I read Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell after having Animal Farm handed out in a high school English class and my life seemed to change track. Not that I’m now a monumental hero instead of a drooling townie drunk. It just made me want to read more and more – to annihilate my angst-ridden self amongst the madness of 1930’s Europe and anything else other than the suddenly tap-dripping slowness of rural Nova Scotia. There was always another amazing story by a new writer who was nothing like the last but stunning and keeping me clinging onto their books.
I read Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon in London many years later and for the first time felt like my real thing – what would make me truly happy and I could be pretty good at – could be to just explode into adventure. My best friend and I started taking off on weekends covering what seemed like epic distances on bikes bought on Ebay for £100 (brand new). Those are some of the best trips I’ve ever had. We were such idiots, it was fantastic. So much enthusiasm and such awful gear. Reading about Ted Simon on his Triumph motorbike in the 70’s, particuarly going down the length of Africa and then Patagonia to San Francisco, made traveling a bunch of the world, without much money, training or good gear a real option. Ted Simon, like most other great adventurers, reads as exceptionally humble. He seemed honest about the struggles and rewards of being off so long, away from any place familiar. I just found out he got a new bike and went around the world for a second time in 2001 and has written another book. If you’re curious here’s an excerpt: http://jupitalia.com/journal/april-22-my-lucky-break-part-i/
Alistair Humphrey’s books about cycling around the world (here and here)were what made me decide that was exactly what I would do too. Then Jorja came along and Alistair worked his magic on her as well. Thanks Al.
I’ve been thinking, worrying more like, about what kind of bike to get and what is important to have. Are disc brakes essential? Should I have a rear rack welded onto the frame? Would it be stupid not to have a Rolhoff hub? But then I found all these people and loads more who didn’t have any fancy parts, they just wanted to do it and that was enough.
Thomas Stevens hopped on his penny-farthing and cycled across America from San Francisco to Boston in 1884 and then just kept going. Winding up being the first person to cycle around the world. Here he is in that years Levi’s commuter range.
Fred Birchmore rode a single-speed bike that weighed 42 pounds around the world in 1935. He seems to have had a great time apart from Hitler yelling in his face at a student rally in Cologne. That’s his baby below. More on him here
Louise Sutherland left London for India on a bike bought for £2.10 at a church jumble sale. She had gotten the taste for long distance cycling while at nursing school and visiting her parents on the weekends 100 kilometers away. Eventually Raleigh and Peugeot were provided her bikes for free. At 52 she cycled 4,400 kilometers through the Amazon Jungle completely unsupported without knowing how to fix a puncture.
Keiichi Iwasaki left Japan with 2 dollars and has been riding for over 10 years. He has been robbed by pirates, arrested in India, almost died after being attacked by a rabid dog in Tibet, and narrowly escaped marriage in Nepal. When not cycling across continents he climbed Everest and paddled solo across the Caspian Sea. He’s financed all this by doing magic tricks on the street.
And then there are the runners. Rosie Swale-Pope is a staggeringly impressive human. After her husband died of Prostate Cancer in 2002 Rosie decided to run around the world to raise money for Prostate Cancer Charity and an orphanage in Russia. She left home on her 57th birthday in 2003. 5 years latter she made it home, hobbling on crutches with stress fractures in both her legs. She ran more than 20, 000 miles pulling a cart.
So I’m getting a frame very much like this, a Bob Jackson World Tour. It won’t have fancy expensive components, just a classic touring bike.