Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Review: The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling's Endless Road

Growing up, I was taught a pretty dim view of motorcycles: they were death traps, plain and simple. And, in at least one case, it was true - one of Shira's friend's had lost a parent due to a motorcycle accident. As an adult, I'm still quite skeptical of motorcycles, though I've got a perfectly sane friend who rides, so perhaps it's not just for the irresponsible?

And then along comes Melissa Pierson who authors The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling's Endless Road and my mind is changed. I'm officially impressed.

Pierson's book follows a number of tracks: the story of the Iron Butt Association (think: Iron Man Triathlon, but for motorcyclists), John Ryan, perhaps the world's ultimate long distance rider and her own story of embracing long distance riding. The style and tone of the book is unusual - it seems to jump around and not follow all the normal rules one might expect. I think this all lead to me enjoying it more. I was totally smitten by it, once I picked it up, could barely put it down.

Pierson does an excellent job taking someone like myself, who knows nothing about long distance riding, and bringing me into its culture (or cult?). She tells me that the average motorcyclist does 3,000 miles per year. To gain entry into the Iron Butt Association, you need to complete 1,000 miles in a single day. Think about that, at 50mph, that's 20 hours of riding! I'm not sure I could do 1,000 miles on Greyhound, much less on a motorcycle. Solo. Through any and all weather.

And 1,000 miles in a day, is just the beginning. Consider the 100CCC - that's coast to coast, and *back*, in 100 hours.

While I'm not going to jump on a motorcycle anytime soon (I'm happy with a bike and walking), it's hard not to be pulled in by the skill and endurance needed to take on these challenges. And they are done not for media attention or as some kind of PR stunt, but in the purest tradition of the explorer: to show they can be done. Period.

All in all, I found this to a most rewarding book: well written prose, stories that left my mouth agape, and philosophy that I can roll around in my head for days to come.

What else could I ask for?

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