Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels -book


Going back for a moment to books, I want to bring this one up also. It was highly influential in changing my perspective and definition of adventure. I read it when I was 17 years old in the fall of 1980.

Most books you cannot remember how you heard about them, certainly not 34 years later, but this one I can. On a weeknight, I was driving my 1965 Buick Skylark around my home town in northern NJ. It was late, and no one was out at any of the usual haunts. The car only had an AM radio, the kind that said B-U-I-C-K on the five push button selectors (If you are less than 50 years old I will explain that at a college) I was listening to WABC, a New York City AM Clear Channel. around midnight they went over to an interview show. Their guest was an English motorcyclist who had spent 4 years riding a 500 Triumph around the world solo. He was a captivating conversationalist. I drove up to Washington Rock and listened to the whole interview, which ran until 3am.



When you are 17, and you get a license, high school is coming to an end, and your horizons are expanding, you start looking for some path to follow to your next place in life. For most kids in my town, the single word ‘college’ sufficed as planning enough, and they contentedly went on their way.  Although I later spent many years in college, at the time I  encountered this book college looked more like a yoke and harness than an adventure.

Ted Simon’s interview and book opened my eyes to just how full of adventure the world could be. In his perspective, nothing was predefined, you were only limited by what you were willing to try. It particularly caught my attention that Simon had hardly ridden a bike before, and he openly expressed self doubt about every aspect of the trip. He explained that if you knew you could make it before you left, than it wasn’t an adventure at all.

His book taught all kinds of lessons about patience, about the difference between being a tourist and a traveler, about how few people who have been abroad can say they have dined in the home of a native.

It isn’t coincidental to me that this book, Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance, and Shop craft all have an element of motorcycles in them. Before I came to aviation, motorcycles were my machines of adventure. This is a common thread going back to Lindbergh and Curtiss.  Jupiter’s travels was my introduction to external travel. The following year I read Zen, and it was a guide to traveling in your own thoughts and perspectives. Shop Craft is a very interesting book that bridges the two together, speaking of how the physical work affects the cognitive perspective of the world.

Before Christmas I spent an hour looking at a few photos of me as a 16-19 year old that I found in the bottom of a box of papers.  The connection between myself and the person in the photos seemed long and distant.  I looked closely, but I couldn’t really say what thoughts the person in the photo possessed.  I like to ask him to remind me, to establish more of a connection that the fact that 10,000 days later I find myself inhabiting his body. I would like to remember what he cared bout, was planning, was doubtful of, and hoped for, but I can’t. Almost all of it is gone. Except for one small sliver of an evening, where he listened to a guy from England explain that the world was completely accessible to anyone who would just wander out there and live in it. Those hours I remember clear as a bell. -ww

3 Replies to “Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels -book”

  1. William,

    When I was in elementary school I discovered some old, well-worn copies of Richard Halliburton’s “Flying Carpet” as well as “Seven League Boots”, written in the 1930’s. They were my first discovery that there was a whole different world out there. I wanted to be Halliburton!

    Your discussion of books is helping to recharge my desire to read more and watch less. Thanks for the discussion.

    Semper Fi,

    Terry Hand

  2. Good book – read it a few years ago. I enjoyed my 500 Daytona. Took it apart, had the frame straightened/aligned, put on Betor forks with gaiters back on, quality adjustable shocks, soft springs, low, straighter, old fashioned but black bars, reamed new swing arm bushings, had wheels/spokes trued, stripped tank, filleted around top seam, smoothed, all tin painted dark red, old looking Triumph decal on tank, no rubbers, bike lowered overall 1.5″, seat chopped down another inch, couple tranny and motor parts. ‘Standoff’, it looked 50’s, but flicked over and around like a dream. Had a plan to have some machining done and use slightly larger 650 pistons, but sold it before I got there. Fun. Thanks for the memory.

  3. William- On Ted Simon’s Jupiters Travels. As a cyclist it stired me to take 2 diferent tours of England and Europe in 1984 and 1995. I got to meet him at a discussion and book signing in San Antonio. At the halfway point of his presentation, the Honda (Winnebago) Gold Wing riders left because they wanted a travelog and not a discussion of Ted meeting people and finding himself. Fred Schutt

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