Tuesday, July 31, 2012

PGH Book #7: The Lost Cyclist

The hardest decision I had to make about the bike trip wasn't the route ("stay on trail" was the plan) or the food (noodles, oatmeal, noodles, oatmeal, and a smores poptart here and there). It was the books to read. Last year I tried to take a copy of Devil in the White City with me. I had read it before, and was completely aware of its contents, but a friend advised that taking a book about a serial killer while I would be camping alone might not be my best idea yet. This year I wanted to take along The Lost Cyclist, but when I described it to someone as "a book where this guy from Pittsburgh tries to ride his bike around the world but ends up disappearing in Turkey," he thought maybe I should come up with other options. (Which I eventually did. But I don't think taking either Gary Paulsen's Hatchet or The River were the most brilliant choices thematically anyway.)

So, once I got back from the trip and had settled back into normal life, I picked up The Lost Cyclist.

This book did nothing the quell the extreme wanderlust I felt a few weeks after getting back to Pittsburgh post-bike trip. Before I even started in on The Lost Cyclist, I was already researching the possibility of riding my bike across Canada. The Cyclist at the center of this story is Frank Lenz, from Pittsburgh, which is why this counts as a PGH Book. He was one of the first cyclists ever to get into racing and touring. It was his dream to ride his bike across the world (i.e., become a "globe girdler"), and he got the opportunity to do so in the mid 1890s. On bike with a camera and very little else, Lenz cycled across the United States to the West Coast, took a ship to Asia and went through Japan and China. Others had attempted these kinds of extreme tours before Lenz, but they had started in Europe and crossed a lot of terrain by train. Lenz was a fervent believer in biking across all terrains when possible, so his mileage was considerably greater and his trip considerably more dangerous. He also attempted his tour of the world alone, while many others had partners along for the ride. Long story short: he disappears in Turkey. The book then goes into the crazy search that followed.

Even though our poor hero doesn't make it out alive (not a spoiler; it's revealed early on that things don't go Lenz's way), the descriptions of his travels on two wheels made me incredibly jealous. It's nothing I could set out to do in the very near future, but I'm starting to work things out in the back of my mind to one day tackle some sort of cross-country (preferably Canada, but I'd also consider the United States) bike tour. Frank Lenz may have just become my favorite Pittsburgher. 

No comments:

Post a Comment