Monday, December 1, 2008

The Highwayman

Despite what the Man In The Pub might think, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorish weren't the first people to ride round the world on two wheels. That honour goes to Robert Fulton who did it over an 18 month period, starting in 1932. Fulton rode a Douglas twin - which he owned until he died in 2004 - modified to carry a secret .32 revolver. I don't know if he ever needed the gun, because I've yet to read the book of his trip, One Man Caravan. A Round The World book I have read is Ted Simon's Jupiter's Travels. In 1973, riding a Triumph (that he learned to ride in the bike factory's car park on the day he picked it up), Simon set off on a four-year, 60,000 mile ride that took him through Africa, South and North America, Australia, Asia, India the Middle East and Europe. Jupiter's Travels is my favourite book - i've read it at least three times. Every time I've finished it I've wanted to grab my helmet and gloves and head off to Capetown. One day I might. It's not exaggerating that Jupiter's Travels changes lives. McGregor and Boorman acknowledged that as soon as they started to plan their trip, the first thing they did was buy Jupiter's Travels. They weren't alone - hundreds of people have followed in the tyre tracks of Ted Simon. Although, unlike McGregor and Boorman they usually manage without two back-up lorries. Ted Simon did the trip again in 2001, at the age of 70. This time he was on a BMW.



A lesser-known voyager was Giorgio Bettinelli, who travelled through 60-odd countries on a Vespa PX 150. His first trip was round Indonesia, which he soon followed up with a journey from Rome to Ho Chi Minh City in 1997. His other trips included Angola to Yemen and became the basis for numerous books, although at moment they are only available in Italian. Giorgio met his wife will riding through China, and was living in the south of the country when he died in September, aged only 53. The first Vespa he rode had been given to him by a friend, though Piaggio later got wind that he was literally a mobile advertisment for the bombproof reliabilty of their P-Range scooters, and from then on he was sponsored by them. In his trips through China he rode a Vespa automatic - I think it was a GTS. By all accounts a friendly, gentle man Giorgio Bettinelli must surely be a candidate for greatest-ever scooterist.

He also had a nice attitude to breakdowns:

"You wait. Someone comes, someone helps. A car, a truck, a camel. An hour, a day. Someone comes, someone helps."

And here I am thinking it was too cold and wet today to ride the seven miles to work.

5 comments:

A F-A said...

You bu**er! For half a blog, I thought you had come over to 'The Dark Side' - but then, with one bound....!!! What an interesting chap Bettinelli was, and some achievement too. Adam Paul went around the world on a C90 (cue Mr Savage's arrival) but, given that vehicle's ubiquity, arguably not so adventurous as a Vespa (albeit that it had my favourite spark plug in, apparently).

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

I think you've got a fair chance of getting a Vep fixed wherever you are - anywhere two-strokes are common, anyway. My old neighbour could fix his Vespa T5 blindfolded because he'd grown up on a Greek island where everyone has a two-stroke outboard motor on their boat!

What IS your favourite spark plug?

bikerted said...

Don't know if you have come across Vroom With A View by Peter Moore. It tells the trip of the author, who is an Aussie, going round Italy on a 1961 125cc Vespa.
The trip may not be in the same class(?) as Ted Simon's trip but it is still a very good read.

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

Hi, Bikerted. Yes - I have read that, it's a great book. What sticks in my mind is when he accidentally ends up on the Autostrada from about 50 terrifying minutes!

A F-A said...

Not to mention the Guardian's Matthew Fort...two books now, about Vespa-ing around Italy searching out good food. He made a cameo appearance in one of Rick Stein's tv progs. Obviously there is a serious link between gastronomy and scooters....perhaps I should switch to a Vespa for my search for the perfect Steak Pie!