5 Books of Asphalt-Shredding Adventures
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because two-wheeled adventures are way more interesting than four-wheeled ones.
By Alex Washburn
The OZY Summer Reading Series: Each week we share a specially themed book list, chosen by OZY staff.
Nothing beats the idea of roaring off into the sunset on a few hundred pounds of steel and leather with the wind whipping through your hair and a bandanna hanging out of your back pocket. Sure, the idea of greasy fingernails, truck-stop coffee and long stretches of open road sounds romantic, but it’s really hard work. Really, really hard work. Whether you’re a motorcyclist or a coffee shop daydreamer, these five books depicting the highs and lows of motorcycle travel will take you on a literary ride.
To Dakar and Back
The Dakar Rally is a grueling race course spread over thousands of miles in North Africa, drawing riders from all over the world who often fail even with a support team in tow. To Dakar and Back is the story of how Lawrence Hacking finished the race — solo — and became the first Canadian to do so. Hacking produced the book with ghostwriter Wil De Clercq; together they provide a compelling narrative that gives an inside look at Hacking’s mechanical preparations and fundraising for the race, as well as his mental and physical endurance.
Lois on the Loose
In 2003, mild-mannered British office worker Lois Pryce fled her 9-to-5 job at the BBC for the promise of adventure in tackling the Pan-American Highway solo. Her feisty narrative chronicles a 20,000-mile journey from Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, and shares personal stories — about procuring a bike for her petite frame, for instance, and her first days camping in the wilderness — all from the unique perspective of a single woman traveling without any foreign-language skills. If you need a chaser, Pryce’s second book, Red Tape and White Knuckles, about her similar trip through Africa, is also a solid choice.
When Sam Manicom began his epic eight-year odyssey across the globe, he didn’t even know how to ride a motorcycle. Into Africa is the first of four books chronicling his trek through 16 African nations. After you’re lured in by his beautiful language, which puts you right in the moment, what will keep you reading are his compelling and often wince-inducing tales — like that of his stay in a Tanzanian prison after he runs over a pedestrian (costing the man a leg).
One More Day Everywhere
Glen Heggstad’s second book follows his travels through 30 countries, including Japan and Mongolia, and shares the broad range of cultural experiences encountered on his ride. Heggstad’s knowledge of martial arts manifests itself in his refreshingly philosophical take on what is emotionally necessary to travel via motorcycle alone for such long periods of time. However, some readers will be turned off by his occasional sexual encounters (in which he gives women a number rating). The book includes dates when Heggstad visited each country — and they can serve as a useful guide for planning a similar route.
The godfather of motorcycle travel lit, Jupiter’s Travels tells the story of British journalist and author Ted Simon, who took off on a four-year, 78,000-mile trip around the world through nearly 50 countries alone on his 500 cc Triumph Tiger (named Jupiter). What makes the story especially poignant is that Simon made the journey, without backing, in 1973 — before the Internet and Lonely Planet guides — and in an era when motorcycles were notoriously unreliable. The book also inspired the Long Way Round travel documentary by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.
- Alex Washburn, OZY Author Contact Alex Washburn