Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pilgrim Wheels / Neil Hanson

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Travel Memoir

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


A Kansas native, Neil Hanson has had a variety of jobs, currently working as a project manager. His other books include an inspirational/spiritual book and a companion guide to Pilgrim Wheels that focuses on the route and logistics. A follow up to Pilgrim Wheels is on tap next.


In 2011, at 57 years old, Neil Hanson began a 3400-mile cross-country bicycle journey, exploring an America that can only be discovered on winding backroads from the saddle of a bicycle.

More than just a travelogue of a bike ride across the country, Hanson's delightful and beautifully written story takes the reader on a journey that is engaging and insightful, often hilarious, sometimes poignant, and always inspiring. It's a must-read adventure that will stir your soul.”

Pilgrim Wheels chronicles the first half of Hanson's journey. Another volume covering the second half of the journey is planned.


I'll often refer to a travel goal or a travel memoir chronicling a trip with a specific goal (in this case to ride a bike from coast to coast) as a quest. What I'm thinking when I say that fits one of the dictionary definitions which is what a medieval knight was doing when he set out to accomplish a specific goal, for example finding the Holy Grail or to go on an adventurous expedition. But usually there is another level to this whether the traveler knows it or not. That's the act of searching for something, another definition of quest.

In the introduction to Pilgrim Wheels Neil Hanson talks about this same concept in different terms, describing the progression of a trip starting out as an adventure, turning into a journey, and eventually becoming a pilgrimage. While I enjoy getting a sense of the difficulties and logistics involved in a trip like this, the main thing I'm looking for is to understand what the author got out of the trip. It could be internal (understanding themselves better), it could be external (understanding their world, its history, and their place in it). The list of possibilities is long, many of which I've seen in various travel memoirs over the years. A long trip taken at the speeds you'll reach on a cycle give the traveler time to really see the country they're travelling through with lots of time left to ponder many of the questions of life. To say that Hanson grew from his trip is an understatement. As a reader, we can hitchhike with him and share in those insights without a single turn of the pedal.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

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