Monday, August 6, 2012

Gasoline gypsy Peggy Iris Thomas took A Ride in the Sun

Her hair wild from riding without a cap, Peggy Iris Thomas
is featured in The Calgary Herald of Aug. 7, 1951.
Gordon May is a motorcyclist and author known for his Overland to India trip on his 1953 Royal Enfield Bullet. Now he deserves the thanks of motorcyclists everywhere for preserving the story of Peggy Iris Thomas.

Thomas, a 26-year-old English girl, rode a tiny BSA Bantam motorcycle across Canada, the United States and Mexico in 1951-'52. She wrote a book describing the trip. Variously titled "A Ride in the Sun" or "Gasoline Gypsy," it had gone out of print. Thomas died in an automobile accident in 1982.

Gordon May knew the story and, when he decided to ride his own BSA Bantam in an Overland to Egypt  project he nicknamed his little machine "Peggy" in her honor.

Eventually he tracked down her family and got permission to return "A Ride in the Sun or Gasoline Gypsy" to print.

I've just finished reading it. It's too bad Peggy Iris Thomas did not write any other books. This one is funny, breezy, brave, heartwarming and enjoyable.

Peggy's little BSA was loaded to three times its weight, and not only with camping gear and food. She brought a typewriter and, most remarkably, a very large dog.

The dog's size she saw as an advantage, since she considered him her one means of protection on the road.

Peggy's service in the Royal Navy WRNS during the war probably helped steel her to the problems of traveling alone. She was annoyed by the whistles and wisecracks but accepted them as the price to be paid. Applying lipstick in the rear-view mirror of a motorcycle by the side of the road was bound to invite attention; she chose to feel appreciated rather than insulted.

A constant problem was how to get out of her pajamas in the morning when camped only a few feet from the road. It was difficult to manage in her tiny pup tent but doing it while standing outside the tent required careful timing. She had to accept risks — showering in a man's room at a hotel — if she was going to succeed.

Peggy had the courage to do it. Nearly penniless in Miami she spent a night as a "car hop," forced to stand near the street in shorts to attract customers. She gave that up for a job at a soda fountain, knowing full well that she wouldn't be around in two weeks to collect her first paycheck — all she would get out of the job was the  nickel-and-dime tips.

She counted on the kindness of people she met but was always pleasantly surprised when, after telling her story, strangers fed her and housed her for a night.

Through it all she is an intrepid motorcyclist. She rides barefoot in a storm rather than get her shoes wet, removes grease from her skin with cold cream and pushes the BSA into the rain to rinse it after a wash.

The 226-page book is available in soft cover at a reasonable price from Rixon Groove Publishing. The new book includes pictures of Peggy, her motorcycle and dog not included in the original.

But let's say you want one of the originals. There is one for sale right now on

The price asked is $1,150.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2/24/2013

    I have read the book twice over the years. It is billiant. A lovely adventure story. Steve : A 1966 Bantam D7 owner since 1975.


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