Is it possible to dislike a book that starts with the statement “I was going to die before lunch”? In Two Wheels and a Map, Bob Neubauer penned an entertaining tale of his ride down the east coast of the United States that still rings true over 15 years since he completed his adventure. And he did survive lunch and his journey through North Carolina.
It always strikes me how far the cycling community has come in recent years when I read a book like Bob’s. He writes of the negativity and suspicion with which cyclists were greeted just a decade or so ago. He had curses hurled at him by passing motorists, refusals of assistance from church preachers, and suspicion from local citizens. While such attitudes undoubtedly still exist in some areas, they seem much less common in more recent bicycle travelogues.
Don’t get me wrong. The overwhelming number of people Bob told of were friendly and helpful. He encountered many who were fascinated by his journey. He complained of getting tired of having to answer the same questions repeatedly, but realized that they provided him the opportunity to be an inspiration to others.
You see, Bob undertook his adventure after leaving a job in New York City with which he was dissatisfied. He decided to take a break before deciding what to do next with his young life and embark upon an adventure he’d dreamt about for years. He’d met a man at Walden Pond who suggested that it made more sense to take the time for adventures when you’re young and able rather than waiting until you’ve met all of life’s obligations and are less able to physically enjoy them. He took that advice to heart and meticulously planned his journey right away.
Bob actually split his trip into two segments. He first started riding from his parents’ home in Pennsylvania with the goal of reaching a friend’s house in Florida. He met that goal and boarded a bus to Bangor, Maine to complete his mission. From Bangor, he rode south back to his parents’ house to complete the full length of the east coast. In an epilogue, he tells of taking an opportunity years later to fill in a 30 mile stretch missed when he thought he’d die before lunch.
This tale is not the most inspiring I’ve ever read, nor does is give an accounting of any great obstacles overcome or foreign lands conquered, but it is an entertaining read that will make you want to pack your panniers and pedal. Two Wheels and a Map is a worthy addition to the cycling bookshelf.
Note: I purchased this book with my own funds and in no way benefitted from writing this review.