By Stan Purdum
During the year leading up to my 1995 trip on two wheels across America, I read every narrative I could find of other people’s tours, as much to quell my impatience as to prepare me for the road. I was glad to find that a considerable body of first-person literature about such trips existed, and I’ve enjoyed reading other accounts that came along after my ride. And I was pleased to eventually add two bike-travel narratives of my own to the genre.
If you’re planning a bicycle tour but aren’t able to leave yet, you might enjoy reading from this list of titles. It’s not exhaustive and is limited to books I’ve actually read. Every book listed here is a bicycle travel narrative, and for that reason I’ve not included volumes about bicycle racing, global cycling to set world record times, or other two-wheel endeavors.
You’ll find volumes on this list written by riders young and old and those in between. Some focus on adventure, others on personal discovery and a few on travel or exploration itself, or observation of the world and those who inhibit it. Some authors cycled with companions, but several traveled at least some of their route alone. Most of the narratives are well written, but even those penned more amateurishly convey that bicycle treks are seldom simply alternative types of vacations. These trips brought the riders at least a dramatic change of pace and sometimes a change of life-direction.
Without apology, I’ve included my own books here. Obviously, I cannot be completely objective in evaluating them, but my mother says they’re wonderful books and strongly urges you to read them!
Not all the books cataloged here are still in print, but between public library book-search services and Amazon’s used-book listings, all should be available.
A Crossing: A Cyclist’s Journey Home, by Brian Newhouse (New York: Pocket Books, 1998).
Rattled by two unsettled relationships and plagued by headwinds, this 28-year-old man does not have a good time cycling the northern tier route — Washington to Maine — and he has a nasty surprise just 45-miles from the end of his trip. But as he faces the real reasons he’d undertaken the journey, he begins to untangle the relationship issues and cross over to where he needs to be.
A compelling story excellently written.
Find on Amazon here: A Crossing: A Cyclist’s Journey Home, by Brian Newhouse.
A Hole in the Wind: A Climate Scientist’s Bicycle Journey Across the United States, by David Goodrich (New York: Pegasus Books, 2017).
In a time when misinformation about climate change dominates politics and media, David Goodrich, a noted climate scientist, decides to ride across the county to see what climate change looks like close up, as well as to get a read on how it looks to people on the ground. In 2011, he rides from Maryland’s eastern shore to the Pacific coast of Oregon on his main ride, but along the way, he also intersperses some tales from other bicycle journeys he has taken. The book is a good way to get some climate change education from a touring cyclist who is also an authority in his field.
Portions of his route overlapped my 1995 crossing of America, but some of the natural environment looked different when he saw it just 16 years later, due to the ravages of global warming. That was eye-opening for me.
Above the Circle, by Marty Basch (Intervale, N.H.: Top of the World Publications, 1997).
Traveling as both an adventurer and a journalist, Marty Basch cycles roads in Iceland and Scandinavia, as well as takes a side trip by boat into Russia. He not only tells about his journey, but also writes about the people he meets during his travels. In fact, several chapters read as self-contained feature stories. In places, he especially conveys the unique flavor of cycle-touring, such as when he speculates about the meaning of the chance encounters with other people while traveling.
Find on Amazon here: Above the Circle, by Marty Basch
Across America by Bicycle: Alice and Bobbi’s Summer on Wheels, by Alice Honeywell and Bobbi Montgomery (Madison, Wis.: Terrace Books, 2010.)
Two women, retired from their careers, pedal together 3,600 miles from Oregon to Maine across America’s northern tier, averaging 55 miles per day and thoroughly enjoying the trip as they encounter unfailing generosity from people they meet along the way. In fact, it struck me that the book could be titled “Alice and Bobbie’s Excellent Adventure.” Both say that the journey not only did not stress their friendship, but in fact, brought them closer together.
Across America on the Yellow Brick Road, by Virginia Mudd Madden (Alamo, Calif.: Crow Canyon Press, 1980).
