‘In Search of Greener Grass’
So you find yourself on a TV quiz show and you are asked, “What will you do if you win the money?” Naturally your answer is going to be, “Ride a motorcycle to Mongolia.” And if this quirky start to, ‘In Search of Greener Grass’ doesn’t give you an instant hit of what to expect, then please read on.
This is a book that twists and turns from the very first page. Each subsequent page soaks you to the eyeballs with yet another graphically described adventure. But Graham Field has a very different way of looking at things, and he challenges some preconceived ideas. With just the preparation stage in chapter one, you’ll be surprised and in fact, I’ve read very few books that deal with the pre-trip wrangling’s and battles as well as this. You can tell that he’s a very experienced motorcyclist and traveller; there’s a stack of experience on offer. Something I particularly liked, is that as the adventure on his KLR 650 unfolds, he weaves in exactly how the kit choices he made worked, or didn’t.
His word pictures are excellent and with them he sends you from disasters that hurt, to pretty girls, to tales of the unexpected and to being lost as he crosses the dusty plains of Kazakhstan and Mongolia. It’s kind-hearted, funny, genuine and delightfully honest, and woven into the tale is some very good travel advice. One of my favourite quotes is, ‘Thinking outside the guidebooks, that’s where I like to take my trips.’
He even approaches some usually taboo overlanding topics; saying things that many travellers would not dare to utter. At times his bluntness risks offense, but then almost magically he puts his thoughts into perfectly reasoned acceptability. I particularly liked his excellent way of describing both solo travel, and that with other people he meets along the way. A lesser talented author or less genuine person, could have come across as being pompous and self-opinionated. Not in this case – simply honest, thought provoking and refreshing. He frequently laughs at himself, and that readily adds to the fun.
I laughed a lot and I learnt a lot. ‘In Search of Greener Grass’ is a great window into the people and cultures along Graham Field’s route to Ulan Bator and beyond. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix of life on the road and everything.
33 Colour photographs
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is a trip and not an ego trip, 28 May 2012
By You are going WHERE? - See all my reviews
This review is from: In Search of Greener Grass (Paperback)
This book is a trip and not an ego trip.
Giving the author 4 stars instead of 5 is my way of keeping him with his pen poised and ready to continue writing, as he should. Maybe you'll just give him 5 and be done with it. Read on and find out why.
Regular travel books these days range from the sublime to the pathetic. The range of specific motorcycle travel books has increased to where it now truly crosses over into the realm of regular travel books. This is a book about travel that happens to include a motorcycle, not just a motorcycle travel book.
So why is this important? I enjoyed this book because it fills in a lot of the gaps, the empty spaces that reside between arriving in destination x, y, and/or z, the places along the road that really do make up the journey.
Too many motorcycle travel books are tied up in making the author out to be a: hero, introspective guru, a lightning rod for cultures (though subjective analysis abounds usually), a sage expert in two wheeled travel, and/or some oddball mix of these. Graham Field presents a refreshingly glib and thought provoking look at travel and he does it from the seat of his motorcycle, the floor of a yurt, the edge of a cliff or two, the deeper part of a river crossing, and countless chairs in roadside eateries that offer fare from the delicious to the suspicious.
It is a flowing mix of details, thoughts, pithy random observations, and provocative paragraphs that will keep you reading and feeling like you are part of the "ride".
For regular travel book fans there is plenty here, ranging from a peculiar small black thing that happened to slip down a very foul hole in India and why anyone would bother to chase it, to an insider's "been there and done that" view of the accuracy of some travel guides that tend to embellish things a little too much. For motorcyclists, it is just plain fun to read, the trials and tribulations of the tent and camping, lost and found treasures in the panniers, and what it means to be a motorcyclist in some places that are off the beaten track. The comings and goings of temporary travel companions that range from the retentive to the really, really retentive.
It is probably not the way that many would choose to visit Mongolia, starting by going on a TV game show!
If you are a motorcyclist, by all means please read on.
We all know the bottom line is always going to be, "How does it stack up to the Ewan, Charley, Ted, Helge, Sam, and the tall Aussie brigade of bike travel writing?" That is the dirty little secret of motorcycle travel writing, as in other areas of life, comparisons are unavoidable, likely to result in some degree of red faced embarrassment, disappointment, depression, and all sorts of nasty things.
The answer here, though, is quite simple.
It is nowhere near the big budget adventure of Ewan and Charley, though the showbiz angle of how Field gets started is fun.
It is quite vacant of the deep, dark, and umbrella laden musings of Ted, in this case think Lichtenstein rather than Monet.
I don't know how well Field would have traveled with Helge but he, Field, probably would have tried to break him down with copious amounts of the local brews.
The tall Aussie, Adrian Scott? Well, let's see, umm, hmmmm, ok, they both have ridden Kawasaki KLR 650 bikes through Russia and that is the only place where the two authors intersect as far as similarities go in their writings.
