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Life Is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America

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Overview

Based on his popular New York Times series, bestselling author Bruce Weber shares the adventures of his solo bicycle ride from coast to coast.

Riding a bicycle across the United States is one of those bucket-list goals that many dream about but few fulfill. During the summer and fall of 2011, at the age of fifty-seven, Bruce Weber, an obituary writer for The New York Times, made the trip, alone, and wrote about it as it unfolded mile by mile, a...

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Life Is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America

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Overview

Based on his popular New York Times series, bestselling author Bruce Weber shares the adventures of his solo bicycle ride from coast to coast.

Riding a bicycle across the United States is one of those bucket-list goals that many dream about but few fulfill. During the summer and fall of 2011, at the age of fifty-seven, Bruce Weber, an obituary writer for The New York Times, made the trip, alone, and wrote about it as it unfolded mile by mile, a vivid and immediate report of the self-powered life on the road.

Now, expanding upon the articles and blog posts that quickly became a must-read adventure story, Weber gives us Life Is a Wheel, a witty, inspiring, and reflective diary of his journey, in which the challenges and rewards of self-reliance and strenuous physical effort yield wry and incisive observations about cycling and America, not to mention the pleasures of a three-thousand-calorie breakfast.

The story begins on the Oregon coast, with Weber wondering what he’s gotten himself into, and ends in triumph on New York City’s George Washington Bridge. From Going-to-the-Sun Road in the northern Rockies to the headwaters of the Mississippi and through the cityscapes of Chicago and Pittsburgh, his encounters with people and places provide us with an intimate, two-wheeled perspective of America. And with thousands of miles to travel, Weber considers— when he’s not dealing with tractor-trailers, lightning storms, dehydration, headwinds, and loneliness—his past, his family, and the echo that a well-lived life leaves behind.

Part travelogue, part memoir, part romance, part paean to the bicycle as a simple mode of both mobility and self-expression—and part bemused and panicky account of a middle-aged man’s attempt to stave off, well, you know—Life Is a Wheel is an elegant and beguiling escape for biking enthusiasts, armchair travelers, and any readers who are older than they were yesterday.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Liesl Schillinger
[Weber's] readers—especially those who share his vision of life as "a self-powered ride"—will find that his meditations set their own imaginations spinning…Mr. Weber's writing style, straightforward, unexaggerated and conversational, has an understated tone that recalls Hemingway…He rations his emotions, which makes the impact strong when he reveals grief, loneliness or fear. It's curious to think of a man who has made his living by communicating for more than a quarter-century as a silent type, but that is the effect of this memoir. You sense the author's reluctance to wallow; he is not aiming to show off, but to show his readers what he sees, and to confront his frailties when he must.
Publishers Weekly
12/16/2013
Reprising a similar trip he took from California to New York City in 1993, in 2011 New York Times obituary writer and author Weber (As They See ’Em) bicycled from Oregon to Manhattan. Weber documented the trip for Times Web site, but here he has expanded on those posts to create a lengthier form that allows him to explore deeper themes while still maintaining the conversational style that makes his writing a breeze to read. While Weber introduces readers to people he met, his trip is more about the internal explorations of a 57-year-old man pushing his body to its limits. Weber presents “fruitful cogitation” on a myriad of subjects, such as the passing of a friend during the first week of his trip; his deceased parents; his long distance relationship with a woman named Jan; and the general feeling of loneliness that pervades the excursion. Weber never fails to entertain, and his compulsion to always move forward despite the weight of the past is as inspiring as his astounding cycling achievement. (Mar.)
Booklist

“Sympathetic, thoughtful, highly engaging… an outstanding book.”
Michael Connelly
“Cover to cover this book is a great ride. Bruce Weber is an entertaining and absorbing travel companion and in Life is a Wheel he pulls off a master storyteller’s trick. He gives us a very personal journey that resonates on every page as part of the universal journey we’re all on. It’s great writing and reading.”
The Washington Post - George F. Will

