BMW Motorcycle Riding Adventure:MotoRaid, Keith Thye

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Keith Thye's Illiad and Odyssey: Lake Oswego to Chile - circa 1963!

Thirty seven years ago Keith Thye wasn't the owner of Ride West BMW as he is today. He was fresh out of school at the time and had acquired a used BMW motorcycle. Together with his friend Dave, who had also purchased a BMW, they had custom metal boxes built and saddled to the back end of their motorcycles. After months of mapping, researching and planning the two set out on a cold January morning from their homes in Lake Oswego Oregon and began a journey that would last almost a year traveling to Chile, South America, on the Pan American Highway.

Thye has just released a new book, Moto Raid (Spanish for Motorcycle Ride), through Elfin Press here in Seattle, outlining the journey. Although it's thirty seven years later, Thye's chronicle is filled with detail about various events and occurrences as he kept a copious journal and shot hundreds of photographs during the journey.  

Thye's writing style is innocent, yet captivating, and at times you feel like you're riding alongside of Jack Keurouac on a BMW. As you can imagine, riding for nearly a year across every kind of terrain known to man means each day will be different and indeed they were for Keith and Dave. It's all here from border crossing hassles to days of dysentery,  luggage break ins to towing one bike with a rope for over 100 miles, Thye captures these moments in time as if they had just happened yesterday.  Keep in mind that in 1963 the pavement on the Pan American highway ended just south of Mexico and for much of the rest of the ride it was dirt and gravel mixed with a lot of water and plenty of treachery.

He's as good with his camera as he is with his writing. While the book features a number of black and white photographs from the ride, it's most impressive to attend one of Thye's slide shows, one of which was presented at a recent meeting of the Washington State BMW Riders Club.  Throughout the photographs Thye captures the people and places, the colors and the textures of the many third world nations he traveled through, and how they appeared in the 60s.  

Today Thye lives a more peaceful life in Seattle with his wife Anne, but still manages to get in an average of 10,000 miles in under his belt motorcycling each year. And as he takes on a new chapter in his life moving his Ride West BMW dealership to a new location, there is little that can match the fascinating moments he experienced on the Pan American Highway in 1963.

Tom Mehren/Winter 2000

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