Two young women, Virginia Madden and her friend Carol, ride 10-speeds from Alamo, California to Washington, DC. In many ways, the trip is emotional therapy for Madden, who struggles with self-esteem issues. The day-by-day account of the journey gives a good picture of what a cross-continent journey can be like, including its emotional toll on the riders, but Madden is sometimes overly confessional.
Find on Amazon here: Across America on the Yellow Brick Road, by Virginia Mudd Madden.
Around the World on a Bicycle, by Thomas Stevens, with new introduction by Thomas Pauly (Mechanicsburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books, 2001).
Between August 1884 and January 1887, long before paved roads were common, Thomas Stevens, 29, of San Francisco, rides his bicycle around the world, becoming the first person ever to do so. His steed was a high-wheeler —with a front wheel about four-feet tall and a rear wheel about a foot in diameter. The book detailing his journey came out in 1888 but was not republished until a few years ago.
I did not find this book enjoyable reading, in part because it’s written in speech patterns of the late 19th century, but also because of Steven’s superior attitude toward people of other cultures he encountered and his practice of shooting every animal he sees — not for food, but for sport. Of course, I read this account from the 19th century with 21st-century sensibilities. You may be able to get past that.
Find on Amazon here: Around the World on a Bicycle, by Thomas Stevens
Changing Gears: Bicycling America’s Perimeter, Jane Schnell (Atlanta: Milner Press, 1990).
Starting at age 55 and for the next two years, Jane Schnell rides the perimeter of the United States, covering some 12,000 miles. Another woman accompanies her for about a third of the journey, and their sometimes-troubled interactions give a view of what it’s like to ride with an incompatible partner. After the other woman pulls out, Schnell pedals the rest of the journey solo, the first female to cycle the entire U.S. perimeter. Her book is a day-by-day account of the trek, and it’s a good read.
Find on Amazon here: Changing Gears: Bicycling America’s Perimeter, Jane Schnell
Changing Cadence: Meditations on Life, Family & Country From a Leather Bicycle Seat, by Michael Dillon (Oosik Publishing, 2013).
Michael Dillon is a corporate attorney who found himself out of a job when the company he worked for was acquired. Rather than seek new employment immediately, he rode 3,500 miles across the southern tier of the United States from east to west.
The book is his day-by-account of his journey, which he writes with an open mind, an eye for detail and subtle humor.
Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia, by Roff Smith (Washington, D.C.: Adventure Press, National Geographic Society, 2000).
American Roff Smith, though having lived in Australia for 15 years, decided he hadn’t really seen the country. So he quit his job and bicycled the perimeter of the continent-nation. Starting in Sydney, he headed north, circumnavigating Australia in a counter-clockwise direction, riding some 10,000 miles. He spent chilly nights in Tasmania, and blistering hot days in the outback, sometimes staggering into isolated roadhouses desperately in need of water. He eventually ended in Sydney, were he’d begun.
This well-written narrative gives not only the flavor of bike touring, but also introduces the reader to people and experiences of all sorts from Down Under.
Find on Amazon here: Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia, by Roff Smith
Daisy, Daisy: A Journey Across America on a Bicycle, by Christian Miller (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co.,1981).
A grandmother from the UK cycles from Virginia to Oregon on a three-speed folding bike. She’s a good wordsmith who pens wry observations of the land and people.
This book is worth your time.
Find on Amazon here: Daisy, Daisy: A Journey Across America on a Bicycle, by Christian Miller
Discovering America: Bicycle Adventures in All 50 states, by Martha J. Retallick (Tucson, Ariz.: Lone Rider Productions, 1993.)
In three long, solo tours totaling more than 14,000 miles, this young woman rides in 43 of the states and parts of Canada and Mexico during the 1980s. These trips are part of the process of discovering who she wants to be and where she will make her home. Since the long journeys help her resolve those matters, she has less emotional investment in bagging the other seven states. She hits those as a participant in various bicycle events. The long treks, which make up the bulk of the book, are the more compelling reading.
Fin on Amazon here: Discovering America: Bicycle Adventures in All 50 states, by Martha J. Retallick
Freewheelin’: A Solo Journey Across America, Richard Lovett (Camden, Me.: Ragged Mountain Press, 1992).
