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Rain and resentment vs. ego and compulsion
on October 17, 2001
By Allen Noren
I am an avid motorcyclist, but I found this story very frustrating. It is not so much about motorcycling or traveling as it is about ego and obsession. The author is driven by his compulsion to complete The Trip, despite the horrendous, record-breaking stormy weather, over 6000 miles of northern European roadways. He presses on, focused on all the details of the challenge of coping with a bike in the most extreme weather conditions. But his girlfriend, the pillion passenger, has nothing to do but suffer. She has nothing to occupy her mind but resentment. Cold, wet, allergy riddled, bored, pissed, frustrated... this is what we see of her. She exists on this trip, to hear Noren tell it, like another natural curiosity to be observed while traveling, like the lakes, seasides, forests and of course the storms.
This book breaks down at the same place that their relationship breaks down. He is a rider, she is a passenger. Never will the passions of the two be comparable. Noren never gets to this point, though. The entire story is told through his obsessive self-centered perspective. We barely get a glimpse of her thinking, and when we do, it is interpreted through Noren's crazed compulsion: she betrays him by losing her connection to The Trip. But he avoids the point that a pillion passenger is passive and detached from the essence of motorcycling, with no control, and a feeling of literal and figurative coat-tailing to the rider. It IS his trip, and she becomes ever more an afterthought to him, as her alienation metamorphoses into her own obsession to have the trip just be over.
It is inevitable that the reader grows ever more sympathetic to her plight, and ever more convinced that he is little more than a neurotic jerk.
All that said, the writing is quite good. The book reads quickly. The style is engaging and the observations are unique and interesting. Noren does an excellent job of detailing the inner workings of a motorcyclists' mindset.... As our loved ones will attest, we are all a little obsessive, a little insane.
The lessons for me: avoid taking my wife on very long trips as a passenger (something I already knew). Make your mate get her own bike, so she can see the trip through the same eyes that you do. Oh, and buy good rain gear and heated clothing, too!