Coming Soon: The Return Of The Max And (Now) Varnum Show

Remember lockdown one? Looking back, it was a far more enjoyable experience than either lockdowns two or three. Although the context of such lockdowns being necessary should not be forgotten, or indeed underestimated, they did force us to hit the pause button on our lives; many of us were suddenly given the time to indulge in other things apart from work and the usual play. The ‘lockdown project’ had been invented… My main lockdown project was to spend a significant amount of time researching the life and cycling journey of Maximilian J. St. George and in June 2020, I published episode 21 of The Cycling Europe Podcast that was dedicated to Max’s early 20th century epic cycling tour of Europe.

Here’s how I described that original podcast in June 2020:

“This episode of the podcast is going to be slightly different. Rather than talking to a current cyclist, I’m going to be investigating the life of a cyclist from the past. You’ve probably never heard his name before and you’re even less likely to have heard his story. He was a German-born American called Maximilian J. St. George. His story is told via extracts from his book, Traveling Light or Cycling Europe on Fifty Cents a Day read by the actor Jeremy Walker with contributions from the historian Dr James Stout, the cycling writer Michael Hutchinson and two Romanian long-distance cyclists Lehel Benedek and Elod Keresszegi. It’s an epic take of an epic cycling journey from over 100 years ago by the original Mr. Cycling Europe…”, 13.6.20

…here is the podcast itself:

…and this is what was said about the original podcast:

In the past 12 months, there have been some very interesting developments… In late December 2020, I received an intriguing message via GoodReads (of all things) from a chap called Timothy:

“Hi Andrew. I believe you conducted a podcast recently about my grandfather, Maximilian J. St George. It was fascinating! I have tried to find the cycling book he wrote but without much luck. Do you know where any copies are? His wife Countess Ape, my grandmother, was a painter and I have a number of her works (including of her mother and sisters). Thank you very much for sharing this story!”

I immediately sent Timothy an email:

“Receiving the message that you sent yesterday via Goodreads has been a highlight of my Christmas. I am delighted that someone from Maximilian’s family has managed to get in touch with me as, earlier in the year, I did make an effort to find one of his descendants but to no avail. I have so many questions to ask!”

Indeed I did and there ensued an email conversation with not just Timothy – Tim to his friends – but his older brother, George. And it didn’t end there…

In April this year, I received an even-more-intriguing email, this time from a man called Juniper who lives in New Mexico. He explained why he was getting in touch:

“Hello Andrew,

I’m delighted to have just come across your site while doing some research for a project that I’ve been slowly working on for many years. Your work parallels much of mine. 

My great grandfather [Varnum Parish], also an attorney, went to Notre Dame with Max and did a subset of the European tour with him (about 2500 miles, from Aug 5, 1908 to Nov 29. 1908). I have the detailed day-by-day diaries of my great grandfather’s trip and intend to reproduce the voyage myself. I’m also beginning to plan a documentary film about the journey. 

Although I do have my great grandfather’s signed copy of Max’s book, I haven’t yet read it. I only this morning searched the web for materials relating to the book (and thus discovered your site).”

This was a fascinating revelation; the tale of Maximilian J. St. George was beginning to veer into the territory of an Indiana Jones movie, especially when Juniper sent the following two photographs:

Here were three people that I really needed to speak to so, a few weeks ago, I arranged to record a conversation with Tim, George and Junpier. Across four different time zones, we met online and started chatting about not just Max but now also Varnum. Here’s a short extract from that conversation. I had just asked Tim if he had ever met his grandfather, Maximilian J. St. George. The Twitter account that Tim mentions, by the way, is the one that I set up in Max’s name – @MaximilianJStG – in order to publicise the original podcast:

I’m currently editing the full interview with Tim, George and Junpier and it will form a major part of a follow-up episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast that will be published on the weekend of the 12th-13th June, exactly a year since the publication of the original podcast and almost 113 years since Max set off from his home in America on June 15th 1908. The new episode will be number 035. The original episode was number 021 and you can listen to it by scrolling to the top of this post to listen via Apple Podcasts or by selecting the link of your preferred podcast provider below and seeking out episode 021 from June 2020.

Researching, recording and editing The Cycling Europe Podcast takes time, effort and money. If you enjoy the podcast, please consider supporting it using the form below. Even the smallest of donations is very much appreciated. If you are on social media, please consider sharing details of the podcast – you’ll find us @CyclingEurope on Twitter and Instagram or by visiting the Cycling Europe with Andrew P. Sykes Facebook page. And if you like what you hear on the podcast, don’t forget to add a rating or review via your podcast provider to let others know what you think.
Thanks if you do!

As the original episode of the podcast required a detailed script, I also made this available at the time and, should you wish to read it, is is below. That said, it doesn’t include transcripts of what the various participants had to say.

Alternatively, here’s the version of the original podcast on YouTube, with the option of subtitles:

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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