Under a Triumphant Sky: A Bike Across America Story
By Steve Garufi
Mount Princeton Press: 2014
332 pp, $21.95
Reviewed by Eduardo Rey Brummel
Is there any of us who hasn’t dreamed of running away, of heading on out to the highway, never looking back, getting away from it all? Steve Garufi had those dreams. Unlike most of us, he acted on them.
On the first day of February 2008, Garufi straddled his bike and pedaled away from a San Diego beach, heading east. A month and a half later, he arrived at another beach and another ocean, at Jekyll Island, Georgia. Between those two beaches, he experienced 11 flat tires, two mechanical breakdowns and one stolen bicycle. But not only did Garufi live to tell the tale – he even wrote about it.
Garufi is a licensed professional counselor, so it’s perhaps little surprise he concentrates moreso on the people he encounters rather than the nitty-gritty physical details of his journey. Other biking-across-America sagas provide vivid details of the grueling nature of the cycling: the cold and heat, the never-ending slogging, the sleep deprivation and the struggling against wanting to quit. People encountered along the way don’t usually land on the writer’s (and, hence, the reader’s) radar unless there’s a real reason. Garufi’s reason is the people themselves. He revels in the personal contacts and is more interested in their stories than in going on to them about his.
It’s not a scary, xenophobic world Garufi writes about. Rather, it’s about the greatness of our people – how inviting and inclusive we are, given the merest chance. To be sure, there are struggles: Garufi suffers heckling truckers; barking and snapping dogs off their leashes; and the opportunistic a-hole, in Phoenix, who steals his locked bike. But there are also the drivers who stop and insist upon helping, even with such simple matters as flat tires; bike mechanics who refuse to charge for their services; and those who give Garufi tours of their towns.
This is the story of an adult finally making manifest a long-held dream – of persistently continuing onward when every other cell in the body is demanding, “Stop. Enough is enough.”
The charting of daily events as the writer travels at a two-wheeled pace across the southern part of the U.S. could result in a correspondingly tedious read. However, this doesn’t occur here. I never lost interest. I was carried consistently and continually along.
Alas, this past May, Garufi was hired away from his beloved Chaffee County to the big city of Albuquerque. Nonetheless, he remains, in his heart and in the hearts of those who follow his websites, a Central Colorado Guy.