I enjoy riding bikes and I also like to read about riding bikes, but the time I tried to read about some folks riding across America in a book called, “Hey Mom can I Ride My Bike Across America,” I got so bored with it I never finished. I found that happening to me when I began Barbara Savage’s book, “Miles from Nowhere,” but luckily I stuck with it and enjoyed a great read.
The first chapter chronicles how the idea to ride bikes comes to fruition inside the mind of Larry and Barbara Savage, it seems pretty likely that Larry was the real instigator but it didn’t sound like he had to work that hard to convince Barbara. Then the book delves into a chronological travelogue of their journey and this is where I began to nod off. This is going to sound sexist but I think my biggest problem with the book is that its from a woman’s perspective. It seemed like she was making things out to be much more dramatic then they really were, “big deal you feel off you’re bike,” was what I kept thinking. It was the middle of summer and I was riding my bike nearly every day, reading about people suffering and riding their bikes seemed almost mundane. I just found myself kind of bored with it and it laid on my nightstand untouched for several months.
One day this winter I decided to finish it and found as the book continued it got far more interesting, or it could have been I was in the right frame of mind to read about bicycle riding? Whatever it was I found myself really getting into their journey and finished the book up quickly.
There are 3 primary threads in the book, The Savage’s relationship with the terrain, other people, and themselves. The terrain takes a back seat unless some feature really stands out, the dirtiness if Egypt, the crowdedness of Inda, the lushness of New Zeeland, instead Savage puts most of her focus on the relationships Larry and her form, other riders they meet, the people who help or sometimes hinder them on their journey. Finally there are the highs and lows of her relationship with her husband, the fact of spending all of your time with one person in many stressful situations is bound to take its toll on a couple as it did on a couple they meet who give up their cross country trip. Barbara describes many fights, but devotes time to describing how they grow closer throughout the trip.
Something that I realized on reflection is perhaps an unconscious development of Barbara Savage as a writer and cyclist throughout the two years of their trip. The book is assembled from journals she was keeping and sending back to her parents along the trip. I noticed a change in her writing as the book progresses, the over-dramatized accounts are less frequent and overall the book gets much more interesting, of course it could be that riding through Egypt and being chased by angry mobs of hungry childeren is much more interesting then riding across South Dakota.
One small side note, the copy I read was from 1988 and the color photo insert is kind of weak. Part of this has to do with 1980s photography and printing, but for a 2 year journey it seems like they could have come up with some better photos, or just more photos. I’m a big fan of the photo inserts you usually find in non-fiction books, but this one could be much better. Maybe its expanded and improved in newer printings.
If you like bicycling and like to read you owe it to yourself to check out this book.