Riding and reading

You sometimes find things where you are least expecting to. In the last few weeks we have been in many small out-of-the-way towns, just big enough for a gas station, grocery store, town park and maybe a school. Most of these have something else in common. They have amazing public libraries. Differing ages and sizes of buildings, but all well-presented, with local information, water fountains, wifi, toilets. A cyclists’ haven on a hot day. Even better and more importantly than that the libraries seem to be well-used by people other than sweaty cyclists reading short stories and Wyoming geography books. There are extended opening hours so people can go in the evening after work or school. There are displays of work and pictures by local school children. At the moment it is school holidays here, and all of the libraries offer extensive summer reading programmes. It has been great to see kids racing to the library on their bikes and going in to join in story time and other activities.

I hope I will never be too old for story time. It is lovely to listen to a story being read. After a day of cycling we nearly always have story time in the tent before sleep. Sometimes we read together, sometimes one person reads aloud. This is the best, as when it is your turn to be the listener you can shut your eyes. (Our eyes often want to shut at the moment, but we try to keep them open when cycling). Shorter stories work best, as it can take us a long time to finish a full-length novel reading for only a few minutes a night. We have only just finished JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, which we started just west of St Louis, Missouri. A rainstorm helped us out as we spent over an hour in a wildlife shelter without a creature in sight the other day. It is an excellent read for more grown up readers not on a cycle trip.

A bonus of reading together is that we can chat about the books during the day when we’re cycling. Book clubs seem to be very popular in North America so that people can do just that. A group of friends get together, choose a book, go away and read it, then meet again for an evening to discuss it. We were lucky enough to attend a friend’s book club evening in Ontario. We hadn’t read the book but had a fab time (and not just because of the lovely cheese).

Anyway, the point of this post is to suggest that we all make a bit more time for reading books. I have been caught up reading (political) news from home and recent events have made me feel sad. We try to make sure there’s time for a short section of story at the end of every day to enjoy and get ready for sleep, sometimes fiction, sometimes a true story.

In this post you can find our top recommendations, (some of them are even free). I’ll try to update these as we read more.

It would also be great to hear your suggestions for our next reads. For our younger blog followers there’s a summer reading challenge. (There are plenty of rainy days in the UK for you to find some time).

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Book recommendations

Looking for a summer read?

Here’s a few of our favourites, some from riding at home, most from in the tent…

For younger readers:
The Boy Who Biked The World – Alastair Humphries (three books available): Recently enjoyed by Jo’s nephew.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Frank L Baum: Riding across Dorothy’s home state of Kansas we decided this was essential reading. Free on Kindle for UK readers.

For everyone:
Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne: Just like Colorado, this is epic. An adventure travel classic. I first read this in Primary School and have re-read it many times since. Also out of copyright so free to UK kindle readers.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle: Perfect for tired cyclists, this a collection of short stories. Great for reading aloud in the tent as they only take a couple of night’s reading each. Free to UK kindle readers. If you like these, The full length novel ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ is even better.

Non-fiction:
The Hungry Cyclist – Tom Kevill Davies: One of the best cycling travel books. Very food orientated, just like us! We re-read the USA section before leaving the UK.

South – Ernest Shackleton: An amazing true survival / adventure story in Antarctica. Not a long read and free to UK Kindle readers.

Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlossen: Total justification for our no fast food chains challenge. Scary stories of schools sponsored by soft drinks companies, complete with sales targets…

If you have read something awesome why not enter our summer reading challenge?

Doesn’t cycling get boring..?!

I love cycling. The repetitive pedal turning is very soothing and it’s great to see different scenery. There are times when the scenery doesn’t change as quickly or as often as you would like. Particularly on bike trails or quiet roads where traffic doesn’t require lots of attention, this gives plenty of opportunity to play some on the road games. Please note that these high paced dynamic activities are not suitable for your daily commute (unless you live in Eastern Colorado) or any trafficked route. We accept no responsibility if you choose to play these in an inappropriate environment. Unless you are a touring cyclist, it might be best to view them as hiking not biking games. This list is not comprehensive, it includes some newer inventions and some old favourites.

