‘MotoRaid’ by Keith Thye

In 1963 Keith Thye and buddy Dave set off from Oregon to Chile on a pair of R50 BMWs. It wasn’t until 1999 that the story made it to paper. Now, contemporary recollections of historic overland journeys often go one of two ways: a blow by blow travelogue taken from diary entries and now lacking context, or a wildly over dramatized interpretation of the author’s memories (or fantasies).

Interestingly, MotoRaid manages to be an edited version of the former but written in a manner that does contextualise the whole experience of riding the PanAmerican Highway before it was sealed, or even properly demarcated.

It begins slowly enough and although not a ‘page turner’, managed to draw me in as the pace quickened. The writing doesn’t metamorphose, but the experiences the lads are having certainly do. The longer they are on the road and the more their funds deplete, the more their attitudes change and thus the more exciting it all becomes.

This is interesting because it is being written 35 years after the event and yet Keith hasn’t tried to sex it all up in hindsight. It’s not a literary masterpiece and there isn’t attempt at adjective overload, but it somehow remains a really good read; an honest recounting of an amazing experience which I was in fact sad to reach the final page of. And what a finish! But I won’t give it away.

It’s adventure riding from way before the term existed and before GPS, Gortex or disc brakes. From a time when the ambassador could get you out of jail and strangers let you walk on the bed of the Panama Canal… It’s great stuff.

Paddy Tyson

ISBN: 0-944958-48-6
Paperback 238pp assorted B&W images £17.99
Published by Elfin Cove Press, Seattle (1999)