‘American Borders’ by Carla King

American Borders Carla King OverlandSo an American rides around the USA; interesting reading? Well yes, and not because she’s travelling as a solo woman, or did the trip twenty years ago, or even because she’s using a Ural 650 outfit which breaks down way too often. This book is interesting because it’s a lovely blend of the personal reminisce and the public exploration. Familial flashbacks aren’t indulgence on the part of the author but rather add to what the book is doing, namely painting a picture of the USA across time, and ever so gently enticing you to go there to see for yourself. And that surely is what a travel book is meant to do.

Taking four months and riding 10,000 miles from California to California in a generally clockwise direction, Carla meets all sorts, dabbles in a little romantic tension and embraces a huge amount of mechanical frustration. She’s mechanically capable so this is not a tale of a damsel in distress, but it does demonstrate the sincerity with which the Ural importers in the ‘States were trying to build a brand new business with a product they were importing from a post-soviet Russia. It wasn’t a good product by any stretch of the imagination in 1995 and yet they were prepared to support Carla wherever she was in their endeavours to learn from the breakdowns and improve their product.

That all sounds rather corporate until you discover it’s really just two guys and a few brand new dealers they’ve drafted in to the cause, who are yet to learn about the machines they are going to be retailing. And repairing.

So eloquent and illustrative is some of the prose that it really transports you through the geographically diverse regions contained within the north American landmass. The woods and mountains of West Virginia; the flat lands of Montana; the deserts of Arizona and the swamplands of the deep south; it’s such a pity that she decided not to head up into New England. She paints a picture of the US and the people within it which acknowledges the cultural breadth of the place but doesn’t need to denigrate anyone to do so. It’s refreshing. It’s engaging. And it could so easily be otherwise as this is someone who is comfortable mixing with the rich and famous in Santa Monica. Thankfully she’s also comfortable being covered in oil beneath an ailing 650 twin or tearing through the woods on old Honda dirt bikes. The 223 pages of text have a smattering of B&W images that really aren’t necessary as the writing is so graphical.

But having said all that, it’s easy to criticise this book now that I realise why I took so long to get around to reading it. Simply put, the cover doesn’t inspire at all and sadly doesn’t match the quality of the content. This isn’t always an easy book to find in the UK, but it’s worth putting in the effort.

ISBN: 978-0-9646445-1-9
Paperback 223pp £10.95
Published by MotorcycleMisadventures.com (2007)