Book review: Falling Uphill
Part 2: Questing for the unreachable star
In the classic Broadway production, the Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote attempted, “To dream the impossible dream; to fight the un-beat-able foe…to run where the brave dare not go…to right the un-right-able wrong…to love pure and chase from afar…to try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star.”
That theatrical production might well be a metaphor for Scott Stoll’s epic 25,742 mile bicycle adventure around the world: Falling Uphill. In that ride, he discovered four moments of enlightenment. He suffered depression, self-doubt and physical misery. But, he kept busting the pedals over the Andes, the Outback, Africa’s savannahs and into the Himalaya.
“I suffered a crippling bout of depression throughout Europe,” Stoll said. “I sequestered myself from my riding partner Dennis for two months to save him from my whining. I cycled lackluster past castles and cathedrals, cried myself to sleep at night and lay paralyzed by my own thoughts.”
Even on a great journey or a quest such as the Man of La Mancha or a trip around the world by Scott Stoll, emotional pain can be crippling. While pedaling endless miles, your mind can zero-in on heartache. Stoll lost his job, his best friend and his girlfriend at the outset of the trip. While he pedaled miles away from them physically, his mind carried the anguish.
All of us suffer the loss of love. It hurts to the core of our being. It hurts when we eat, sleep and most of our waking moments. In the second section of the book, he titles it “Quest” for his own mental and emotional trepidations. A stranger in one town asked him, “Why don’t you quit?”
“For the first time on the trip, in San Pedro, Guatemala, after the indigenous gauntlet of animosity, ‘Gringo, Gringo, Gringo…Gimmemoney, Gimmemoney, Gimmemoney’—roads to steep to cycle up or down, trucks without mufflers that made my fillings rattle, chicken buses that were invisible inside a black cloud of lung-searing exhaust and another bad meal, probably a cow brain taco with diarrhea salsa, Dennis asked me, ‘When will my life become more fulfilling and productive by going home?’”
In my own solo ride around the perimeter of Australia, a lady asked me why I traveled across the Nullabor Plains with its 120 degree heat, bush flies and sand for 2,000 miles. She said, “Aren’t you lonely?” I said, “Sure, I would love to have a push-bike mate, but I couldn’t find any.
So, I have made the adventure my friend. Besides, I could go back home and be with my friends, but I would never find out what the world looks like. I’m ready to meet a camel, kangaroo and emu out here in the Outback. I want to see the Great Australian Bight. I love Kookaburra birds laughing at me each morning. I can always go home and be “normal” but I would miss out on what adventure highway offers.”
In this section, Stoll begins to question his basic religious beliefs and the notion that one has to suffer to reach one’s goals. His friend Dennis asked, “What do you want? To be great or to be happy?”
Stoll replied, “Thinking too much is only a problem if it prevents you from taking action.”
He hit the prime directive of every person who wants to make
“something” of their life on this planet. Most people won’t move off the dime in America or any western country and most people cannot begin to earn the money to take such a trip in developing countries around the world. I find it ironic that Americans choose ease and food over adventure and creative self-renewal.
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone. We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Bilbo Baggins said, ‘You just have to step outside your door and head down the road to a whole world of adventure.’” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
In this section, Stoll crosses the Gran Chaco Desert. Caught in a rainstorm, his bike suffered a muck and mud cement lock-up of all its moving parts. He became glued to the Earth. Amazingly, I too, along with two my cycling friends became stuck in the same “mud-glue” that took us hours to clean out of our wheels, chains and gearing. I cherish nearly the same exact shot of my crippled bike as the shot of his crippled bike you will see in the book. We both carry a “red badge of courage” to have survived a year in South America.
In this chapter, Stoll discovered that people love to help. They love to become part of your ride. Each character he meets, you meet and find yourself wondering about your own life and your own friends.
Stoll said, “What would it be like to have all the riches of the world, but no friends, no lovers, no experiences, no memories?”
I found this section highly enlightening and energizing because Stoll asks a lot of questions and lives the answers. Better to move forward than to sit still.
“One of the inescapable encumbrances of leading an interesting life is that there have to be moments when you almost lose it.” ― Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks at Fifty
Buffet nails it because Stoll nearly lost his life a number of times on his epic journey, but he kept pedaling. I think his pedaling will give every reader a fresh perspective on personal growth. He sure makes you want to get on your bicycle and blaze your own trail around the world.
Part 3: Oneness
Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents - from the Arctic to the South Pole - as well as eight times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. In 2012, he bicycled coast to coast across America. His latest book is: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, copies at 1 888 280 7715/ Motivational program: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, click: www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com