An orange Schwinn Varsity…and a DREAM

Back when this book first came out, I was still riding the old orange Schwinn Varsity that I’d gotten when I was 13.  Nothing’s very sophisticated or high-tech about a heavy, steel framed dinosaur….but I loved to ride.  Watched ” Breaking Away”….I was the Italian guy zipping around (in my head…on the bike…in reality I was still a little Norwegian guy on an orange bike). I read what books I could find on cycling…saw a couple of cycling movies….read some more….and, probably in a review in Outside magazine, discovered this book.

from the Amazon synopsis:

This is the delightful and often humorous story of an around-the-world bicycle trip taken by two young people, Barbara and Larry Savage.

It took them two years and 25 countries. Along the way, these neophyte cyclists encountered warm-hearted strangers, bicycle-hating drivers, rock-throwing Egyptians, over-protective Thai policemen, and great personal joys.

They returned to a new life in Santa Barbara, one Barbara never lived to savor. She was killed in a street accident, Barbara and her bicycle vs. a truck. We are lucky to have this memoir, throughout which her vitality, warmth and compassion glow.

I was formed by many things…I suppose we all are.  Parental contributions are and should be first and foremost on the list…all the little things they did for us shaping us and helping us grow…but there are random but life changing things that come in from unexpected angles (the camp job in NC, smiling at the shy beauty for the first time who became my wife, other things more minor…) that mold us and leave a trace forever.  This book was one of those things for me.

A young person thrives on the tragic…a sense of drama must come with the territory….and to read this book as a young and untested man and to discover that Barbara was killed after returning to the States…after all their shared adventures in what one would suppose were the “really dangerous parts of the world”… was mind blowing.  It was a tragedy….horrible and unexpected and, to a young person, beyond understanding and unfair.

But that’s not what I remember taking away from this book.  What I remembered then and what I remember years later was the LIFE…the adventure and humor and willingness to experience…the willingness to LIVE. Barbara and her husband Steve weren’t funded by CocaCola…they weren’t part of some big reality show where fame and fortune waited at the end of a filmed “adventure”…they were just a young couple out in the world, meeting other people on their own turf and on their own terms,  meeting other people (not “visiting the Foreigners”…whatever that may mean..) and making friends along the way.  I guess that’s the beauty of a bicycle…more chance to interact than you have at 70 mph.

I have friends I’ve never met…people who’ve never said a word to me directly who’ve helped shape my world view…and I would include the author of this book in that list.  Thank you, Barbara.

A short PS…I may have had my first generation, second-hand steel frame Diamondback Ridge Runner mountain bike by the time this book came out…so that’s what I would have been riding…but an orange Varsity is still so much more picturesque.  So…imagine me on that if it helps paint the picture for you.

About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.

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