I put off reading this book until I had the time to do it justice – it waited quite a while in the end! Why wait? Well, this is a book by a first time author about riding a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle across the USA; 3 months on as many of the non-main routes as possible. Zoë Cano’s ambition? To complete her first long ride on a motorcycle and to find what the back roads would tell and show her about the USA. I liked the idea and I wanted it to be a great read, but I was worried that it could be a hackneyed, cliché packed, monotonous diary. I worried unnecessarily!
Zoë Cano is an adventurous soul and as you dig into Bonneville Go or Bust you find out that she actually has an adventure pedigree. In the early stages of the book she describes some of the escapades her father got up to, and you know that if the relevant parts of her particular gene pool haven’t been lost then the book could turn into an excellent read.
One of the things I ask myself when reading a book to review is, do I like the author/main character? Zoë Cano is instantly likeable though in some she will stir moments of envy. Those will be people who haven’t dared to, or been able to grab life by the horns and to run with it. The clever thing is that she builds this envy without making the reader dislike her. I started to be intrigued.
She takes you riding with her and she does so in such a way that every motorcyclist will relate to the journey. She also manages to make her writing so readable that non motorcyclists will start to feel the wind in their hair. I enjoyed reading the way her relationship with her bike grows from fear to friend. I was interested that even at the end of her ride she still retained elements of fear regarding her riding ability. Perhaps I shouldn’t call this fear though.
Yes, this book is a dairy of the journey and they can be boring, but Bonneville Go or Bust is far from that. The research is deep, the descriptions strong, and her connections with other people are open and friendly. She obviously enjoys people and wherever her journey brings her into touch with them, an inevitably fun, warm or wry moment is described. She doesn’t camp but stays in well researched hotels in quirky places – some of them obviously not at the budget end, but she always finds characters to meet. Many of her connections come from the fact that she doesn’t use a GPS so she frequently has to ask the way. Each of these meetings is like a pearl on a necklace! A corny comment? Yes, but read the book and you’ll see why it works.
Zoë Cano’s style of travel is absolutely her own. She doesn’t wear bike gear when she should – I cringed at some of the things she described. She doesn’t rely on letting her journey unfold in a haphazard way; she always has a plan. For me, one of the keys to this book is that in spite of all her research the journey isn’t over planned and is never stuffy. She revels in the opportunities to explore side roads and getting lost? Well that’s just part of the challenge, and fun. She’s fascinated by the landscapes and their histories; I thought I knew a lot about US history – I know far more now. Zoë Cano has an enquiring mind, and an honesty that is part of her likeability.
What can you expect to find in this book? Rodeos, steaks, burgers and country music, mesas and buttes, old mining towns, the Bonneville Salt Flats, classic motels and tucked away ranches. 4th of July celebrations, weather extremes and moments of fear. Motorcyclists and travellers, the Pony Express, tourist trail must sees, back road twists and turns, long lonely desert roads and craggy mountain tops. Actually, Zoë Cano turns more than a few US clichés into colourful living realities and she brings history alive in such a way that you may well want to make this ride too! If you are already planning such a trip for yourself, then add this to your reading list. It’ll help you.
This is a marvellous book. I hope we will see more from Zoë Cano; a talented author.
Launched 12th July 2014 and you can snag a copy on this link.