Larsen’s Ultimate 100 Song Motorcycle Riding Playlist

A bit over ten years ago I began adding music to my motorcycle helmet for longer rides. While testing and reviewing various helmet music/intercom systems I found some did okay playing music, but listening to music while riding didn’t appeal to me. And then, all of a sudden it did, and now I love it. Not for shorter rides, 2-3 hours or less, but when on a trek of a week or more, loading up my phone with music to fit various riding moods is fun.

There are classic, even iconic, motorcycle tunes that are “required” for any serious motorcycle ride. I’ve been working on this “ultimate” list of 100 songs for the past few months. I’m ready to open it up for critique and suggestions and would love to get feedback. One important caveat – it’s perfectly okay to suggest a song to the list, but not without suggesting the song it should replace. That’s the tricky part, deciding what song the new one will replace. I debated adding my dozen or so “almost” made it songs, but decided against it. A song either makes the list or it does not. Get it?  While I’m not sure how this will work for you, here is a link where you should be able to hear these songs, in order.  If you have never been to Amazon before, it will do one thing, if you are an Amazon customer, it does something else, if you have Amazon Prime something else and finally, if you subscribe to Amazon Music something entirely different.

But even if you can’t hear the songs, most should be pretty recognizable. I’m now officially open to comment and debate. So, with no further delay, here is the list:

Playlist songs 1-10

August 19, 2020 – Happy Birthday, my friend

A very good friend of mine turns 70 years old on August 19, 2020. I too turn 70 the following month, in September of 2020. As you can imagine, I’ve had great fun at his expense, chiding him unmercifully on every previous birthday, about his advancing age. And what can he do? Facts are facts, he’s older than me (by 42 days) and as much as it may appear to be true, I am not really catching up on him. For his birthday this year, I sent him a card and the enclosed greeting. Now I’m sharing it with you. I hope you like it:

Dear Steve,

Today, on August 19, 2020, you turn 70 years old. I know, this seems near impossible to comprehend. Being older than I am, I’ve always looked up to you – sort of like a father figure. But today, it needs to be said, you’re looking more like a grandfather figure.

Seventy years old (70) just sounds, well, old – really, really old. Have you tried looking at it in terms of dog years? If a dog’s first human year equals 15 dog years and each year after is 4 dog years for each human year, you would be 296 years old – in dog years. Yeah, okay, maybe not helping?

So, how about looking at it this way — using roman numerals? Using the DD.MM.YYYY notation, you are a mere XIX.VIII.MCML I sense you’re feeling better already… gramps.

Although the 19th of August lacks any truly significant historic events such as the start or end of major wars or pandemics, discovery of important vaccines, emancipation or enslavement of any significant group of people, the birth or death of a person anyone wishes to remember, August 19 does indeed turn out to be an important day in history after all. While it did require a through reading of human history beginning in 295 BC, I was able to compile the following, in chronological order, of actual, real, genuine historical events that coincide precisely with your birthday:

