An Adventurous Life: Chris Donaldson on Going the Wrong Way


In this episode of the Dead America Podcast, host Ed Watters talks with Chris Donaldson, author of ‘Going the Wrong Way’. Donaldson shares his remarkable life journey, starting with an adventurous motorcycle trip from Belfast to Australia that unintentionally took him to Argentina due to geopolitical events. This mishap set the stage for a lifetime of unconventional choices, leading to rich experiences and valuable life lessons. Donaldson reflects on growing up in Belfast during the tumultuous 70s, his repeated attempts to reach Australia, and the personal growth he encountered through facing challenges head-on. The conversation also dives into Donaldson’s passion for motorcycling, his experience of building his own aircraft, and the process of writing his book. Wrapping up the episode, Donaldson imparts inspiring advice for listeners, urging them to embrace life’s opportunities regardless of age. This engaging discussion explores themes of adventure, reflection, and the enduring spirit of curiosity.


00:00 The Essence of Going the Wrong Way: A Life’s Journey

00:54 The Power of Education and Self-Reflection

01:44 Introducing Chris Donaldson: The Man Behind the Adventure

02:00 A Motorcycle Journey Like No Other: From Belfast to Argentina

04:20 The Challenges and Triumphs of a Life Less Ordinary

17:28 Embracing the Digital Age: The Evolution of Communication and Navigation

24:50 The Thrill of Building and Flying Your Own Aircraft

31:52 Reflections on Aging, Adventure, and the Quest for Knowledge

32:44 A Call to Action: Embrace Life at Any Age

34:48 Connecting with Chris Donaldson and Closing Thoughts

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### Adventurous Spirits: A Conversation with Chris Donaldson

In the realm of adventure and self-discovery, few stories resonate like Chris Donaldson’s journey. Recently, I had the privilege of conversing with Chris on the Dead America Podcast, exploring his life’s escapades, insights, and the serendipitous paths leading to profound self-awareness. His tale, encapsulated in the bestselling book *Going the Wrong Way*, is not just about a bike trip gone awry but a narrative layered with lessons, failures, and unexpected joys.

#### The Wrong Turn that Made Everything Right

Chris embarked on what was supposed to be a straightforward motorcycle journey from Belfast to Australia at the tender age of twenty-one. However, fate had different plans, and he found himself in Argentina instead. This unplanned detour laid the foundation for a lifetime of adventures, challenging the conventional and embracing the unpredictable.

Reflecting on his journey, Chris shared, “It started off as a directional thing and then obviously ended up in Argentina rather than Australia. But there’s also, when I started writing the book and reflecting on my life since then, I realized that I’ve actually gone the wrong way on a number of occasions and various stages in my life.”


#### Embracing the Road Less Travelled

Chris's narrative transcends geographical cnfines, delving into the essence of choosing the unconventional path. His experiences, fraught with mistakes and challenges, have been imbued with an unparalleled sense of fulfillment derived from doing things his own way.

The conversation meandered through Chris’s myriad experiences, from narrowly escaping calamities during his youthful expeditions to challenging societal norms and expectations. “That’s my stubborn and stupid mind again, but, uh, it’s been good fun,” Chris mused with a hint of reflection and a dash of pride.


#### The Art of Conversation and Self-Challenge

What stood out during our discussion was not just Chris’s thirst for adventure but his profound understanding of growth and learning. He remarked, “To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation.”

Chris’s journey, embodying sheer will and the quest for identity against the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s tumultuous landscape during the 70s, serves as a beacon for the restless spirit in each of us. He underlined the importance of conversations, not just with others but with oneself, as a pivotal component of introspection and personal evolution.


#### Conclusion: The Unwavering Spirit of Adventure

Chris Donaldson’s life story is a testament to the power of embracing the unknown and carving one’s path. His experiences, encapsulated in *Going the Wrong Way*, offer more than just a tale of travel. They serve as a metaphor for life, urging us to challenge the status quo, engage in meaningful dialogues, and never shy away from the journey within.

