By Lou Melini
Eleanor Davis is an illustrator and cartoonist. She illustrated and wrote most of the book during a 2016 bike tour from her birth and childhood home in Tucson, Arizona to her current residence in Athens, Georgia. At least that was the plan. She rode as far as Jackson, Mississippi where she called her husband thus ending her tour. Though she ended the planned tour sooner than planned, she had a grand tour through 2 partial states and 3 full states including Texas, a state so large that it should count as traveling through 2 states.
The book is good in a very different sort of way due to the illustrated format. Think of reading a full length Charlie Brown/Peanuts book. The illustrations are well done, the dialogue is mostly good as it well reflects what she did, ride a bike for a long distance. The content of the book has many references that realistically describe a bike tour. For example, on day 39 she is going to Austin, Texas. She illustrates 2 touring cyclists with question marks over their heads. “ Eleanor?” “Jack?” describing her re-uniting with another touring cyclist that she met previously. One meets a number of people on a bike tour and Eleanor meets quite a few that she illustrates in her book. These are quite entertaining. “Day 42, Yegua S.P: The group at the RV spotted her. “Hey where’d you bike from. You touring” while his wife asked; “Come help us eat this catfish we just caught this morning” Eleanor’s reply; “Oh my God!” I can relate to this encounter Eleanor had.
Though I enjoyed the book, there were a few parts that were really unnecessary distractions to put it mildly. I personally do not like touring books that interject political statements or commentary. I sometimes enjoy tangential statements thrown into the flow of a touring book to perhaps bring some historical perspective of a town for example. Numerous pages with non-flattering remarks about border patrol and an odd interjection of “Boy do we hate Republicans” by a couple she meets on day 21 were just not needed. Nor did I appreciate the page of illustrations stating; “Today I only eat stuff that looks like d***s”. Perhaps I am getting old and overly critical.
Despite the above flaws, I would consider giving the book as a gift. However, I would certainly screen to whom I gave the book to as I think of my circle of bike travelers all would have that same criticism as I of the book. If the book stuck with the core subject, the bike tour, it would be a very good book to highly recommend due to the quality of the illustrations. It is a very unique book about a bicycle tour.
You & A Bike & A Road
By Eleanor Davis
Koyama Press, 2017