Book Review: To Shake the Sleeping Self By Jedidiah Jenkins

I saw this book more than once on our visits to the giant book store, Powells Books, in Portland.  (I just realized, I need to do a Blog post on this store! Next time I am there I will take pictures and do so, but I digress)

Reading the back of book, it was the story about a man who started his ride on the Oregon Coast and rode to Patagonia.  How could I not read a book that starts at my home town??

During our last visit I finally picked it up and, last night I finished it.

I was really excited to read this book…

I was even more excited to read it when I found out, within the first few pages, the author was the son Peter Jenkins, who wrote A Walk  Across America. A book I loved in JR High.

I was thoroughly prepared to love this book.

Yeah I didn’t…

First off, I will apologize to the author. During the book, he and his riding buddy Weston, would decide, “Hey I am tired.” or “Yeah I don’t like that next stretch.” or “yeah we spent too much in that last town” So instead riding they would hitchhike or bus, to avoid the stretch.

Every time he did this I would think, or confession time. growl out loud, “DUDE you are supposed to be cycling!”

However, reading the subtitle of the book there was no promise of the bike being the only mode of transportation.

“A journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a quest for a life with no regrets”  He did the full journey, so on this I should just quit my bitchin!

Jed is turning 30, and feels like he hasn’t accomplished anything. (I think having a dad who walks across whole countries kinda add to this for him.)

He meets someone who did do this ride and on the spur of the moment decides he will do so as well.

To his credit, he gave himself over a year to prepare. NOT to his credit, he did nothing, cycling wise, to prepare.  He buys his bike just before the ride, and much like Cheryl Strayed in Wild (another one of my not favorite books) he takes off completely unready.

Then add to it, Weston, who invites himself along, and in Portland buys a $300 bike off Craigs list and doesn’t even have a sleeping bag. It’s a wonder they made it through the first day.

Let’s discuss Weston for a bit. He is against money in general. He has very little, and thinks he can get by in life without it. Jed, made sure have enough money in the bank to cover him for the 18 months on the road. Weston did not.  Part way through we learn that Weston is out of money.  Well NOT quite out, he has his money allocated for weed along the way.

He does prove you can get by without money, Jed ends up funding him for a while, up and until he bales out on Jed to go to a wedding in Hawaii and never returning.

Weston and I have one thing in common. We have the same questions about religion. Which takes us back to the hero, Jed.

Jed was raised in a very religious household (his mom is south Bible Belt zealot) However Jed is also gay. As I am sure you can imagine, this causes him more than just a little angst. Case in point, his mom still hopes the right girl will come along and ‘cure’ his gayness.

I bring this up as it is a major theme of the book. Long distance riding gives you a lot of time to think, as you enjoy the ride. We get pages and pages and chapters and chapters of the guilt, and struggles and feelings that stem from being a devout christian, who just happens to be gay, who is on a multi-thousand mile bike ride with someone who keeps asking questions about god and the bible that there are no answers to.  (yes I know. LONG sentence)

For us to get to know the author, we need to know this about him.  But he would skip whole countries he cycled through to tell us about this. (speaking of skipping, he skipped Guatamala to go home for Christmas. How do you skip an entire country. (WAIT a minute, he did NOT complete the whole trip!  I am back to bitchin!!))

Hell, there were more pages about a magic mushroom hunt and the resulting psychedelic trip, than there was about all of Panama…

Near the end, Jed was just wanting the trip to be over, as I read, I felt the same about the book.

We both made it.

One positive, he did describe some areas of the trip that I would love to cycle through.  And I would love to see an Andean Condor like he did.

But seriously, with all the places he went, and he took photos along the way, there was not ONE photo in the book… I love pictures!!

In short, don’t waste your time on this one.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: To Shake the Sleeping Self By Jedidiah Jenkins

  1. I’m generally skeptical of armchair traveling reads. I’ve heard this book mentioned a number of times. But if YOU didn’t like it, I ain’t gonna spend my time. I’d rather be riding my own two wheels — making my own cycling memories.

    I appreciate the candid review. Thanks, Tony!

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