If you've ever daydreamed about riding a bicycle from coast to coast across the United States, you may want to pick up a copy of John Greenfield's Bars Across America before you saddle up.
This is no cautionary tale. It's not fraught with peril or disenchantment. It's actually a very entertaining, straightforward, and mostly humorous account of one man's bicycling adventure from Astoria, Oregon to Boston, Mass. At 159 pages, you'll enjoy it so much, you're likely to finish it in one sitting.
Why is this a must-read for the wannabe cycling tourist?
Well, contrary to the belief held by anyone who happens to reside in a major SMA (which is more than 80% of us), every town in America has not yet qualified for their very own Mc Donalds. Surprisingly, many have not even made the grade for its lower-quality cousin, Hardee's. The 1,000-inhabitant southwestern Michigan town where I sacrificed four and a half impressionable years of my youth barely rated a Tastee Freeze.
If you enjoy riding your bike and you're fond of eating, you're going to end up in quite a few bars.
John not only suffered through it - he embraced it!
You may have already noticed the cover picture of John outside one such saloon, one hand on his 'bars in full touring attire and the other hand raising a toast to his journey. I guess I forgot to mention that the subtitle is Drinking and Biking from Coast to Coast...
You'll appreciate his narrative whether you like to imbibe or are a devoted teetotaler. For it is in these establishments - local taverns - where the real character of the American people is revealed. After all, what's good prose without interesting characters?
I won't go as far as to say that this is On The Road for cycling enthusiasts (mostly because John lacks an unpredictable sidekick), but it is rendered in the Great American Road Trip tradition. It will definitely add a much-needed dose of reality to any would-be tourist's romantic fantasy.
If you can't wait for Amazon to ship you a copy (and it's not yet available for Kindle), stop by Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square. Ask Kevin or any of the guys (or Mary) when John might be stopping by for an autograph, as he is a local bicycling writer with ties to the shop. He can also be reached directly through his website, Grid Chicago.
Lest you think I'm shamelessly shilling for John, I actually paid full price for this book. I read it cover to cover and if I thought it was bad, I'd let you know.
To prove this, I will someday get around to reviewing Atlas Shrugged. That is, after I get over being angry with myself for wasting so much time reading 1069 pages of the worst Harlequin romance novel disguised as a Libertarian manifesto ever allowed to be published...
Keep riding and be safe.