  • 19, 295 BC – The first temple to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility, is dedicated by Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges during the Third Samnite War. Funds for the temple came from fines imposed on Roman women for sexual misdemeanors. I am not making this up! Imagine how much more money they could have raised if they’d taxed men, instead!
  • 19, 43 BC – Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, later known as Augustus, compels the Roman Senate to elect him Consul. His egregious political behavior leads to the first recorded campaign finance reform legislation.
  • 19, 1153 – Baldwin III of Jerusalem (no relation to Alec Baldwin) takes control of the Kingdom of Jerusalem from his mother Melisende. His time in office is marked by a host of controversial laws, including making it illegal to hold salmon under suspicious circumstances, outlawing stink bombs, making it illegal to whisper in the temple or swear out loud in public, requiring fried chicken to be eaten only with fingers and hands, and making it illegal to pick lint off someone else’s robes. Apparently, he had no issue with picking your friend’s nose.
  • 19, 1504 – In Ireland, the Hiberno-Norman de Burghs (shortened to “the Burkes”) and Anglo-Norman Fitzgerald’s fight in the Battle of Knockdoe. Soon after, “Muckanaghederdauhaulia” is founded or, in Irish, “‘Muiceanach idir Dha Sahaile,” This small town in County Galway translates to “ridge, shaped like a pig’s back, between two expanses of briny water.” It’s eventually become a favorite everywhere in the “try and say that five times fast,” game.
  • 19, 1561 – Mary, Queen of Scots, 18 years old at the time, returns to Scotland after spending 13 years in France, where she attended French cooking classes. Refusing to discontinue wearing a beret, she irritates the castle staff by speaking to everyone in a French accent.
  • 19, 1612 – On this day, the “Samlesbury witches”, three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, England, were put on trial, accused of practicing witchcraft. One of the most famous witch trials in British history, the solicitor representing them had never ever, even once, cleaned his wig.
  • 19, 1666 – The second Anglo-Dutch War was brewing and on this day, Rear Admiral Robert Holmes leads a raid on the Dutch island of Terschelling, destroying 150 merchant ships by smearing them with bacon grease and setting them on fire, an act later known as “Holmes’s Bonfire.” Look it up!
  • 19, 1759 – The battle of Lagos, a Naval battle during the Seven Years’ War between Great Britain and France occurred on August 19. Soon after, pantyhose is invented in France and the war was soon over.
  • 19, 1795 – George Washington issues the first presidential pardon to the members of the Whiskey Rebellion, setting an important precedent for pandering to crybabies mad about paying taxes.
  • 19, 1812 – The American frigate USS Constitution defeats the British frigate HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada earning the nickname “Old Ironsides.” Exceeding its $100,000 estimate to build at well over $300,000, it began the legacy of all government contracts taking twice as long and costing at least 3 times the projected price.
  • 19, 1909 – The first automobile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 12,000 people attended. The oldest driver to ever win here was Al Unser Sr. when he was 47 years and 360 days old. So, almost 48 – more than twenty years younger than you!
  • 19, 1960 – The Soviet Union initiates the Sputnik program: Korabl-Sputnik 2, launching a satellite into space with two dogs (Belka and Strelka), 40 mice, two rats, a variety of house plants, a chess set, a gingerbread house and toy airplane made from popsicle sticks.
  • 19, 1964 – not much of anything happened.
  • 19, 1965 – Japanese prime minister Eisaku Satō becomes the first post-World War II sitting prime minister to wear white platform tennis shoes.
  • 19, 1970 – After downing an American U-2 plane and sentencing the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, to ten years imprisonment by the Soviet Union for espionage, the term “Cold War” was used for the first time, given how much colder it was in the Soviet Union. After the long running “cold war,” it was concluded that although violence never solves anything, it turns out it’s a fine fix for quick, short-term conflicts in many situations.
  • 19, 1974 – Gerald Ford pardons Richard Nixon, reasoning that holding a former president to the same legal standards as an ordinary citizen would be an unbearable trauma for the nation.
  • 19, 1980 – Saudi Flight 163, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar makes an emergency landing at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Later the pilot was found to having been “just this close,” to finally solving his new Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
  • 19, 1987 – This day was the first recorded and documented acknowledgement that the 80’s was “a decade that really sucks.” This was the year the movie Three Men and A Baby beat out Fatal Attraction and Beverly Hills Cop for biggest movie of the year. It was the first ever movie/Disney Happy Meal tie-in, including Muppet Babies Happy Meal Toys. The biggest song of the year was by the Bangles — “Walk Like an Egyptian.” The first cell phones came out – they were the size and weight of bricks, had a $150 monthly service fee and cost 50 cents per minute to use. Televangelist Jim Bakker paid Jessica Hahn $265,000 in hush money from church coffers. The DeLorean was the bright and shining light in car design but the Chrysler LeBaron and Capri were the biggest sellers.
  • 19, 1989 – Radio Caroline, the offshore pirate station in the North Sea, is raided by British and Dutch governments. At the same time, a blizzard hits the northeastern seaboard of the US and crews take ten years to dig out Rhode Island. A study finds that Medical Marijuana is effective for treating long-term pain over Jerry Garcia’s death.
  • 19, 1999 – Puerto Rican activist Elizam Escobar is pardoned by Bill Clinton after it is discovered that being Puerto Rican is not illegal.
  • 19, 2000 – Archaeologists discover a cave with the earliest known built-in shelves.
  • 19, 2003 – The Concord Public Library becomes the first of many institutions to ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for its unfair and prejudiced depiction of alcoholic fathers.
  • 19, 2012 – A crippling Blizzard earned the name Snowmageddon, after world leaders addressed the storm during a meeting and begged for it to bring about Judgement Day at last.
  • August 19, 2016 – A Florida man, Reza Baluchi, had to be rescued by the Coast Guard AGAIN after his third attempt to reach Bermuda in a giant homemade bubble. Baluchi previously tried to make the trip in 2014 and again, last April, but had to be rescued both times. I know how much you love these nautical stories and so am attaching the video about it.
  • August 19, 2019 – A Florida man, Michael Owns, 61, was caught on surveillance footage grabbing two packs of rib-eye steaks – worth $56.35 – putting them in his pants and walking out of the store. A loss prevention officer apprehended Owens as he exited the store. The steaks were recovered but weren’t allowed back on the store shelves.

