Three weeks to go… Still so much to do in terms of planning and I am beginning to feel the same way as I did back in 2010 before I set off for the south of Italy; a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Excitement is the easy emotion to explain; cycling through ten countries over a period of two months can be nothing but exciting. Anxiety is a more subtle emotion; it’s the unknown elements that I worry more about than the known ones. It’s the old Donald Rumsfeld comment about known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. He was much derided for making the comment at the time but it makes perfect sense. I am worried more about the unknown unknowns at the moment, the stuff that I have no idea that I should be worried about because I don’t know that they are out there. But I’m worried about them nevertheless.
Perhaps the next three weeks where much that I need to do out of necessity and which I have been putting off doing for so long will move my thoughts away from fading past glories and towards new ones. The star of ‘Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie‘ is finally, it appears, beginning to fade. As I type, the book is languishing at close to 30,000 in the Amazon eBook rankings, a position that it has never plummeted to before and the physical version seems to be spending much more time nearer to the 100,000 than the 10,000 point. Things weren’t helped earlier this week by the first one-star reviews that appeared on Amazon.co.uk. I first published the book back in August 2011 and in the 22 intervening months, all reviews have been either 5 stars (82), 4 stars (17) or 3 stars (5). The 2 and 1 star categories have, thankfully, remained empty. Until, that is, this week when two reviewers chose to roundly rubbish the book;
“The author fails to engage the reader with any meaningful or interesting description of his journey south through Europe to Brindisi… I got halfway through this dreadfully written book and waved the white flag…”
“It’s a bit repetitive and generally very dull. The author sounds like a nice chap but should have just done the trip, told his mates about the journey down at the pub and left it at that.”
I shouldn’t dwell on two reviews out of 106 but I suppose it’s only human nature to do so. The timing, however, may be fortuitous. It is perhaps the moment to cut the umbilical cord between myself and Good Vibrations and let it sink or swim in the sea of literary greatness. What I need to do is move on and spend the next year or so ensuring that I have a second book that answers those critics as well as continuing to satisfy the vast majority of readers who, by all accounts, found it such an ‘inspirational‘ book to read.
On the up side, I had an opportunity to meet two touring cyclists this week who put my own few forays into the world of ‘adventure biking’ (as the Americans like to call it) to shame. Admittedly they have been doing it a little longer than me but John and Jane Butters are an impressive couple. John first contacted me back in March having read about my trip along the Eurovelo 5 in 2010 in the book and having read on this website about my plans to cycle the Eurovelo 8. He pointed out that he and his wife had recently cycled the Eurovelo 6 (the one that Matt Krog completed last summer that runs along the Loire and Danube rivers) but didn’t mention the fact that they had also cycled in much of the rest of the World. Both John and Jane are retired and had found me via WarmShowers (here is their profile). They live in the centre of Edinburgh and spend two to three months every year on the road with their bikes. When I met them earlier this week in Reading they were en route from Nice in the south of France back to Scotland but they were able to recount other more epic adventures across America, New Zealand and many parts of Europe. I spent a very enjoyable evening over a pub meal and couple of pints of beer listening to their tales of cycling, camping, meeting people, flying with bicycles… I managed to squeeze my book out of one trip across Europe and I did point out to John and Jane that they could, should they choose to do so, write volumes about their travels. I also think that they might even satisfy the demands of my one-star reviewers. Engaging, interesting & certainly not dull. Thank-you John & Jane for a great night out!
(Jane, incidentally, is an accomplished Jazz singer – she even sang one of her songs for me just after leaving the pub* – and you can find out more about her work by visiting her website. *Such a comment obliges me to state that she had been drinking mineral water all evening!!)