Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-04, part II: The tie-in review OR What I'm Reading Now-Ten Points

This week's Weekly Geeks is about passion and inspiration. Chris wants to know what we are passionate about (besides reading and blogging) and why. We are also supposed to share anything that will help explain our passion.

Well, I already talked about what I am passionate about, so I am kind of cheating this week because I am going to do a mini-review here as well, but only because I think it fits in perfectly with this theme.

Ten Points
by Bill Strickland-This story alternates between the author's childhood and the 2004 series of Thursday Night Criterium rides. Strickland is an editor by day and a cyclist in his spare time, and he has promised his daughter that he will earn ten points in the upcoming riding season. The criteriums, or crits, are weekly races consisting of 30 laps. Every 3rd lap the first four riders across the finish line earn points. Strickland was riding against Olympians and other legends in the racing world, and scoring even one point was hard to imagine, let alone ten. The need to earn the ten points ran a lot deeper than just his promise to his daughter; it was his way of working out some of the demons from his childhood as well.

The portions of this book that talk about Strickland's childhood might be hard for some people to read, especially parents. His father was extremely abusive. The focus of the book is not on the past, but the parts of the past that are revealed are horrific; the fact that Strickland is alive at all is a miracle. I know, sounds like a great book so far, right? Despite all the terrible things from his past, this is ultimately an uplifting book. The reason that I'm including it here is because of Strickland's absolute love of cycling. As I was reading this, I was thinking how amazing his love of the sport was, and then I thought how perfect an example this would be for this week's Weekly Geeks topic. From Location 876-85 to 892-900 on my Kindle, 2nd-largest font (I know. I'm sorry. This is near the end of Chapter 5 for the rest of you):
"I've never been able to explain why bicycles captivated me. They are marvels of both the mechanical and the metaphysical. This simple machine, essentially unchanged since its invention more than a hundred years ago, is the most efficient vehicle ever made, converting about 98 percent of the energy put into it into motion. The bicycle is the iconic childhood Christmas present and the star of one of the most powerful rites of passage when, as children, we learn to propel ourselves beyond our parents' reach. Einstein is said to have thought of the theory of relativity while riding. Albert Hofmann, the chemist who accidentally invented the mind-altering drug LSD, rode a bike during the world's first acid trip. A study in the late nineties found that the rhythm of pedaling a bike induces the same physiological changes the body undergoes during intense prayer or meditation.

But for me, the answer-or as close as I ever get to one-is at once simpler and more expansive: The bicycle spoke to my soul. It reached inside me and touched something essential to my spirit the way old stamps, or African violets, or egg tempera infuse other people. Those who pretend to be able to parse the secrets of our primal loves always sound foolish to me. We love what we love, and I love cycling with the same kind of mysterious, infinite delight with which I love Beth and Natalie and nothing else in this world. That is why I ride, because I was a cyclist before I ever saw a bike, the same way I was Beth's husband and Natalie's father before either of them existed for me. "
Wow. I mean, just wow. This little snippet is everything I wish my Weekly Geeks contribution had been. There is another piece that I would love to share with you, but it's the absolute end of the book, and while it isn't exactly a spoiler, it is the very end of the book, and that doesn't seem quite right! I will just say that I thought the ending was absolutely the perfect ending for this book. This was a very quick read, and I would highly recommend it.


softdrink said...

Sounds interesting...I was big into cycling in college. Actually, my first date with Hamburger was a bike ride.

Dreamybee said...

You might really enjoy this book-he gets very into the details of the racing, which just blew my mind. I can't imagine racing in a pack the way these guys do, wheel-on-wheel, shoulder-to-shoulder. I trust your ride with Hamburger was more civilized?