Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Do the ends justify the means? Going Somewhere by Brian Benson

Going Somewhere is a memoir about Brian and Rachael’s bicycle trip across country from Wisconsin to Oregon. It is also the story of the point-to-point relationship of two young adults who learn that movement is not necessarily action. The trip is an epic journey of many tough miles of bike breakdowns, momentum killing headwinds, and almost daily exhaustion.

At first, the hardships of biking are rewarded by peak experiences in the beautiful Wisconsin countryside. But, it does not take long before the punishment of heat, hills, and junk food supplements to their diets cause Brian and Rachael to dread parts of each day. In fact, as they travel through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon the memoir is sketchy about many of the places the two visit and people they meet that probably were amazing and life enhancing. Brian became a detailed chronicler of the environment but a restricted observer of the psychology of stressful travel.

It is interesting that the two very different personalities remain relatively unchanged throughout the trip, especially with Brian. His journal describes “going somewhere” without a clear goal even though there is a set endpoint for the trip, Portland. Rachael, on the other hand, sees Portland as her home with friends and a lifestyle she wants to return to and maintain with new appreciation after the trip. The interest they both had in making music (that's how they met) is strangely lacking in the narrative except for a few times in the beginning of the trip.

I am a marathon runner and know the commitment, drive, and years of training it takes to complete a distance in a positive way, even though the event is exhausting and punishing for the body. I also know the psychology of finding joy in the last 6 miles of the run. It was very interesting to get an understanding of the difficulty and dangers of riding high end bikes for months along roads and highways. Like a marathon, many people have an unrealistic impulse to reach a very difficult athletic goal expecting to enjoy the effort and finish the event without sufficient physical training. Going Somewhere shows the consequences of putting a tremendous physical strain on body, mind, and relationships after minimal training. The reader will enjoy discovering if the ends justify the means for Brian and Rachael.

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