The Lost Cyclist by David V. Herlihy

Cycling enthusiasts will enjoy Herlihy’s The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and his Mysterious Disappearance. It is a non-fiction book about Frank Lenz who disappears on his round-the-world cycling tour, Thomas Allen and William Sachtleben who complete a tour of  the world,  the early history of the bicycle, and those who embrace the cycling craze of the 1890s. This is a well written book that alternates the story of Lenz with that of  Allen and Sachtleben in the first part of the book until the latter two finish their tour and Lenz disappears from sight. The last section of the book is devoted to Sachtleben’s search for  Lenz, the lost  cyclist. This part seems to me to drag a bit, but the first part of the book is fascinating with  cycling lore as well as colorful travelogue.

The accounts of the cyclists’ experiences reveal the large number of cycling clubs that existed in this early era of cycling. Lenz and Allen and Sachtleben are greeted by these clubs and accompanied by the members on certain legs of their trips.  Also along the more civilized portions of their routes, they are often feted at banquets by their cycling colleagues.

On the other hand, the touring cyclists face incredible hardships and dangers in some areas of the world, such as China and Turkey, where Lenz disappears and Sachtleben spends several months trying to unravel the mystery of Lenz’ vanishing and attain some kind of recompense for Lenz’ mother from the Turkish government, at this time in the throes of an ugly confrontation with its Armenian population.

In his notes, Herlihy explains how he obtained the factual information for this book from diaries and newspaper as well as other books. It is a carefully researched book that is a good read.

The Lost Cyclist

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New Walnut Creek Library

As part of our bike ride yesterday, we visited the much anticipated Walnut Creek library, which opened on July 17th. The library is attractive inside with airy spaces and lots of room to browse. And the architecture of the building is a pleasing addition to the north end  of central Walnut Creek, but the library seems to me to suffer from several negatives. First of all, the only return book slot that we could find was outside the rear door of the library. There may be other places to return books, but this is the one that we were directed to.

In this library as in other new libraries, I am displeased  with the ratio of books to other media. Libraries and books have been a major part of my life, and I hate to see the trend toward people spending large amounts of time engaged with devices with screens. I believe that the computer revolution has contributed a lot to our daily lives, but it should not be at the expense of an emphasis on reading books. And one of the main places to emphasize an engagement with books should be the public library.

Finally, I was dismayed to see how poorly the plumbing was functioning when I visited the restroom in a building that has only been open for a matter of days, but perhaps the building only needs to have some of the bugs worked out. Hopefully the structure of the building will wear well and serve the citizens of central Contra Costa County well.

As we often do, we stopped at Caffe Delle Stelle for lunch on Wednesday, where my husband had fedelini al gamberi (fine pasta with prawns) and I had cannelloni di pollo (tube pasta stuffed with chicken, carrots, and cheeses in a white sauce). We have been eating at this restaurant for many years, and I can truthfully say that we have never had a bad meal. Occasionally, the service has been a bit slow when they are overcrowded, but the staff is always genial and accommodating. For authentic Italian food at a reasonable price, give this restaurant at 1532 N. Main St. in Walnut Creek a try.

The library is only a short block off of Iron Horse Trail, and it does have good bike racks. Caffe Delle Stelle is one block from the library on Walnut Creek’s energetic Main Street.

Pegasus Bicycle Works in Danville

Today we parked as we often do at the Sycamore Park ‘n Ride lot. From there we rode on Iron Horse Trail to Norris Canyon Road where we crossed over the freeway and did some errands, such as going to Joann’s for fabric, AAA for a vehicle registration renewal, and Bay Books for some of the latest titles. Heading back toward Iron Horse Trail, I felt my bike roll over something and heard an impressive pop. Hoping it was a piece of plastic, we stopped and discovered that I had ridden over some kind of metal gadget that might be used for something such as a bread rack support. We were riding behind Safeway at the time.