As we wrapped up our conversation, Chris left us with a thought-provoking call to action, “Don’t worry about what’s going to happen next...get off your ass and do whatever you want to do. Don’t be believing that life’s over.”

In a world increasingly governed by fear and conformity, Chris Donaldson’s narrative is a refreshing reminder of the beauty in uncertainty and the growth that comes from embracing every twist and turn in the road less travelled.

Chris Donaldson

[00:00:00] Chris Donaldson: But Going the Wrong Way, it started off as a directional thing and then obviously ended up in Argentina rather than Australia. But there's also, when I started writing the book and reflecting on my life since then, I realized that I've actually gone the wrong way on a number of occasions and various stages in my life. Gone

[00:00:23] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:00:24] Chris Donaldson: a different way that most people would go and, and has ended up with a more difficult lifestyle. Made mistakes, and made, things that are going wrong, things that are going right, but there's a lot of challenges in the middle of it. And good experiences and good, uh, good memories from doing it my own way.

[00:00:43] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:00:43] Chris Donaldson: That's my stubborn and stupid mind again, but, uh, it's been good fun.

[00:00:54] Ed Watters: To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation. Sometimes, we have conversations with others, however, some of the best conversations happen with ourself. Reach out and challenge yourself; let's dive in and learn something right now.

[00:01:44] Today we're speaking with Chris Donaldson, he is the author of Going the Wrong Way. Chris, could you please introduce yourself? Let people know just a little bit about you, please?

[00:01:55] Chris Donaldson: Hi, my name is Chris Donaldson. I'm from Belfast, Ireland. I've, uh, written a book called Going the Wrong Way, as Ed says. It's about a journey I made, uh, when I was twenty-one, which as you can see was quite a while ago. It was forty odd years ago. And it was a journey I made around the world and around the world on a motorcycle. I tried to ride from Belfast to Australia in 1979 and the, uh, I told 'em I need, they decided to take over the American Embassy in Tehran at the same time and stopped me from going east.

[00:02:34] So, instead of going to Australia, I ended up in Argentina, hence the name of the book. It's, uh, very much a coming of age story of, uh, I was twenty-one years old, learning about life in general, being brought up in Belfast during the 70s, which was a pretty tough, uh, place to grow up. With bombs going off, people getting shot, my father's business got blown up several times.

[00:02:58] Um, luckily he didn't have any family that was killed or injured, but a lot of friends were. It was a place, a good place to leave in the 70s. So I wanted to get to Australia and see the world, but, uh, never actually moved to Australia. As I said, it took me forty odd years to, to ride the bike there. And the story sort of comes together because, as I said, I was twenty-one, I was twenty-one years old and started my working life.

[00:03:29] And then, when I wrote the book three years ago, one of my friends suggested that I take a bike to Australia, and I said I never got, never actually got to Australia, so why not give it another go? So I sort of came to test myself and needed a new challenge, so I took the same bike that I had, the same Moto Guzzi Le Mans, forty-five years old, so I set off a year and a half ago and rode to Australia in stages

[00:03:54] just after COVID, in fact, through COVID. Um, so it's ironically, it's sort of, um, not a coming of age, coming of old age story as much as, I don't know, sort of sixty-five and sort of coming to the end of my working life. So it's giving me time to reflect on, um, sort of winding down rather than winding, winding things up.

[00:04:17] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah, interesting. You know, it's a fascinating thing when, when we discover our passion. And when this story came across the desk, I was super excited because I'm, I'm a motor enthusiast and I love, you know, motorcycles. My wife, she's terrified of me getting on them anymore because I have displayed ignorance at times on them, but that's part of growing up isn't it?

[00:04:50] Chris Donaldson: Well, you were a brave young man.

[00:04:50] Ed Watters: Yeah. Oh, yeah, of course, you know from seventeen to, you know, at least thirty. Well, I, I was kind of really, I don't care and I, I like the gas throttle

[00:05:09] Chris Donaldson: Yeah.

