One Woman, One Motorcycle, 20,000 Miles Across the Americas By :Lois Pryce Hardcover: 304 pages Publishers: Thomas Dunne, Arrow, St. Martin’s Press ISBN-10: 009949356X, 0312352212 ISBN-13: 978-0099493563, 978-0312352219 Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm Cost (List/Street): £8.99/£5.81 ($23.95/$16.29)
webBikeWorld.com Book Review by Alice Dryden
What happens when a bored commuter packs in her desk job to travel the length of the Pan-American Highway on a 225cc Yamaha Serow?
By turns funny, enthralling and scary, Lois on the Loose is a light read that’s perfect to take along on your own motorcycle adventure.
Most of us must have dreamed of clearing our desk, telling the boss where to stick it, and disappearing round the world on a motorcycle odyssey.
Lois Pryce is one rider who’s turned the dream into reality, quitting her job at the BBC to travel the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. At 29, she didn’t even wait for a mid-life crisis.
There are plenty of motorcycle travelogues out there, so what sets this one apart from the rest?
The very fact that Lois is a woman has undoubtedly made her journey a subtly different experience. Some people will always assume that women are weaker or less capable than men, which can place problems in the path of the female rider that their male counterparts won’t have.
On the flip side, sometimes doors will be opened and courtesies extended that would have remained off limits to a male rider.
Then there’s the bike. Wisely plumping for a vehicle she could lift by herself in the event of a drop, Lois made her trip on a 225cc Yamaha Serow. This tiny, tough, temperamental little beast makes a nice change from the big trailies we usually see attempting this kind of odyssey.
Lois’s writing style is funny and honest. She readily admits her mistakes and has a knack for describing incredibly frustrating or downright terrifying events with self-deprecating humour.
Riding solo most of the way, she is sometimes joined by a companion for a few miles or a few days. Lois has a good eye for character and paints excellent word-portraits of her fellow-riders and the other people, nice and nasty, she meets on her travels.
She vividly conveys the highs and lows of the adventure: crossing the Atacama Desert, joining a Harley rally in Ecuador, freezing temperatures in Peru and floods in Mexico. There’s one gruesome accident, too, but that’s all I’m saying – you’ll have to buy the book to find out what happens and to whom.
Colour photographs, including several snaps of the Serow on its side or stuck in mud, help recreate the atmosphere of the journey.
Unlike some travel writers, Lois doesn’t get bogged down in purple prose describing the magnificent scenery and how it made her feel like a tiny insignificant speck in the vast, awesome universe…and so on and so on. Her sense of wonder is apparent, but it’s never overdone, and she gets as excited about Inca Kola as she does about Inca ruins.
This was Lois’s first book and it does show in the writing, which is sometimes a little clumsy or just too chatty. She would have benefited from a stricter editor, too. The story took a while to get going; I didn’t need to read all the minutiae of office life, because that’s something I’m all too familiar with from my own daily grind. And some of the incidents described must have seemed funnier at the time than they do when committed to paper.
Yet the author’s joy and energy shine through her narrative, and carry the reader along. You can’t wait to find out what obstacles lie ahead and how Lois will get round them.
I bought Lois on the Loose after hearing the author speak at a club meeting. As fifty or so bikers listened spellbound to her punchy, witty anecdotes, it was easy to see how she had dealt so well with Canadian cops and Bolivian roadblocks.
Lois was kind enough to sign my copy for me. When I cracked it open, I saw that she had written ‘To Alice, Hope this gets you in the mood for an adventure!’