This is a well-told tale of a 5,400 journey from California to Maine passing through 17 states. A young man at the time, Lovett finds that the trip helps him discover a “deep spiritual and physical relaxation” and let go of his former schedule-driven lifestyle. Lovett is now a noted science-fiction writer and science writer. This is a good book to start with if you’re new to bicycle touring.
Find on Amazon:
Freewheelin’: A Solo Journey Across America, Richard Lovett
Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy (John Murray Publishers, Ltd., 1965. [Republished Woodstock, N.Y.: The Overlook Press, 1986]).
The intrepid Dervla Murphy, at 31, rides her single-speed bike from Dublin, Ireland, to New Dehli, India. Her book covers her route only from Yugoslavia onward, but what a route it is! She rides through the hard winter of 1963, often pedaling on ice.
During one dark night on the road, she must fight off a pack of hungry wolves, killing two of them with her revolver. Later she is swept off the road by sudden flooding. Without low gears, she walks her bike up every mountain. In Pakistan, she contracts dysentery.
Through it all, she travels as one who can make herself at home in any culture and writes with a real appreciation for the people she meets along the way.
Find on Amazon here: Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy
Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America, by Brian Benson (New York: Plume, 2014).
The subtitle of this book is misleading, because the journey it records is not all the way across America, but rather from Wisconsin to Portland, Oregon. Nonetheless, it’s a ride that keeps the reader engaged by the inside view it gives of the joys and stresses of bicycle touring and the voyeuristic look it provides into the relationship of the young author and his girlfriend Rachel as they pedal together and pull apart on this journey as they each, separately, try to discover what being a couple means.
Benson is a good writer, and you’ll likely stay engaged right to the end.
Find on Amazon here: Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America, by Brian Benson
Happy Endings, by Margaret Logan (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979).
Margaret Logan and her daughter, ages 40 and 17, ride 2,000 miles from near Paris to Rome, crossing the Alps en route. The daughter, starting with a materialistic life view, finds her vision broadened by the journey. Some insight comes from dealing with unwanted attentions from a few bad-mannered louts in Italy, but more from the growing understanding of her mother and her coming to terms with her parents’ divorce. At the same time, the mother, torn with feelings for two men back home, struggles with the conflicting tugs of belonging and independence.
Find on Amazon here: Happy Endings, by Margaret Logan
Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America? Five Kids Meet Their Country, by John Seigel Boettner (Brea, Calif.: Seigel Boettner Fulton, 1990).
In the summer of 1986, middle-school teacher John Boettner and his wife Lynn escort five 12-year-olds, three boys and two girls, on a coast-to-coast bicycle trek. The group starts in Washington, D.C. and ends in Los Olivos, California, where they all lived.
Boettner sometimes gives so much detail (even hour by hour at times) that the book bogs down, but it’s still a decent read, and it recounts an impressive accomplishment.
I Never Intended to Be Brave: A Woman’s Bicycle Journey Through Southern Africa, by Heather Anderson (Chicago: Windy City Publishers, 2011).
After completing her service in southern Africa as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in 2003, Heather Anderson joined a group set to explore Africa by bicycle, but before even pedaling the first mile, the group dwindled to two: Anderson and a man she’d never met before. He proves to be difficult and once into the journey, they part company. Anderson must choose between abandoning the journey or continuing through unfamiliar land alone.
She opts for the latter, though never forgetting that it may not be safe for a woman to travel solo, and as a result, she has a mostly good adventure experiencing new vistas and the kindness of strangers, as well as learning about herself, but her trip has a disheartening ending. Still, she concludes that if she could turn back time and not do the trip, knowing how it ends, she wouldn’t undo it.
Life Is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., And a Bike Ride Across America, by Bruce Weber (New York: Scribner, 2014).
In 2011, Bruce Weber was an obituary writer for The New York Times. Eighteen years earlier, at age 39. he’d ridden a bicycle solo across the country and written about that trip in columns for the Times. Now, at age 57, he decides to make a similar trip, and this time record the journey both in a blog for the Times while the trip is happening and eventually in this book.