Above everything else, I don’t want today to get you down. How about spending some time reflecting on what you were in your past life? Today’s science is now able to determine, based on the correct spelling of your full name and birthdate, the precise individual you were in your most previous incarnation. I spent the big bucks ($5.95) and learned through this incredible service that their research says your most recent life, the one before this one (is this clear enough?), you were born somewhere around the territory of Western Australia in approximately 1150. Your profession was teacher, mathematician and/or geologist. I do not know how you feel about this, but you were a female. You loved marmite and kept a kangaroo named “Kurt” as a pet.

You aren’t alone, my friend. Many people were born on August 19, 1950. It turns out experts are now able to estimate with some certainty, that exactly 266,848 babies were born on this day. That is the equivalent to 185 babies every minute. So, not feeling quite so special, are we? Just be glad they didn’t all cry at once.

As your near and dear friend, I wanted you to be energized, enlightened and happy on your “oh so special day,” which is what led me to this extensive research and study. It was all for you!

Happy Birthday, dear friend!


Book Review: Adventure Motorcyclist: Frazier Shrugged

I’ve just finished Dr. Gregory W. Frazier’s latest book, Adventure Motorcyclist: Frazier Shrugged. (Order from Sound Rider.) The book is a collection of Frazier’s columns, many from the pages of CityBike Magazine, where Frazier was a long-term contributor, before the publication folded its tent in 2019. Although it’s likely they appeared in many others as well. Frazier is a prolific writer and regular contributor to a variety of domestic and international motorcycle magazines. Like me he’s written for BACKROADS, Motorcycle Consumer News and RoadRUNNER, but adds, American Motorcyclist and Road Bike here in the States to his domestic list. His work also appears in motorcycle-oriented publications in Germany, New Zealand, Great Britian, Russia and Japan. We share reputations for solid product evaluations and compelling stories of our motorcycle journeys. We’ve both raced motorcycles, although few records exist of my middle-of-the-pack finishes, Frazier has won races on BMW and Indian Motorcycles and competed successfully on Hondas and Yamahas as well.

That is where the similarities end. When it comes to riding, Frazier is on the other end of the scale. He’s the only guy I know who has circumnavigated the globe by motorcycle six times. He’s been shot at, jailed, bitten by snakes and run over by Pamplona bulls. He’s broken down or had flat tires in more countries than I’ve ridden in. His over 1,000,000 miles on a motorcycle have taken him to Alaska, Ushuaia, Argentina, North Cape, Norway, Cape Agulhas, South Africa and New Zealand, among many, many others.

Thorough the riding stories in Frazier Shrugged, he expresses thinly veiled disgust with the erosion and broadening of the word “adventure.” I understand. He’s built a life around a series of genuine motorcycling adventures. He’s personally navigated the globe on a variety of motorcycles half a dozen times, most often alone. Having the term “adventure” applied to low-risk guided motorcycle tours lead by a GPS equipped tour professional, followed by a cradle of riders with a sweep van filled with tools and luggage going from one 5-star hotel to another, manages to get his ire up. When the term adventure is further extended to a host of motorcycles and accessories, it infuriates him even more. I get it. The dictionary definition of Adventure includes terms like risk, hazards, exciting action and uncertain outcomes. However, tolerance for risk and ambiguity varies from person to person.

Frazier’s perspective on his fellow riders reminded me of an incident a few years back in Camden, Maine. Overhearing a conversation between two obvious Maine residents, I could barely hold back a chuckle. The first one asked the other, “Where ya from?” and to the reply of “Portland,” he huffed back, “Portland! You might as well live in Massachusetts!” Now, to fully appreciate that, you’d need to add a deep Maine accent — “North Haven” becoming “Nahwth Haven” and “summertime” heard as “summahtime.” Running into the Portland resident later I asked if she’d been offended. She said, “Oh no. That’s pretty common. Anyone living in Maine who lives further south from where you personally reside is considered fair game to the criticism that where you live might as well be ‘a suburb of Massachusetts.’ In their estimation, genuine and true Maine residents only live right where they do – or further north and east.”

This same judgement is often expressed in automobile drivers: a growing frustration and mutterings of “what’s wrong with this idiot,” when following someone going slower than they wish to proceed. Of course, a few minutes later, commenting “Look at that crazy idiot,” when someone speeds by much faster than they are moving. In other words: “If you’re going slower than me, you’re an idiot and if you go faster than me, you’re an idiot.”

