While having lunch just now, I chanced upon yesterday’s newspaper. One news item caught my eye – about a young man who graduated from university and is riding his bicycle home. Pretty normal, one might think, until you explore the article to find out that he graduated from Duke University in North Carolina and and he’s cycling home to Taiping from USA. He pedalled off from Los Angeles, reaching Washington DC in 38 days, covering a distance of 5,625km. He started his European leg early this week, with about 15,000 km to go. He gets to hop on and off airplanes, of course, since he cant pedal his way across the oceans.
His journey reminds me of a book that I read last 2 years: the Memory of Running by Ron McLarty. Smithson ‘Smithy’ Ide is a 279-pound, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, 43-year-old misfit who works in a G.I. Joe factory putting arms and legs on the action heroes. After his parents died in a car accident, Smithy finds a letter to his father about Bethany, his sister, stating that, “Bethany Ide, 51, died from complications of exposure… and she has since that time been in the Los Angeles Morgue West.” Bethany, given to taking off her clothes in public places, holding impossible poses for long periods of time, responding to voices that only she can hear, and disappearing for no known reason.
When he reads the letter, he is drunk and alone. He goes out to the garage to smoke and have another drink and spies his old Raleigh bicycle. He sits on it, wheels it to the end of the driveway and started pedaling. He ended up cycling across the country from Long Island all the way to California. On the road he meets the good, the bad, and the really bad. He frequently calls Norma, the Ides’ neighbour, confined to a wheelchair for years.
Nothing I say can do justice to this book. It’s a simple story, told with simple words, yet the author managed to paint the picture of Smithy’s trip and I could see all the colors, feel what the people in those stories were feeling. It’s not a sappy story, eventhough I did shed some tears reading it (but then that’s just me – I can weep just from watching some TV commercials LOL). Far from it – it’s about unconditional love that travels across thousands of miles through the telephone line and the strength that it brings. It’s about fun stuff too, and how life is made up of all sorts of experience and stories.
I highly recommend it. Great for vacations or even for that afternoon at home.
Oh ya – to find out more about young Law’s cycle home, go to http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/longwayhome