Gironimo! is not only a book about cycling, questing, and craziness; it is also one of the best travel books I’ve read in a long time.
Why I love it
In 1914, eighty-one cyclists start a brutal eight-stage, 3,000-kilometer tour around Italy known as the Giro D'Italia. Eight crossed the finish line.
One hundred years later, Tim Moore, out of shape and well into his forties, decided to recreate the race. Why? As out of shape as he may be, he is even more out of sorts with modern cycling, a sport plagued with drug scandals, pumped up with super-humans riding space age machines, and far removed from the way things used to be: a man, a bike, and long road ahead, to be conquered only with a combination of heart, head, and spirit.
With all the enthusiasm that only the most cock-eyed quests can conjure (think Don Quixote and windmills), Moore vows to be utterly authentic in his re-creation of the race, everything from wooden bike to woolen jersey to stout leather shoes and blue-glassed goggles. But first, he has to put a bike together and get his body into shape '“ both of which he accomplishes through hilarious efforts. "Hilarious" covers pretty much everything Moore does to prepare for, and complete, his quest. I laughed throughout this book, and stopped only when my eyes flooded a bit with emotion, as when his parents join him for one stage of the journey. We imagine that at some point during this comedy of errors '“ as he tries to recreate this tour to exacting historical accuracy '“ that he would recognize the utter absurdity of his quest. But his stubborn commitment to finish, despite all the obstacles (most of which he saddled upon himself), makes for an entertainingly gleeful adventure.
Gironimo! is not only a book about cycling, questing, and craziness; it is also one of the best travel books I've read in a long time, offering vivid appraisals of the paradises and purgatories through which Moore cycles. He starts and ends his journey in Milan (his finale there is splendid and unexpected and wonderful), and in between goes from one coast of Italy to the other, and down south to back north. He describes all that he sees, the heartbreaking destruction in earthquake-damaged L'Aquila, the gorgeous squares and facades in Ascoli, the banal but utterly comfortable and pleasant Pesaro - and so on and on we go, racing (or not, depends on the state of the bike and the weather) through Italy. Up hill and down, through swarms of midges and over pot holes, dodging treacherous traffic and singing when all alone: Moore takes us with him, the toll of kilometers rising higher and higher.
I loved this book and I am not even a cycling fan! But I am a fan of honest, funny, smart, and informative memoirs, and Gironimo! has it all. With all that cycling, we get to the meaning of life: the destination is not the point, the journey is. Moore is the hero of this journey, not only for the bike race he completes (he takes thirty-two days to complete the course that the 1914 riders finished in eight but hey, he finished!) but for inviting us to go along for the ride.