Eric Balke


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Smashwords book reviews by Eric Balke

  • Long Road, Hard Lessons on Aug. 16, 2012

    I was surprised with myself when I had difficulty putting this book down. How could a 10-month long bike ride keep me engaged for over 300 pages? Mark Swain uses this book to share the incredible journey of him and his son, Sam. The reader joins these two riders on their adventures through Welsh hills, German cycle paths, Turkish mountains, muddy Indian hillsides, picturesque Laotian hill climbs, rural Chinese villages and everywhere in between. Reading this book as I began my first long distance cycle trip, I found Mark's advice and cautions for touring cyclists to be invaluable. Though fellow cyclists certainly benefit from reading this book, it is not littered in cycling jargon, therefore it is accessible to everyone. At the core of this rather formidable journey is the dynamic relationship of a father and son. Each initially admitting to going on the ride for the benefit of the other, both Mark and Sam share first hand accounts and retrospective analyses of their relationship as it oscillates day by day. The reader tags along as Sam deals with the constant solitude of cycling and Mark is forced to 'gear down.' My sole disappointment with the book is that Sam did not share more of his perspective. Though he describes a lack of confidence to contribute constructively to conversations throughout the trip, I still would have liked a greater counterbalance to Mark's description of their changing relationship. More than anything I appreciated their honest story telling. Though the ride may have been monotonous at times and many of the obstacles overcome were not glamourous, it is the sincere attempt to be unflatteringly honest that kept me captivated with this very human story. It is this central pillar of the book that draws the reader into this story about a real father and son pushing themselves beyond their limits.