It’s difficult for me to criticize Frazier. We’ve shared editorial homes over the years and met a few times. I like him. When it comes to global riding, with minimal resources and support, he’s absolutely the genuine article with his million plus miles to nearly every country in the world prove that. My riding “adventures” are far lower on the risk and ambiguity scale than Frazier’s – although higher than many of those with whom I typically ride. I’ve ridden in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada (does that count?), Croatia, Chile, Greece, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, South America and Turkey and some more than once. My rides have been a mixture of solo efforts and guided tours and I’ve loved both. Readers of this newsletter can find copies of some of my stores about these trips here.

Frazier’s animosity for those lower than him on the scale of risk, danger and ambiguity is not a feeling I share. To me the point is this – no matter where you are on this competency/experience scale, there is someone higher, who could, if they wished, make snide and derisive comments about your experiences and accomplishments: “What, you slept in a flea-bag motel with a real roof which was mostly water tight? You wimp! We camped 100% of the time, even in the snow!” Or, “What, you had a 650 cc bike? We did all our trips on nothing bigger than 250 cc’s. How can you possibly consider any experience on a 650 cc bike an ‘Adventure? What kind of fraud are you?’”

Frazier isn’t a tourist, he’s a traveler. Like my cousin, John Gravley, who spent several years of his life traveling the globe, Frazier’s travels are not a holiday. He takes whatever time is needed to get from A to B, and once there, decides what point C will be and when he’ll head in that direction. He’s not there to see the sights, at least not the ones in a guidebook. He eats what locals eat, although happy to see a McDonald’s. Frazier makes an effort to learn at least some of the language of whatever country he’s passing through and, over the years, has been able to communicate capably in many of them. This is a very different approach than a typical ten-day riding vacation where you are essentially a tourist. But what he perhaps does best is capture the feelings of those experiences and pass them on to readers. As an editor of mine once told me, “Your job is to never say, ‘Well, I guess you had to be there.’ Your job is to take them there.” In this, Frazier succeeds, albeit with a shorthand sometimes only other travelers and adventure riders will hear. But as my Australian friends say, “Good on ya!”

While I don’t agree with his penchant for dissing the foibles, lack of planning and unrealistic expectations of other motorcyclists, I must admit some of his stories are pretty funny. Readers who enjoyed his columns will remember why they liked them. If you have ever thought about hopping on the back of a motorcycle and taking a really, really long multi-month ride, you owe it to yourself to read not just this book, but some of his other books as well. You can find several on, although I prefer to order them from Sound Rider, feeling he likely gets a bigger cut and these online retailers need all the support they can get. My favorite Frazier books are:

  • Down and Out in Patagonia, Kamchatka, and Timbuktu (also available from Sound Rider)
  • Motorcycle Adventurer: Carl Stearns Clancy – First Motorcyclist to Ride Around the World 1912-1913
  • Motorcycle Touring: Everything You Need to Know
  • On the Road: Successful Motorcycle Touring

His other books include: Alaska by Motorcycle, Europe by Motorcycle, New Zealand by Motorcycle, Riding South: Mexico, Central America and South America by Motorcycle, Motorcycle Sex: Freud Would Never Understand the Relationship Between Me and my Motorcycle, Motorcycle Poems by the Biker Poet, Motorcycle Cemetery, Indian Motorcycles International Directory, BMW GSing Around the World, Riding the World, Motorcycle Touring: Everything You Need to Know, On the Road: Successful Motorcycle Touring.

Is being fired always bad?

One of my best friends has a deep knowledge of cars and motorcycles, so we always have plenty to discuss. Recently, though, our conversation drifted to corporate life. His employer has been promoting him. From leading engineering projects, he now manages people and that includes letting people go. This is disturbing and is upsetting him. After we talked last week, I thought about lessons I’d learned being in a similar spot myself. Letting someone go or being let go, is never, ever fun.

With a near photographic memory and a passion for great engineering, it was no surprise to me a few years back when he began to get noticed and promoted. But more money and bigger titles began moving him further away from solving engineering problems, which he loves, to being closer to and dealing with people. Someone once said, “The world would be a nice place if it wasn’t for other people.” While my friend is not one to suffer fools gladly, he’s able to keep those feelings to himself, and is respected as an intelligent, thoughtful and fair leader.