What makes his narration compelling, quite apart from the fact that Weber is a good writer, are his observations about how the 2011 trek was different from the earlier one —not in terms of the route or the geography, but in terms of the different kind of challenge it was for him as a man with more miles on his life and more limitations on his body. Weber’s ruminations give the reader fodder for thinking about one’s own mortality.
That said, there’s nothing morbid about this book and much to enjoy.
Find on Amazon here: Life Is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., And a Bike Ride Across America, by Bruce Weber
Metal Cowboy: Tales from the Road Less Pedaled, by Joe Kurmaskie (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999).
Rather than being a narration of a single bicycle journey, this book is a collection of vignettes from several of the author’s bicycle journeys, most of which make the reader want to take to the road on a bicycle as well. The metal cowboy name came from a blind rancher Kurmaskie met one cold morning in Idaho. The man, after tapping the cyclist and his steed with his cane, recognized what was before him and said, “Ah, metal cowboy.”
Kurmaskie says that his bicycle travels “have been the antidote for the cynicism that can gather at the feet of complacency.” In the balance of the book, the author tells the stories that show why that is so, including those about the remarkable characters he met in his journeys on two wheels in America and abroad.
Kurmaskie writes well and tells his tales with vigor and wit.
Find on Amazon here: Metal Cowboy: Tales from the Road Less Pedaled, by Joe Kurmaskie
Miles From Nowhere: A Round-the-World Bicycle Adventure, by Barbara Savage (The Mountaineers Press, 1983).
A husband and wife cement both their marriage and their knowledge of the world during this round-the-globe bicycle trek. In an ironic twist of fate, after cycling safely in all sorts of conditions in all sorts of places, Barbara is killed on her bike in a traffic accident after returning home. This well-written book is a classic among cycle-touring literature.
Find on Amazon here: Miles From Nowhere: A Round-the-World Bicycle Adventure, by Barbara Savage
Off the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia, by Mark Jenkins (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992).
Despite his quirky use of the English language, Jenkins, then an editor of Backbacker magazine, offers a compelling account of a 7,500-mile bicycle journey from Vladivostok to Leningrad, part of it through a road-less region. Cycling before the breakup of the Soviet Union, Jenkins rides as part of a team of seven people, four Soviets and three Americans.
Find on Amazon here: Off the Map: Bicycling Across Siberia, by Mark Jenkins
Mud, Sweat, and Gears: A Rowdy Family Bike Adventure Across Canada on Seven Wheels, by Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie (Halcottsville, N.Y.: Breakaway Books, 2009).
Here the tale of Joe Kurmaskie (see Metal Cowboy in this list, above) with his wife Beth and their three young boys pedaling 3,326 miles west to east across Canada. Joe captains a tandem bike with son Quinn, 9, as his stoker, while Enzo. 7, pedals a trail-a-bike clamped behind the tandem and Matteo, 1, travels in a trailer hooked behind that, making a five-wheel road train, 15 feet long. Beth rides a single bike behind it, bringing the wheel count to seven.
The book is not a day-by-day telling of the trip but a series of vignettes in chronological order as they move across our neighboring country to the north. Joe has an eye for what makes and good story, and Beth, in footnotes to Joe’s text, adds her perspective as the responsible adult in the family.
Find on Amazon here: Mud, Sweat, and Gears: A Rowdy Family Bike Adventure Across Canada on Seven Wheels
Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride Across America and How to Realize a More Enjoyable Old Age, by Don Peterson (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2014)
At age 71, Don Peterson, a retired foreign services officer, rides his bicycle from Brentwood, New Hampshire to San Francisco. He tells the day-by-day story of his journey in straightforward prose, interspersed with short forays about how to stave off the limitations of old age.
Though Peterson rode this journey in 2002, he didn’t write the book until some years later, when he was 83. In the epilogue, he explains that in 2012 — when he was 80 — he thought he’d ride across the country again, but he goes on to tell that though he continues to cycle, training rides convinced him that he’d be unlikely to manage that distance on a loaded touring bike at that age.