Sam? I think if Sam had done a few more miles and lived a closer life with motorcycles prior to setting off on his first epic trip, he might have had a lot in common with Graham Field.
Who are Ewan, Charley, Ted, Helge, Sam, and the tall Aussie? If you don't know them, this book will be a good place to start to get to know them, they are all motorcycle travel authors and this book by Graham Field will likely get you wanting for more motorcycle travel reading.
It is a fine place to start if you are new to this, well, "field". He can hold his own here.
Will you enjoy this book as much as I did? Hopefully you will, though if you are a bellicose American politician you might find yourself offended, ditto for if you are a Russian bureaucrat. But if you enjoy a damn fine read that you can pick up, ponder, put down, and pick up again at anytime, you will like this book.
This is the first time I have hoped a motorcycle travel writer will write another book, rather than simply find out that a motorcycle travel writer has written another book.
I still laugh at the lines, "And who are you? A passerby?" and the context in which he presents them.
That alone was the worth the price of admission.
5.0 out of 5 stars l was with you all the way, 31 July 2012
By P. Markham (uk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In Search of Greener Grass (Paperback)
As a motorcycle traveller l read many books.And there are some great books out there!Flids book(l feel l am his mate now)is one of the best if not the best!!l met him at the BMF and later at Ripley Travellers Meet where l brought the book.What a nice bloke doing his journey on a bike we all could afford.and doing it on the cheap.You actually go with him all the way,so l now have been to Sweden, Poland the Ukraine,phew onto Russia, Kazakstan,Mongolia, Siberia,and end up in S Korea(never saw that one comming)But you feel like your on the bike with him,l have never had that before!SO if you want a brill book that you just dont want to end Please Please get it you will not be disapointed,you can thank me later.l have nothing to do with Graham Field except l want him to do another!
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing - funny - thought provoking - interesting - informative... you get the idea!, 23 Jun 2012
By Jay (Essex UK) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: In Search of Greener Grass (Kindle Edition)
I so loved this book. Graham Field has managed to capture the essence of real adventure in this epic tale of epic mileage on an old eBay bargain bike. His story telling abilities blend seamlessly with his very real talent for description; I could well imagine the environment he was writing about at any time in the book. I particularly liked the way the book flowed and the occasional departure in to the author's thoughts on things non travel/motorcycle related are funny and relevant. I have read and re-read the passage on Health and Safety 'officials' and it makes me laugh out loud every time.
The last Paragraphs in the book a beautifully written and... well... inspiring. Thank you Graham for a tremendous antidote to 2012's Great British 'summer'
Without giving too much away from this deeply involving book, I can definitely say that if you are only expecting travel literature, you are very much mistaken. This is much, much more. Written straight from the heart of a complex and charismatic character, In Search of Greener Grass details a journey that is as much psychological as it is geographical. While we are brilliantly guided from Essex to the slightly more exotic Mongolia, we are also guided through the fascinating mind of the very real narrator; for every exciting event on the journey, there is an often endearing, and always honest, insight into the traveler. Baring all and bravely written, this book is an exotic slice of real life.
I’ m an avid book reader of anything to do with motorbikes and usually once started they take me only 3 to four evenings to get through them. Every now and then I come across a book that I just cannot put down; I find I have to read whilst cooking, eating, bathing etc. And this book was one of those, finishing it in more or less a days and a half’s reading. I loved the down to earth and honest comments of his thoughts and feeling that we all have when travelling and meeting new people but are sometimes too ‘pc’ to say out loud. It made me laugh many times out loud. The explanations and referrals he makes relate to anyone who has enjoyed biking, rock festivals and are in their 40’s. He makes you feel part of the story and draws you into his life as though you have known him for years. Being able to lose yourself in a book like this is a rare treat.
thanks graham,the best ever.ONE DAY. you're never to old.cheers mate.
Graham's book,took me on the trip and wonderful adventure,through the unknown countries. Absolutely love the way book is written,I read it with a smile on my face prom page one till the end.
My best wishes to Graham and monklet on their new life experiences,on two wheels.I'm looking forward to read many more of your books and travel and travel just a bit behind you, in a virtual way.
Many thanks,Graham, for sharing your life experience with us and good luck on your new adventures
Graham's book,will really strike a chord with all those old school 40 somethings...A good narrative through the unknown. I loved the writing style of the author ,I read it with a smile on my face, some dry humour and the ability to laugh at himself and some good honest feedback.you really felt like you lived the highs and lows with Graham.
best wishes to Graham and monklet on whatever you do next.
Thanks,Graham, for sharing your experience with us and good luck - can I see your risk assessments for your next trip?....
by sean mckeeman
This book is a cracking read. An unpretentious escapade through Europe to Mongolia (plus a bit more) on a cheap motorbike. Plenty of insightful thoughts without getting too bogged down. The wit and engaging style is consistent throughout. Read with a smile on my face. Looking forward to the next book that must surely be penned from this thoroughly nice bloke.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
by Simon Barnes
I'm not an author, not eloquent and I have never written a review before.
