The Motorcycle Diaries: Tips from the Back of the Saddle

The Motorcycle Diaries: Tips from the Back of the Saddle

A few years ago Elisabeth Eaves, author of the travel memoir Wanderlust, took a motorcycle ride around Europe. But she didn’t drive. She sat on the back while her friend piloted them on a Suzuki Bandit in a loop that began in Prague and snaked through Poland and Slovakia. Here, she shares what she learned about life on the back seat.

“Trying to read a folding map on the back of a motorcycle is like trying to do origami in a wind tunnel. Hold the map flat against the driver’s back or it will take flight. A plastic sheath ensured that part of Poland wouldn’t rip off and be left on the road.”

“An eight-hour drive on two wheels leaves both riders saddle sore. We stopped at least every two hours to do roadside jumping jacks. This helped prevent end-of-day bowleggedness. Plus, passing drivers often found this amusing.”

“Give up any ideas of looking like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and dress practically. The wind is chilly and sunburn is a threat. Even if it looks silly, buy the helmet with the chin guard. I didn’t, and the lower half of my face got chapped.”

“Back roads are best for photos. Sure, there’s the thrill of speed on highways, but when we slowed down, it was easy to sit back and shoot. We rarely saw other motorcycles, so I took a lot of photos of kids staring in surprise at our shiny blue Suzuki.”

My travel memoir, Wanderlust, spans 15 years of roaming the globe, taking readers on a wondrous ride from the South Pacific to the Middle East to the capitals of Europe and beyond. The New York Times Book Review called it “a heady, headlong chronical of a decade and a half spent adrift,” and said “her vivid tales…make the journey a vicarious pleasure.” I’m also the author of Bare, a non-fiction book about strippers that the Washington Post called “a first-rate, first-person work of social anthropology.” My travel writing has appeared in The Best American Travel Writing, among other anthologies, and won me three Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers.
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