Book review: Falling Uphill
Part 3: The long road home
In the last quarter of Scott Stoll’s four year bicycle journey around the world, Falling Uphill, he pedals into “Oneness” with nature, with people, with purpose and perhaps with God.
You not only see a change in his writing, but you see a dramatic change in his body. From a frumpy countenance, he turns into a “bicycle stud-muffin” with muscles instead a Krispy Krème doughnut poster boy.
Albert Einstein said, “A human being experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest of the universe—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
“I’m atop the roof of my hostel in Istanbul, Turkey playing chess with one of the kindest people I’ve met, an Iranian Muslim,” said Stoll. “We’re sharing tidbits of our lives, such as our religions.”
One item continues to creep into Stoll’s narrative during his journey: a greater depth and breadth of his own understanding of his life as well as other humans around the planet. Every culture taught him a lesson. Each person he met created a well-spring of understanding within him. I witnessed it in his progression from the first part of the ride to his last moment of triumph.
“When man invented the bicycle, he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.” Elizabeth West
At one point, he shows a picture of him cycling toward Mount Everest in the distance. A steep switchback-dominated dirt road takes him toward Chomolungma, or Earth Goddess Mother. That winding road may be a metaphor for all our journeys through life. Sometimes it’s uphill and sometimes the ride winds around mountains, and finally, the road descends. In all, life takes us for a ride.
“As a goddess, she cannot be comprehended by a single person in a single lifetime,” said Stoll. “Sometimes she shrouds herself in a misty veil, other times she opens her arms and invites you to her peak, and just as easily, she can close her arms and snuff out your life.”
Stoll learned a lot about life on his journey around the world. As long as you remain alive, move forward, learn and grow.
Napoleon Hill said, “Life is like a horse. Life can ride you as you become the horse. Or, you can ride while life becomes the horse. The choice as to whether one becomes the rider of life or is ridden by life is the privilege of every person. But this much is certain. If you do not choose to become the rider of life, you are sure to be forced to become the horse. Life either rides or is ridden. It never stands still.”
At the end, the last two chapters captured the magic of this book. I loved reading every preceding chapter. This book represents a seven course banquet where you sit as the guest of honor. Stoll serves up chapter after chapter of enticing epicurean adventure specials.
What do you feel while riding a bicycle around the world? Total evolvement of body, mind and spirit! Memories etch themselves into your thighs. A head-wind paints agony on your face. A tailwind creates emotional bliss. Each stranger tells his or her story. Your wheels turn and your mind flows in the here and now. You ride at the perfect speed in the sweet spot of living. Day dawns; you look upward to the future. The universe conspires in your favor and awaits your energy. Pedal on!
At the end, Stoll offers several literary desserts for your imagination and your spirit. Because I gobbled those desserts on my own six continents of bicycle travel, I thank him for his intellectual excellence, his depth of spirit and his continuing humor along life’s grandest journey: bicycling around the world.
“I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life -- it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.” ~ Frances E. Willard, How I Learned To Ride The Bicycle. 1895
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