“Away on the road where the dusty clouds whirl
Away with a spirit ecstatic
Goes the cool-as-an-icicle bicycle girl
Bestriding the latest pneumatic;
She heeds not the scoffers who scorn,
Though knickers her kickers adorn,
The cool-as-an-icicle, bicycle, tricycle maiden by no means forlorn.”
— London Judy, Buffalo Illustrated Express, July 29, 1894
The image and poem above are from a delightful 2007 book by Peter Zheutlin, Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride.
During the heyday of bicycling in the mid-1890s, before the invasion of the automobile, a cycling trip around the world was Annie’s chosen route to fame, and perhaps fortune. She adopted “Annie Londonderry” as her nom de plume for the spellbinding tales of adventures in exotic locales — some of dubious credibility — that she dispatched to The New York World.
The author of Annie’s remarkable story is one of her descendants; she was the sister of Zheutlin’s great-grandfather.
In Monday’s blog post, “That first crank of the pedals,” I wrote that I’m fascinated by stories about journeys. Some of the best ones that I’ve read over the years provide inspiration and fodder for this blog.
One of the most humorous accounts of a journey — except perhaps Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It — is by Bill Bryson, about a trek along the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, an old buddy from Iowa. One passage from the book, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, has stuck with me and perhaps explains America’s problems with obesity and diabetes:
“Now here’s a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week. For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average the total walking of an American these days — that’s walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls — adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. That’s ridiculous.”
Some other favorite books about journeys:
— Old Glory: A Voyage Down the Mississippi, by Jonathan Raban
— Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, by Stephen E. Ambrose
— Gypsy Moth Circles the World, by Francis Chichester
— The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall
— Into the Wild, by John Krakauer
— Over the Hills: A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle, by David Lamb
— At One With the Sea: Alone Around the World, by Naomi James
— Travels With Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
— Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, by William Least-Heat Moon
— Hokkaido Highway Blues, by Will Ferguson
— Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum
I’d welcome from readers of this blog any other recommendations of books about journeys.