Thursday, February 14, 2013

Falling Uphill: 25,742 miles, 1461 days, 50 countries, 6 continents & 4 moments of enlightenment on a bicycle by Scott Stoll

In January I had an urge to roam so I drove up to Wisconsin twice to visit bookstores. I had never seen this book before when I came across it at Half Price Books in Brookfield. Then I saw it in two other Half Price Books stores. It turns out that Stoll hails from Milwaukee.

Falling Uphill is unlike any other bicycle tour memoir I've seen, and I've read many online and on paper. Rather than the usual chronological narrative, Stoll uses each chapter to answer one of 50 common questions by recalling some story from his journey. I could identify with this, having been asked many of the same questions about my own bike tour such as "What was the hardest part?" and "Don't your legs ever get tired?".

This book confirmed for me that I could never ride my bike around the world. The stuff he has to eat, the sanitary conditions he has to adapt to, the jerks who take advantage of him... Personally, I have no desire to deal with any of those hassles. I just don't have the disposition to roll with it. Of course, he has some great experiences as well, no doubt many more than he could fit into this book. All the same, I'm satisfied staying stateside and enjoying his stories.

A spiritual element to Stoll's journey grows as the book goes on, as four years of biking offers a lot of time to ponder such things. His experience meeting a guru bears a resemblance to an episode in Eric Weiner's Man Seeks God, and his epiphany in the Australian outback reminded me of Weiner's Franciscan friar: "...One of the steps to enlightenment includes being enlightened about how ungrateful I am."

There are so many other excerpts I could quote from this book. It took me a few chapters to get into it, but this is an exceptional bicycle touring memoir. Stoll earns extra credit for coming up with a fresh approach to what in the Internet age is becoming a crowded genre (both touring the world and publishing a story about it have never been easier). Learn more at his website.

No comments: