One thing I discovered last year while riding a scooter 11,000 miles is that hundreds, thousands of people have taken the road less traveled. They have flung themselves away from comfortable homes, onto the road where they must constantly redefine their comfort level. Everywhere I went someone told me about so and so doing such and such. Perhaps their rides had no “mission,” no “cause” and many are not documented anywhere. However, many are, and these journeys are becoming more accessible with online technology.
I want to get you in the mood for following along with the 9,000 mile leg of the 20,000 mile PEACE ride. So for the next couple of weeks I will try to post links and blurbs about these other epic rides. It’s also my way of showing respect and harnessing my own road mojo. Because these trips meant something, whether or not there was volunteering or fundraising or talking about Peace. Those wayward travelers took the first step-they blindly answered a call to explore the world and meet its inhabitants. In the process of meeting hundreds of humans along their path, valuable human exchanges were made; inspiration and legends were created. I want to honor them.
A couple of months ago, I wrote to Lois Pryce. I heard about her adventures traveling 20,000 miles from Anchorage, AL to the southern most tip of Argentina. Alone. A woman. On a 225cc Yamaha Serow. This means her top speed was 55mph. It’s not a scooter, and I chuckle that there are several out there that would leave her in the dust. It seems like an all around, go anywhere bike and those big tires sure would come in handy.
The first long journey must have infected her with the travel bug, because she got back on her bike and rode the length of Africa. The book about this 10,000 mile journey will be released in June 2008. The reviews are smashing, I recommend them for all ye with wanderlust. Or even you closet travelers who might get your kicks reading about an adventure you would love to have. Below is a simple Q&A, followed with a video of Lois.
Fortunately, a fair amount of women are setting out on the open road and publishing their stories.
Was it hard to find publisher?
I have a literary agent who got my book published but it took about a year to get the first
publisher (in the USA) then the others followed.
Did you work for income while writing?
Yes, at the beginning I was a motorcycle courier and van driver for a TV/film equipment company
Speaking of women on the road-it’s not as scary to ride alone as most
people project. Can you address this societal fear? Any suggestions for
females traveling alone?
The world is not actually a scary place on the whole, but you won’t believe it until you get out
there! There’s nothing stopping you!
I know I had a switchboard operator, so to speak. I checked in, especially
before heading through very desolate places. What about you?
I kept in regular phone contact with my boyfriend (now husband), my brother and my mum.
Was there a certain point where you felt yourself transform as a rider?
It was more a gradual process I think, although in Africa, in the Sahara, I had an epiphany with
sand-riding – one day it just all came together.
Was there a point where you learned a lot about survival?
I found reserves of ingenuity at times. There was never any point where I thought I would pack it
Was there a significant point where you felt at home on the road? All along?
It took me a few months – by the time I’d ridden through Mexico I was into the swing of it. When I
went to Africa, it took me a few weeks to get that feeling again.
What went through your head as you reached Ushuaia? (the southernmost tip on her 1st ride)
Did you have some company along for the ride?
Yes, I met all sorts of other motorcyclists along the way.
It’s funny that Serow actually means antelope. It seems as though your ride
was sturdy of foot, although not so fast. We basically cruised at the same
speed, except I was on 12 inch wheels on a 125cc.
Did you ever regret your choice in motorcycle?
Only at high altitude (15000 feet) in the Andes when it could barely get up the hills!
Was the speed enough?
Most of the time yes, I never really needed to go faster than 55mph!
Were there any close calls? (tailgaters, speed demons, jackasses)
A crash in Patagonia but nothing broken, also lots of crazy traffic in South American capital
cities but London is a good training ground!
Did you have enough power to get out of tight spots?
Yes, the Serow can go anywhere – unless it’s at high altitude
There is beauty in contacting those who have gone before us for a wealth of
information. Did you already know, “twice-round-the-world motorcyclists,
Austin and Gerald Vince of the Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa teams”?
I met Austin because I was planning my trip and a mutual friend introduced us.
I love the bike mods and your travel kit. Would you have done any of it
yes, the luggage was pretty crap – too heavy and too high.
How long did you spend preparing? Did you decide, Ok, I’m gonna do this and
go? Or put off the call for a bit until one day you could think of nothing
but the ride?
I spent about a year planning it
Isn’t the community of riders so amazing? It seems you found a bit of free
lodging through the network of cyclists.
Yes, the motorcycling community is heartwarming indeed, and I try to return those favours to other,
to keep the good will going round.
Any people you still keep in touch with?
Yes, I’m still in touch with several friends I met on the road
How did your gastronomy plans work out? Did you ever buy a stove?
No, I never bought a stove or did any cooking – raw fruit, veg and sandwiches is OK for me.
Did you already know how to work on your bike? Did it require a lot of
It required basic maintenance and I was used to working on my bike up to a certain level. The
engine needed some work (top end) in Peru which I got a local mechanic to do – big mistake!
Any thoughts that you couldn’t escape while driving?
Not really, I’m not tormented by my own thoughts! I write in my head as I ride.
Is your Mum adventurous? Where does this wanderlust come from?
My mum and dad are quite gung-ho – they are definitely not prissy!
I noticed one of your pictures is titled, upright for once on Ruta 40. How
many times was the rubber side up on the trip?
A few falls in sand in Baja and lots of trials in the 100mph winds in Patagonia.
Any big injuries?
No, nothing major. I witnessed a terrible injury of a riding companion in Bolivia though.
Did you ever think, “What the hell am I doing?”
No, not the Amercias trip. A few times on the AFrica trip.
It seems that you didn’t get married until after your 2003 trip. You mention
wearing a fake wedding ring and using your fake husband to get past a human
barricade….but now you have a husband????
I never thought about wearing a faker-then again I am a androgynous chamelon
I married Austin Vince, the most amazing person I have ever met.
10 months was a great length of time to give yourself. Did you plan to write a book before you hit the road?
No, I just wrote stuff on my website and it went from there – quite amazing really.
I know people love to offer gifts, out of hospitality and encouragement.
Favorite gift given to you?
I couldn’t accept any real gifts – no room in my luggage! Hospitality and help from strangers were
the greatest gifts I received.
Hero – my husband, Austin Vince. Heroines – Theresa Wallach – motorcycle adventuress from the 1930s
– look her up.
Advice for people traveling in South America?
Have fun and try and learn more Spanish than I did.
Did you change your gear for the Africa trip? What did you use if so.
Better luggage system.
You said “You wrote stuff from your website and it went from there.”
Tell me a little more about that, some inspiration for us bloggers.
I posted regular updates on my website and they got linnked to various sites around the world and
my site started getting lots of visits. A friend of a friend who is an author read my journal
entries and thought her agent would like it. She did and when I got home I wrote a book proposal
and the agent sent it out. Took about a year to get first publishing deal.
I’m sad that the posts are all taken down-but I guess I just have to get the book.
Does Serow sponsor you at all? Did you have any sponsors?
Serow is the model of the bike – it is made by Yamaha. But no, I’m not sponsored by them – or
anyone for that matter!
Finally, how do you define Peace? That’s for my website-since I’m making a
documentary on how people define peace.
Peace, from a personal point of view, is an feeling within yourself that comes from acceptance of
the way things are – Change what you can – accept what you can’t. On a grander scale, it would mean
everyone in the world accepting people who are different from them – much harder to achieve!
Spend some time checking out her website.
I think you are going to like what you find, so don’t be shy, give her books a go as well. And celebrate one woman cyclist who answered the call of her itchy feet. It’s so easy for us to sometimes hesitate and say, “Maybe later” or “what if such and such happens” Let’s applaud someone who shows us it is worse not to know what you are missing than to be fearful of what might happen.