How have you improved the second edition?
In the first edition I wanted to "break the links" with chain hotels and franchise restaurants so my recommendations centered primarily on bed and breakfasts. But when I heard from riders and readers asking for more nominally-priced options, I revisited the country and greatly expanded selections by adding clean and well-kept motels and motor courts, historic local diners, and including a reference list for every chain hotel within a ten mile radius of a destination. I also spent months tracking down and updating websites, motorcycle shops, area codes, prices, attractions, adventures and an in-depth appendix for additional infomrmation. This book contains everything a rider needs to take off on a great journey.
2) What was your favorite ride?
When you've traveled 20,000 miles across the finest landscape and most majestic sights in America, it's hard to pick one. I loved the solitude and expanse of the ride from Missoula to Bozeman, Montana, yet I also loved the lush forests and mountains of Highway 100 in Vermont. And for some reason, Death Valley, even with its absence of.... anything... was a spiritual experience I cannot forget.
3) What was your favorite bike?
Again, maybe it was a combination of the environment (Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota), but for me the Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 was just the right size and style for me.
4) How long did it take you to make these trips?
My first ride was on September 7, 1998, (Buddy Holly's 62d birthday) and the last was in July, 1999 (someone's birthday but I'm not sure whose.) I'd go out on the road for a month, return home and write for two or three, then go out again. I had to plan the trips so I'd miss the snows in New England and the Pacific Nnorthwest so it took a bit of fine tuning. But I'm a mighty,. mighty man so I did it.
5) Why can't you do this by car?
You canand I'd recommend that Congress pass legislation requiring motorists to carry a copy of GAMT in their cars. As I wrote in an article in the Miami Herald, "...there are no roads specifically designed for motorcycles ... just as no roads are built only for cars or RVs ... but motorcycle travelers know what they look for in a great ride. We seek freedom from the interstates and an escape from the homogenization of America. We search for back roads where we can shed routine and make every minute an adventure. We want to hone our senses with views of waterfalls and fields of wildflowers, to travel roads that rise and fall like the Roman Empire and lead to general stores and diners where the waitresses call us 'honey.'"
6) Why did you name each bike 'Kuralt'?
I was inspired to see America in large part due to the life's work of CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt. Even as a kid, I saw him traveling the country and showing me people and places that seemed foreign to a kid growing up in Florida, but were mine if I took the initiative. It was in his honor that each bike was given his name. I was thrilled when his daughter read a copy of 'GAMT' and told me that it was a wonderful book that her father would've liked.
7) How did you carry all the gear you'd need?
I was accompanied on all my journeys by my faithful Indian companion, my wife Nancy Howell (who is one-eighth Cherokee). She braved mountain passes, blizzard conditions and months of solo driving just to support my quest. What a woman!
8) Are you available for appearances?
Yes. There are stories about discovering America as well as meeting challenges that seemed impossible. There are dozens of stories interwoven into this adventure regarding emotions, relationships, discovery, spiritual enrichment, and taking a risk to do what you know is right-even if it means spending your life's savings.
9) I've got a full-time job/wife/husband/kids/responsibilties. How can I do a trip like yours?
Decide. I had the luxury of an open schedule and few responsibilities since I haven't had a regular job in ten years. I want my book to encourage you to go out and explore on your own. Even if you can only carve out time for an overnight, do it. As time goes by you can work on longer blocks of time and expand your riding range. But don't copy me. As I say in the introduction, "make your own discoveriesuse my book as a guide, not the Gospel."
Don't ignore your kids, though. Maybe you can ride with another couple, splitting time between a car and a bike. Be creative. And if the kids are grown and only a job ties you down, ask yourself the question I used when I had to make a choice between life as an employee or a freelancer: "If I had a million dollars and didn't have to worry about money, what would I do?" That got me real honest real fast and I answered myself that I wanted to travel and to write. With that, I knew I had the key to decide what I really wanted to do with my life. From there, it was a matter of figuring out how to do it and make a living.
10) You have a sharp sense of humor.
That's not a question, but people aren't used to reading a motorcycle book that doesn't deal with mechanics and a "coming of age" story. I can't fix a damn thing and I hate getting dirty so I left the fix-it and "watch me become a better man" books to other writers. I love the tempo and style of James Thurber, S.J. Perelman, Dr. SuessSeussSuess, Kuralt, Twain, Robert Benchley, P.J. O'Rourke, and John Hughes, so this was a chance to break the mold of boring travel books and write something as diverse and exciting as the nation I was seeing.
11) Why the Tina Louise reference in the 'Pack It Up' section?
Tina Louise (born Tina Blacker on February 11, 1934 in New York) portrayed starlet Ginger Grant on the CBS series 'Gilligan's Island'. The former model and nightclub singer trained at the Actors Studio and the Neighborhood Playhouse but is best known for her sexy comic role as the Marilyn Monroe-ish stranded movie star. Having first seen her on TV when I was six, I'd like to think that she was my first girlfriend. I'd also like to think that she is receiving the mental transmissions I send each morning at 5:43 am.