Two wheels good, four wheels bad
Book: Sons of Thunder Writing from the Fast Lane: A Motorcycle Anthology
Editor: Neil Bradford
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing
Pages: 272 pages
Price: Rs 384
"Have faith," exhorts the travel writer Mark Carter in Uneasy Rider. "Look where you want to go. The bike will follow. It has to." But hair-raising tales from elsewhere in this burbling little anthology suggest that the sons of thunder are not always so tractable. Quite often, the bike leads the way and maps the journey. The rider just hangs on.
What journeys the sons of thunder take the easy rider on! Thousands of miles. Tens of thousands of miles. Riders speak of intercontinental distances on bad roads, or even no roads, in the tone appropriate for a stroll down to the grocer's on the corner. In Lois on the Loose (2007), retired record shop assistant Lois Pryce clocks 20,000 miles solo from northern Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, and retains her sense of humour all the way.
This anthology foregrounds a badly-kept secret about the history of motorcycling: some of the most daring journeys have been undertaken by women. Women with something to prove. Women with nothing to lose. Women who just want to go someplace, are not sure why, but expect to find out.
In December 1934, the acerbic Lady Astor (remembered chiefly as Winston Churchill's verbal sparring partner), flagged off an unusual contraption on an extraordinary journey, declaring that she was "an unrepentant feminist and convinced that whatever a man can do, a women can do as well." The women being sent off were Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron, their machine was a monstrous 600cc single-cylinder Panther with a sidecar and a trailer the size of a Godrej almirah, and it would take them from London through France, Algeria and the Sahara to the Cape of Good Hope. The journey was billed as impossible and still sounds improbable in the GPS era.
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