Book Review: Biking Across America by Paul Stutzman

Recently I found myself restless. Not physically as May was a great month for the bike and June has been ok, but in my reading. I have long enjoyed books about adventuring, be it river, mountain or bike. The last book was from Joe Kurmaskie, A Guide to Falling Down in Public (Reviewed here) over a month ago.  It was time to find a new one.

After a couple of days searching Amazon, I found Paul Stutzman’s Biking Across America: My Coast to Coast Adventure and the People I Met.  I REALLY need to read the book descriptions better….

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I was intrigued by this one as he started in Washington State (Neah Bay) and was riding to Key West at the exact opposite side of the country. I would love to be able to do that!

Now you may wonder why I said I need to read the description a little more. I caught the fact that the author had lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, and to deal with the grief and loss, he hiked the Appalachian Trial. Near the end of this trek, he came up with the idea of the bike ride. He wanted to see the country, experience the adventure and hear the stories of the people he met. This will be a great book, thought I

What I missed was he was devout bible follower and in addition to sharing the story or the trip he also wanted to share message from the lord as well. Being the very non religious cowboy that I am, I would most likely NOT have purchased the book had I known that.

I have been pondering my review of this book as I read it.  I wanted to be as fair as possible.

First off I will say if you are a cyclist and church goer you will LOVE this book! I have also recommended it to my two non cyclist regular church goers, just for the message the author weaves into the narrative about the power of prayer and the lord. I will just say that for me this was the least favorite part of the book.

However, in all honesty, it was a great read.

The author has an excellent way of telling a story. When he was traveling through the Redwoods, I could see and smell the trees he was talking about. And when he described the crossing of the bridge into Coos Bay, OR, I was brought back to my own issues crossing that thing. I will remember that when I cross it again in September.

I very much liked his route, south from Neah Bay, over the bridge into Oregon, and onto San Francisco and then east.  Early on he made the decision that he would hotel it instead of camp. Which means he could carry less gear. However, he complained time and again about problems with being able to check in when he wanted, or even finding a room available. Now I am no expert, but seems to me taking 10 minutes at lunch time to search ahead to the next town and booking the room would have saved him a LOT of frustration.

He also had issues with keeping a light on his bike. First he didn’t have one. Then one fell off.  Then one got shorted out by rain (which lead to a DUMB over night trek in Utah in the middle of nowhere.)

However, unlike other narratives, not once did this man whine about the trip. He was great at explaining the pain of headwinds, and the challenges of long steep climbs, but he also expressed the joy the downhill you earn after the long climb.

He did develop a morning prayer that I liked for each morning of his trip. I could use this for the bike gods:

Keep my wheels going round and round,
keep my bicycle on the ground,
keep my tires full of air
bless and keep me everywhere.

The stories of people he met tended to lead toward the sad, destitute and needy. He used this to help spread the gospel to both them and the reader.  These normally caused my eyes to roll WAY back into my head, but that’s just me.

Overall though, I kept coming back to the book. I can tell it is a good story when I stop reading the other books I have going and sticking with one until its done. This was one of those. Add to it I respected his ride ethic.  The few times he rode in a car, he went back to the exact spot he was picked up so he would ride EFI (Every Flippin Inch) of the route.

I gave it 3 stars for all the eye rolls, but it was the best 3 start book I have read.  And I will say he went far in trying to get his messages across, though the miracles he described seemed like everyday occurrences to me, but thats just me. Its worth a read!

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7 Responses to Book Review: Biking Across America by Paul Stutzman

  1. sarburch says:

    Thanks for the review. At the first mention of religion, I would have abandoned the book. So, thank you for a heads-up that this is a book I definitely should not bother to read. I am looking forward, though, to soon digging into Joe’s new book!

    Thanks for suffering through the eye rolls so the rest of us don’t have to. You are a trooper!

    • I always hate not finishing a book. And he was a good story teller… But wow Michelle had to tap the back of my head a time or two to keep the eyes from getting stuck back there during the extreme rolling!

  2. I’m with you on the religiousity aspect though.

  3. OK, but I sure hope you don’t try to ride all the way to Key West…..it is not always about the length of the ride or the difficulty. You do great at sharing observations and just enjoying the ride.

    It sounds like you did pick up some possible route ideas from this book (I hope they are doable without extreme measures like Seattle-to-Portland which I hope you are done with!) By the way, I went to church this morning — and every Sunday morning. OOOHHH, I can hear your eyeballs rolling!

    By the way, there are meetings coming up in July about the Missing Link on the Burke-Gilman Trail: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/BGT_Ballard.htm

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