Still, his journey at 71 may give hope to aging riders who have dreamed of a long-distance tour but never undertaken it.
Over the Hills: A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle, by David Lamb (New York: Times Books/Random House, 1996)
At age 54, the late David Lamb, then a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, rides 3,145 miles from Alexandria, Virginia, to Santa Monica, California, to refresh his feel for the country. He doesn’t succeed in his intent to give up smoking and junk food on the way, but completes the trek in good spirits nonetheless.
Interspersed in his trip narrative are several good chapters on the history of cycling. A smooth, enjoyable read.
Find on Amazon here: Over the Hills: A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle, by David Lamb
Pedaling the Ends of the Earth: A Young Man’s Epic Bicycle Tour Across the Continents of the World, by David Duncan (New York: Simon and Schuster: 1985)
Three young men spend 380 days cycling 14,000 miles around the world, sponsored by Project HOPE, the health-care foundation. They ride in every environment from searing desert to steaming tropics to frigid northern climes. Duncan helps readers experience the differences in each of the cultures where the trio pedal. He also conveys well the hardships of bicycle travel in third-world countries and captures the stresses that such a journey can place on those who ride together, day after day.
Pilgrim Spokes: The Journey Continues … Cycling East Across America, by Neil M. Hanson (Centennial, Col.: High Prairie Press, 2016)
Approaching age 60, Neil Hanson pedals across America, averaging 100 miles a day, but he has enough to share about his journey that he tells it in two volumes. The first, called Pilgrim Wheels, was published in 2015, and details his journey from Monterey, California, to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. I haven’t read that volume yet, but I expect to.
This second volume picks up in Medicine Lodge and reports the journey from there to Annapolis, Maryland. I happened to read this volume first simply because Hanson contacted me and asked me to write a endorsement for inclusion in the book (he sent me the manuscript in prepublication form).
Here’s what I wrote about it: “Neil Hanson takes you on a journey that’s both on the road and in the mind. For him, travel sparks observations on a myriad of topics, which he shares in his sparkling prose.”
Find on Amazon here: Pilgrim Spokes: Cycling East Across America by Neil M. Hanson
Playing in Traffic, America from the River Niagara to the Rio Grande, by Bicycle, Expanded Edition, by Stan Purdum (Lima, Ohio: CSS Publishing, 2004)
It has long stuck me as an idea clever in its simplicity: a series of independently built roadways across America linked together and given an identity by the assignment of a federal highway number, as in the case of U.S. Route 62. What cross-section of America would the length of such a highway reveal? What historical movements might it encounter?
In 2000, I pedal the length of U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, and find out. In Playing in Traffic, I narrate not only my journey, but also some of America’s, including the story if its highway system and of some very old pathways into history that 62 intersects.
NOTE: Playing in Traffic was first published by another publisher in 2001, and for some reason, they used the unproofread text, including many of my stupid typos. That edition has a white cover and does not say “Expanded Edition” (the expansion includes a guide for riding Rt. 62 yourself). I’d like to eliminate any of these poorly produced copies, so if you happen to have one, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and in exchange for your promise to destroy the white-cover edition, I’ll mail you a new copy of the expanded edition at no cost to you.
Find and purchase on RBR here: Playing in Traffic, America from the River Niagara to the Rio Grande, by Bicycle, Expanded Edition, by Stan Purdum
Roll Around Heaven All Day: A Piecemeal Journey Across America by Bicycle, by Stan Purdum (Canton, Ohio: Communication Resources, 1997)
In fulfillment of a promise I made to myself in childhood, I ride across America during my 50th year, piecing the journey together from three segments. Following the TransAmerica Trail, I pedal the western leg accompanied by my brother, the eastern end on a tandem with my then 15-year-old daughter and the midsection alone.
The book is the record of a love affair with footloose bicycle travel. Hence the title, which is from an old Louie Armstrong song which I used with permission. I give a day-by-day account, but pause occasionally along the way to reflect on what the mundane realities of journeying can mean in the life of one for whom the voyage, and not the destination, is what it’s all about.