[00:05:09] Ed Watters: on those things. And she, she witnessed a few times where I almost lost my life, you know, so she has concerns about them. But, you know, as we age, we slow down that mentality a little bit. And cruising is a lot different than, you know, just going for it. What, what got you into motorcycling?

[00:05:44] Chris Donaldson: And it's hard to know, really. I think, just to see, I was always into bicycling. And I think, if you have a bicycle, the thought of being able to go up a hill without pedaling is just sure, just to see, you know, when you're, when you're fifteen

[00:05:56] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:05:57] Chris Donaldson: or sixteen years old. Um, so I've got a BSA Bantam 175 and worked my way up to a Moto Guzzi, um, Moto Guzzi is a sports bike. It's not the sort of bike you take around the world, but of course I was in love with my motorbike. Well, it was the best bike in the world and that would do me fine, and it would have done very well. In fact, it did very well going to Australia in the last couple of years.

[00:06:24] Um, but as it happened, I ended up going around the Middle East through Syria and Jordan, and then down through Egypt, and across the Sahara Desert. Um, which is, I don't know if you know what a Moto Guzzi Le Mans is like, but it's not the sort of bike you take across the Sahara Desert on a first choice basis.

[00:06:45] Made it down to South Africa in the middle of apartheid, managed to get a job on a sailing boat coming back up to Europe, and get the big ships to the States, cruise around the States and then down to South America. So it was quite an adventurous year and a half. And it's, I did start writing a book after I came back, but then I sort of was trying to,

[00:07:06] somebody else wrote a book about a similar journey, and he was a journalist and an author. And I thought, Well, I can't do anything like that, so I just gave up. And then three years later, three years ago, four years ago, I decided to start getting my papers out again and started writing. And really, the book's now a bestseller on Amazon, it's got over 1, 000 five star reviews. And if I can do that, the story, the moral of that story is anybody can write a book if I can. Because, um, just because you weren't very good at English at school doesn't mean you're not a good storyteller or a good author.

[00:07:45] Ed Watters: That's right. Yeah, I agree with that 100%. So, you know, a Moto Guzzi LeMans, that's a cherry pick of a bike for a lot of people. Uh, why did you choose the LeMans for this trip? And more importantly, I haven't discovered from researching you, how did you obtain that precious bike?

[00:08:21] Well, I bought it when I was about nineteen or twenty, was running around Belfast. It was the hardest bike in the street, I thought I was the cool student at the time. And I did try and sell it to buy a BMW, which is most people's choice of touring bike. Uh, but nobody would give me enough money for it. So being a stubborn twenty-one year old, I decided I'm just going to put uh, panniers, and top box, and a touring screen on it and away I went. So a bit of stupidity, stubbornness or stupidity, pick your pick, but both probably.

[00:08:57] Ed Watters: Yeah, and you've still got the same bike for all these years.

[00:09:02] Chris Donaldson: Yeah, I brought the bike back from South America in 1981. And I've restored it and it's just, uh, it's been a bit of a souvenir of a trip, I've parked in the garage for long periods of time. I've been into doing other things on motorbikes, but it's always been there. Motorbikes are good because you can put them in the back of the garage and forget about them, whereas an old car, or boat, or something takes up lots of space.

[00:09:23] But a bike doesn't take up much space. You can ignore it and come back on it again years later. So, um, the last eight years before that, for, since 2011 I was living in Dubai. So the bike was just sitting in Belfast not being used. And that's another story. But yeah, you know, it's been interesting. You people talk about the coming of age, and then there's, let's say, the midlife crisis that we're all supposed to get when we're sort of mid forties.

[00:09:59] But, [00:10:00] um, I've sort of reached the age of sixty-five now, and retirement age. There's actually no sort of coin of phrase for this particular age. Whereas, actually, it's probably one of the most important ages, because people are giving up their jobs, been working forty hours a week for forty years. And it's quite a monumental thing to give up your work and give up your career, give up your,

[00:10:23] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:10:23] Chris Donaldson: your personal, your, some people's life, personal life, not personal, but their life to the public is tied in with their business and their working life. So very often guys walk right through the door on Friday afternoon and that's then finished and nothing to do but play golf a couple of times a week and dig in the garden. So I suppose

[00:10:47] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:10:47] Chris Donaldson: I wanted to sort of challenge myself and see if I could do, still do what I did when I was twenty-one.

