Book Reviews: “Thoughts on the Road” and “Northeast by Northwest” by Michael Fitterling

A lot of new books get published every year in this great country of ours, and in 2019 it was more than a million. Plus millions more previously published books. Pretty hard to keep track of them all. So how did I hear about this guy Fitterling and his two books? I noticed on a Baja California website the mention of a book called “Chilli, Skulls & Tequila,” and Baja always interests me. I looked it up on the computer, and the book was being sold by a company called Road Dog Publications. Tap a few keys on this keyboard, and up pops a website primarily dedicated to travel books involving motorcycles, owned by Michael Fitterling.

Thoughts on the Road by Michael Fitterling

I contact him; he sounds interesting. He had a brief exposure to mini bikes as a kid, and then went off and did other things. Did not get back into motorcycles until he was 50, when he was working for a small publishing company, Lost Classics Book Company, specializing in reprinting old books. He acquired that company in 2010. He had a wife and kids, and had rebuilt a 40-year-old, non-running Honda CB350, which soon had an additional 30,000 miles on the odometer. He decided to start another publishing line dedicated to books about traveling on motorcycles, and in 2012 bought a Triumph Bonneville T100. Then he joined the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club and became editor of its magazine.

In 2014 he decided to write “Thoughts on the Road: Wrenching, Riding & Reflecting,” an entertaining recollection of how he got into this motorcycle world, now his business. The book has chapter headings like “How Not To Load A Bike On A Trailer,” “The Trip I Didn’t Take” and “Managing Wanderlust.” He lives in Florida and loves traveling on two wheels, racking up tens of thousands of miles every year, and is delightfully meticulous when on a subject, especially his travels. He admits to being subject to “a black wall of stress and depression” and motorcycle trips do much to break down this wall. In 2017 he wrote about two of his longer trips in “Northeast by Northwest: Two Restorative Journeys,” describing well everything he sees along the back roads he chooses to travel, with minimal use of Interstates.

Northeast by Northwest by Michael Fitterling

“Northeast” is a two-week trip from Florida north to Canada covering more than 5,000 miles, and it is done on the cheap: $600. I was impressed. He carefully explains his planning of the trip, using a forum put on by an adventure rider outfit, with members offering free space to camp, or even a free bed. And he also has friends along the roads he is going to take. But the fact that he was traveling for 40 bucks a day, gas, food and lodging, was great. In the appendix he lists the “Complete Route, Turn by Turn,” which may seem a tad excessive, but it shows the meticulousness of his thinking.

“Northwest” is a longer trip, three weeks to go to the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia, more than 7,500 miles. For a total cost of $1,080 — do a little arithmetic, and that comes out to $51 a day. Again, I’m impressed. Though motel owners might not be, as he only spent one night in a motel on each of those trips.

Read these books and nobody should complain about not being able to afford taking a trip. Presuming they have a good tent.

And what about the “Chilli” book? Turns out the author is an English woman who has done several long trips on a motorcycle, but in Baja she used a rent-a-car.

Run up to find out more. Clement Salvadori


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