Posted On 25 May 2024
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This entry is part 27 of 28 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#32


Life’s a rush – there’s never time to do everything. This is true for one very simple reason: the more you do, the more you find that you see, hear or think of other things that you want to do as well. It’s actually a good thing that my memory is going, or I’d have a head completely full of things I still want to try. And not just general things – really specific ones.

Here’s a perfect example. I was flying to Europe some time ago, when I raised the shade and looked out of the window of the plane. Below us was what looked like a lake, with a spectacular range of snow-capped mountains lining the shore to the south. At first I thought we must be flying over the Caspian Sea, with the Elburz Mountains alongside.

“I’ve ridden that coastline,” I thought (no, I’m not humble even when I’m by myself) and started looking for landmarks I might know. But then I realised that we must be well past Iran. That would make the scene below the Black Sea, then… and if we were somewhere between Trabzon and Samsun, I would have ridden that coast too.

But hold on – we weren’t that far north. Finally I switched on the rolling map display (I’m a bloke – of course I only look things up when I have to admit I don’t know them already) and saw that the water was, in fact, Lake Van; which made the mountains… let’s see… the Taurus.

Not only have I never ridden through any part of the Taurus Mountains except the very lowest western foothills, but I’ve never even seen Lake Van from the ground. So I immediately started making plans to get myself there and ride through that wonderful scenery. Should be able to get a bike in Ankara.

Bing! Another destination added to the Bucket List…

Flying does this to me all the time.

The Emirates flights to Europe out of Dubai used to take off across the Arabian Gulf, cross the Iranian coast at about Bandar Lengeh and then stay over Iran until about Bandar Bushehr.

That took us over some really exciting dirt biking country, with sandy roads on their way from one small oasis to another, climbing near-vertical sand dunes. Now let’s see, where could I get some bikes from inside Iran… and who would be likely to want to come with me? No, I was not going to ride that kind of country alone!In fact, of course, I would not want to ride that kind of country even in company. It seems to me that it would be the kind of place where people with guns could be found everywhere, and I am not keen on that. Why, you ask, does it then not bother me to ride in places like Nevada where the “open carry” laws allow anyone to pack a piece? I’m not entirely sure, but it probably has something to do with being able to speak the language in the US, and therefore being able to explain (and plead,if necessary).

The very worst territory for flying over is the Alps.

Hey, that’s a road down there! Don’t even get me started.

But anywhere that looks a bit remote, or a bit rugged, sets me off. Every now and then I actually manage to find places that I’ve seen from the air. The countryside around Canberra, for example, is a treasure trove. Several times now I have memorised the location of a fire trail or logging track that I’ve spotted during approach or departure from Canberra, and found my way there with the help of topographic or forestry maps. It’s a real feeling of achievement when you stop at the top of a hill and peer up at a plane coming in overhead.

Just recently I took a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, and I do have to admit that for once I was not tempted to get down there with a bike.

The slopes of the sides of the canyon and the mesas are often vertical, and otherwise nearly so. Our pilot told us that one of his colleagues had spotted base jumpers diving off one of the cliff sides a few days earlier. Er, not for me, thank you. We also buzzed a herd of buffalo on the northern rim of the canyon, and once again I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be down there among them.

But other rewarding landscapes are pretty much everywhere in the United States of America. Long distance planes generally fly too high for anyone to spot useful roads or riding areas, but commuter planes are a different matter. Not only do they fly low, but the crew will often help out with a bit of patter about the places below. The Texas countryside waits for me to travel on several roads that I’ve spotted from the air but never had the chance to ride. Some of these came about when our Saab 360 was barred from landing at Dallas-Fort Worth due to clear air turbulence and spent some time throwing loops over the country to the south.

Eventually the co-pilot came on the tannoy and announced, “Well, that’s it. We’re outta gas.” We weren’t quite, but we had to land at Fort Hood to refuel.

Great country around there. Pity it’s all a military reservation…

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