[00:10:56] Ed Watters: Yeah. I, I often think about that, you know, I'm, I'm getting ready to turn fifty-eight. And journeying back in my mind, all of those exciting journeys, they, they really gave me things to reflect on. I'm not embarrassed or ashamed of any of it because it's built me to who I am. Even though I think a lot of people would think a lot of it is stupid and, uh, adolescent, you know, but that's what really builds character is getting to know who you are and how, how you can push yourself.

[00:11:45] Chris Donaldson: Well, calling the book Going the Wrong Way, was, started off as a directional thing and then I obviously ended up in Argentina rather than Australia. But there's also, when I started writing the book and reflecting on my life since then, I realized that I've actually gone the wrong way on a number of occasions and various stages in my life. Gone

[00:12:04] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:12:04] Chris Donaldson: a different way that most people would go and, and has ended up with a more difficult lifestyle. Made mistakes, and made, things that are going wrong, things that are going right, but there's a lot of challenges in the middle of it. And good experiences and good, uh, good memories from doing it my own way.

[00:12:22] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:12:24] Chris Donaldson: That's my stubborn and stupid mind again, but, uh, it's been good fun.

[00:12:30] Ed Watters: Yeah. I've, I've heard you speak on a few podcasts, you know, and you talk about being self sufficient and being able to overcome these challenges. It's really part of being alive. You know, today it's, it's getting pretty bad where people are afraid to go outside and they're stuck on these machines. It's, it's pretty new to me. And, you know, I, I grew up when you go out until the sun goes down and you don't come home until then. Uh, it's a different world. How do you see the difference and how do you handle the difference?

[00:13:24] Chris Donaldson: Well, I think, um, the world has gone a bit haywire on health and safety, certainly. Um, whereas it has its good points, you know, group traffic accidents, people having accidents at work and all this sort of thing. But I think we have compensations. Everything is risk assessed and people are, I think when we were growing up, we did things for the fun of it, for the risk. And very often it didn't end well, but we got a buzz out of it. Whereas kids, a lot of kids these days, they seem to be more interested in spending time on their mobile phone rather than actually going, doing stuff.

[00:14:05] And they're, uh, they'd rather watch it rather than do it. And I'll be the guy watching, might be a Red Bulls cyclist doing somersaults or something like that, but that might be, that's all good and well, it's not as much fun as flying down a hill on your bicycle yourself and trying to stay upright, you know? But I'm starting to sound like my dad now, probably, saying it's not like, it's not like it wasn't hard for me, so was the danger.

[00:14:36] Ed Watters: Yeah, isn't that something?

[00:14:38] Chris Donaldson: Yeah.

[00:14:40] Ed Watters: That's for sure. You know, what I find interesting is, you wrote a book from your adventure and you took notes and you reflected back on the notes to write the book. Was journaling a thing that you did throughout your life or did you specifically want to take notes to write a book about this journey? Because when, when you're one sheet came across, there's a deal about, uh, rumors that your old teacher might be stirring in his grave because of you writing a book. So, I'm interested, has writing been a passion or an interest for all of your life?

[00:15:36] Chris Donaldson: Not really, to be honest. I've always been interested in creating and making things. I've been in business for forty odd years, a number of businesses, um, in different countries around the world as well. So, I've always been quite creative, but writing, it's never really been a passion as such. So, I think, um, I never really fit it in with the school academia. When I was, um, in my teens in the sixties and seventies, you had to fit in with what was being taught and how it was being taught

[00:16:11] and that's what you did. Much more probably then than now. Um, and if you didn't fit in, like I didn't fit in, you were more or less cast asunder. And the, the smart kids who did fit in, got the, got the prizes and got the, uh, first places in the English language, whatever. But, um, writing a book is, it's telling a story.

