Visiting Tom: A Man, A Highway, and the Road to to Roughneck Grace Michael Perry (HarperCollins) $24.99
Perry’s works are heartfelt answers to those among us who believe Americans have lost their spirit of independence and know-how. Population: 485 Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time introduced us to the people of Auburn, Wisconsin. Among them are the local volunteer fireman, who is cross-eyed, has one kidney and two ex-wives,(both of them work at the local gas station.), and the local vigilante who happens to be a farmer’s wife who totes a gun and a bible. Truck: A Love Story brought us face to face with a one-eyed surveyor, a paraplegic biker who rigs a sidecar so his quadraplegic friend can ride along ( “You haven’t really explored the outer limits of health care until you’ve watched a Hell’s Angel suction a tracheotomy tube.”.says Perry; part-time EMT and full-time pig farmer.),and a bartender who refuses to sell lite beer. Always heartfelt, never sentimental, Perry’s writing is humorous and full of warmth for the independent spirits of this country. Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway and the Road to Roughneck Grace is no exception.
Meet Tom Hartwig, an 82-year-old man who builds parts for expensive farm equipment, makes gag shovel handles and explosives in a workshop Perry describes as,”…“an antique store stocked by Rube Goldberg, curated by Hunter Thompson, and rearranged by a small earthquake,…” Tom is full of stories and anti-authoritarian spirit; something fueled and renewed daily by his outrage at the expressway that cuts through his property. When Perry and Hartwig sit down to discuss family life, Hartwig reveals himself as a man of great equanimity and tenderness. This is a book of true depth about a man of independent spirit: Tom Hartwig is outraged by the encroachment of relentless highway traffic, full of history, love of life, and love of family.
JUST RIDE : A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike
By Grant Petersen
Workman Publishing. Paper, $13.95.
It shows just how crazy the world of cycling has become when a book like Petersen’s Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike is viewed as “controversial”. For those among us who remember the joys of cycling from childhood, who don’t want or can’t afford to equip ourselves as if we are entering the Tour-de-France, Petersen’s simple guide on how to dress, how to maintain your bike and how to plan your travels is a breath of fresh air. He thinks carbon bikes with narrow profiles are only good if,..”Getting paid to ride them…”. Here’s what he has to say on racing clothes: “In its need for special clothing,” he writes, “bicycle riding is less like scuba diving and more like a pickup basketball game.” A regular cotton T-shirt and a pair of shorts will ventilate better, he says, and if you’re not trying to shave seconds off a world record, the microscopic aerodynamic advantages of tight synthetic clothing just don’t apply to you.
Petersen’s advice carries true weight. He raced bikes for six years, then worked at Bridgestone, Japan’s largest bike manufacturer, as a designer. When Bridgestone closed it’s American offices, Petersen opened his own cycle shop, Rivendell Bicycle Works in Walnut Creek, California, so you’d think he would promote all the bells and whistles. To the contrary. Petersen says,”No matter how much your bike costs, unless you use it to make a living, it is a toy, and it should be fun.” To Mr. Petersen, we say ,”thanks.”