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Outa' the Loop with Bikes and Books

I like to bike and I like to read … a lot on both counts. I really like to read about bikers who travel way beyond the city limits or who, more importantly, reach beyond their intellectual horizons. As long as it’s on a bike, I'm in. I'll read it; but there are seven books I can read over and over and over again. There’s Le Surmâle by Alfred Jerry, the French proto-Surrealist. Written in 1902 about a six-man bicycle racing a train, it hugs together his three obsessions: sex, alcohol, and cycling (Midnight Marauders anyone?) Like Jerry, Dervla Murphy carries a revolver while biking. Unlike our Parisian, she leaves her native land far behind in 1962. In Full Tilt: Ireland to India on a Bicycle, she describes the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central Asia during these regions’ worst winter in two decades (now that’s Bike Winter).

At least Dervla returned (four years later she wrote In Ethiopia with a Mule). Frank Lenz never did. The American accountant turned long-distance cyclist disappeared in eastern Turkey in 1894. David Herlinhy’s The Lost Cyclist reminds us how the now forgotten Lenz not only inspired later cyclists and motorcyclists to circumnavigate the globe. He was also an early champion of the safety bicycle. Perhaps it takes a woman or a good Jewish mother from Boston. One year later Annie Londonderry negotiates a lucrative contract to promote bottled water (!) and circles the globe (!!), as told by Peter Zheutlin in Around The World On Two Wheels (BTW, her revolver had pearl grips).

A bit more Downton Abbey is Three Men on a Bummel, the "Mother of All Tweed Rides". Jerome K. Jerome follows up his enormously successful Three Men in a Boat (… no shit) with this Grand Bicycle Tour through Germany’s Black Forest in 1900. Imagine Wooster & Jeeves meets Colonel Klink & Sergeant Schultz (again … no shit). A bit more Monty Python is Flann O'Brien’s The Third Policeman. Whether it's a ‘60s thriller or a tradition vs. modernity polemic this has got to be the only of literary work where the romantic lead is played by a “bicycle of unusual perfection”. Other bike books come and go for me but, like I said, these I can read again and again at home … or in bars. One place I’d like to do that one-day is in Portland, way beyond my suburban limits. And when I do, I can Hop in the Saddle with Lucy Burningham’s and Ellee Thalheimer’s guide to Portland's craft beer scene.

Flann O'Brien wrote People who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles … get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle. And so it's the same with bike books.  What are your favs? Why? Make this a robust resource with your comments below!


The Steel Bitch is Back!

at our 4th Annual Guy Fawkes Bonfire
10 November 2010


The Big ... 5 ... 0 ...

B'day at the Lake Pepin 3speed Tour!

The Man ...

and his Machine!




A bastard finally caught

and another
has a new cellmate!

Serbian President Boris Tadić confirmed during a news conference in Belgrade that Hague fugitive Ratko Mladić has been arrested.

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It's been a long, long time...

and so much
has been happening!

a new bike

a new marriage

a whole new spring

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Rilke, Tolstoy, and travel...

your house is just
this side of great distances

Of course this has to do with bikes and books ... but first, I figure about half of you out there use Internet Explorer to view Bicycle Diaries. Microsoft's nefarious product doesn't load it very well. It often center justifies the posts putting the right sidebar all the way down to the bottom of the page. Try instead Mozilla Firefox as your browser. It's FREE, only taking a few minutes to load. It also has a great reputation in contrast to the Windows-based Explorer.
Someone who wants to run Windows on servers should first be made to show what they know about servers that Google, Yahoo and Amazon don't know.
You'll not only see my blog as I intend it to be viewed. You and your computer will both be very happy. Firefox is more secure against viruses and hackers as well as less buggy than Explorer.

Speaking of explorers, I've been wanting to post one of my favorite poems about travel.


Whoever you are: step out in the evening
from your room where all is known to you;
your house is just this side of great distances:
whoever you are.
With your eyes which, exhausted,
barely free themselves from the worn threshold,
you raise up, slowly, a black tree
and place it against the sky: slender, alone.
And you've made the world. And it is vast
and like a word which ripens still in silence.
And as your will begins to grasp its meaning,
your eyes release it gently.

In 1900 Rainer Maria Rilke, a rather restless traveler, sought refuge with Leo Tolstoy at his ancestral estate, Yasnaya Polyana. Rilke, only 25 years old, already had an impressive array of publications to his credit. Unfortunately, this had done almost nothing to help his anxieties about writing. He shared them Tolstoy; later describing their conversation in a letter to friend,
I still lack the discipline, the being able to work, and the being compelled to work, for which I have longed for years. Do I lack the strength? Is my will sick? Is it the dream in me that hinders all action? Days go by and sometimes I hear life going. And still nothing has happened, still there is nothing real about me . . . .
To which Tolstoy gave a completely unexpected response. With neither sympathy nor pity, he simply said, Write!

Tolstoy could have easily said, bike! At the age of 67, he started teaching himself to ride. Visitors to Yasnaya often commented rather humorously on the sight of the aging anarchist rolling around his estate. Tolstoy was as brief in his response to them as he had been to Rilke.
I feel that I am entitled to my share of lightheartedness and there is nothing wrong with enjoying one's self simply, like a boy.

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