It took something as captivating and compelling as this book to make me write one.
Here it is:
Read this book. Whether you love it or hate it you can't deny that it is a fantastic story written by an intriguing person doing an amazing trip and an increadible achievment.
Having read several motorcycle travel books this is most definitely the best so far
Beware it will have you looking at maps and planning your own low budget adventure
Get back out there graham and give me another to read
You will soon have as much money as booreman
by Richard Penfold
I received this book as a christmas present from my wife. I had read it 12 days later. I found it inspiring and didnt want it to end. Hope i can do a trip like this myself one day.
by marco polo
Firstly a word about adventure bikes and adventure bikers. Frankly I hated them. Despite having read Jupiter's travels years ago, and reading long way round and enjoying Ewan and Charlies adventures, I started to associate those machines with groups of overpaid middle aged men touring around their home locale on a Sunday on BMW GS's carrying, for some unknown reason, lots of luggage. They held the same distain I used to have for Harley Davidsons when I worked as a courier. I'd be putting twelve hours a day in the saddle on a Kawasaki GT held together with gaffer tape, to see a tide of gleaming Harley's stream out of the City of London at 5pm. In my eyes they weren't the real deal. I've got older and lost dome of those prejudices, realising a Harley is also the tool of choice of the true 1%er and that Adventure bikes are often the tool of choice for people who wish to travel. On to the book.
I met Graham field at Copdock Custom Bike Show just outside Ipswich. He had a gazebo set up and was selling his books from it. I recall they'd given him a terrible end of row pitch. He and my wife seemed to hit it off straight away and seemed like old time buddies, which is entirely possible given their age, interests and vicinity. On reading the book it's equally likely they aren't. Anyhow, I think business from the gazebo was steady and while Graham was by no means giving the hard sell, he was there to sell some books. I guess I was a difficult customer, limited resources and a myriad of demands on my wallet, beer, wall of death, WD40, new helmet to name a few. I was won over when offered a book with a damaged spine for a fiver and he signed it as well. I walked away with it tucked in my pocket and no Idea of how lucky I actually was.
I read the book through those long winter nights. It starts with a trip to a festival in Scandinavia, following the build up to leaving. It's a nice introduction to the journey as a whole and sets the tone for the book. Travel writing should be as much about the places visited and people met as it is about the mode of transport used, as much as we love our motorcycles, and Graham gets the balance between these elements spot on. His observations of the festival and towns along the way gently peppering the trails and tribulations of riding his loved KLR across two continents. The book builds, it's a slow burner, grabbing your interest as he travels through Eastern Europe, into the world of the Cyrillic alphabet and orientation becomes more of a challenge. Kazakhstan was a fascinating part of the book reading of border crossings and the changing food and customs as the miles are massed. The cherry on the cake, if you will, of this book is his travels through Mongolia. He paints a picture with the most vivid hues that meant I started to run out of pages at a rate of knots. The kindness of people in the remotest of places living relatively simple lives restores your faith in humanity. There's humour here too, the satirical view of the "all the gear" touratec twins had me properly laughing out loud as did some other observations on the Kafkaesque nature of life. The journey ultimately ends in Korea having not managed to ship back from Vladivostok. Container shipping being an area of mutual experience. The Korean chapter bookends the tome nicely. The comparative ease of travel and helpfulness of the Koreans lets you exhale deeply after the dogged curmudgeonlyness of Siberian administration. The book is a joy and an easy read. It has the air of a mate who's been on a huge adventure and has met you down the pub to tell you about it over a beer and a packet of crisps, and it's all the better for it.
So now I hanker for an adventure bike. I've done more miles in the past year than I've done in the last seven. I missed thanking Graham at Copdock this year as I was busy travelling Scotland. I attend overland events with those nasty pannier people. I've read loads of motorcycle travel from Jaqui Ferneau, Elspeth Beard and Nick sanders to name a few. To be precise this book has turned my motorcycling world upside down. That's after 34 years in the saddle.
Cheers Graham, I owe you a beer.
by Marc Hudson
Some people have to pigeon hole you. They just can’t continue their processing of you without a label. ‘You're a biker’ well I ride a bike yes. ‘But you have long hair, you must be a hippy, a hippy biker.’
Well if you have to label me that one is quite popular.
I like to go away just long enough so that coming back is a joy. My definition of ‘Marta’ is ‘not having a bacon sandwich’ because everyone wants a bacon sandwich really, deep down inside, the smell, the taste, it’s a universal craving. Even experienced by Rabbis and vegetarians, probably. And the best one I ever tasted comes out of my own kitchen. When palm trees or snowy mountains, extravagant architecture and ancient history lose their wow factor, it’s time to go home for a bacon sandwich, enjoyed with a greater world knowledge and with a new appreciation for the simple things. Until once again the freedom of the road beckons with renewed enthusiasm, when targets and dates are reached and work clothes are put away and the passport is taken out.