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4.5 out of 5 stars21
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on 7 July 1999
"One Man Caravan" is a story very much like adventure travelogues I used to read as a kid.
In 1932, a young man of maybe limited resources, but unlimited resourcefulness and "chutzpah", saddles up his motorcycle and travels around the world in 18 months. En route, he encounters exotic locals and locales, battles bad roads, breakdowns, injuries, officials and wanders into hot zones of civil wars - such as the British fighting some rebels in fictitiously-sounding Baluchistan.
This would be quite typical travel adventure fare, except that it really happened. The author is Robert Fulton (later known to Cold War afficionados as the inventor of CIA/Navy Skyhook recovery system), grandson of steam-ship builder Fulton. In 1996 (re-publication time of the book) he was alive and riding his motorcycle at age of 87.
Well-written and spell-binding, particularly in light of its authenticity.
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on 18 February 2007
It is perhaps the worst possible way to review a book by commencing with a strong recommendation. So I shall contain myself.

One Man Caravan is an account of an observant and highly intelligent young man as he travels around the globe on a Douglas motorcycle. And that globe was a very different planet in 1932. Few books were written of such exploits during that era and still less stood the test of time. The main reasons were that this pre dates the affluent era and mass education . But Robert Edison Fulton Jr was different. Not only was he "well born", he was restless, enquiring and cerebral.

Having studied at the universities of Harvard and Vienna his father suggested he might like to see a little of the world. As the grandson of the inventor of the Fulton Steam Boat and son of the President of Mack Trucks, he had the option of seeing the world in the common fashion of the idle rich of the 1930's, but turned his back on luxury for the taste of reality thereby measuring up to the saying :-

" one measure of a man is what he does with his time when he has nothing to do".

A glib remark at a London dinner party attended by someone who claimed to "have" the Douglas motor works brought forth the offer of a motorcycle in the terms "...how about letting me furnish it ? " . And so he did.

Thus with a sun helmet, pistol and 4000 ft of film he set out to take on the world.

The compulsive text moves at a pace as Europe is dealt with in a single chapter and then into Turkey. In the darkness of the desert night he sees the lights of camel trains across the dunes. Then his sleep is interrupted by the "...squeek of ungreased wooden axles. Somewhere in the dakness a caravan had risen...." When text reads like that you need nothing more. But Fulton is a distinguished photographer and artist. The book is lavishly illustrated with 132 photographs and 62 sketches.

Fulton doesn't try to write, he writes as he sees. At the start of the journey he reveres "....the mystery of Baghdad". And the engaging Fulton soon falls into conversation with an old man whose words have a chilling resonance for today :-

" When I was a boy, England, Europe, America, they were all an unbelievable distance away. But today it is all so different. Everything is so close together. Something happens in one corner of the earth and it affects all the others. So we must change, our traditions and customs must slowly go. And it will be accomplished....East must meet West".

Fulton had a lifetime of achievement and it is small wonder that "...all who knew him regard him as a kind, wise, generous and intensely interesting man".

This book has recently been republished for a new audience and is rapidly featuring high on the inevitable " top ten of all time" lists that appear everywhere. In Fulton's case it is richly deserved.

Fulton's step son set off around the world on a modern motorcycle to recreate the trip but was killed half way round. Fulton continued to ride into his 80's and still possessed the very same Douglas motorcycle. He died in 2004 aged 95.

Buy this book and send it to your Nation's leader.
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on 9 April 2006
Some books really are fixed in their time, but despite being 70 years old this travel diary with its simple pen illustrations is fresh as yesterday. It has enough motorcycling in it to please bikers, but not too much to overwhelm anyone else looking for an excellent travelogue. Fulton went through several of today's trouble spots during his trip, and his observations bring home the roots of much of what is behind those troubles. Without getting at all metaphysical, the book brings out the feel of a bike trip, the connection with the land you pass through, and the disconnection a rider can feel at the end of a trip. Buy it......
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on 10 July 2008
I would disagree with FZ6 Rider. I do not think the book is exaggerated and it matters not whether he was the first to go round the world.

Quite simply it is a remarkable book, it stands (favourable) comparison to the Long Way books/DVDs, it is an interesting bike book but more than anything it is a historical account of a world that has disappeared.

The degree of difficulty associated with this journey is hard to imagine when compared to nowadays. This was done in an age before reliable communications, credit cards, immunisations etc etc.

Robert Fulton is an inspiration, and the grainy B&W images in his book only heighten the sense of distance from todays sanitised digital, sat/nav, sat phone, world.

The most poignant thing is that Iraq and Afghanistan are sadly likley to more dangerous for the traveler today than in the 1930s.

Buy it, Read it, you won't be sorry.
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on 12 February 2010
What a great read ! I really really want to do something like this, but you read the details and read between the lines and think "Am I really ready for that ?" Robert Fulton has a brilliant understated humour at times and some of the expressions he uses can only have come from that era. I've read the accounts of Ted Simon and one of Lois Pryce's books. They're all good ! This stands out because he set out in 1932, no internet, mobile phones, GPS, sometimes not much in the way of maps. Brilliant ! All I need to do is persuade the wife it's a good idea...
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on 13 February 2008
One of the best rtw motorcycle books there is. Robert Edison Foulton jr's adventure in 1932 on a Douglas motorcycle really brings to life the world as it was then only a few years from world war 2 .With his trusty tropical pith helmet & smith & wesson revolver (wrapped in cloth & hidden oin the motorcycle bash-plate) he really does cut it as a classic adventure figure. Great book packed with loads of photo's , if you ever get the change to see the film he took , do its fantastic .
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on 8 October 2009
Well written book about a round the world trip on a motorcycle by a particularly interresting character. The book does seem to loose some of it's motorcycle connection half way through but regains it toward the end. A very interresting read and I'm sure Charley and Ewan wouldn't have completed their trip under these conditions. If you enjoy motorcycle travel books with a bit of history then I strongly recommend this.
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on 12 February 2010
Ted Simon rates this as his best motorcycle travel book. I can see why. Bike enthusiasts should bear in mind that the journey is the reason for the bike, not the other way round. It is startling how the books shows that parts of the world have stayed the same since the 30's and the roots of current troubles hit you in the face (Afghanistan). Others seem a million miles away. Amazing what a pre-war Douglas could do!
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on 28 October 2013
May I suggest that anyone considering invading and occupying Afghanistan read this book first. Fulton's account of the country at the turn of the century will change your mind. That crazy country changes very little, despite the long presence of foreign powers. Unlike the rest of the world as documented in this legendary historical account. It's probably not much use to modern overland circumnavigators, the world has changed beyond recognition. But it is of great moral value. Magnificent travel, awesome story.
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on 8 January 2016
Excellent read. I had this as a small collection of motorcycle travel books and enjoyed it immensely. There isn't a lot for the hard-core motorcyclist but, like Ted Simon, Robert Fulton really seems to get to the heart of things and gives a very readable and interesting story of his trip.

I also had a copy of India: The shimmering Dream (see separate review) which I didn't think half as good.
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