Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage

I recently finished reading the non-fiction novel Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage, a must-read for anyone who is the least bit into exploring, adventure cycling, and traveling.  Heck, anyone who is into anthropology, geography, culture, etc. should read it as well.  I’m into all of the above, so this book was my perfect cup of tea.  It is really a fun read for anyone.  This book was a gift to me from my good friend, Travis Poppe, and I’m really glad he shared it with me!

This book is the epitome of the idea that one of the best ways to travel and get up close and personal with the environment around you is to travel by bicycle.  People, animals, weather, sites, smells, and all of your other senses have the opportunity to absorb what is around you when you’re moving through it by bicycle.  It is this intimacy with your surroundings that puts a lot of the adventure into adventure cycling!  And yet a bicycle can get you where you want to go with a fair about of ease and timeliness.  Traveling by bicycle gives you the best of all worlds.

This book features the couple, Larry and Barbara Savage, as they travel through 25 countries around the world by bicycle in the late 1970s.  To me, the most vivid and fantastic aspect of this book is the vastly different habits and customs of the cultures that are encountered.  Maybe “encounter” is the wrong word here because Larry and Barbara have to communicate, eat, and many times sleep in the same dwelling as the people they encounter.  Their experience is very different than the “tourist” experience you read about in travel magazines.  They must travel the back-roads for safety, stop somewhat frequently to buy food at a road-side stand or restaurant and refill water containers, which requires a lot of communication with the locals.  Many of the countries they visit seem to have sort of a cookie-cutter itinerary for the tourists coming by bus and airplane, which is only a secondary option for the bicycle tourists.  The Savages really make up their experience as they go, based on whatever is available in the towns and villages they happen upon.  If I ever decide to go abroad, I would like a good portion of it to be in this wandering style.

Their travels aren’t all lovely and blissful, however; the Savages go through some pretty downright frightening scenarios.  It is these situations I would like to forego when I go off on vacation somewhere (not than I’m a pansy or anything)!  Foreign illnesses, big crawly things in the jungle, people with guns; yeah, that part I can do without in my ideal expedition.  :-)  However, reading about it in this book made it quite the thriller, and gave some real first-person insight into extreme places and events of the time.  I still find it hard to wrap my mind around how some cultures are so very kind and generous, like New Zealanders who gave the best of their food and dwellings, whereas others are downright horrible, like the road-rage drivers in Florida, frigid Germans in the Alps and the rock-throwing Egyptians on the road to Luxor.  When I have the time, I would like to spend some time understanding why there exist such drastic differences in courtesy among cultures.  But I think that would require a degree in anthropology.  Guess I better get started.  ;-)

And of course the aspect of this book that is most valuable to cyclists is the cycling related trials and tribulations, such as icy cold rain, mechanical problems, steep grades, stiff winds, muscle cramps, fatigue, and so on.  It was really nice to read about the cycling related suffering of a fellow long distance cyclist.  Then again, the relatively short distances that I ride and the somewhat mild climate and environment of Pocatello, Idaho in which I cycle made me feel like a real wuss and gave me huge admiration for what the Savages endured.  The people of Pocatello are quite kind and are very courteous drivers.  This book made me feel quite fortunate to live and bicycle here.

Anyway, this book can be had for as little as $5 if you look around on Google Product Search and will definitely inspire you to load up your bike with camping gear and go head off into the wilderness!

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