Motorcycling world travelers Lois Pryce and Austin Vince, visiting Knoxville on a cross-country trip in a Ural sidecar rig, stopped by the Time Warp Tea Room Thursday evening, July 30, and gave a pair of presentations on their travels. Both were very entertaining, Vince a bit more ribald than Pryce, and both were hilarious and inspiring at the same time.
Lois Pryce looks like the typical English woman you might find working in her rose garden, complete with red and white polka-dot hat. But in 2003 she rode a Yamaha 225 20,000 miles from Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America, chronicled in her first book, Lois on the Loose. Then in 2006 she embarked on a four-month ride from London to Cape Town, South Africa, the southernmost tip of the African continent, this time on a Yamaha TTR250. Lois wrote Red Tape and White Knuckles to record that adventure.
Her tales of African adventure, followed by a photo presentation set to some amazing music, enchanted the audience and riveted the large group of women riders who crowded the Tea Room. One of Pryce's key messages was that crossing Africa as a woman alone on a motorcycle wasn't nearly as hard as she thought or as dangerous and friends and family warned her. Another was that Africa is the place to do such an adventure: "There's always going to be Africa. In an increasingly globalized world, Africa's the last place you can have a really proper, wild adventure, where you don't know what the hell is going to happen from day to day."
Following a Q&A session and some group photos with the women riders and the Ural, Lois turned over the microphone to Austin Vince, decked out in a set of white coveralls with green and purple stripes and a "maintenance supervisor" patch. "I have about 15 pair of overalls. It's all I wear," Vince quipped. He might have looked the nerd, but Vince has also earned his motorcycle adventure chops.
Before Lois did her two north-to-south globe-trotting expeditions, Austin Vince, along with his brother and five British friends, had traveled around the world from west to east, twice. The 1995-96 trip was called Mondo Enduro and its goal was to go around the world via the longest possible route in the shortest amount of time. The trip took 440 days and covered 44,000 miles. It spawned a British TV show and later a book by the same name. A second trip in 2000 again circumnavigated the globe, this time conquering the 400-mile Zilov Gap in Siberia, a roadless stretch that forced the Mondo Enduro team to retreat to the train. Terra Circa, as the trip was called, eventually resulted in a six-part British TV series. The makers of the film Long Way Round consulted with Vince and the team during the planning stages of their film. The Long Way Round route avoids Zilov Gap.
Vince's presentation was funny and self-deprecating: "Eric, when he introduced me, gave the impression I'm some kind of professional adventurer, which is quite untrue. I'm bland, lower-middle class, and suburban to the core." Vince teaches math and coaches rugby in St. Johns Northwood, England. He stressed how minimalistic a trip around the world could be, without tons of expensive, high-tech gear or giant adventure-touring machines. On both trips the riders took basic Suzuki DR350 enduro bikes and mostly camped along the way.
Vince inserted comical and faintly off-color slides into his presentation at key points, and poked gentle fun at Ewan McGregor. Juxtaposed with a slick adventure-themed cologne ad McGregor appears in was a photo of Vince, selling Mondo Enduro books at a motorcycle show, this time in blue striped overalls.
Both Pryce and Austin, who married in 2006, stressed how entirely do-able a round-the-world motorcycle trip can be, solo or with a group, if it's kept simple. The show ran late, but the crowd endured the warm night in rapt attention, and then hung around for a book-signing session. The couple was headed west to Memphis and then across America to Seattle. Information about Lois, her travels, and her books is available at www.loisontheloose.com, while information on the Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa adventures is available at www.mondoenduro.com.