July 2006

Teaching Motorcycle Travel Literature

Steven Alford

The literature of motorcycle travel can be taught at the university level in a variety of ways.  Here are some suggestions.

Unlike other subgenres within travel literature (e.g., travel by women, religious travel, etc.), motorcycle travel literature is circumscribed by the existence of the internal combustion engine.  For convenience sake, we can point to 1894 as the potential beginning of motorcycle travel, the year in which the firm of Hildebrand & Wolfmüller in Munich, Germany established the first national patent for a motorcycle and began production and commercial sale of the machines.  This gives us an active period of approximately 110 years.  By 1903 people were already using motorcycles as tools for extended travel, such as one Dr. Herzog, a German doctor who used the vehicle for his professional travel, logging 8620 kilometers in eight months, colliding with only two horses in the process.  Two early adventure travelers were G. Schwarz and W. Glöckler, who traveled 1600 km through the Black Forest and Switzerland, crossing passes of over 2000 meters. Take that, Ewan McGregor!

As well, people began writing about traveling by motorcycle almost as soon as they were able to do so, as evidenced by W. H. L. Watson’s 1915 book, Adventures of a Despatch Rider, and Lady Warren’s Through Algeria and Tunisia (1922).  Every year the shelf of motorcycle travel books grows in both quantity and quality.  How is one to go about organizing the literature for pedagogical purposes?

Two general directions suggest themselves.  First, one could use historical, geographical, or technological information about the motorcycle itself.  Second, one could use theoretical concepts already in play in scholarly discussions of travel literature and apply them to motorcycles.  Let’s look at the first option:

A simple approach would be to look at motorcycle travel literature historically.  A sample list would include the following currently available texts:

Fulton, Robert Edison, Jr. One Man Caravan. 1937.  North Conway, NH: Whitehorse Press, 1996.

Simon, Ted. Jupiter's Travels. Covelo, CA: Jupitalia, 1979.

Culberson, Ed. Obsessions Die Hard: Motorcycling  the Pan American Highway's Jungle Gap. North Conway, New Hampshire: Whitehorse Press, 1991.

Noren, Allen. Storm: A Motorcycle Journey of Love, Endurance, and Transformation. San Francisco: Travelers' Tales, 2000.

Haffar, Rif K.  Away From My Desk. Seattle: Ameera, 2002.

McGregor, Ewan and Charlie. Boorman, et al. Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World. London: Time Warner Books, 2004.

Note the large gap between Fulton and Simon.  Many books during this period are either out of print or otherwise unobtainable.  There are, however, books in French, Spanish, Italian and German, for those who could use them.

Another approach would be geographical.  For example, one could write about African travel.  Among such books would be these:

Bausenhart, Werner. Africa: Against the Clock on a Motorcycle. Toronto: Legas, 2002.

Bealby, Johnny. Running With the Moon. London: Arrow Books, 1995.

Scott, Chris.  Desert Travels: Motorbike Journeys in the Sahara & West Africa. London: The Traveler's Bookshop, 1996.

Smith, Jerry. Into the Heart of Africa. Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2002.

Wallach, Theresa. The Rugged Road. London: Panther Publishing, 2001.

These are all fine and entertaining books.

Given the prevalence of certain motorcycle marques used in traveling (e.g., the Yamaha XT; various BMWs, most recently the 1200 GS), one could also organize one’s reading around a specific marque.

A second approach, as noted above, would be to take theoretical concepts from scholarly work on travel and then apply them to motorcycle books.  For example, Paul Fussell’s notion of exploration, travel, and tourism (found in Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars [New York: Oxford University Press, 1980]) provides a way or organizing one’s thoughts around the historically evolving ideas of what modern travel signifies.  Or, one could use a concept that is not strictly travel-identified, but quite useful, such as “speed.”  Such a general concept would allow one to bring to bear the ideas of writers from Marinetti, the originator of Futurism, to Virilio, a prolific contemporary French author on the significance of speed.