[00:16:34] It's not, you don't have to worry about your punctuation anymore because you've got spellchecker to do that sort of thing and you're good. So I'm starting to write a manual, was going to read my notes, that's a massive thing because I'm dyslexic, probably, amongst other things. Uh, but certainly it's been easier from the, you know, the computer makes it easier in a lot of ways. You can copy and paste, you can delete, delete, delete, delete, you know, go over things again

[00:17:02] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:17:02] Chris Donaldson: and again much easier. Then you get

[00:17:04] Ed Watters: Yep.

[00:17:04] Chris Donaldson: it done. And I think everybody has a, everybody has an individual story. I think, I've tried to write the book as much as telling a story rather than, uh, it's not Shakespeare, you know, it's not a, uh, work of art, but it's a good, it's a bloody good story, I think.

[00:17:26] Ed Watters: Yeah, interesting. So, traveling the world and going to all of these places, communication is very important. Meeting all of these different people in different areas geographically in our world, what was that like? And what was the communication like? And how easy was it to go from culture to culture?

[00:18:00] Chris Donaldson: You know,, I mean, it was interesting taking the bike, the same bike on this journey I intended to take over the last couple of years. What I did was I went home, we drove for two weeks, left the bike, and then came back to the family, the work commitments, so we couldn't disappear, like, for a year and a half like I did when I was twenty-one. So, we drove for two, rode for two weeks, left, parked the bike up, flew home, came out again two, three months later and did another leg.

[00:18:29] So that's why it took me a year and a half to get to Australia over, about six legs. But, um, one of the biggest differences between now and sort of forty years ago is, communication and the Internet is it's sort of shrunk the world so much. It's, it is incredible. I could stop the bike in Pakistan, or India, or Iran and phone home and say where I am and what I'm doing.

[00:18:56] In fact, my wife could track me on the phone and see where I was. Whereas, forty years ago, I think I phoned home about once every three months when I was going down to Africa, because it was so expensive. I remember going into Cairo, I had to book a telephone call. Costs about five pounds, which is probably about fifty dollars now, to make a five minute telephone call home.

[00:19:17] And it was a bad line which was a waste of time, you know? So my parents must have been pulling their hair right out. As you say, people nowadays can't go anywhere without, like, their mobile phone with them in case, you don't know, you need to know where everybody is all the time. Whereas I was in

[00:19:35] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:19:36] Chris Donaldson: the darkest part of Africa, nobody knew where I was for months on end. And so probably in a way, it was, it gave this trip a certain mystique, because there's a, sort of a danger element and a mysterious element that wasn't, isn't there now when you do a journey. Because if you want to know, if you want to know what's around the corner, what's the next country like, what's the [00:20:00] next city, you just Google it and all the information's at your fingertips.

[00:20:03] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:20:04] Chris Donaldson: You can email, book your hotel, tell them what time you're coming out, all the rest of it. Whereas I was really, uh, flying by the seat of my pants, literally, because, especially because I hadn't, wasn't going to the direction I was, I'd already planned. I had guidebooks for going to India, but none for Africa. So,

[00:20:23] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:20:24] Chris Donaldson: at one stage, I actually drove off the edge of my map. The South Sudan, because I didn't know what the next country was, Well, I knew what the country was, but I didn't know what the routes were going to be like. Those salt maps without somebody

[00:20:37] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:20:37] Chris Donaldson: telling you where you are. So it's much

[00:20:39] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:20:39] Chris Donaldson: more basic, hard to imagine these days.

[00:20:43] Ed Watters: So what about language barriers speaking with people?

[00:20:48] Chris Donaldson: Well, I went down across the Mexican border, I think, and I think I knew what to say, it was Dos Cervezas, and that was about it. But by the time I got to Argentina, I could barely pick up any Spanish. And Africa wasn't

[00:21:01] Ed Watters: Really?


