Wednesday, September 22, 2010

David Herlihy: One Of Us

A bike geek, that is. And I mean that in the nicest way.

Despite being ravaged by a fast-onset cold (so much for that "amazing humidity/third lung" feeling from my last post), I managed to drag myself out to Mr. Herlihy's lecture/presentation last night. For those who don't know, Herlihy is the author of Bicycle: The History, an absolutely gorgeous book on (obviously) the early history of the bicycle, one that the staff graphic designer here at The Cycle has actually used for visual inspiration. I know I promised to dump the Amazon ads, but this book deserves one:

Thanks to a bookstore screwup, this was the book piled on the table for purchase and signing -- too bad Herlihy was actually here to discuss and promote his latest work instead, The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance, which also seems quite link-worthy:

The Lost Cyclist is the tale of one Frank Lenz, an avid Pittsburgh rider who set out to circumnavigate the globe on his bike in 1892... and (spoiler alert!) didn't quite make it. Sadly, Lenz left during a time when cyclists were America's oddballs (some things never change, eh?) and never got to witness the explosive bike boom that swept the nation in his absence. Herlihy's presentation was a fascinating narrated slideshow of the journey illustrated by Lenz's own photographs -- several of the photos are available at that Amazon link if you'd like to see some for yourself. At every turn, the author provided new insights into the technology, society, and (no other way to say it, sorry) "bike culture" at the end of the 19th century. I actually found myself rooting for Frank Lenz during the presentation, wondering what new adventure was waiting in the next photo.

I truly, truly enjoyed hearing the author speak. He started out a little slow, with the verbal pauses that reveal someone (like me) who works better at a keyboard than a microphone. But as the presentation moved along, I could feel him getting into full-geek mode, picking up steam as his passion for the topic overcame the awkwardness of the situation. By the time a few of his own photos slipped into the slideshow (standing near some of the same sights Lenz visited on his trip), I felt safe assuming that Herlihy's own bike had taken him there and was resting just outside the frame. Fine historian? Check. Excellent storyteller? Check. Bike nut extraordinaire? You bet.

So, fear not, Mr. Herlihy. Sure, the bookstore screwed up, but I went straight home and ordered my own copy of The Lost Cyclist anyway. I kind of hope it gets here before this cold goes away, since I predict it will be hard to put down for pesky little things like work... or food... or sleeping.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report! Nice to hear that he's the big bike geek that he always appeared to be. :-)

Naturally, we'll be expecting a book report in a week, so get going!

Any idea of where his book tour will be taking him? A quick web search didn't pull up an itinerary.

Steve in Peoria

Iowagriz said...

Got the book on Monday for a birthday gift. Couldn't make it to the Tuesday meeting.