You can’t tell a book by its cover is so true in the case of this fascinating book
John Mole’s new book, Harley and the Holy Mountain, is most unusual. It includes some surprises. First of all, it is not about riding a Harley-Davidson anywhere. It features a rather wheezy 50cc Yamaha step-through, which is merely nick-named Harley.
And, despite a title that would seem to indicate heavy religious overtones, it is often irreverent, ironic, and even down-right funny on that and a whole range of other subjects.
John Mole is native to England but now lives in London and Greece. He is well-traveled, worldly, well-educated and he has written nine other books. Greece itself is the centerpiece and setting of the story; its long, epic history related by Mole in a fascinating way. He illuminates the story with background on the politics, mythology, and religious events in the country’s history.
Mole takes us along on a motorcycle odyssey, appropriately enough, given the setting from his home in a village on Evia across the length of Greece to Mount Athos, a self-governing state run by monks where nothing female is allowed—with very limited exceptions.
Sounds pretty pious, right? Actually, no. Mole and Harley make the journey despite the bike’s molasses-in-January top speed, its limited cargo capacity, and Mole’s admittedly limited prior planning. His sharp insights, irony, and sense of humor make this offbeat odyssey laugh-out-loud funny at times—all while being fascinating and even historically informative.
Mole is a man on a mission to deliver the collected works of Jeeves and Wooster to a Moldovan monk on Mount Athos. His mission is to take the books to Father Makarios, a monk Mole met on Athos the previous year. Makarios is originally from Moldova by way of the Ohio State University where he spent two years in college, so he speaks fluent English. They got on well and Makarios gave Mole a hand-carved Crucifix. Mole wanted to do something for him in return and bringing the books was it.
When Mole finally reaches the Holy Mountain, sad news awaits him. Makarios has died only about a month before Mole’s visit. So, the long ride can’t end with the delivery of the gifts or the enlightening conversation Mole had envisioned. But that’s not the end of the journey; it turns out its purpose ran deeper. There was more to it than the books and the trip itself.
Mole continues on to Mount Athos and in what is perhaps symbolic of the journey’s end, hikes in wet weather and stops short of the summit. He reflects on what he has learned about others, their lives, and himself. It turns out the trip has been even more enlightening than he might have hoped for and in ways that he may not have expected.
It is often said of travel that “it’s not about the destination, but the journey.” In the case of John Mole’s remarkable Harley and the Holy Mountain, for both the author and his readers it is about both. Reading it, one learns, laughs, and gains insights rarely associated with any motorcycle trip.
Other books by John Mole include, It’s All Greek To Me!, Martoni’s Pilgrimage 1394, I was a Potato Oligarch, The Sultan’s Organ, Sail or Return, The Monogamist, Thanks Eddie, Management Mole, and The Hero of Negropont.
- Title: Harley and the Holy Mountain
- Author: John Mole
- Published: 2020 paperback, 307 5.5” x 8.5” pages
- Publisher: Fortune, 241, 95 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1BZ
- ISBN: 978-1-8382556-0-2
- U.S. $13.74 (per exchange rate on April 13, 2021) UK: £9.99