[00:21:01] Chris Donaldson: too bad. Africa's mainly old British colonies where English is quite widely, widely spoken.

[00:21:10] Ed Watters: Interesting. So there's really not that much of a language barrier anymore throughout the world.

[00:21:19] Chris Donaldson: Certainly, because, you know, again, Google Translate, you just say it into your phone.

[00:21:24] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:21:25] Chris Donaldson: I said, just standing in Pakistan, asking directions, you take your phone, the guide says something in Urdu, there it is on your screen. It's quite remarkable.

[00:21:36] Ed Watters: Yeah. So how, how was it different from back then, uh, when you went through the different countries? Was there a barrier there? And how did you communicate with people, at that time, without Google?

[00:21:55] Chris Donaldson: Well, you got lost a lot more.

[00:21:57] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:21:58] Chris Donaldson: I think you, I'll say here, you built a, built up a sort of sense of direction in your head. You had a bit of an idea of whether it's from, where you set off from where the sun is or what time it was.

[00:22:12] I don't know how you get a sense of direction it's, but I think you sort of have an idea which way you should go. Whereas nowadays, because everything's on Google Maps, or wherever you drive to, people just turn on Google Maps. You don't even look at where you're driving through. Sometimes you get somewhere, and you don't know what you passed.

[00:22:34] If you tried to find your way back again, you couldn't. Because you didn't see the road marks, the things you'd, been passed. So it'd be interesting, be interesting to see how young guys who have, who use maps, Google Maps all the time, how they would get on without it. How they could cross the city like London or Seattle or wherever, uh, without, without Google, without Google Maps.

[00:23:06] Ed Watters: Yeah. I often wonder that, you know? The, you know, with them talking about taking away print books and print media like maps and things like that and just going electronic, that kind of scares the heck out of me. Because I like to fold out a map, you know, trace my route on a physical piece of paper and know that I have it in my backpack.

[00:23:39] Chris Donaldson: Well, I remember twenty, thirty years ago when computers came out, the story was that they'd be putting paper out of business. Nobody will use paper anymore. I think as anybody who has a computer knows, um, you use twice as much paper as you ever used before. People still like to see things in print, you know?

[00:23:57] Ed Watters: That's right. Yeah, nothing like a pen and paper.

[00:24:03] Chris Donaldson: Yeah, I mean, people said that books would be obsolete in no time because everybody uses Kindle and online. But

[00:24:10] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:24:10] Chris Donaldson: book sales are, online e books are great, but book sales are just as big, you know? They're never, some people like to have a book, and young people as well. Obviously older people are used to it, but I know my daughter prefers to read a book rather than read a Kindle.

[00:24:30] Ed Watters: That's, that's good to hear. I really enjoy hearing that, you know? Because, uh, seeing, seeing the fixation on electronic media, it, it, it is concerning in many ways for me. I want to shift a little bit here and talk about aircraft with you. You built your own aircraft. Could you talk about that with me? I love experimental aircraft, I, I helped one of my bosses build one of his aircraft and it's quite a chore to build your own aircraft and get all the pieces and parts put together, laid out. And each, each step has to be done in a very specific orientation, a specific way. Talk to us about the type of plane that you built and why did you choose to build one instead of purchase a used aircraft?

[00:25:51] Chris Donaldson: Well, like I said, I think I've got a history of doing things, uh, the wrong way around. Sometimes they need to be. But, uh, as I say, I've always liked creating things and, um, thought it'd be good fun. An airplane is the most, you know, we're so, we're so used to, to, uh, travel now and by, by airliners. I think we sort of lose track of how incredible it actually is to be traveling for 500 miles an hour through the air five miles up.

[00:26:25] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:26:25] Chris Donaldson: You know, if you had said something 100 odd years ago about it. I wouldn't have believed you. And it still fascinates me, the fact that you can do that and that you can get into an airplane. So it was always, the challenge to actually build something that would fly, myself. So, what actually is an American kit built by, um, I can't remember the name of the company. It's called the Glass Goose. It's called Seahopper first of all, and then they changed the name to Glass Goose. It's a fiberglass, um, plane, fiberglass foam core. You probably heard of Burt Rutan,

[00:27:04] Ed Watters: Yes.

