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Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide:

On closer inspection the town consisted of no more than a crossroads, the branches of which were populated by half a dozen motels, a couple of diners, a post office and two gas stations with convenience stores attached. And JR's Taxidermy Studios ('Mounts on Show!'); just as long as they hadn't taken to stuffing cyclists. It ill behoves (sic) a rider on the Tour Divide to moan about such a broad array, but somehow Lincoln's practical benefits were outweighed by its sombre ambiance. The forest seemed to have thickened again and its tentacles had enveloped the town.

Synopsis: Paul Howard really wants to be Bill Bryson, and disdains fat people, Americans and hippies. But he did ride 2,800 miles on his bike once.

I fell in love with the idea of the Tour Divide both by watching a 2010 documentary on the race, Ride the Divide and by reading Jill Homer's Be Brave, Be Strong, her account of smashing the women's course record in 2009 for the Tour Divide bicycle race, a 2,800-mile route from Banff, Alberta Canada to the US border with Mexico in New Mexico.

But the idea's very different from reality.

Paul Howard fell in love with the idea of the Tour Divide and then in 2009 (same race as Homer (she's mentioned twice in the book; she was way far ahead of Howard the whole time)) he rode it. By his own admission, his preparation had been a bit spotty: maybe two 100-mile attempts a few months beforehand? I'm not sure; the first part of the book is so peppered with Howard's attempts to convince the reader he's funny that it was hard to tell what was actually going on.

Then Howard actually goes and rides the Divide -- and let's be clear here, that takes chutzpah. It takes determination and stick-to-it-iveness and the vaunted ability, as Bree Loewen puts it, "to suffer for long periods of time and not die."

The suffering, it is, well....kind of weenielike. Howard really goes light on what must have been sore legs and feet and chapped and sunburnt skin and that is awesome for him if none of that happened. But what really tits him off is Americans and their ugly strip-mall-sprawl.Oh and quad bikes. Those upset him too. Basically, Paul Howard is happiest on a bike (and who could disagree, really) and while eating large breakfasts, the very specter of which he rails against in his book. He is a man of paradoxes, is what. But--

"Given that he looked like a bear and she looked like she had just swallowed one whole, I felt inclined to believe them when they said we must use the bear bins for food."

Wait, what?

"I stared in amazement at the array of hot food being served and tried not to stare too openly. Eventually a large lady completed her order."

Maybe he's just--

The eponymouse founder had apparently been a daredevil horsewoman famous for her bareback tricks (the horse was bareback that is, not the rider -- had it been the other way round her fame might have been even more widespread.)

hahahahhahaha TITTIES. Titties are high-larious, y'all.

We were not the only cyclists to have passed this way that day. Seated at the bar, considerably cleaner than when she had arrived earlier in the afternoon, was Cricket, for whom this whole adventure was a 'Mommy holiday' (some holiday, some Mom, I had thought at the time in Banff)

So...some Mom for taking a month to herself to devote to adventure? Or some Mom for leaving her children for a month? (Sidenote: Howard left his children for a month for this race. His wife did not.)

And here is where I am simply going to say that the term "'injun' country" made an appearance in the book and let y'all fend for yourselves.

But um, sir? Mr Howard?

Petunia is silently judging you.

So in summation, this book needed more bike and less Howard. I think his companions might've needed less Howard too, as Howard is the type of person who sings a merry hippopotamus song in pouring rain uphill, and makes other jokes that come off as twee. He does attempt to interject some history factoids into his account but they're very much not enough to bear the brunt force of his personality.

Now to be fair, I'm exactly the type of person who, like Howard, when biking through mud so thick it actually stopped wheels from turning, in the rain, in the middle of nowhere, as dark fell, would sing the hippopotamus song. My companions, if I had any, would likely feed me to bears on Day 2.

I ripped around Burlington this weekend on my bike, singing the bottle song (99 Green Bottles (A-Hanging On the Wall)) with a ridiculous cheerfulness that belied the rain and gloomy 40 degree-ness of the day. And then I went home, having ridden approximately 2,780 miles less than Howard did in his book.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 13th, 2013 04:17 am (UTC)
Just a short post for now (maybe more later when I am more awake?) to say that I'm glad to see you on LJ again, I've missed you and your posts.

