The good, the bad, and the Harley
A few days ago, I went to visit a friend, and on the way there, I shared the road with hundreds of motorcycles, all heading for Sturgis, South Dakota. At one point, I was surrounded by about 30 bikes, something akin to what a bear must feel like when he breaks into a beehive. I also noticed something else that’s rather rare: one woman by herself on her own bike. “Breaking the Limit” by Karen Larsen (c.2004, Hyperion), is a book about the good, the bad, and the Harley, and what it’s like to travel alone through North America on two wheels.Karen Larsen’s love affair with motorcycles started at age 15 and she bought her first motorcycle at 19. She says that, growing up in New England, she loved riding around, becoming familiar with roads less traveled. After college, a stint in the Peace Corps, her father’s cancer diagnosis, and a health scare of her own, Larsen decided that, because she happened to be between jobs, it would be a good time to seize a dream and travel to Alaska on the back of her Harley Sportster.Packing extra clothing, a tent and other portable items, Larsen headed out across New Jersey into Pennsylvania and up to Niagara Falls; through Canada into Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and across America’s breadbasket into Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California, then north through Oregon, Washington and British Columbia to Alaska and back. Along the way, she saw wildlife and breath-takingly beautiful scenery. She met kindred souls, including some good-hearted campsite owners, bikers who shared information and meals, and homeowners who offered her a spot to rest. She broke up with her boyfriend, and was propositioned by a man who might have been perfect “another time”. She was almost killed by bad weather, bad roads, and bad drivers, and she met her birth parents who gave her up for adoption thirty-one years before.Much more than a book about “finding yourself”, Larsen has written a book about knowing who you are and feeling comfortable about it. While I liked “Breaking the Limit”, I thought that the incessant inventory of weather, while important, was a little tedious. I also thought that a map of Larsen’s route would have been nice. Not being intimately familiar with the roads (as one would be on a bike), the litany of specific routes taken on the trip made me a bit confused. Reading about up-close-and-personal peeks at America’s scenery was enjoyable, though, and really made me want to travel more than I do. Be sure that, when you’re done with this book, you go back and read the acknowledgements; there’s a little surprise for you there that won’t make any sense to you until you’re finished with Larsen’s story.”Breaking the Limit” is a perfect book for you if you’re looking for a little armchair excitement, or if you long for wind in your hair and a bike between your knees. VT
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