[00:27:05] Chris Donaldson: he flew around the world. He sort of pioneered this sort of, um, build of using foam and fiberglass, uh, construction for airplanes for home builds, which makes it very slippery fast, uh, aerodynamic, uh, airplane. Um, the problem with ours was, uh, we bought the kit when the, they haven't finished testing this.

[00:27:32] They put a bigger engine in it, which, of course, when you change the design or something of one thing, it has ramifications further on down the line. So, you've got a bigger engine and to make it go faster, and it's heavier because the engines bigger so you have to make the wings bigger. You have to make the undercarriage bigger and

[00:27:50] it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Now that, we did get ours flying, um, we actually built it in the back of a pub in Belfast, um, which is good fun. Enough to go through, not too far from work. I could work for three, three, four hours on the plane, and then go back in the pub for a couple of pints with my mates before I went home.

[00:28:12] Um, but, um, there's a few people started flying them in the States and having accidents. Which generally were factored back to, the original design modifications hadn't been changed adequately to make the wings better, stronger, and heavier to cope with a bigger engine so we parked up and decided to wait until the, all the wrinkles are taken out of this. And so far I'm still waiting. As I've gotten older, as you said, so even I like, uh, motorbikes. When you're in your twenties, you think you're indestructible, but you get a bit older, you get a bit,

[00:28:55] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:28:56] Chris Donaldson: turn into a bit of a softie and think, Hang on a minute, what was I thinking about getting up in an airplane? I didn't fly it, but, um, it was, it was scary enough knowing it was actually, it was a two, it was a two, uh, biplane with, a struts biplane, which means the two wings, one over the top of the other.

[00:29:20] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:29:23] Chris Donaldson: And there's a guy in America, I can't remember where, I think it was, uh, Louisiana somewhere, that one of the wings actually broke off. Which you would think would

[00:29:32] Ed Watters: Wow.

[00:29:32] Chris Donaldson: be, lose the one side, one wing, and the other side, you'd think that would be, uh, end of story. But he actually was able to manage to land the airplane and save it and walk away. So, um, but that was the end of this. Whenever that happened to him, we'd go over and park up and wait till they get all this sorted out. Um, so I'm a bit annoyed because we put so much time and effort and, um, into building it from getting it, doing it the way we [00:30:00] were supposed to do it to find out that the prototype hadn't finished testing well enough.

[00:30:06] Ed Watters: Yeah, that would hurt.

[00:30:09] Chris Donaldson: Yeah, but it was a great experience. Again, I know I wouldn't want to do it again, but I'm glad I did it at the time, if you know what I mean.

[00:30:18] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah, well that's part of the learning process.

[00:30:22] Chris Donaldson: Yeah.

[00:30:24] Ed Watters: Yeah. So, when, when you, uh, decided to build a plane, were you already flying a plane? Did you have your pilot's license?

[00:30:39] Chris Donaldson: No, we weren't. Myself and my partner were, between us, uh, we were both just learning how to fly, can you believe? So we hadn't actually got our license at that stage, but we did get our license. So we bought a Piper Tri-Pacer after that,

[00:30:53] Ed Watters: Nice.

[00:30:54] Chris Donaldson: A 58 Piper Tri-Pacer. We restored that, brought it back, we covered it, put a new engine in it, and we left it like a new toy. And it's kind of sad to sell that, as I say, but ten, fifteen, twelve years ago, I left UK to live in Dubai for a while and gave up flying at that stage. It's so scary. Sometimes you sort of, I don't, I never actually gave up flying, but I just didn't go flying anymore because something else came along and started doing sailing. And it's probably sailing when I think

[00:31:30] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:31:30] Chris Donaldson: back. That was the last time I went flying was ten years ago. And, uh, what happened to that? You know it's a

[00:31:35] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:31:35] Chris Donaldson: history lesson, so much learning airplanes, learning how to fly, and doing courses, and building them. And then you just wonder if you, wonder when the next, the last thing you, last time you're gonna do something is, you know?