I got back on my bike, but the tire lost air very quickly, so my husband rode back to our beginning point for the car. We headed for downtown Danville and  Pegasus Bicycle Works after my husband retrieved me and my bike. One of our favorite clerks put my bike up on the rack immediately, and in no time at all, my bike was ready to go again. The people in this shop are always efficient, agreeable, and helpful. Even though we are older people with somewhat unusual bikes, they are never condescending to us. This shop is a bright spot in the local bike culture.

Behavior on the bike path helps keep cyclists’ reflexes sharp

I have finally decided that I need to put a positive spin on some of the behavior that I see on the Iron Horse Trail. People’s deeds help sharpen the responses of cyclists. Rarely do I see cyclists being careless on the path (although some ride a bit too fast); it is almost always the dog walkers and the parents of small children.

Yesterday on Iron Horse, just south of Hilgrade Ave. in Walnut Creek, a man and a woman, who looked like grandparents, emerged from a gate from a backyard bordering on the path. Running ahead of the pair were two small boys. The older one, who was probably four or five, darted right in front of my husband’s bike. My husband slammed on his brakes, and nothing untoward occurred. However, had my husband’s reflexes not been so sharp, the little boy could have been badly injured, and my husband could have taken a nasty spill as well. The whole thing would have been the fault of the adults who should have been alert to what was going on around them.

As I have said before, the path is a thoroughfare, and people need to regard it as such. Presumably the older folks involved in this incident would not have let the two little boys loose on Danville Blvd.; they should exercise the same caution on the path that they would on a city street. And meanwhile, we as cyclists can hone our responses to the ongoing carelessness that we see far too often.

Give Forbes Mill Steakhouse a try

Yesterday I rode my bike from Alamo to Danville to go to the dentist; getting some exercise first helps make a visit to the dentist palatable. Fortunately, I had time to cool down before I saw the dentist. And yesterday was a beautiful day with the temperature in the high 70s, a slight breeze, and only a small number of the folks on Iron Horse Trail who think that they and their dogs own the trail.

After I finished at the dentist, I called my husband who decided to meet me for lunch at Forbes Mill Steakhouse in the Livery and Mercantile Center in Danville. This restaurant is usually not as crowded as it should be. The food is superb, and the prices are average for a good restaurant in the area. To pamper my tooth, I had the soup, a potato, onion, and cheese concoction that was a revelation in flavor. I am going to try to emulate it at home, but I doubt that I can. My husband had one of their lunch combos, great for someone who likes a small portion of several dishes.

After this satisfying lunch, I glided back to Alamo on the shady path.

Travel–whether to rent or take one’s own bike

On this last trip, my husband and I discussed taking our own bikes versus renting bikes a lot. We ruled out taking our own bikes, even though they are folding bikes, because we thought all the hassle of hauling them through the airports would be too much. We are seasoned travelers, and we do pack lightly but we stay at nice hotels so we always have one backpack and one fairly small bag a piece. Adding the bicycles to this luggage just seemed like too much for people our age.

I am not sure what we would have paid for taking the bikes on an airplane or for sending them on ahead, perhaps by UPS. However, we did pay over $300 for the rental of bikes for seven bicycle rides. The rental cost tended to be higher in the cities than it was in less populated areas.

Also the rental bikes were not as efficient to ride as our own bikes. Some of them did not fit quite right, so it was harder to mount and dismount and probably more dangerous to ride although we did not have any mishaps. Also as I have mentioned in some of my other posts, the gears often did not work too well. But all of the bikes were rideable, and we had a lot of fun on our rides.

If we had had our own bikes we probably would have ridden more, pulling them out for short rides whenever we saw an inviting area. Renting bikes takes more planning. One must locate the bike shop and make arrangements, usually leaving a driver’s license as well as paying the rental prices.

On the positive side, renting bikes took us into the bike shops where everyone is usually very friendly and helpful. They often gave us route maps and sometimes detailed instructions. I had taken my own helmet, but my husband borrowed one at each bike shop and was not charged. They also threw in locks; of course this is for their own protection. And the bikes always had a phone number on them somewhere, so I presume that if something untoward had occurred, there would have been some sort of rescue effort.

I have memories of good conversations at several of the places where we rented bikes on this trip, but I still would rather have my Dahon Boardwalk with me on my adventures.