Just typing the title of this post makes me feel old. I can’t believe it’s 2023. As usual January was a bit gloomy around here but the temperatures have been relatively mild and there hasn’t been a flake of snow to be seen. Alas. a cold burst is expected in the days ahead.
Because of the good weather I managed to ride 832 miles, an all time record for me for January. And most of it, 716 miles, was outdoors. My longest ride was 57 miles from Purcellville to home. It was a bit much for this time of year.
I rode all four bikes this month. I gave the drop bars on Little Nellie one more 30-mile try before finally giving up and buying some straight handlebars. I should have the bike back soon.
After many years of procrastinating, I became a life member of the Adventure Cycling Association. (I have been doing tours on and off for over 20 years.) I have used ACA resources numerous times in my planning and during my trips. I honestly don’t know how I’d have done my last four tours without their help.
I rode my CrossCheck until it hit 26,000 miles, then switched to The Mule on dry days. It feels weird riding a bike without fenders. Fenders or not, The Mule rides like a dream You’d never know it has over 69,000 miles on it.
I watched two movies this month. Both on Netflix.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a new German version of the classic book. It’s very well done and is justifiably in line for beaucoup awards. Felix Kammerer is the lead actor. He didn’t get nominated for a Best Actor Oscar but he should have. The movie is one of three recent films about The Great War – the others are 1917 and They Shall Not Grow Old – and I recommend all three.
The Wonder is the tale of a British nurse who is dispatched to rural Ireland in the time after the Hunger (the mid-1800s). She is sent to observe a Catholic girl who has gone without food for four months. The movie is a contemplation of the madness of religious zealotry. Florence Pugh is quite good as the nurse.
I plowed through the last three of my Christmas books, having read The Bullet that Missed in late December.
American Lion by Jon Meacham is a biography of Andrew Jackson. Meacham is surprisingly empathetic. He wrote the book before Trump became president but it’s hard not to make comparisons. Narcissism is a strange substitute for policy. Previous presidents acted more as administrators carrying out Congress’s policies. Jackson viewed himself as president of the people, treating Congress more as a body to be manipulated than obeyed. Meacham also explains how Jackson was instrumental in keeping South Carolina from seceding twice, delaying the Civil War for over 20 years.
The Winners by Fredrik Backman is his third novel about two hockey mad towns in the remote north woods of Sweden. It’s a 660-page soap opera involving a cast of characters that would make a Russian novelist proud. It was an entertaining read but I much prefer his non-hockey books such as A Man Called Ove and Anxious People.
Riverman, An American Odyssey by Ben McGrath is the true story of an old man named Dick Conant who traveled the rivers of the United States in an overloaded canoe. Conant chronicled his travels in three massive volumes that McGrath discovered after Conant went missing in North Carolina. McGrath contacted the characters that Conant interacted with along the banks of the waterways he rowed. The book very much brought to mind so many characters that I’ve encountered on my bike tours such as the man with the perfect beer belly in Indiana, the sister wife on the run from abuse in Washington state, and the scuba diving anti-vaxxer who ran a bowling alley cum diner in a small town in Kansas.
Once the Christmas books were finished I made a quick trip to the bookstore.
Dickens and Prince by Nick Hornby is a series of essays comparing Charles Dickens and the musician Prince. Hornby flashes his infectious wit making comparison between the two. Both were creative and prolific geniuses who seemed to never stop producing their art. And they both had an eye for the ladies in abundance. Dickens sometimes wrote two novels at the same time releasing them in serial fashion as he wrote. Prince wrote and recorded thousands of songs in all kinds of musical styles often playing all the instruments and singing all the vocals himself. It’s a strange comparison but Horny makes it work.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a novel about survivors of a swine flu pandemic that wipes out 90 percent of the world’s people. It was published in 2014. Her descriptions of the spread of the virus gave me flashbacks to those horrid days in 2020 when New York City’s hospitals overflowed with untreatable Covid-19 patients. It is eerily reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles, two other books set in aftertimes. I bought this one on a whim and found it well worth the time.