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There is many a time I have reached the trailhead and turned right when the route has pointed left. Curiosity? Intrigue? Stupidity? Would I disappear into a big hole, or stumble across some wonderful, mystifying surprise, hidden from the world?

‘Not all who wander are lost,’ wrote J.R.R. Tolkien. Helen Keller noted: ‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.’ And as for Richard Aldington in ‘Death of Hero’…  ‘Adventure is allowing the unexpected to happen to you. Exploration is experiencing what you have not experienced before…’

Yes, the world is ours to explore, but how many of us actually make that leap of faith? We dream, and read, and wonder, yet reality often eludes us, instead allowing our minds to flow through journeys that we will probably never make.

Many of my journeys have been by car, or boat, or float plane, criss-crossing Namibia by Jeep; driving the Ice Road and flying over Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Dehcho Region of Canada’s Northwest Territories; canoeing portions of the Yukon, but is it is only recently, the past five years in fact, that I have wandered the open road on two wheels. I often think of those roads less travelled, but flights to distant lands are prohibitive, time is precious, and life is short, too short to achieve many of our dreams and aspirations. Just a few then, maybe, to tick off the bucket list.

Henry Cole

Henry Cole astride a Harley, natch, for travelling Route 66

I cannot imagine how many bikers have thought about covering Route 66… what’s left of it anyway. As one of the original highways in the United States Numbered Highway System, it was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected the following year. It was to become one of the most famous roads in the States, running from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, before terminating in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California. Two thousand, four hundred and forty eight miles, to be exact. It has undergone many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, and was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985, having been entirely replaced by segments of the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona have been communally designated a National Scenic Byway by the name ‘Historic Route 66’, returning the name to some maps. Several states have adopted significant bypassed sections of the former US 66 into their state road networks as State Route 66, and much of the former route within the San Bernardino County, California, is designated as County Route 66. Yes, it is confusing, and planning such a historical journey could well turn into a nightmare. You might have seen the television series by The Hairy Bikers, who travelled much of the route, stopping off at numerous eateries, and soaking up much of the history.

If you have ever read John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel  ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, you may recall the highway symbolises escape, loss, and the hope of a new beginning; Steinbeck dubbed it the ‘Mother Road’. Pretty obvious, then, that Henry Cole has a new book due to be published on June 6 entitled: Riding Route 66: Finding Myself on America’s Mother Road.

Cole is somewhat of a Marmite figure in biker circles; some love his shows, others are put off or irritated by some of his rather silly antics. Be that as it may,  he is excellent at bringing to our television screens some great travel stories, and bike restorations, and through the new book’s pages he finds himself on a journey of self-discovery. I haven’t got hold of a copy of the book as yet, but I appreciate that he has ridden Route 66 three times. By all accounts, this book is about the freedom that only the road and a motorcycle can give you, and the importance of embracing the highs and lows of life equally.

Henry Cole

The book is more than the story of a road trip, as Cole explains: “Every time I have ridden 66, within 10 miles of setting off, I never want that ride to end. I think it’s because Route 66 encapsulates struggle and, ultimately, triumphing over unimaginably difficult conditions. I think everyone can connect with that.”

Cole has become one of the most recognised faces in UK motorcycling, and is on television most days of the year as the presenter of shows like The World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides, The Motorbike Show, Shed and Buried, Junk & Disorderly and Find It, Fix It, Flog It! His career also involves producing and directing and he has his own television production company, HCA Entertainment. This will be his third book, the others being A Biker’s Life and The Life-changing Magic of Sheds.

Riding Route 66: Finding Myself on America’s Mother Road is on sale from June 6 priced £22 (hardback, 272 pages) and will be available on Amazon and from all good bookshops. If you want to know more about our ‘Enry, check out www.henrycole.tv

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