Lois Pryce is not your everyday traveler. On a whim, some of us may book a quick weekend holiday to somewhere sunny and relaxing. On April 23, 2003, Lois left behind her warm houseboat in London and set off on a solo motorcycle trip from the northern tip of Alaska to the southern most point of Argentina — 20,000 miles in 10 months, passing through 14 different countries, and lived to tell about it in her book, Lois on the Loose: One Woman, One Motorbike, 20,000 Miles Across the Americas, due out on March 20, 2007.
We got a chance to sit down and talk travel with Lois, to find out what it’s like to plan and experience a trip of this magnitude. She makes it all seem so easy…
Gadling has a few advance copies of the book, so stay tuned after the interview to find out how you can win a copy for yourself!
Gadling: How did you get started traveling (in general)?
Lois: This trip was my first big journey. Until then I had only had ‘normal’ holidays of a few weeks at a time. But I have always had itchy feet, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I did a longer journey.
G: Are there other authors or travelers (or both) that inspired you to take a trip like this?
L: I read Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon – like all budding motorcycle travellers do! But the book that really had me gnashing my teeth in excitement was the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook by Chris Scott. It’s an excellent combination of practical advice and inspiring tales from the road by other motorbike travellers.
G:How did your friends and family come to terms with your decision to quit your day job and travel long-term?
L: They were all pretty good about it. Most of them thought it was a good idea, my mum and dad are quite gung-ho and would never try and stop me doing anything. My friends were very supportive, and my boss was probably glad to get rid of me!
G: What was your biggest fear going in to your Americas trip?
L: I was worried about not being able to speak Spanish in Latin America and also just about general safety. But once I got out there and started doing it, I realised that in fact, the whole thing is so much easier (and safer) than I could ever have imagined!
G: Tim Cahill did a similar route — Alaska to the tip of South America — in a truck for Road Fever, and had a pretty tough time. You did it on a motorcycle. What were some of the reoccurring challenges you faced on the road?
L: On a bike you are much more affected by the weather than in a truck or car, and I encountered everything from deep snow in Alaska to baking desert heat in Mexico, and there were tropical rainstorms in Central America and 100 mph winds in Patagonia too. Keeping the bike going is an ongoing part of life on the road, so you have to keep up the maintenance – changing oil, lubricating the chain and tightening up any nuts and bolts that have shaken loose on the dodgy roads!
G: Your route took you through (what looks like) at least 10 different countries, each with their own particular challenges. How much time did you spend before the trip planning for things like visas, routes, lodging, and whatnot, or was it all done spur-of-the-moment while en route?
L: All in all I visited 14 countries on this trip, but there’s only so much you can plan in advance because unexpected things happens every day. So I got all the necessary info about visas and documentation before I left and I also spent a lot of time poring over the maps, planning a rough route. But when it came to accommodation I just worked that out on a daily basis. It’s important to be flexible on a journey like this because things rarely go to plan!
G: What did you learn from a trip like this?
L: I learnt that it is much easier than I thought it would be, and that no matter how badly it might be going, things always work out OK in the end.
G: The book was born out of your on-line journal — how did you update on the road? What sort of technology did you bring with you?
L: I didn’t really have any technology with me on the road – just a 35mm Nikon camera. My brother initially set up the website for me and I would email him my journal entries and scan in my pictures in Internet cafes, and he would update the site back in London.
G: Right now you’re half-way through another motorcycle journey, this time across Africa. How’s it going? Where are you now? How much longer is left?
L: Well, I am now back home in London. But I made it to Cape Town. It was quite an adventure, especially crossing the Sahara and riding through the Congo and Angola. But I’m back in one piece, so I’m relieved about that!
G: What’s next after Africa? L:
I will be writing a book about my Africa trip which will be published in Spring 2008. After that… who knows? If I was to do another long journey on the bike, it would be from the UK to India, but for now I’m happy to be back home in London.
Lois Pryce’s Lois on the Loose: One Woman, One Motorbike, 20,000 Miles Across the Americas (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $23.95) debuts in bookstores this month.
And like I mentioned earlier, we have a few copies of the book to give away, so if you’d like one for yourself, simply visit Lois’s website and find out the make and model of her first bike. Send your answer as well as your name and mailing address in an email to contest (at) gadling.com with the subject “LOIS” and we’ll pick two winners at random from all entries that contain the correct answer. If you’re one of them, we’ll mail your prize to the address you included in your email. Open to residents of U.S. who are 18 and older. See Official Rules for details. Good luck!