Mexico by Motorcycle: A Book Review

The popularity of motorcycling in Mexico has its modern roots in the first half of the 20th century. And through blogging and other online means of mass communicating, especially over the past decade writing about this particular means of seeing the country has increased exponentially. However the topic has not received comprehensive treatment in both an extremely informative and highly entertaining fashion – until now.

In Mexico by Motorcycle: An Adventure Story and Guide (Sombrero Books, 2015), Mexico expert and motorcycle enthusiast William B. Kaliher takes us for a ride spanning more than two decades. No, Kaliher has not been riding continually all that time; his first visit was in 1964, and the meat of his book is drawn from extended experiences in 1971 and 1993.

Kaliher immediately grabs your interest. At the outset he lets you know what’s in store in terms of his use of descriptive anecdotes interspersed with gems of travel advice. It quickly becomes apparent that the author is a talented writer and former biker who has been diarizing his travels over decades; not just the two main motorcycling adventures chronicled, but literally for fifty years using different modes of travel while traversing thousands of roads connecting Mexico’s villages, towns and cities.

The advice includes: night riding; what and how much clothing to bring and why (even bikers should have on hand one nice shirt and pair of slacks); climatic considerations; repair matters; modern day perceptions of drugs, violence, bribes and associated anxieties; insurance; maps; the border; relationships; size of motorcycle (a dumbfounding surprise for me); accommodations, restaurants and sights; parking; security; dogs; and all that makes the adventure worthwhile, and more importantly a life-altering experience.

Although a plethora of valuable advice is detailed in the first couple of chapters, Kaliher’s style is to intersperse additional nuggets of wisdom throughout the book. He imparts the fruits of his expertise through the use of richly descriptive, and at times humorous narratives such as referring to “the mother of all potholes,” and how traffic lights and stop signs suddenly become “obstacles to be overcome.” His knowledge of Mexico’s past, as well as its unique and diverse present-day traditions and personalities shines brightly.

Mexico by Motorcycle is an exquisite photo essay, a guide book packed with critically important advice and tips which will surprise you by virtue of the fact that Kaliher even considered mentioning them, and an adventure through the country’s landscapes, history and contemporary cultures.

My criticism is with the title, but only because prospective visitors to the country using car or van may miss out on one of the most important books in modern times about traveling in Mexico. The audience should include Mexicophiles who have no interest in driving in the country. The read will induce fond recollections of past experiences and pique the interest in a return, perhaps even on a motorcycle.

A Review of the Queen Elizabeth Cruise Ship

It has been a few years since Cunard introduced its’ Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, so now is a good time to assess its’ merits (or otherwise). The ship shares many similarities with other vessels from the same fleet, such as the Queen Victoria – which existed several years before the Elizabeth. Also, the hull design of the Elizabeth bears much resemblance to other ships from the Global cruise firm, Carnival Corporation. Examples that spring to mind are the Spirit class vessels from Carnival Cruise Lines, the Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam (from Holland America), many of the Costa Cruise Ships, and the Arcadia (from P&O Cruises). Thus, the Queen Elizabeth, which is the 3rd addition to the Cunard fleet, has a characteristic cruise ship design and is noticeably different to the Queen Mary Two, which was Cunard’s archetypal ocean liner.

However, while the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are difficult to differentiate, in terms of their staterooms and layout, there are several important features that make the Queen Elizabeth stand out. The decoration aboard the Elizabeth is Art Deco styled, with bright and trendy interior designs, in contrast to the more traditional Victorian design of its’ sister ship. In the public parts of the ship, the soothing tunes of the resident pianist, jazz trio or harpist will charm you. Also, wherever you look on board, you will see stunning works of art, polished wooden surfaces, gleaming Italian marble and dimmed lighting – complemented by impressive chandeliers. All of this combines to produce a unique atmosphere of classic and contemporary glamour.

Usually, there are several different types of guests aboard the Queen Elizabeth. Nonetheless, one thing that all passengers have in common is an interest in the Cunard brand. This is true for people who have just heard about the vessels and want to see what all the fuss is about. It is true for Cunard repeat customers too.

The world cruise each year attracts a diverse crowd from across the globe, although many of these are affluent British and American holidaymakers. Invariably, British passengers make up the bulk of those who leave from Southampton. British and American passengers are known to enjoy shorter cruises as well. Often, first time cruisers (or first time Cunard cruisers) will appear on the Cunard annual mini cruises. Frequently, these passengers are less affluent than those who partake in world cruises. Also, German and Japanese holidaymakers are famous for their love of Cunard cruise ships. Undoubtedly, the Cunard name brings many people back year after year, so the Company is doing something right.

Perhaps surprisingly, cruises aboard the Queen Elizabeth only have a couple of evenings each week where you have to dress formally for dinner (mini cruises only have one formal evening each week). The three categories of attire on board are: formal, semi formal and casual. Formal attire is over-the-top, glitzy evening wear, whereas semi formal is just a cocktail dress for women and a smart suit for men. For casual wear, most men just go for a straightforward tie and jacket. World cruises give wealthy guests the chance to flash their cash on formal evenings, so expect plenty of jewels and lavish ballroom gowns.

There are no “artificial” attractions on the Queen Elizabeth, like neon night clubs or water chutes. In contrast, Cunard creates a wonderful ambiance based on its’ splendid history via traditional activities, such as bowls and ballroom dancing. On the web, there is mixed feedback from customers about this cruise ship, however many passengers give the Queen Elizabeth a positive review. Thus, if you have never booked with Cunard before – and you ever get the chance – you could do a lot worse than considering this ship for your next cruise.