The sociology of travel and tourism might also be a useful approach, although it obviously focuses on the political and social, rather than the literary realms of motorcycle travel, as suggested by the following sources:

Alt, Alan. "Popular Culture and Mass Consumption: The Motorcycle as Cultural Commodity." Journal of Popular Culture 15.4 (Spring 1982): 129-141.

Barrell, John. "Death on the Nile: Fantasy and the Literature of Tourism." Essays in Criticism 41.2 (1991): 97-128.

MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Schocken Books, 1976.

Olszewska, Anna and K. Roberts. Leisure and Life-Style: A Comparative Analysis of Free Time. London: Sage, 1989.

Pearce, Philip L. The Social Psychology of Tourist Behavior. New York: Pergamon Press, 1982.

Pred, Alan. "Structuration and Place: On the Becoming of Sense of Place and Structure of Feeling." Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 13 (1983): 45-68.

Rojek, Chris. Capitalism and Leisure Theory. London: Tavistock Publications, 1985.

Urry, John. "The 'Consumption' of Tourism." Sociology 24 (1990): 23-36.

---. The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage Publications, 1990.

Finally, one could also take historical understandings of the meaning of travel and, using them as a contrast, tease out what it means to travel by bike.  Here are some texts that describe, in different ways, the relation between history, epistemology, and travel:

Casson, Lionel. Travel in the Ancient World. Toronto: Hakkert, 1974.

Campbell, Mary B. The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400-1600. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.

Newton, Arthur P. Travel and Travellers of the Middle Ages, 1968.

Brundage, James A. The Crusades: Motives and Achievments, 1964.

Penrose, Boise. Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance: 1420-1620, 1962.
Adams, Percy. Travelers and Travel Liars: 1600-1800. Berkeley: U California Press, 1962.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. Chicago: U Chicago Press, 1991.

Todorov, Tzevtan. The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1984.

Batten, Charles. Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in 18th Century Travel Literature. Berkeley: U California Press, 1978.

Van Den Abbeele, George. Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 1992.

Franklin, Wayne. Discoverers, Explorers, Settlers: The Diligent Writers of Early America. Chicago: U Chicago Press, 1990.

Parks, George. "The Turn to the Romantic in Travel Literature of the Eighteenth Century." Modern Language Quarterly 25 (1964): 22-33.

Buzard, James. The Beaten Track. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.

Withey, Lynne. Grand Tours and Cook's Tours: A History of Leisure Travel, 1750-1915. New York: William H. Morrow, Inc., 1997.

Feifer, Maxine. Tourism in History. New York: Stein and Day, 1985.

I hope this brief excursus is sufficiently provocative.  I will append a by-no-means exhaustive list of books on motorcycles and travel.  Some authors, such as Werner Bausenhart, have multiple works not listed here.  You will see many of the titles above duplicated below.

Baker, Christopher. P. Mi Moto Fidel. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 2001.

Barr, Dave. Riding the Edge: An 83,000 Mile Motorcycle Adventure Around the World! Bodfish, CA: Dave Barr Publishers, 1999.

Bausenhart, Werner. Around the Americas on a Motorcycle. New York: Legas, 2000.

---. Africa: Against the Clock on a Motorcycle. Toronto: Legas, 2002.

Bealby, Jonny. Running With the Moon. London: Arrow Books, 1995.

Carlstein, Andrés. Odyssey to Ushuaia. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2002.

Carroll, William. Two Wheels to Panama. San Marcos, CA: Auto Book Press, 1995.

Culberson, Ed. Obsessions Die Hard: Motorcycling  the Pan American Highway's Jungle Gap. North Conway, NH: Whitehorse Press, 1991, 1996.

Dautheville, Anne-France. Une Demoiselle sur une Moto. Paris: Flammarion, 1973.

de Mandiargues, Andre Pieyre. The Motorcycle. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1965

Drutt, Matthew, ed. The Art of the Motorcycle. New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1998.

Evans, Paula. Kiwis Might Fly: Around New Zealand on Two Big Wheels. London, Bantam Books, 2004.