[00:31:51] Ed Watters: Yeah. Well, well, it's really a quest for knowledge, isn't it?

[00:31:56] Chris Donaldson: Well, it is. Yeah. I mean, I think, I like learning how to do things rather than doing them sometimes. So it's, it's more fun to learn how to fly than it is actually flying whenever you get to be able to do it. It's the challenge

[00:32:09] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:32:09] Chris Donaldson: of learning how to do it is the fun part.

[00:32:11] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:32:13] Chris Donaldson: And

[00:32:13] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:32:14] Chris Donaldson: it's like being, staying alive is always a challenge on a bike. So it's, every day's a new challenge, you know?

[00:32:21] Ed Watters: Yeah. And, and, you know, you, you actually get a feel of what life is really about. Because when you're adventurous like that, you never know what's around the next corner. And that really drives the soul. So Chris, you're a fascinating guy. Do you have a call to action for our listeners today?

[00:32:49] Chris Donaldson: Well, probably, I suppose, uh, for people like myself in the sort of sixties bracket, wondering what's going to happen next is, I say to people, uh, don't worry about it, get off your ass and do whatever you want to do. Don't be believing that life's over, that, uh, you're on a downward

[00:33:08] Ed Watters: Right.

[00:33:08] Chris Donaldson: spiral. There's a few years left. Hopefully, anyway. We can still get out there and do what we want to do and have a bit of time and hopefully a bit of money to do it.

[00:33:19] Ed Watters: Yeah. I, I can't agree more. You know, sometimes when we get after fifty, we start reflecting back and thinking, Boy, that was fast. How much time do I have left? Don't think about that, get out and do it. Enjoy the time that you have left because you, you could live to be 110, you know? You just don't know. So I say do it and you'll find out if you like it or not. If you don't like it, stop doing it. If you like it, well, explore a little more. See, see what it's about.


[00:34:00] Chris Donaldson: Just a bit slower, maybe, you know?

[00:34:02] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:34:03] Chris Donaldson: I remember when I could ride a motorbike all day and party all night. I can ride a

[00:34:09] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:34:09] Chris Donaldson: motorbike all right, I just have to go to bed with a cocoa, hot cup of cocoa

[00:34:14] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:34:14] Chris Donaldson: right afterwards.

[00:34:17] Ed Watters: That's right, that's right. You slow down a little bit, but the mind tells you, you want to do it. And, and that's, that's the adventurous mind. And it will keep us alive and keep us thinking and going. And, you know, the more important thing is you're out here sharing your story, and connecting with people, and letting people know it's okay, just do it. I love that, Chris. And I respect that a lot. How can people reach out to you, find you and get in touch with you?

[00:34:55] Chris Donaldson: Uh, my website's, um, which has most of my details on it. But the book, uh, the book's on Amazon, probably the best place to buy it is on Amazon, because it's around the world. A company we love and we hate at the same time. We can't do it without them, we can't do it with them. But it's a,

[00:35:11] Ed Watters: That's right.

[00:35:11] Chris Donaldson: it's an audio book, it's an audio book, it's a paperback, and it's, uh, it's got kind of a great reaction from young and old. And it's not just a motorbike book, it is a, it's an adventure story, it's a coming of age story. It's a reflection on past life, it's a, it's a bit for, hopefully a bit for everything and everybody, you know?

[00:35:34] Ed Watters: That, uh, you know, I, I can't say thank you enough for what you're doing out there, Chris. But most of all, thank you for being here today with us and sharing your story and being part of the Dead America Podcast.

[00:35:47] Chris Donaldson: Been a pleasure, Ed.

[00:35:48] Ed Watters: Thank you for joining us today. If you found this podcast enlightening, entertaining, educational in any way, please share, like, subscribe, and join us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America Podcast. I'm Ed Watters, your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.