Originally published in Trail Dust.
Make Time to Take Time
By Andrew Mentzer
In 1977-8 my father, Terry Mentzer, circumnavigated the globe on a Honda XL 250. He did so solo, taking 207 days to complete his epic journey. He never broke down, and his cultural experience seldom required him to employ the guarded headspace that would be requisite of a circumnavigation today. Having completed nearly half of his route myself—recently completing rides across Australia and SE Asia—I often wonder how he got through it so seamlessly. How did he avoid not only mechanical catastrophe, but never even got a flat tire? No wrecks, never mugged—in combination these realities would seem a miracle by today’s adventure riding standards.
The world seems so very different now, but one thing remains exactly the same in 2013—pace.
I turn 31 in a few weeks and I have had some time to consider what the keys are to a successful around the world journey. Above all, I have realized the value of slowing down and looking at the road ahead not in terms of where I have to end up for the night, but rather how I will feel about the body of work when I return home. As with anything worth doing, there will be good days and bad. How you handle the bad is far more important than anything else. The pace with which an adventurer addresses what is in front of him/her, especially in foreboding territory, will ultimately determine the value of any tour.
I recently took some time to peruse my father’s article from the November and December 1978 installments of Motorcyclist Magazine to see if I could identify some take-aways that support my recently enhanced perspective. Here’s what I found:
On a freight ship between Perth, Australia and Singapore—“The next day we sail, and to my delight I have a four berth cabin to myself. Flies follow the ship until nightfall. In the morning they are gone, lost at sea like small carrier aircraft. The six-day passage is a fine affair: good company, 25-cent drinks, six course meals and a good library.”
After crossing into Thailand from Malaysia—“There is much less traffic in Southern Thailand than Malaysia. The countryside is a fairyland in shades of green encompassing miles of rice fields between low mountain ranges and beautifully maintained Buddhist temples, resplendent in gold leaf. It’s sunny and warm.”
A moment of introspection in Kathmandu, Nepal—“I’ve been away in foreign lands almost three months and my past no longer seems very real to me. The pressures of the business world have faded away. My daily concerns are simple: food, shelter, safe riding. The adventure takes care of itself.”
A windy ride outside of Tehran, Iran—“The next day the winds have shifted and come from ahead, gusting to 40mph. Oncoming trucks spin off vortices that slam against the Honda, wrenching against the fairing. The bike doesn’t want to pull the tall fifth gear, so I run in fourth for miles.”
There are countless examples of times when choosing the right pace was the difference between success and failure, efficiency and recklessness, or making it or not in my father’s RTW tour. It seems that no matter whether it is 1977 or 2013, the key to enjoying long tours is taking the time to consider what is around you. If you don’t, you are likely to miss the bigger picture while putting yourself and your machine at risk. I reckon there is nothing more detrimental to the mission of an adventure rider than a time constraint.
To read Terry Mentzer’s complete article, check out 1977-78