The story of a naïve 20-something’s monthlong 2,000-mile bike trek, a journey designed to provide some direction to his life.
First-time memoirist and Portland, Oregon-based bike enthusiast Benson tells the all-too-familiar life story of the archetypal disaffected young white male just out of college putting himself through some masochistic Pilgrim’s Progress ordeal in order to make sense of his life. In the beginning, we find Benson in the Guatemalan jungle, where he soon grew tired of the backpacker’s life and decided he needed more than just rudderless experiences abroad to have a chance at spiritual fulfillment. Consequently, he and his girlfriend, Rachel, traveled back to the United States to embark on a grueling bike journey from their native Wisconsin all the way to western Oregon. To make the trip even more difficult, they imposed a strict one-month deadline for the adventure. However, the best American road narratives are borne out of leisurely pacing, often allowing for more randomness and serendipity to take place along the road. Benson and Rachel were so busy blazing toward their destination that they missed countless opportunities to connect with their surroundings or, more importantly, with each other. What we get instead is a lot of bellyaching about gnarly headwinds, sore legs, flat tires and sweaty armpits—and not much real drama otherwise. Furthermore, the author misses nearly every chance to find humor in their situation, instead dropping the F-bomb in every other sentence like some rogue Vice magazine correspondent (“Fuck the stupid Rockies. I didn’t need them”).
Ultimately, Benson moans his way through the entire experience, as though he couldn’t have foreseen the punishment he would absorb on this colossal but spiritually empty cycling journey.