Pilgrim Spokes by Neil Hanson

Pilgrim Spokes

Cycling East Across America
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Another memoir from Hanson (Pilgrim Wheels, 2015, etc.) about a cross-country bicycle odyssey.  

At nearly 60 years of age, and only a few years after his divorce from his wife of three decades, Hanson attempted a feat that would daunt a young man: he pedaled clear across the country, with his friend Dave, from the west coast to the east—a total of 3,400 miles. The author’s previous memoir took readers from Monterey, California, to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. This second and final volume of his adventures begins on the 20th day of his trip. Readers find him making friends with bikers over chicken-fried steak somewhere in Kansas, “gawking at every marsh hawk that glides across the fence line,” and making his peace with all sorts of difficulties, including pouring rain, baking sun, and a hotel “dripping” with cats. Some adventures are unpleasant and even dangerous. At one point, a pair of nameless hooligans in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, hurl a beer bottle at his back from a speeding truck. Nonetheless, he and his companion, Dave, decide against reporting it, reasoning that “if this is like most places in the country, they don’t take attacks on cyclists seriously.” Hanson is a thoughtful narrator, using many of his encounters as excuses to wax philosophical. Readers will consequently feel fortunate to find themselves immersed in meditations about “a basic difference between the right-wing mindset and the left-wing mindset” in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, “the state of civility in our nation” en route to Ottawa City, Kansas, and how some people attain “that perfect balance of comfort and adventure in their marriage” on the road to Warrensburg, Missouri. As a result, this isn’t just a book for bicycle enthusiasts; it’s also for any fan of the examined life. “The spokes stretching out in front of me are connected to the ones that got me here by the hub that is the here and now,” Hanson notes toward the end of his journey, and by then, readers will know more than a little about where he’s coming from.

A book that offers plenty of “shared sojourner’s camaraderie” in the company of a happy, philosophical companion.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2016
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: High Prairie Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2016


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