Find and purchase on RBR here: Roll Around Heaven All Day: A Piecemeal Journey Across America by Bicycle, by Stan Purdum
Round Ireland in Low Gear, by Eric Newby (New York: Penguin Books, 1987 [reissued, 1998])
Accompanied by his long-suffering wife, travel writer Eric Newby pedals four tours of Ireland, most of them, it turns out, in the rain. Although he sometimes gives more detail about locations in Ireland than a U.S. reader may want, Newby entertains thoroughly with his self-deprecating humor and wry commentary on their expeditions.
Find on Amazon here: Round Ireland in Low Gear, by Eric Newby
Seeing Myself Seeing the World: A Woman’s Journey Around the World on a Bicycle, by Sally Vantress (Capitola, Calif.: SMSW Publishing, 1991)
After concluding that her possessions are possessing her, Sally Vantress, a young business woman from California, sells her belongings to finance a round-the-world bicycle journey. She views her 20,000-mile ride as a chance to learn about herself, and often speaks of weather difficulties and other hardships as if they’ve been deliberately sent for instructive purposes.
Describing both her outer and inner journey, she starts her trip in New Zealand, then goes to Australia, China, Russia and Europe, covering some the distance by rail. Finally arriving in America, Vantress rides Adventure Cycling’s TransAmerica Trail. Regrettably, Vantress gives fewer details of the TransAmerica ride than any other part of her journey.
Spokesongs: Bicycle Adventures on Three Continents, by Willie Weir (Seattle: Pineleaf Productions 1997)
Willie Weir’s book, which recounts his rides in India, South Africa and the Balkans, shows that it is possible to cycle in dangerous places without losing one’s life or one’s sense of what makes a good story.
Spokesongs is not a continuous narrative; rather, it’s a collection of vignettes from his three journeys. My favorite is his chapter from the South Africa leg, titled “Ultimate Chewy Toy,” in which he shares what he learned the hard way about lions and tasty morsels pedaling bicycles through nature preserves. Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist.
Find on Amazon here: Spokesongs: Bicycle Adventures on Three Continents, by Willie Weir
Tell Your Story Walking: One Mother’s Legacy, by Iris Llewellyn Angle (West Conshohocken, Penn,: Infinity Publishing, 2011)
Despite the title, this is a bicycle book. Iris Angle’s journey is a “walk-ride” in 2002 from Chardon, Ohio, where her son had been born, to Phoenix, Arizona, where he died by his own hand at age 20. Angle was 54 at the time of the trip, and she did pedal most of the 1,800 miles of the trek, but she walked through the larger cities where she felt uncomfortable riding amid the traffic.
Her book is as much about her grief and healing as it is about her journey. In fact, she talks very little about the things cyclists often look for —what brand of bike she rode, what the pedaling was like, which hills were memorable, etc. A number of pages are devoted to letters she wrote to her son after his death, and here and there are snippets of her poetry. I skipped over some of these sections as they were too introspective for my taste.
But one thing struck me: When people along the way asked her “Why are you making this ride?” and she told them, quite a few responded by telling their stories of hurt and grief. And there seemed to be something important and helpful happening for both parties during these exchanges.
Find on Amazon here: Tell Your Story Walking: One Mother’s Legacy, by Iris Llewellyn Angle
The Cycling Adventures of Coconut Head: A North American Odyssey, by Ted Schredd (Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1996)
In 1992-1993, Canadian Ted Schredd cycled 8,000 miles along the western, southern and eastern boundaries of the United States, as well as traveling through part of Canada. He set off in company with Lisa, his then girlfriend, but kicked her off the trip in California after he met another woman, Deanna, along the way. Eventually Deanna, though new to cycling, joined him for the remainder of the trip, and the pair married before the journey ended.
Schredd’s description of the journey is fast-paced, almost breathless — sometimes even flip and occasionally outright snide. He doesn’t provide much feel for the land he passes through but does give the flavor of the journey pretty well, revealing some of the emotional ups and downs typical of extended touring. Though I wouldn’t call this book one of my favorite bike-touring narratives, it was engaging reading nonetheless.