Frazier, Gregory. Riding the World: The Biker's Road Map for a Seven-Continent Adventure. Irvine, CA: Bowtie Press, 2005.

Fulton, Robert Edison, Jr. One Man Caravan. 1937. North Conway, NH: Whitehorse Press, 1996.

Haffar, Rif K. Away From My Desk. Seattle: Ameera, 2002.

Heggstad, Glen. Two Wheels Through Terror. Center Conway, NH: Whitehorse Press, 2004.

Holfelder, Moritz. Motorradfahren. Muenchen: Deutscher Tashenbuch Verlag, 2000.

Hollern, Susie. Women and Motorcycling. New York: Hollern, 1992.

Hunt, Christopher. Sparring with Charlie: Motorbiking Down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. New York: Anchor Books, 1996.

John, Erika. Motorrad-Amazone: Strassen bis zum Horizont. Berlin: Erijott-Verlag, 1985.

La Plante, Richard. Detours: Life, Death, and Divorce on the Road to Sturgis. New York: Forge, 2002.

Larsen, Karen. Breaking the Limit: One Woman's Motorcycle Journey Through America. New York, Hyperion, 2004.

Liska, Danny. Two Wheels to Adventure. Niobrara, Nebraska: Bigfoot Publishing, 1989.

McGregor, Ewan and Charlie Boorman, et al. Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World. London: Time Warner Books, 2004.

Miyake, Notch. Purple Mountains: America From a Motorcycle. North Conway, NH: Whitehorse Press, 2001.

Moore, Peter. Vroom With a View. London: Bantam Books, 2003.

Noren, Allen. Storm: A Motorcycle Journey of Love, Endurance, and Transformation. San Francisco: Travelers' Tales, 2000.

Paulsen, Gary. Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride. New York, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997.

Pedersen, Helge. 10 Years on Two Wheels. Elfin Cove Press, 1998.

Perreault, Celine. Partir . . .  J'avais peur.  Je L'aimais.  Je l'ai suivi. Quebec: Libre Expression, 1980.

Philipp, Christine. Motorradreisen durch Americka, Finnland, Sri Lanka and Rumaenien. Muenchen: Sonnentau Verlag, Christine Philipp, 1984.

Pierson, Melissa Holbrook. The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles. New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Pirsig, Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. New York, William Morrow, 1974, 1999.

Reynolds, Tom. Wild Ride: How Outlaw Motorcycle Myth Conquered America. New York, TVBooks, 2001.

Rogers, Jim. Investment Biker: Around the World with Jim Rogers. Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 1994.

Scheib, Asta. Schwere Reiter. Muechen: Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, 1982.

Scott, Chris. Desert Travels: Motorbike Journeys in the Sahara & West Africa. London: The Traveler's Bookshop, 1996.

Shannon, Alyn. Women of the Road. Minneapolis: Shannon, 1995.

Sheridan, Clare. Across Europe with Satanella. New York: Mead & Company, 1925.

Simon, Ted. Jupiter's Travels. 1979. Covelo, CA: Jupitalia, 1996.

---. Riding High. 1984. Covelo, CA: Jupitalia, 1997.

Sobolev, I. S. K. Nansen Passport: Round the World on a Motor-cycle. N.P.: Bell, 1936.

Steiner, Elfriede. Ein Maedchen sieht Europa. Wein: Weltfahrten-Verlag, 1956.

Symmes, Patrick. Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend. New York: Vintage, 2000.

Thomas, Peggy Iris. A Ride in the Sun. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1954.

Thye, Keith. MotoRaid. Seattle, WA: Elfin Cove Press, 1999.

Tin, Hjalte and Nina Rasmussen. Traumfahrt Sued-Amerika: Auf dem Motorrad mit Kindern von L.A. nach Rio. Muenchen: Frederking und Thaler, 1983.

Wallach, Theresa. The Rugged Road. London: Panther Publishing, 2001.

Warren, Lady. Through Algeria and Tunisia. N.P.: Cape, 1922.

Watson, W. H. L. Adventures of a Despatch Rider. N.P.: Blackwood, 1915.