Archive for the ‘books’ tag
With the Tour de France underway, I’m rising early to catch the end of each day’s stage. The race seems wide open this year, although defending Champion from Spain, Alberto Contador, looks well-positioned with the important mountain stages coming up.
Anyhow, I recently came across this book (actually, the publisher sent it to me to review). It’s quite charming. I really like the glossary which includes some phrases that were new to me (e.g. lanterne rouge or red lantern refers to the rider who finishes in last place for the whole race).
I also really like the complete list of Tour winners going back to 1903 with the teams and countries they raced for juxtaposed to a pop-up map of central Paris with the Champs-Elysees, Place de la Concorde, and Rue de Rivoli all on display.
The text also includes insights like these:
More than any other sport the Tour de France has its own culture. In the midst of fierce competition, the Tour follows some unofficial rules of etiquette that are not found in other sports. For instance:
- If a rider loses time because of a fall or collision, it is unacceptable for other cyclists to use that misfortune to gain an advantage for themselves.
- Attacking during a meal break is taboo.
- If the race passes through a riser’s home village, as a sign of respect he is permitted to ride ahead to greet family and friends.
- In celebration of Bastille Day…it is considered polite to allow a French rider to win the stage — as long as it does not affect the overall outcome of the race.
Show on map (note the view of Mt. Tam)
After reading the first few chapters of David Byrnes’s Bicycle Diaries, I’ve become hyper-aware of the aesthetics of the local suburban landscape. Byrne writes about the underlying paradox of this landscape in the book:
My generation makes fun of the suburbs and the shopping malls, the TV commercials and the sitcoms we grew up with — but they’re part of us too. So our ironic view is leavened with something like love…These suburbs, where so many of us spent our formative years, still push emotional buttons for us; they’re both attractive and deeply disturbing.
I also enjoyed this bit from the Talking Heads co-founder on the joys he experienced after switching to a bicycle as his main mode of transportation around New York City:
As I got a little older I also may have thought that cycling was a convenient way to get exercise, but at first I wasn’t thinking of that. It just felt good to cruise down the dirty potholed streets. It was exhilarating. That same sense of liberation I experienced in New York recurred as I pedaled around many of the world’s principal cities. I felt more connected to life on the streets than I would have in a car or in some form of public transit: I could stop whenever I wanted to; it was often (very often) faster than a car or taxi for getting from point A to point B; and I didn’t have to follow any set route. The same exhilaration, as the air and street life whizzed by, happened again in each town. It was, for me, addictive.
I had a similar epiphany when I starting riding my bicycle again after a long lay-off as a graduate student in Berkeley.
Let’s pack up and take off and dig Laurel Dell camp. Then we’ll hike over the trails down to the sea and swim.
That’s Japhy Ryder from the Jack Kerouac novel, Dharma Bums. Kerouac based the Japhy character on my personal hero, poet Gary Snyder. Kerouac’s narrator continues below with some local references to areas around Mt. Tam. He takes some poetic license with his description of the landscape and the distinction between Laurel Dell and Portrero Meadows, but still, how cool to have these places I know so well immortalized in a Jack Kerouac novel:
We arrived at Laurel Dell camp at about ten, it was also supplied with stone fireplaces with grates, and picnic table, but the surroundings were infinitely more beautiful than Portrero Meadows. Here were the real meadows: dreamy beauties with soft grass sloping all around, fringed by heavy deep green timber, the whole scene of waving grass and brooks and nothing in sight.
For some, this may be an unpleasant image. But death is all around us and today it could not be denied. I saw the dead fawn as I was returning home from my familiar Fairfax-to-Alpine Lake ride. I made a quick u-turn to return to the spot and was able to remove the small creature from the road and perform an ad hoc burial. I fashioned a cross from some branches held together with vines.