Recently I realized something. Even though I have continued being an avid reader this year, as always, it has been a long time since I have read a cycling book. So, a week ago I went perusing Amazon for a good choice.
After a bit I stumbled upon Downhills Don’t Come Free (One Man’s Bike Ride from Alaska to Mexico) by Jerry Holl. I loved the title! It may honestly be the best bike book title I’ve ever read. Anyone who has ever reveled at a fast long downhill after climbing for hours would understand why.
Jerry Holl, the author, is a 50 something cowboy a fed up with corporate life. He needed something big to jump-start his life. He and I had a lot in common with adding adventures to his life on weekends. He hiked, skied and spent time in the woods as much as possible.
Somehow though, even though he wasn’t a cyclist, in fact he had never ridden more 20 miles at one time, he decided to ride from Anchorage to Mexico! To add to this, he decided to do it alone, camping the entire way. This means full panniers and a MUCH heavier bike. Now a smart person would have practiced and trained to do this. He chose not to. Add to it, he started the ride not knowing how to change a tire or do basic maintenance. Now I am NO expert, but I know enough to keep me moving. He annoyed me a bit there.
Now, I also remember the early days of cycling. Even with padded shorts, if you haven’t built up the miles (and the butt callouses) you will get saddle sore with long miles. Jerry’s first day was 0ver 50 miles. Then he was up and rolling the next day with another 50. Soon he was cranking out 100 mile days. Honestly I was surprised as hell, as these are some long days. Hell, I am not sure I could these. He never mentioned being sore, but I know he had to be!
At some points in the book I connected very well with the author. He was speaking my language. As he traveled through Alaska he learned the reason we cyclists do what we do. There is no better way to travel through nature than on a bike. He described the sights, the smells, the sounds and just the over-awesome awareness a cyclist feels in nature. I know how it feels at the Oregon Coast and Mt Rainier, I can only imagine what Alaska would be like! He made me want to be there.
He and I differ in our riding styles. He was ALL about the miles! It almost seemed like it was a competition with himself on how far he could go. I found myself wanting to yell to him to slow down, take more photos, and enjoy himself. But each person rides his own ride, and this was his way, so who am I to tell him different.
I was not partial to his dialogue writing though. It seemed like every conversation he documented was a long diatribe with people, expounding on his views of life and adventure and trying to inspire others to do the same. Now I admit, one of the hopes I have for this blog is to inspire others to adventure. But he made it sound like he was soap boxing each and every time.
I love the route he took though. Alaska to BC to Washington State. Once in WA, he made it way to the coast and south all the way to Mexico. The funniest part of the book occurred when he was in Cannon Beach for breakfast. He didn’t say where he was eating (something I wish he had done throughout actually, I like making notes of places to go) but I think he was at the Lazy Susan Cafe.
When he was finished and trying to cash out his server told him, “You are not done yet! You need to finish your kale. its good for you!” The same thing that happened to me when I was there. Made me laugh while reading it in the lunchroom at work.
I gave the book 4 stars. Aside from his pontificating, you could tell he came to love cycling more and more as the ride went along. He dodged bears, braved the weather and conquered hills I would love to ride. He described the trials of headwinds and steep climbs as well as the total thrill and exhilaration of bombing downhill.
I read this book straight through, and was honestly bummed when he made it to the end. I recommend this to anyone who likes to ride, plus, you need to read it just to see what happens to him on the last day… Just made me shake me head!
Like the wind!