It has been a while since I have done a book review on a cycling book. I’ve honestly stayed away from these for a while, as the last few just haven’t been that great. However, when my buddy Joe Kurmaskie, my favorite cycling story author comes out and recommends one on his Facebook page, how could I not read it?
Damn glad I did!
Going Somewhere, A Bicycle Journey Across America, by Brian Benson, is hands down one of the better books in this genre I have read in a while.
I’ll try not to give away too much here. But if you read no more of this post, I recommend clicking here to buy it and take the ride along with Brian and Rachel.
We meet our hero. fresh out of college. south of the border seeing, meeting and falling in love with the gorgeous Rachel. The two decide, though they had never ridden any distance at all, it would be a good idea to ride across country. Or at least from Wisconsin to somewhere in the west (this was up in the air till about Montana….)
What I liked about this book, is Brian is a helluva story-teller. Way too often I find these travelogues to be plodding, full of facts and mileage and road conditions. YAWN… (I read many though and still will, it just takes effort (like riding into a headwind, uphill) sometimes to finish these.
Brian provides ALL this information, but it is woven into the story. Making it an easy read (more a steep downhill with a TAILwind!). The boring facts part are there, but you get them as you learn what he is thinking, or how the ride is affecting Rachel, or learning about the rookie mistakes they make (really how MANY times can you forget to water up before you leave?). It’s never boring.
Add to it his skill at imagery. Most times I read about winds being “strong, hard, miserable, annoying”. All very true, but also very bland. In Dakota, Brian brings them to life, and by that I mean it is a living breathing entity, seeking out any weakness you might have. He describes ninja winds sneaking up and trying to topple him, headwinds coming out of nowhere and punching him in the chest, and tailwinds that let him take flight.
Add to this, the detail of how a ride like this, with joy, adversity, pain and triumph can affect two people, and their relationship (which is its own separate entity) differently. I will tell you that Brian grew into a lover of the bike as he went farther and farther along. I was also glad to know I am not the only one that pats the bike after a particularly hard or great ride.
Rachel and the relationship, that you will have to read about, but I will say the lady impressed me!
Brian has also helped me put my theory on life into words with these few sentences (that he discovered in a ladies craft room):
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!”
Finally, he makes me wish I had more adventure in my bones fresh out of college. Where I went straight to work, he has a memory he never forget. That’s what should happen before you tie yourself down to the ‘real’ world. Luckily I have my adventures happening now, but I can’t take months off to cross the country.
I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. Mostly because I felt the last few chapters were a bit rushed, but then again so was the ride at that point. This would be a great end of summer read, or an early shopping stocking stuffer. Great job by the writer and thanks Joe for the recommendation!