Motorcycle Escape

In my years on this planet, I rode a motorcycle precisely once. It was in Boston during the fateful spring of 1995, when a pal and I needed to get to Fenway for the annual 11 a.m. Patriot's Day game. It took goggles, elbow, knee and wrist pads, an athletic cup, several helmets, and a fistful of mild sedatives before I'd get on the bike. I recall crying a lot.

Since then, my experience with motorcycles has been limited to receiving migraines courtesy of their feral roar. I do not like motorcycles. They are loud and smelly. They terrify nearby children and pets, and writer-ish guys with fragile emotional constitutions.

I do, however, like Motorcycle Escape, a motorcycle enthusiast/travel hybrid that explores a host of bike-worthy destinations. With a personal-journal feel to its writing and a design as casual as a Sunday drive, the magazine doesn't seek to reinvent the (chrome-plated, ultralight alloy) wheel. It simply sends its writers on a bunch of road trips and has them report back. Pretty novel, eh?

Nearly every one of the features in the Fall issue--motorcycle-y trips up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, Northern California's Lost Coast, and Alaska's outback, among others--effortlessly convey local flavor.

The "Lost Coast" piece probably works best, unveiling a host of information about a semi-obscure area that hasn't been prominently featured in too many other travel mags. You gotta love its small, clever touches, like a nod to a roadside sign that warns: "Dangerous Road: Watch Out for Sinkholes, Potholes and Assholes."

Up front, Motorcycle Escape provides frisky blurbs aplenty, on everything from motorcycle tours (including "RideFishRide," which would appear to be everything its name promises) to riding guides (short reviews of an Arkansas-centric mini-publication and "Harley-Davidson's Ride Atlas of North America"). Design-wise, the mag boasts surprising flair: a "Moto-Safari" landscape serves as a backdrop for the table-of-contents pages, while one story title is conveyed as part of the tread on the bottom of a riding boot. Motorcycle Escape even manages to make a lighthouse photo--one of the great cliches of travel photography--feel vaguely revelatory, with a shot of a Lake Michigan coast lighthouse peeking out from among a cluster of trees.

And while I generally don't call out individuals by name in this space, I want to give mad props (I believe "mad props" is slang used by today's kids, with their rock and roll and pants that are falling down, to denote high praise of some sort) to Jamie Elvidge, whose performance in the Fall issue is positively Jordan-esque. He/she writes and photographs four of the main features, plus a bunch of the supplemental front-of-book items and the surprisingly warm editor's note, which explores the notion of "coming home."

Whoever you are, Mr./Ms. Elvidge, you deserve a serious raise; your enthusiasm spills into every story, plus you clearly know your geology ("Finding yourself on the very edge of the continent can have a perplexing effect, especially when that edge isn't a gentle, sandy drift, but rather an enormous cliff, thrusting up out of the crashing waves like the violently tossed piece of mantle crust it is").

Like most magazines and craggy biker chicks, Motorcycle Escape could stand to make a few changes. The "How-To" infoboxes that accompany the Africa and Scotland travelogues offer a glut of information, and should probably be added to each of the mag's main features. The mag might also consider reshuffling its story order: arriving in the wake of several lushly illustrated features, the "Buyer's Guide to Riding Boots" roundup and leather-versus-textile debate kinda get lost.

While I enjoyed my brisk ride through Motorcycle Escape, I didn't enjoy it enough to get me back up on a bike. I can do some of these trips in a car, right? With my favorite Stevie Nicks CD on the stereo and some Ho Hos stashed in the steering well? Even if I can't, I'll still applaud the folks behind Motorcycle Escape for their adroitly balanced mix of information and observation.

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