Synopses & Reviews
Our story so far:
Oh, To Be Young and Go Very, Very Fast
It was 5:30 a. m. in Pocatello, Idaho, a thin sheet of icy rain masked sunrise, and I wasn't quite sure I was up for my latest bicycling adventure. Coasting through the nearly deserted streets of this small Western town, I found myself poised at a stoplight. An ingrained obedience to traffic laws coupled with a sleepy hangover from the long train ride kept me anchored in place though there wasn't a car in sight.
As I waited, an old rancher ambled up to the intersection. The fur collar on his long coat was tattered, crusted with tobacco stains, and faded. As his cane tapped its way over my bike, I noticed for the first time that he was blind. One eye drooped shut like that of a tomcat that had seen too many late-night brawls, while the other, still open, was cloudy and distant. That eye reminded me of an African tribesman seen in the pages of National Geographic who suffered from river blindness.
The old rancher continued to work his cane over me, tapping as he went. And though the light changed from red to green several times, I remained frozen, allowing this slow survey of my person. The moment felt intimate and awkward, but I did not break it. When he was done, the old rancher stood back, grinned through a ruin of teeth, and said, "Ah, metal cowboy."
I was dumbfounded and surprised; first, that he had spoken at all, and more importantly, that this battered husk of man had hit upon a perfect description of me at the time, and my story. Though I looked more like a surfer, or a guy on a fool's journey, to him I felt like a metal cowboy, the bike my horse, and the asphalt my trail. "Keep the wind at your back, and find where the innocent sleep," he added. Then, without fanfare, my rancher crossed the street and dissolved into the early morning mist.
A chill passed through me. I have thought about that old man many times during my travels. He was right about the wind, and as for locating where the innocent sleep, I want to believe he meant to look for the best in people along the road, and that's what you will often find. My bicycle has also brought me to the innocence and the best in myself. Collective
Joe Kurmaskie, dubbed the "Metal Cowboy" by a blind rancher he encountered one icy morning in Idaho, has been addicted to the intoxicating freedom and power of the bicycle ever since he "borrowed" his big sister's banana-seat bike at the age of five. As he careened down the neighborhood hill, much to his parents' dismay, Joe set in motion what has become a lifelong love affair with the road and the wheel. In Metal Cowboy
, Joe offers up an infectious and big-hearted collection of true adventures and misadventures, chronicling his time touring America on his bicycle.
Whether he is climbing a tree to avoid the insistent pecking of a flock of geese in New Hampshire, tooling around a motel parking lot in Utah with a touring group of Elvis impersonators, or filling in as a last-minute scarecrow in a North Carolina Halloween parade, Joe revels in the charm of small town America and the unforgettable characters who dot our landscape. Full of energy, wit, and wisdom, Metal Cowboy is both an inspiration and a call to the road, full of the simple joy of a path well pedaled and a life less ordinary.
"Like the travel books of Bill Bryson, Kurmaskie focuses on the unexpected and the little known." Booklist
In 40 amusing essays, a cyclist shares his view of American small towns, peculiar moments, unforgettable people.
A bicyclist's-eye view of America.
About the Author
Joe Kurmaskie is a regular columnist for Bicycling, where his "Ask the Metal Cowboy" column appears. He has written for Details, the Arizona Star, Oregon Cycling, Midwest Bike, and AOL/Time Warner and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two sons.