Also, I am in agreement with you and Petunia in judging the hell out of this guy.

I only know one hippopotamus song ("I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"), but even I know to keep that one to myself, and even then in moderation. This author... wow.

Nov. 13th, 2013 12:09 pm (UTC)
I know the Flanders and Swann song and it's glorious. Also, my kids love the one you know and have recently been singing it -- incessantly. I think you are brilliant to sing it only to yourself and in moderation.

*waves to oddmonster* Hi! I love your write up of this book. It's probably funnier than the book because it surely made me chuckle.
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)

I have to say, there really is nothing like the bottles song when you're trying to get up a rilly, rilly long hill. It does make things seem a lot cheerier.

Off to look up the Flanders and Swann song...
Nov. 13th, 2013 04:06 pm (UTC)
Oooh, if you find the song, let me know! I don't have a recording of it. We just sing it:D
Nov. 13th, 2013 08:30 pm (UTC)
So, idea: y'all sing on a video for us. (y / n)?
Nov. 13th, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
Bwaaaa haaa haaa. If you want me to sing it for you, I can do that, but no video. Ugh. I'm not 20 any more. LOL.
Nov. 13th, 2013 03:55 pm (UTC)
Howdy! I am so sad I don't know this hippopotamus song...
Nov. 13th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
This one is easy to find on Youtube, but be warned, it is earwormy as hell.
Nov. 13th, 2013 08:00 pm (UTC)
Exactly what jelazakzone just said. I'm happy to attach a link, but once you get it in your head, good luck getting it back out again.

Nov. 13th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
I see what you're trying to do there. Right back atcha with the earworm.
Nov. 14th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
Petunia looks adorable when she's silently judging. I think Mr. Howard, however, might deserve a snarl or two ... what a guy.
Nov. 14th, 2013 04:26 pm (UTC)
:D She's really a lovely dog when she's not judging or biting people. Although the biting might be part of the judging.

The bit I didn't mention is how Howard was on a QUEST to Ride the Divide, and so had goals for mileage each day, and then when he joined up with the other dudes, they sat down and calculated how many more miles they needed to ride each day in order to finish their QUEST in time for one of them to get his flight home.

Understandable, yes, but also very different than being in it for the journey, imo.
Nov. 15th, 2013 02:14 pm (UTC)
I had to make a userpic just to reply to this. Petunia looks like a sweetheart – judging and biting notwithstanding. How old is she? How long has she been with you? I love pet tales.

Yeah, I'm not sure about a QUEST that has a time limit. A time limit because of the evil overlord's plans for world domination, yes. A time limit because someone has to catch a plane home, not so much.

And calculating their daily mileage based on that seems kind of "okay, let's do the bare minimum to get this done" – I much prefer Homer's solo, give-'er-all-you've-got approach.
Nov. 15th, 2013 02:55 pm (UTC)
Petunia is vaguely 3, and she's been with us nearly two years now. She had a really bad experience being picked up by animal control (all their fault) but also obviously had come from a not-good place before that and so had been marked by the no-kill shelter as Unhomeable (emergency board meeting, the full nine yards). My dog-enabling friend of course emailed J and was like "I just need a place to keep her for three days until I figure something out."

And then I came home and was like, nope, mine.

She's called Petunia because to get her calm enough to where I could pet her, I sang her the Petunia song.

We still can't pick her up, she's bitten both of us and is on prozac, but now at least we can give her hugs and -- milestone -- I can put medication in her ears when she needs it. :D

It's really hard to say which one of us is more ridiculous.

And here is where I point out that despite the Git 'Er Done attitude displayed by Howard and his compatriots, Homer beat them all quite handily (huzzah!).

Nov. 15th, 2013 11:58 pm (UTC)
Aw, poor sweetie. Sounds like she had a tough time before she found a home with you. And I totally see why you were like, "nope, mine," the minute you saw her. Those eyes. That face. Utterly adorable. As is the thought of you singing the Petunia song to her. :D

Nov. 19th, 2013 06:12 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I was hoping for a review of this book after the way it failed to score on GR. Dudes just don't know how to write the journey. This one doesn't even seem to know how to have it. What a shame for him.

Judgy Petunia is harsh but fair.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


TP: the arm is watching you.

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