Find on Amazon here: The Cycling Adventures of Coconut Head: A North American Odyssey, by Ted Schredd
The Heart of America, by Mike Trout (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1998)
Accompanied by his son-in-law on a bike, and his father-in-law and a writer in a sag wagon, a 50-year-old man cycles across the nation. But you’ll learn more about evangelical Christianity than bicycle touring from this book.
At the time of his trip, Trout was an announcer for the Focus on the Family radio program, and the book sometimes seems like a commercial for the show’s religious viewpoint. A disappointing book if you’re interested in what the cycling was like.
Find on Amazon here: The Heart of America, by Mike Trout
Two Wheels and a Map: A Solo Bicycle Journey Down the East Coast, by Bob Neubauer (Philadelphia, Pa.: Outdoor Action Publishing Co., 1998)
As a young man, Neubauer completed a Maine to Florida journey in two separate trips, managing to do the whole thing either camping out or sleeping somewhere free. He set out because he was tired of his job and unsure what to do next, and he was motivated by the desire to not hold all his dreams off until retirement. You get the impression that Bob is a loner at heart, and he doesn’t always appreciate opportunities to interact with others. But then, that’s part of the beauty of traveling by bicycle. You can let the bike be a conversation opener, or you can use it to pedal away. But he does connect with some people, and in New Haven, Connecticut, he befriends a homeless woman.
Neubauer cycled his whole trip in cutoff jean shorts and is condescending to those who wear spandex, but on his website, where he tells “the rest of the story,” he admits that he was reacting to those who laughed at him for not having the “proper” attire.
Find on Amazon here: Two Wheels and a Map: A Solo Bicycle Journey Down the East Coast, by Bob Neubauer
Two Wheels North: Bicycling the West Coast in 1909, by Evelyn McDaniel Gibb, (Corvallis, Oreg.: Oregon State University Press, 2000)
Stalked by a wildcat, attacked by a rattlesnake, robbed by Indians, plucked by a pickpocket, lost due to nonexistent road signs, and mooned over by fair maidens — just your typical bicycle trip, right? If your answer is no, then you’ll want to read this account of two young men, Victor McDaniel and Ray Francisco, who rode their single-speed bicycles from Santa Rosa, California to Seattle, Washington in the summer of 1909 to attend the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific-Exposition.
They pedaled north, pushing their bikes up mountains (and sometimes coming back down the same way when the roads they followed petered out), the pair stopped to work at farms and factories as their money ran out. Along the way, the two dealt with problems few cyclists today ever encounter, and so impressed the Exposition management with their exploit that they received free passes to the Exposition for their entire stay, and earned a $25 prize from their hometown newspaper.
Written by McDaniel’s daughter, Two Wheels North won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Nonfiction Book Award in 2000.
Find on Amazon here: Two Wheels North: Bicycling the West Coast in 1909, by Evelyn McDaniel Gibb
Wide Hips, Narrow Shoulders: A Bike Touring Adventure Story, by Monte M. Lowrance (San Jose: Writers Club Press, 2001)
In 1998, Monte Lowrance, 44, divorced and recently downsized out of his job in Colorado, decided to convert his possessions into cash to finance a bicycle trip that would take him through all 48 continuous states. Setting off on a 14-year-old Trek and carrying too much weight in his panniers — a lot of which he eventually mailed home — Lowrance, who goes by the nickname LoRent, completes his goal in a little over 10 months, covering 11,800 miles. His discoveries along the way are much like those of other long-distance cyclists — the varied beauty of America, the variety of its people, the way a bicycle is an icebreaker and invites conversation from strangers.
While not a literary masterpiece, Lowrance’s writing is straightforward and clear, and he gives the reader a sense of what life on the road with a bicycle is like.
Find on Amazon here: Wide Hips, Narrow Shoulders: A Bike Touring Adventure Story, by Monte M. Lowrance
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Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, and Methodist minister, lives in New Jersey. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.