In The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling’s Endless Road, Melissa Holbrook Pierson sets out to explain why people participate in a sport when the ultimate gratification lies simply in riding. She profiles some of the “World’s Toughest Motorcyclists,” including John Ryan. Ryan has a serious medical condition, but that doesn’t prevent him from taking incomparable pleasure in long-distance rides.
Forty two years ago, a curious tourist from the U.S. wandered into a motorcycle shop in Oxford, England.
Shortly thereafter, he rode out of the shop’s parking lot on a 1969 BSA Starfire.
Yup, it was me. I owned the motorcycle for a little over a year. I sold it for what it had cost me, thanked my stars that I’d walked away from the adventure unbroken, and hadn’t thought much about motorcycles since.
Then I read The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing by Melissa Holbrook Pierson.
The longest ride I made on that Starfire was Brewster, on Cape Cod, to the suburb of New York City where I grew up. I rode through a couple of rain showers during that late summer day. I arrived at my parents’ house feeling one part brave, two parts lucky, and altogether exhausted.
The people about whom Melissa Pierson writes ride from the east coast to the west coast, pause briefly to document what they’ve done by buying gas with a credit card in San Francisco, and then head back. They participate in exotic rallies that require them to do things like ride to the scenes of the nation’s most bizarre crimes. Fast. They celebrate when one of their number rides from the northernmost accessible (barely) point in Alaska to Key West in less time than anyone has previously done it.
Melissa Pierson is one of them, but not so entirely one of them that she cannot step off her own motorcycle for long enough to tell the stories of the members of the Iron Butt Association, the self-proclaimed “World’s Toughest Motorcycle Riders.” Anyone who appreciates the achievement of an extraordinary writer who finds a subject about which she cares passionately will recognize her book as a gift to readers.