You would be forgiven for never having heard of Elspeth Beard; until very recently, I hadn’t either. Yet she was a brilliant, accomplished professional and keen adventuress, and really does deserve to be better known than she is. She was not only an award winning architect, but she was the first woman to travel the globe on a motorcycle. Surprisingly, this was a lot more recently than I had expected it to be (and more recently than the photograph implies) – she began the trip in 1982, only thirty four years ago!
Riding a BMW R60 (thank you Husband for identifying the vehicle for me – he’s good at that) her route started in New York, riding to Canada and Mexico before reaching California and shipping everything to Sydney. After riding around Australia, she went onto Singapore, Thailand and most of South East Asia, before traversing the Indian sub-continent and returning to Europe via Turkey and the Middle East. She returned to the UK in 1984 after riding some 48,000 miles.
When I was much younger, I read a book by Dervla Murphy entitled “From Dunkirk to Delhi”, which detailed her bicycle ride from France to India in the 1950s, going through areas which are now closed off due to war and unrest. I long dreamed of repeating the ride, or doing something similar and would spend hours with an atlas plotting my route; but I’m hopeless on a pushbike and not much better on one with an engine. But these women are, for me, truly inspirational and I hope someone, somewhere, finds her feat something to be matched – or bettered.
I also think that Ms Beard, and Ms Murphy for that matter, are two wonderfully adventurous women who deserve to be better known than they are.