Toronto Star motorcycle and auto editor Richardson takes a compulsive road trip poised on the pillion seat with Phaedrus at the handlebars.
He was following the tire tracks of quirky pop philosopher Robert Pirsig (aka, the genius known as Phaedrus), who 40 years ago went in search of equanimity and quality and came back to write the prodigious bestseller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That cult classic has given birth to websites, a handbook and a bit of academic inquiry; obsessive fans, known as Pirsig Pilgrims, frequently follow the Great Thinker’s original route on their bikes. Richardson did the same, covering 2,700 miles on his 1985 Suzuki DR600 dirt bike from Minnesota through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and Oregon down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. He discovered stalwart citizens and colorful folks much like those Master met; indeed, some were the very same people Pirsig encountered. On his appointed rounds, the author lodged at messy motels just as his hero did, traveled the same mountains and rough roads, endured similar weather and suffered equivalent breakdowns. We learn in much detail and full Zen mode just how the Suzuki’s oil was drained and its tires changed, just how the tool kit, the camera and the change of clothes, the palm pilot and lap top were carefully stowed.
Heavy traveling joined with hagiography: a bit more motorcycle maintenance than Zen.