“[Umpiring is] a necessary, extraordinarily demanding and insufficiently appreciated craft. Now, however, comes As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber of the New York Times. Forests are felled to produce baseball books, about six hundred a year, most of them not worth the paper they should never have been printed on. Weber’s, however, is a terrific introduction to, among much else, the rule book’s Talmudic subtleties.”
Billy Collins
“Kerouac claimed that the romance of the American road died with the completion of the interstate system, but Bruce Weber proves him wrong, and on only two wheels. Life is a Wheel is an engaging blend of adventure and autobiography, a courageous journey over the breadth of the country and the distant terrains of the past.”
David V. Herlihy
“It's about the bike – to a point. Taking us along on a challenging and deeply personal journey, Weber shares memories, hopes, and emotions as rich and complex as the American landscape he conquers.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
Life Is a Wheel is a book for cyclists, certainly, and for anyone who has ever dreamed of such transcontinental travels. But it also should prove enlightening, soul-stirring, even, to those who don't care a whit about bikes but who care about the way people connect - strangers, friends, parents and children, lovers.”
New York Times
“Mr. Weber’s writing style, straightforward, unexaggerated and conversational, has an understated tone that recalls Hemingway more than Beckett: He rations his emotions, which makes the impact strong when he reveals grief, loneliness or fear… [He] manages to be both expressive and enigmatic, inclusive and solitary — a rider in the world, coasting through the landscape, sometimes participating, always observing.”
The Associated Press
“This delightful book is sure to appeal to cyclists who may harbor dreams of pedaling from coast to coast. But any reader simply looking for a well-written and entertaining travel story filled with insightful thoughts about life, family and aging will not be disappointed.”
The Boston Globe
“Riding a bike across the country is hard work; doing it at age 57 when, as Bruce Weber writes, his body was “both perfectly healthy and falling apart,” sounds either foolish or heroic. In this lovely account, Weber manages to avoid both, focusing instead on the beauty of the country he passed through…the kindness of the people he met, and his own musings on life, love, and death... Readers will enjoy going there with him.”
10 Best Books of March Christian Science Monitor
“Weber's trip – and his thoughts – are distilled into a read that is both entertaining and thoughtful.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Weber’s memoir has an air to it that reminds me of Richard Ford’s novel “The Sportswriter”… Looking back, looking forward, making sense of what we face now. Or as he says as he pedals a stationary bike back in his gym after his trip, ‘the present is where you want to be. Never wish away distance. Never wish away time.’”
The Charlotte Observer
“Weber’s pedalogue is a one-word case study of highs and lows: Gulp. Damn. Yikes! So... Whew! Ommmmmm. Arrrrgh. Ha! Sigh. Cool! Yikes! Arrgh. Whoa!”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-02
In 2011, at the age of 57, New York Times reporter Weber (As They See ‘Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires, 2009, etc.) embarked on his second cross-country bicycle trip, an adventure as much transcendental as transcontinental. Written mostly in real time, the book reflects the author's philosophy of cycling: Moving forward is the cure for all ills. Woven through this generally engaging chronicle of a west-to-east odyssey are asides on his parents, old friends, loves lost and new, a pivotal journey through North Vietnam and his post-trip "heart event." But the real strength of the book is on the road, where incidents coalesce into chapters. A long bike ride is a good story to tell, however meandering, and Weber admits that he did it again due to his encroaching mortality; his checklist for adventure wasn't keeping pace with his advancing age. Unlike his first cross-country sojourn nearly 20 years before, this time, the author brought a smartphone, a computer and constant feedback from readers following his ongoing blog for the Times. This time, the writing, not self-elevation, would be the defining part of the journey. A Manhattanite keenly aware of his provincialism, Weber regards America's geographic and cultural expanse as exotic: New York is a vertical realm, not so the rest of the country. Measuring miles by the rhythmic pumping of his legs, experiencing the country in topographical segments, Weber lived the quixotic notion that ordeals can be as satisfying as pleasures, and he makes us believe it. "You can't gobble up the nation, mile after mile under your own power, without assimilating a sense of its greatness," he writes, discovering anew how geography helps define the identities of thousands of towns and millions of citizens. Ultimately, Weber sees solo cycling as a metaphor for the solitary experience of being alive. He wonders if every crucible of middle age is about defying impermanence and death. If true, Weber does it with brio.
Library Journal
01/01/2014
Weber normally spends his days with the stories of the dead—after all, he is an obituary writer for the New York Times. But when he decided finally to cross something major off his bucket list by riding coast to coast across the United States alone on his bicycle, Weber got the chance to do something that made him feel truly alive. This title is his witty travelog, his reflective road journal, and a vivid testament to the beauty of a journey made on two wheels. Perfect for fans of Bill Bryson's travel writing or books such as Jim Malusa's Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents and Paul Howard's Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands, and Big Breakfasts in My Quest To Cycle the Tour Divide, this title is a cross-country trip every reader can enjoy. VERDICT Weber's journey is sure to inspire readers to roll their old bikes out of the shed and plan an epic trek of their own.—Melissa Culbertson, Homewood, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451695014
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 3/18/2014
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 56,420
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Weber, a reporter for The New York Times, began his career in publishing as a fiction editor at Esquire. He has written for numerous publications and is the author of the New York Times bestseller As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires, coauthor (with Savion Glover) of Savion! My Life in Tap, and the editor of Look Who’s Talking: An Anthology of Voices in the Modern American Short Story.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2014

    Self absorbed New Yorker wines his way across America. If you lo

    Self absorbed New Yorker wines his way across America. If you love bicycles and cycling adventures this is not for you. If you love soap operas you might like it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2014

    Highly recommended

    Bruce Weber is an engaging, witty narrator. For anyone who has ever dreamed of biking across the country, Weber is reminiscent of Bill Bryson (except Weber made it the WHOLE way).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

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