“So This is Christmas” and “Ruby Grace” Excellent gift ideas!

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am an avid reader.  I’ve been reading damn near every day since at least the 4th grade, and maybe even before.  Getting a book for my birthday or Christmas was the perfect gift.  What else could you get, for the price of a movie, that gives you many many hours of fun.

Nowadays, I carry my iPad or my Kindle everywhere I go, and I read whenever I get the chance.  I usually have 2 or 3 books going at anyone time.

When asked for gift ideas for people, one of the first things I think of is a book!  Those who can write and get a book published are to be admired.  Which is why I am excited to do this post.  Two of my friends, Jim Devitt, and Renee Hazen, have each just published a book that would be perfect for the holidays!

I am lucky enough to have read them both and I can share them with you! Continue reading ““So This is Christmas” and “Ruby Grace” Excellent gift ideas!”

Book Review: Living Life, Cheating Death, Linda’s Story by Ralph Turner

Folks, pure and simple and straight up front with y’all this is NOT my normal kind book!  There’s no Sci Fi, Zombies, Bikes, Mountains or someone like Dirk Pitt saving the day.  However, My kid sis asked me to read this as it was written by a friend of her’s.  I like to help new authors as two good friends of mine have written books.  So I agreed.

I almost changed my mind though when she warned me it was heavy on the power of the bible and how it can change your life.  I am as far from a religious cowboy as you can get, but I figured “Hey, knowing this, if it could keep my interest till the end, it must be a good book. Continue reading “Book Review: Living Life, Cheating Death, Linda’s Story by Ralph Turner”

Book Review: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

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Sometimes readers, you should count yourselves lucky that you are not friends of mine on Facebook.  As I read this book, they were stuck listening to my almost daily griping about it.  I know it was a best seller, I know it was an Oprah booklist book (that shoulda warned me), but I am telling you, I should NOT have wasted my money on it!  At least I did an e-book, so I didn’t kill trees… Continue reading “Book Review: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed”

The Man Who Cycled the World: Hugh Beaumont

I hadn’t read and reviewed a cycling book for a while.  So I went in search of one.  I like adventure books, tales of travel and adversity, and learning from others who like to challenge themselves.  I also like a book in which the writer can laugh at himself, and entertain me, while reading about is adventures.

I have read many a dry chronicle of mountain climbing, cycling and arctic travel n my times.  This one, from the synopsis on Amazon, looked like it would be a fun read. Continue reading “The Man Who Cycled the World: Hugh Beaumont”

Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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Ever hear about something, of even read a book, and learned that you could have followed along during the actual adventure by simply following the blog?  Well this is one of those times!  I was introduced to their Family on Bikes Blog at the end of 2012 and I have been following it ever since.  I was even able to help vote for the final cover! (This is the one I voted for!)  I recommend the blog, and the people behind it!  If I ever make it to Boise, I am going to have to say hi!  Sadly, though, I never sound this while the ride was happening.

Enough of that lets talk about the book!  I liked it a lot!  Basic premise, a family (mom, dad and twin 10-year-old boys) decide to ride bikes from as far north as you can get in Alaska (well above the Arctic Circle) and pedal as far south as you can get in South America….  I had trouble getting my kid ride 25 miles with me just once!

What I liked about the book is the cadence.  Nancy gave details, about each country they rode through, how the bikes and bodies held up, the weather, bugs, dust hills and wind.  Which, as any cyclist will tell you, can make or break any long ride.

What she didn’t do, though, is mire down the story with the details,  She kept it moving.  As you went through each country, you had a great feel about the people, culture, and terrain, but she didn’t let you get bored before getting to the next country.  She did an excellent job telling the story!

I also liked how much we learned about the boys.  There were times I would just start thinking these were 16 or 17 year olds, then i’d read they played with action figures or hot wheels cars.  She kept the human aspect with her and the boys near the front, for us all to see, but it also didn’t take over.  It was part of the story as opposed to taking away from it.

