riding ability as it grew through constant, daily practice.
Tim and his wife checked out the people and lifestyles of the places they visited and it really made you feel like you were there and I have to admit that a few times, I thought about following parts of their route at some later point in my life.
So, in a nutshell, if you are a new rider or if you are considering taking up riding, There And Back Again To See How Far It IS is a great read for everything from how important buying the right bike for your intended riding style is, to newbie mistakes to avoid.
Tim endured things like running out of gas in the middle of nowhere so you do not have to. He and his wife covered 8,000 miles strictly on secondary roads in the western part of the USA. and the things they learn along the way can certainly teach you a thing or two about riding. It’s a light read and one that I see as being a great introduction to riding a motorcycle.
Conversely, Ball’s book is for anyone who wants to know something about the whole 1% MC world and it captures the hard and dirty truths can sometimes be a part of certain organizations. I came away with a feeling of sympathy toward Terry who had such a big heart and gave his all to help his brothers.
You know the guy could have had a much different life if he chose to, but for over two decades through thick and thin he lead and stood by his MC. Interestingly, were he able to do it all over again, he probably would not have changed much. When he got out of prison other clubs asked him to join their ranks, but Terry maintains that he will always be a Vago, for better or for worse.
Alan Tecchio is a freelance writer based in the NY metro area who has interviewed hundreds of celebrities. He is an avid motorcyclist and active Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach. Alan has also wrote a weekly motorcycle column for twelve years in Steppin’ Out Magazine, a NY metro area entertainment publication. He is the lead singer of the rock band Autumn Hour (autumnhour.com) and sings for the heavy metal band Hades (myspace.com/hadesusa) Seven Witches and the musical project Minds Mirrors (myspace.com/mindsmirrorsproject).