Riding off the Edge of the Map
Riding off the Edge of the Map is a true account of the author and two fellow motorcyclists on an adventure-tour into Mexico's rugged and stunning Copper Canyon. They follow an errant map until they have traveled so far into danger that returning is deemed more precarious than continuing. Struggling with nearly impassible roads, injury, terror, and broken equipment, the three men were eventually forced to independently find their way back to civilization from the most remote part of the Canyon. The quest begins in the heart of Central Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains and traces their journey up the Pacific Coast and into the largest canyon system in North America, 1700 feet deeper and four times the size of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Bryen, a career psychotherapist and motorcycle safety instructor, integrates his lifelong zeal for motorcycle riding and his passionate commitment to the life of the soul, and weaves the events into an odyssey that pulls the reader into an exterior and interior exploration of what it takes to venture into the heart of the Canyon. The trip required a crash course in new motorcycling riding skills, adjusting to rural customs and new language in a foreign culture, settling the stress-created conflicts among the riders, and finding the courage to face and deal with personal limitations. Eventually stripped of everything familiar where old maps, old rules, and old understandings no longer applied, this life-changing journey becomes an examination into fundamental questions of how to ride and how to live. The book describes being caught between the allure of beauty and the repulsion of terror, and explores how to access the deeper powers that become available to us when life seems most challenging. The author turns this motorcycle adventure tour into an opportunity to contemplate the longings, the fears, and the misapplied maps that govern our lives.
Author: David Bryen
David Bryen was born in 1948 in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. Born into a preacher's family he struggled to free himself from the tyranny of fundamentalist theology. He spent 36 years as a professional psychotherapist working with individuals and counseling marital couples. He rode motorcycles his whole life and spent the last years before he retired to Mexico as a Motorcycle Safety Instructor for Team Oregon Motorcycle Safety Program. His latest book is "Riding off the Edge of the Map" which is a true story of his motorcycle misadventure into Mexico's famed and rugged Copper Canyon. He survived to write this profound story in which he weaves his insights from a lifetime as a therapist with his lifetime of riding his motorcycle. This book is not just an heroic journey, but a sensitive inquiry into what drives us to go, and how to stop.
Reviewed by: Karl Homann
“The three of us had scratched and clawed our way to a hard-won togetherness in the week since we had left Ajijic. Though we’d started out with only our love of nature and motorcycle riding to bind us, the stress, the fear, and actual danger had amalgamated us into a strong camaraderie” – a camaraderie that will be challenged to its limits.
This quote from the center pages of David Bryen’s book shows that this account is not about the exhilarating rush of a Sunday afternoon ride down the highway. No, the author and his two friends, Tom and Jake, are driven by the tenacious desire to conquer Mexico’s famed and rugged Copper Canyon on their somewhat ill-suited road bikes; to tackle the muddy and slippery roads of this forbidding and unchartered wilderness. Their only guide is a partially undecipherable map scribbled on a tiny piece of paper. The author entitles one of his chapters with the words that are written above the gate of the vestibule of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Consequently, their ride turns out to be not only “off” a physical road map, which challenges their motorcycling skills to the extreme, but also “off” the comfort zone of their personal and spiritual “map”, which requires the author to take a hard look at himself. Facing the truth about oneself is often a hard road to take, but in the coming to terms with oneself lie inner peace and beauty, in this case, inspired by the “awe”-some and majestic grandeur of the Barrancas del Cobre.
David Bryen and his wife Gloria are yearlong Lakeside residents. Prior to settling in Ajijic, where David built his own home, he was a Psychotherapist and Motorcycle Safety Expert, but above all he has been ln love with motorcycles all his life – in the book, he calls his bike “Suzie” (as in Suzuki).
As reader of Riding off the Edge of the Map, I was allowed to live vicariously, through the author’s vivid and detailed description, my unfulfilled dream of owning a motorcycle and experiencing the thrills and challenges of riding one.
Reviewed by: John Stokdijk
One summer when I was nineteen I bought a motorcycle because I could not afford to buy a car. It was transportation but nothing more and certainly not a sacred experience. The love of motorcycles never found me.
If Riding off the Edge of the Map was merely a very good adventure story about three men taking a motorcycle trip into the Copper Canyon, it would not appeal to me. But the book is much more. I had high expectations that a book written by a psychotherapist would have much to say about our journey through life and David Bryen did not disappoint.
Riding off the Edge of the Map is also about interpersonal relationships, spiritual journeys and experiencing a foreign culture.
As David tries to understand Tom in light of their father-wound, I am reminded of my own. My father never understood me and I often felt that I could never please him. Even now in retirement that wound has not fully healed as I continue to experience an intense and unhealthy desire to be deeply understood.
When we learn the details of Tom’s negative impact on the life of his sister, we get a powerful lesson on why we should be very slow to judge the unsavory behavior of another human being on a very different journey through life.
I could also relate to David’s spiritual journey away from fundamentalist Christianity. From time to time while reading the book I caught glimpses of eastern thought which I am currently trying to learn more about. Until as recently as five years ago I would have dismissed David Bryen’s experiences with the Great Blue Heron as new-age spiritual bullshit.
My joy in reading this book was heightened by the fact that my wife was also reading it at the same time, something we almost never do. Now it gave us a map for exploring the dynamics of our own relationship in the light of the author’s experience as he realizes ”that my own angry reaction was more like a child in a temper tantrum whining because he or she wasn’t being treated fairly.”
We must all ride our own ride. But for a while we can ride along with David Byren, Tom and Jake as they ride their motorcycles through Mexico. Thank you David for the gift of your incredible story.
Reviewed by: Toni Rahman
Riding off the Edge of the Map brought to mind a perennial question about how one can once again trust his or her judgment after making what might look like a terrible mistake. “… how do we recognize, when in the middle of a crisis, that we are morally compromised or impaired by the illusion of time, or reenacting the losses or terrors of childhood?”
It’s a question we all grapple with, at one time or another. We have all fallen into these places from which we have had to find our way back; we have all experienced instances in which we have abandoned and betrayed ourselves.
Striving to repair these breaches and restoring trust in ourselves, David suggests, involves examining the circumstances leading up to those “mistakes,” and understanding how they align with the stories “that go on in the theater of the mind.” In this telling, David shows us the path his compassion takes as he unsnarls his alienated, bruised and battered parts, and retrieves a deeper knowing of himself.
Besides offering a vicarious tour through the baddest lands of Mexico, Riding off the Edge of the Map is a map of the human psyche. David has a lot to say about human nature, and shares courageously his version of how the world works. He also gives us hope that trust in ourselves can be adequately mended and restored, that peace can be found as a result, and that it is all well worth the effort.
His message, like that of many of today’s way-showers, has to do with slowing down and living in the present moment. He tells his story in a way that is entertaining as well as compassionate, compelling, deep and kind. He uses a rare blend of honesty, experience and insight to encourage us on. I highly recommend this read for anyone who has felt at odds with him or herself in a time of great need, or just wants to experience a harrowing vicarious tour through the badlands of David’s mind and the Great Copper Canyon of Northern Mexico.