Downhills Don't Come Free by Jerry Holl
Within The First Thirty Minutes Of My Trip I Was Pulled Over By Alaska’s Finest
Yes, it’s true. The author was just 30 minutes into his trip before the nice policeman was already telling Jerry to got off the freeway, and onto the bike path where he belonged. The author explains that he didn’t really check out his route too much—After all, what could possibly go wrong?
In DOWNHILLS DON'T COME FREE Jerry Holl takes the reader on a scary ride. Zero bike experience? No problem—Start your cycling training with a ride from Alaska to Mexico!
“At fifty-seven, I resigned from my corporate job, and in a broader sense from my past, to take on the challenge of a bike ride from Anchorage, Alaska, to the Mexican border despite zero distance experience whatsoever on a bicycle.”
Jerry explains that his wife was very encouraging, even enthusiastic. Hmm, he thought, “Too enthusiastic?”
I found the author’s equipment selection interesting. He loaded up a LOT of gear, and his bike + gear topped 100 pounds. (I confess I doubted the author’s number, but Jerry swears the number is correct.) Not sure what gear to get? Just buy a whole bunch and try it out on your first day in Alaska.
One might also question the author’s nutritional choices:
“Once I was up and moving, I was subsisting on candy and granola bars. The simplicity of tear and eat appealed to me.”
Well, you get the idea. This is an amazing story, full of (mostly) good experiences cycling along some of North America’s most beautiful scenery. Lots of interesting characters (including some wild ones), and a lifetime of stories.
Of course, the journey was physically grueling, but there are a few funny scenes. Not properly securing his tent, the author had to chase his tent down once:
“I came back out of the laundry area, the winds were howling— and there was my tent in the distance, bouncing and bounding high into the air like a beach ball in a hurricane as it rolled across the grassy field.”
Watch out for Cement!
Despite some equipment breakages, the author escaped without serious injury until the very end of his trip. Following another rider’s mistake, Jerry enters some nice, soft concrete:
“I only had a millisecond to think, Oh shit, that’s going to hurt her—and WHAM! I was down too. . .Our front tires had dropped straight into the wet cement and slammed against the opposite wall, which dropped us both like a ton of bricks.”
Well, the injuries were serious, but not life-threatening. Note to reader: Do NOT try to ride through wet concrete, no matter how cushiony it looks.
All in all, I found DOWNHILLS DON'T COME FREE to be a fascinating, albeit a bit of a scary read. There’s lot of good lessons here on how to make a trip like this (and maybe a few lessons on how to NOT make a trip like this?) I am amazed that a non-cyclist could pull off this feat.
Finally, I cannot imagine hitting 45 MPH on one downhill, as Jerry mentions. Readers: Do not attempt this!