Stick or Snake’

This recent addition to our standard selection was inspired by the snake running over incident on the Katy trail. ‘Stick or Snake’ is pretty self explanatory, as you approach the ‘Stick or Snake’ call out which you think it is. This is really an individual game, but feel free to discuss your selections with your riding buddy if you have one. Admittedly this game is not so good for UK hikes and bike rides unless you have a very overactive imagination. Some of the offshoot games might be more appropriate to a wider international audience. These included, but were not limited, to ‘foliage or frog’, ‘shadow or squirrel’, and the alliteration failures ‘rock or turtle’ and ‘leaf or butterfly’. Jo performed particularly poorly in ‘deer or dog’. Feel free to come up with your own variations. We are not looking forward to ‘bear or boulder’.

Kansas

Kansas cycling brought out Jo’s creative side. As you begin a new whole km or mile on your bike computer, change the display away from a distance setting. In Jo’s qualitative world, you don’t use your clock/speedo, just try to guess when you have completed that km or mile. Change it back and see how you did. Don’t be tempted (as I am to try to work out distance between telegraph poles and calculate. Just go on feeling. Again, more of an individual game, but you can see who is closest percentage wise. We were usually between 10-20% off. You will have time to work this out. Classic.



Kansas 2′

Who says academics have no imagination. Another Jo invention. Try to cycle along the white line for as long as you can without either tyre leaving it. Current record 0.37 miles. This did not hold our attention for very long and should not be played in wet conditions.

‘As many as you can…’

As previously covered in our Portugal post, this is where one person chooses a category and you take it turns to name something from it until someone runs out.

We favour songs, eg. Beatles songs (Jo won), Take That songs (I won), songs with a colour/day/name in, etc. Feel free to share your own categories below to help entertain us. Pretty sure we are now onto repeats.

How far is…..?

Particularly good in open spaces, this multi-player game requires each competitor to guess how far away a landmark is. Examples include grain stores. In our recent experience that is all.

Horse

A true classic never dies. If you have ever been on a car/minibus/bus journey with me you have probably played this already (unlucky sports teams of Loughborough and Birstall). I learned this game in Canada from an inspirational teacher. I have since discovered that this is a North America wide game, though not everyone knows the extension tasks. Here’s the game.

If you see one horse, say ‘horse’. Whoever says it first gets one on their total.

If you see two horses, say ‘horse, horse’. Whoever says it first gets two on their total.

If you see three horses, same thing.

For four or more, the game changes. You say ‘horse ranch.’ If you say it first you get all the horses in that group. Should you be in the area, the 105 from Colorado Springs towards Denver is the best road I have been on for this.

Winner is the person with the most at the end of the journey.

*Phil’s extension activity: if you see a church with graveyard or cemetery say ‘Bury your horses!’ If you are first to say this, you keep all your horses and everyone else goes back to zero, unlucky!*

horse, horse

The Number Plate Game

Our current ‘licence plate’ game is to try to see one from every state. We have three to go. As we like to live on the edge, we have made this more competitive by trying to name the ‘last seen’ states and awarding points for this. In case you are interested, if we see Delware next, I win, if we see North Dakota next, we tie. Jo wins in the unlikely event that we see both North Dakota and Hawaii before Delaware. Got it?!

Please share your own road games below. Note that due to the high paced nature of our journey, eye spy is not a go.

If all else fails to entertain us, we do enjoy a good monkey bars/slide stop…

#1 Roads that look like race tracks

Day 15 of advent! A well known social media site just told me that two years ago I was snoozing on the sofa by the Christmas tree and an open fire. Won’t pretend that I wouldn’t love a snooze on a sofa sometime soon but we are having an amazing time exploring Rome. This category had a clear winner, still the best day of cycling of the trip, partly because in the cold weather preceding it seems so unlikely we would be able to complete the ride. Would thoroughly recommend this ride – when it’s not snowy you can even do the very top section on a cycle route. Loved the Gotthard Pass! Well done Switzerland, thanks for clearing the snow for us!

 

Spot tiny debs on the scalectrix road
Spot tiny debs on the scalectrix road