Having known Bob Higdon for some 35 years, I understand why he has the reputation of being a curmudgeon, which is loosely defined as a cranky fellow full of opinions. He is also a scribbler of minor note, hence these two volumes of opinions concerning motorcyclists, and travels on a motorcycle.
By profession he is/was a lawyer, and obviously a well-paid one since he retired at age 53 and started doing all those motorcycle things he should have been doing in his twenties and thirties. He and I agree on some things, like the Cross-Bronx Expressway in New York being one of the worst roads in the country, and disagree on others. He writes that the 1979 R65 was “the singularly worst motorcycle that BMW ever produced.” He never says why, but BMW sold many of those models from 1978 through 1983, and then many more in the single shock version from 1984 to 1993. We should take note that Higdon does not give a damn about what other people might like.
Most of these chronicles have seen the light of day in various magazines, be they national mags like Rider or club mags like On the Level or Iron Butt. That last brings to mind that probably a third of the stories focus on long-distance riding, be it trying to break the time record riding from Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay to Key West, Florida, or the more benign 1,000 miles in 24 hours. I admire those hardy souls with strong butts who do this kind of thing, but it is certainly not the way I like to ride. But both funny stories and some tragedies come out of such shenanigans, and Higdon certainly does not think that motorcycling is a very safe pastime.
Higdon has been to a lot of places, mostly in North America, but also on the other five continents…we’re leaving Antarctica out of this. He must have a bit of masochism, as he travels roads that I have no desire to go on, like the Road of Bones in Siberia, and the Haul Road going north in Alaska to Prudhoe Bay. I rode around the world in the 1970s, and if I had a choice between a bad road, and a not-so-bad road, I always chose the latter. Higdon seems to focus on the baddest of all.
He obviously enjoys a rather literate background, as he is constantly mentioning noted writers of the past, from 8th-century BC Homer and his “Odyssey” to Hemingway and Kerouac. He makes humorous (I hope) reference to James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake,” about the wake for a fellow, poor old Finnegan, who fell off a ladder and died. Having heard it is an extremely difficult book to understand, I’ve never tried to read it, but Higdon compares it to an annual Iron Butt Rally. Last year’s IBR winner, a woman, rode 13,000 miles in 11 days, so I’ll leave you all to contemplate the book you probably will never read and the event most of us will never ride, which I find difficult to understand.
Higdon and I almost met in Munich in 1972, as I picked up my BMW R75 in April, and he got his in June. Who knows how we would have gotten along? Or not. He claims to be “morbidly shy,” which just may be a product of his peculiar sense of humor, but the companionship he enjoys in his travels indicate it is not quite so morbid. I do recommend these two books since he writes well, the reading is easy, and the subject matter—riding motorcycles—is great.
“The Higdon Chronicles,” Volumes 1 and 2 are available from Aerostich.com and Amazon.