This does take me to one of the negative pieces of the review.  I feel I got to know Nancy and both boys very well.  But I just didn’t get much about Dad.  He was the muscle, the mechanic and supportive, but he just didn’t get fleshed out as much as the other three.  (Being a Dad, I wanted to know more about him.)

I liked the way she also gave details about the off times.  You can’t ride this non-stop.  Being a Monday morning quarterback, its easy for me to say that they may have taken too much time off here and there, making it harder to get back into road shape.  However, it wasn’t my butt in the saddle, or my legs moving the pedals.  Letting us know the family did have downtime kept the travels real.  Many times, books about long trips just gloss over the down times.

She was also very open about how she was almost ready to throw in the towel, give up and go home, a very natural feeling.  Again, though, this is where I would’ve liked to know if Dad felt the same way?

The one last negative I may get guff for, but here we go.   You can tell Nancy dearly loves her boys, and is (rightly so) very proud of them for doing so well, and rarely complaining.   However, after the 7th or 8th time reading about it, I wanted to say “Ok, we got it, you are  proud, move on!”

These minor little things did NOT keep me from thoroughly enjoying this book, and out of 5 I give it 4 stars. Its fun, entertaining, fast paced and it fulfills the ultimate rule I have for cycling books.  It made me WANT to get on my bike and take a long ride!  I wish I could have tagged along for part of this ride.

Get Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World   I am very happy to add it to my adventure library, and i hope you will think so too!

PS, I think what happened with the boys and the Guinness Book of World Records.  You’ll have to read it to see what that was!

Book Review: The Metal Cowboy: Ten Years Further Down the Road Less Pedaled by Joe Kurmaskie

I really like to read! I have been an avid reader since my dad gave me my fist real book “The Sackett Brand” by Louis L’Amour back in the 4th grade. I read many different genres, from sci-fi, to westerns, fantasy, and hard science to name a few. What I pride myself on is my Adventure Library. This was started back when I started climbing mountains in the 90s. It contains climbing books, running rivers, crossings of polar regions and deserts, as well as many books on cycling. (Right now they are all in plastic bins in the attic, but when we have a place big enough….)

Over the years, I have developed one rule on determining whether it s a good adventure book or not. “Does it make me want to go out and do what the author is writing about?” Using ONLY that rule, Joe Kurmaskie hits a home run with “The Metal Cowboy: 10 Ten Years Further Down the Road Less Pedaled.

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This is the anniversary edition of this book. First printed 10 years ago. It is a compilation of short stories chronicling Joe’s adventures traveling the world on a bike (only man I know who had to outrun a charging elephant in Africa (true story I’ve seen the video!)). Most importantly, each story, standing on its own, made me want to get the bike and ride, regardless of the weather, time of day, or what I should have been doing.

Taken as a whole, all I can say is that I am glad (or am I) that this book wasn’t around when I was in high school. I am telling you, if it had been, there is a damn good chance this office jockey wouldn’t have gone to college. I’d have been cycling the United States and beyond, seeing and experiencing those things that can only be done on the back of 2 wheels. He inspires you to want to ride that much!

However, that is NOT the only reason t read this. I will tell you from experience, that many adventurers are NOT entertaining writers. Being interested in the quest has kept me performing my own death march through many a mountain climbing trip with the author.

NOT so with Joe. If you don’t laugh audibly at least once during this book (I woke up my wife a time or two reading in bed) you MIT want to take your pulse. Only Joe would find a hotel full of Elvises (Elvi?) dress like a scarecrow, have a friend MAKE him leave Aruba or be named Metal Cowboy by a blind man at a street corner.

What I like about the way he writes, is that even though cycling is the focal point (without the bike, it never would have happened) of each story, they aren’t mundane: I traveled this many miles, in this much time, with these winds and I saw…..