However, the impact of the Coronavirus on his company’s business has forced him in the past month to lay off almost a third of his team. It has been brutal and I sensed how difficult this was for him, no matter his stoic attitude. Firing an employee is one of the most difficult and unpleasant duties a manager has to perform and most avoid it for as long as they can. “Well, we may have let ‘so-and-so’ go too soon,” said no one, ever. The number of euphemisms for this occurrence are many: sacked, canned, axed, expelled, furloughed, fired, laid-off, let go, released, down-sized, discharged, RIF’d (reduction in force), re-organized, involuntarily-separated, lost one’s job, pink-slipped, dismissed, got the boot, kicked out, retired, removed, and cut loose among others.

His experience made me think back to the fall of 1985. After leaving Open Systems, I was offered a management position at AT&T. Arriving too early on my first day at the office of my new employer, I killed time at a nearby breakfast place, grabbing a newspaper and cup of coffee. I opened the business section and the headline at the top of the page screamed, “AT&T announces 24,000 person layoff in Information Systems Division.” Humm, “That does not sound good – that’s the area that had just hired me,” I said to myself. Scanning the story I noted the announcement would impact 6% of AT&T’s total workforce, but would directly hit the 117,000 Information Systems division. Perhaps my first day will be my last, I thought, setting some sort of personal record

Entering the office suite of Area Vice President Gil Rainier at the top floor of the AT&T building, I held the newspaper up and said, “What’s going on with this?” Not expecting this sort of greeting, he hesitated and then said, “Well, it’s one of the reasons you’re here.” He went on to explain. His regional branch offices weren’t just in Mpls/St. Paul area, but included St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Chicago, each with 100-120 employees each. He’d been ordered to downsize those branch offices to between 25-30 people each along with taking his area staff down from 30-40 to less than 25. Gil explained, “I know most of these people personally. We’re friends. I can’t do this objectively, so I am wondering, if along with your other responsibilities, you could help us make these painful reductions?” It was my first day on the job; it was impossible to say no.

Amazingly, before the reduction in force could be implemented, I’d had time and budget to hire one of my top past colleagues. Together we constructed a plan to exceed the Midwest Area’s annual quota for selling AT&T computers and equipment. Managing that effort is a story I’ll leave for another time. Just when we had moved into full execution mode on our sales plans, the layoffs began. My team continued on the plan and I put the cloak of doom over my shoulders and headed to the branch offices.

AT&T was not heartless. It cushioned the layoffs with a generous “separation package.” I don’t recall the exact details, but it was close to one month’s salary for every year you’d been with the company. So if you’d been with the company for ten years, you got almost a year’s pay in a lump sum after signing the “I won’t sue” paperwork. Plus, AT&T covered health insurance for two additional years or until you found other employment. A softened blow is still a blow and many of the meetings were full of tears and anger. Employees told me AT&T was the only placed they’d ever worked and after twenty plus years, could not imagine what they would do. They frequently wept, feeling a major part of their lives was over. Sometimes they yelled and screamed. AT&T had not only been a workplace, it was where they met and socialized with some of their best friends. They had few ideas on how they would go on and I felt ill-equipped to deal with the despair, frustration, and hopelessness they expressed.

But here is what I told my friend: For years after I left AT&T, it was impossible to attend an industry conference, trade show or event, and not be approached by at least one of these former AT&T colleagues. They’d begin by asking if I remembered firing them from AT&T. They told me how much they’d hated me and the company for doing that. But here was the surprise. Every single one said, in only slightly different words, “that was the best thing to ever happen to me,” or “that was the day my life changed for the better, and I’ve never been happier.” They all told me, in retrospect, how much they’d been stagnating at AT&T. They’d lost themselves in this behemoth company where their efforts were unseen, largely unappreciated and disconnected from what made a company successful. They told me how they were now working at a place where the impact of their contributions was obvious. They knew the value they were adding and so did those around them. This was a feeling they hadn’t had before. They were thrilled. And of course, it made me feel better, too.

I’m sure not everyone managed through it with such positive results, but I came to see things like forcing people to wake up and change to not be entirely negative. Everyone is afraid of ambiguity and the unknown. Being let go is never fun. But venturing out, whether you take the step yourself or are pushed, can sometimes turn your life around.

Epilogue: In the spring of 2020 we had a market crash and a national quarantine which precipitated the closure of many businesses and resulted in innumerable lost jobs. This take is not about hourly and day workers whose lives have been turned inside out and for whom I have the utmost sympathy and compassion. This story speaks to people who can and will bounce back. For those people, fold your damaged ego gently and put it in your pocket for later. (link to an achieved story from the SunSentinel in 1985 about the announced lay-off).