“The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing”

Review by Jon Row

Good motorcycle books don’t come along often enough. Books that take you to motorcycle netherworlds and make you look differently at life are even more rare.

The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing is Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s second book about motorcycles. Her first, “The Perfect Vehicle What is it About Motorcycles”, has been translated into ten languages. “Stop at Nothing” is actually three stories. First and foremost an insiders view of motorcycling’s Iron Butt Rider subculture and extreme distance record holder John Ryan. Ryan’s amazing 2009 ride from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to Key West Florida covering 5,641 miles in 86 ½ hours, was epic and Pierson gives us a great seat to re live it. As she learns more about what drives Ryan and others like him, she finds herself attracted to them and long distances. Pursuing distances on her own, Pierson takes us on a personal ride of re discovery, of motorcycling, and of herself. Pierson shares her struggle to justify a middle age, single-mother’s parental responsibility against riding’s risks. “I received the gift of knowing my riding seasons are numbered, and now I see the paper in which it’s wrapped is reusable too. If I waited until my child was grown and on his own I could have a two wheeled ride all right: an aluminum walker with wheels.” (Excerpted from The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing by Melissa Holbrook Pierson. Copyright (c) 2011 by Melissa Holbrook Pierson.")

Today’s interstates and modern machines make it easier to achieve the thousand miles in 24 hours benchmark that has defined “real riders” since the ‘40’s. Thousand mile days are just warm-ups for the Iron Butt Association riders Pierson introduces to us. She shares their tricks and techniques to help you understand what it takes to try it. Going beyond the hypnotic, mind cleansing effects a good stretch of black & white line provides, Pierson offers more to contemplate. She explores primal needs and other reasons why we’re drawn to risk taking and extreme riding. “We (humans) were built to contend with threats that swept down from trees, food that ran swiftly away, blood that spilled and could not be stopped. Pushing an overflowing cart through Wal-Mart does not count.”

The book’s perspectives on life, mortality and distance riding are unique and provoking. Pierson artfully puts thoughts and feelings into words: “You know a motorcycle is a but a machine: it can’t think, feel, or infer: It is outside any value system. It is a tool – like a lathe, a dishwasher, the family car, a computer (which is far more complex)” “You may spend more time with your computer, may depend on it for everything from a livelihood to a means of communication with others, but you’re never going to feel it has a soul. Souls are the province of motorcycles alone among machines.”

Pierson eloquently reminds us that our motorcycle’s unique multi-axis handling capabilities give us art brush-like liberties with the road and the wind: “The act of riding imbues the bike with a spirit: the time spent with it is creationary, so that the key in the ignition is the active equivalent of Michelangelo’s God reaching out to Adam with one electrical spark calling forth all of human existence.”

“The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing” is a great read. A motorcycle book that can captivate hard-core riders and the merely curious. It makes you look forward to your next ride. It also makes you reflect on your longest ride, pokes your inner consciousness and makes you ponder why you haven’t ridden further…much further, at least once.

Norton Publishing
Price: $ 24.99

Get yours at www.amazon.com/Would-Stop-Nothing-Long-Distance-Motorcyclings/dp/039307904X

John Ryan and Melissa Holbrook Pierson

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Tags: books, iron butt