Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America

Author: Mark Schimmoeller
Publisher: Alice Peck
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Date Read: February 4th to 8th, 2014
Review:
Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book. This did not influence my review in any way.

The unique story of Mark Schimmoeller, who after college left an internship to pursue a dream of unicycling across America, is unlike anything else I have ever read. How many people do you know who ride a unicycle, let alone decide to trek across America on one? It’s an impressive feat to say the least. One Schimmoeller is fairly modest about, really. These days he has hung up the unicycle (but not quite for good) and lives a sustainable lifestyle in the woods with his wife, not far from the home he grew up in. The book is written in an alternative perspective, one based on his time on the road, the other of his quiet life where he has no electricity or water, instead uses a rain catchment system and a solar cooker and is fighting to save the land surrounding him from development.

I enjoyed the imagery presented in this book of not only the woods where he lives, but also of the places he traveled through and the interesting characters met along the way. However, I felt there were a lot of irrelevant passages about his dreams (that made no sense, as dreams in real life often don’t) and random recountings of his childhood that disrupted the flow of the narrative. I liked how he related his unicycle journey to the life he knew at home, but a lot of little anecdotes didn’t feel like they belonged. This made the book seem much longer than it was and made it difficult to finish. I found my attention wavering as I inched towards the end, even though I was curious to see how it all wrapped up – it just took some work and concentration to get there. Maybe they should have been a little harsher on the cutting room floor (applies for books too yeah?).

Schimmoeller mentions that he likes happy endings, and this is apparent in the way he glosses over how plain difficult it must have been to travel such distances on a unicycle in such ever changing environments. Any hardships are brushed off, fixed by a meal and a good night’s sleep, making it seem fairly easy to pedal cross country on a bike with only one wheel. While we definitely should encourage people to achieve great things, it’s something else to ignore all the bad bits. And even if your journey over all was a success, of course there’s going to be bad days and rough days and days where you want to go home. It’s not realistic to pretend that they don’t exist. I’m not looking for drama, just a bit more raw honesty would have been nice.

Other than the lengthy descriptions I found Schimmoeller to be a talented writer, although in some parts he came off a little self-righteous I was able to move past it due to my sheer interest in his way of life so different from my own. I can sympathise with him about the threat of further development in his secluded area, and to be honest his travel adventures made me want to have my own – just maybe with four wheels instead of one.

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