He is an excellent story-teller.  You know when he is on the bike, what he is feeling and whether is a good ride, or he is dying at the time.  You can feel the wind when it is there, and either curse or revel in it (depending on the direction it is blowing).  Better yet though, you find out what happens when he is OFF the bike (Kiefer Sutherland?   Really??).  Non of us spend 24/7 pedaling down the road, its nice to know what can await you when you lean the bike against a porch and it time to eat.

Want to fall in love with cycling all over again?  Want to honestly have a good time reading a book?  Even if you read it once, get the Metal Cowboy: Ten Years Further Down the Road Less Pedaled.  Better yet, skip Amazon and go to MetalCowboy.com and order an autographed copy.  He also does a great presentation about his rides, I’ve only been lucky enough to see him once, but I will see him again, he speaks as well as he writes!

Good Men Do Good Things!

OK I will tell you flat-out, this post has nothing at all to do with cycling.  This one is dedicated to my buddy Jim Devitt, Blogger, Social Media Consultant, family man, Author and, I might add, one of the 3 guys that help mould Mountainstroh into the man you read about today.  Jim was one of the founders of the Strohs Bros and Fros, our intramural sports playing, beer drinking, college and beyond group!  He invited me into the group after camping out for Huey Lewis and the News Tickets!  I might also add, the semester I first met Jim was the only term at WSU I earned less than a 3.00 GPA! (Thanks Jim!)

Now this is NOT a post about the adventures with Jim since I met him (that would take a book, but just an FYI NEVER play quarters with this man!)  this is about the Jim Devitt of today!  (Also for the record, this is completely unsolicited, and I am sure he will flip me crap for this post!)

As I mentioned Jim is a published author.  In 2011 he published “The Card (A Van Stone Novel)”

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Only Jim could combine his personal experience in the Seattle Mariner Club House, and use it into write a novel that combines Baseball, Adventure, Mystery and a little bit of Science Fiction (thrown in for flavor).  It’s a book that was initially meant for a young adult audience, but most adults I have recommended this book to have told me they loved it as much as their teens did!

My original review on Amazon went like this:

Ever wonder what a book by Clive Cussler would be like if Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino were teenagers? Well I now know the answer, Van Stone and his side-kicks will take you on the same kind of ride I have only found in a Cussler novel.

What seems to start out as a book about a bat boy for the Seattle Mariners quickly turns into a mystery-adventure. (I have to admit, I pride myself on being able to figure out who-done-it, and potential plot twists. The ending on this one caught me completely by surprise!)

I think one most impressed me about this book was that it is completely believable. The characters, Van, Fred and Zoe can be found in any high school. I particularly like how strong a character Zoe is, a great role model for any young lady. More importantly though, everything they do is feasible. There is no magic, no strange coincidences, or anything that would make you say “yeah right!” (Though I must say Fred’s use of bacon grease was brilliant!) The kids even use the metro-bus to travel through Seattle to avoid problems with parking. I’ve always disliked novels that have people pull up to some place downtown and always seem to find a spot to park.

The novel is well researched, I’ve been to Safeco field many times, and knew very little about the roof. Better yet, Jim Devitt weaves the facts into the story so well; you don’t know you are learning.

As I said, I bought the book for my sons to read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I sincerely hope there will be more to come!

However, this post is NOT just to encourage you to buy and read Jim’s book, though you won’t be sorry.  My reason for doing this post today was that I read Jim’s Blog today.  In it he explains how he has joined other independent authors in helping libraries that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  Yep, that’s right, in the era where authors are charging WAY too much for Kindle editions, Jim is giving away copies of his books to libraries and school districts!  Why, because it’s the right thing to do and he cares.

Folks, I always knew Jim was a good friend, I’ve known him for 30 years.  This just goes to show how much of a good man overall he is!  Good men do good things, and he did!

This project is ongoing, for more information you can visit http://www.ksbrooks.com/AuthorsforHurricaneSandyLibraries.htm