Shelf Space

   Perhaps the hardest thing about motorbike travel is the shortage of shelf space. While headwind is a terrible force, it is made far worse without the day's end comfort of a hot shower, clean clothing, and a good book.

   A lifetime of backcountry camping and travel has endowed me with a moderate sense of "light-and-quick" packing. Still, there are always the hold outs, the sticking points. During my cross-country ventures with A. I'd always brought along an inordinate number of books, journals, and sketchpads. While my obsessively organized pack resembled a that of a mountaineer's (folding, 4-ounce titanium cookware, toothbrushes snapped in half for size, and densely packed sleeping bags, sans-Thermarest, of course), there always came next a box of books heavy enough to sink the wheel wheels of the poor red Honda.

   The backseat would be strained for space, competing with four or five field guides (fellow birders will of course sympathize with the need to own Sibley, Kaufman, Peterson, and the National Geographic volumes simultaneously). The Complete Short Stories of Hemingway claimed the space where one might have packed a pillow. Hesse and his Steppenwolf pushed against the rear speakers, backed by an army of Taoist tomes, Chinese poetry, and Japanese ink painting manuals. Steinbeck, Byron, Wilder, and Wordsworth stood guard in the rougher cities, proudly and in plain sight, even when the other belongings had been more safely secured in the trunk. No one in their right mind steals books.

   Occasionally, A., feeling brave, would protest against my overflowing box of dead space. She would smile and stare at me, unconvinced, as I then reminded her about the small packet of pastels and colored pencils in the trunk that she probably could have lived without.

   No longer. Size medium saddlebags make poor bookshelves. The largest book I carry now is the Clymer Honda Shadow VT500 Service Manual, [Years 1984-86] (a riveting read). In between the tightly-folded socks and thermals, I manage to sneak in copy of Lao Tzu, my favorite poetry anthology, and a Moleskine journal.

   More socket wrench, less short story. Thank god for the public library.


  1. Great post, Cyrus. Maybe you're a candidate for a Kindle?

  2. Good old red Honda. It's nice to know that she's still alive and going strong. She'll be sold at an auction soon, hopefully to a fellow adventurer.

  3. yes you may have to resort to eBooks, but then you have to keep the battery charged! :-/