The Cyclist Who Went Out In The Cold: Adventures Riding The Iron Curtain, by Tim Moore
Having read a considerable body of work from the author at this point , I have to say that this is the finest book by the author I have read to date. This volume lacks none of the hilarity of the self-effacing humor of previous volumes but it also shows the author in a highly reflective state of life and in a situation that is rife with implications for contemporary Europe. The blend of melancholy reflectiveness as well as wit and humor makes for an excellent read that never slacks and that allows the author to power through a heroic trip from northern Norway to the shores of the Black Sea. As the author repeatedly makes heroic trips, the staggering nature of this trip may be underestimated by those who do not understand just how much territory he powers through on a Cold War-era bicycle that does not have a particularly great reputation nowadays where it is remembered at all. And yet this book offers a considerable amount of value not only as a humorous adventure travelogue, but also about some of the troubles that threaten Europe from within as well as from without at present.
In terms of its contents, this book is very straightforward in showing the author’s usual shambolic preparation for his travels, and a fairly detailed and humorous discussion of day after day spent cycling on a small bicycle at a fairly low speed–his average remains under 10 mph throughout the whole journey–and also looking at how the Cold War continues to shape the way life is in Eastern and Central Europe. The author bemoans the aggressiveness and incivility of Russians, and comments on how various nationalities sought to preserve their spirit in the face of foreign domination. He looks at the state of their roads, at the friendliness of their people, at their runaway dogs, and at the agricultural activities of peasants. Over and over again the author notes that the Cold War continues to shape the attitudes of people as well as the land and architecture and infrastructure. In one particularly poignant moment the author notes that he was an observer of the beginnings of the refugee crisis in Europe without being fully aware of it. It is the poignancy of the observations that the author makes about life in Europe and about the scars people face and about the desire to forget the past and drown it under large amounts of alcohol that make this book such a worthwhile, as the comedy–where the author jokingly calls himself Comrade Timoteo, is something to be expected from the author’s body of work.
By this time, those who appreciate the body of work that Tim Moore has put together know that they are going to read about an epic and somewhat daft adventure but one that has a great deal of humor and a melancholy undertow. Six books to date have demonstrated the author’s persona and approach to a great degree. One does wonder a bit about where the author is going to go from here. His twitter feed shows that he is (as I am typing this) currently engaged in an epic trip across the United States in a Model T, which ought to make for a good volume when he decides to write about it. As a man well into middle age, though, one wonders if there are any cycling books left in him. And if there are, what will he do? Bicycle the silk road from China to Turkey? At any rate, this book combines humor with a growing sense of maturity and it makes for a satisfying and worthwhile read.
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