The Bicycle Diaries
By David Kroodsma
RFC Press, 2014
In 2005 David Kroodsma set off on a bicycle journey from Palo Alto to Tierra del Fuego. Alone, with four panniers strapped to his bike, which he affectionately named Del Fuego, he embarked on this journey to raise awareness about climate change. He lived on a tight budget, regularly eating pasta cooked on his stove, camping in backyards and crashing with bomberos, firefighters, across Latin America who took him in. While most of his journey was spent on his bike, he regularly visited schools and talked to kids about his trip and climate change, and he did numerous television and newspaper interviews, and did his best to engage locals along his trail. The Bicycle Diaries captures his journey, mile by mile and country by country.
I enjoyed this book on many levels. Kroodsma, who was in his late 20s when he went on this adventure, captures the excitement of being young and free to explore and meet new people without a fixed schedule, job or family. In Mexico, he camped next to a family of shrimp fishers who struggled to make a living. In Venezuela he spent the night with engineers for an oil company. And in Argentina he visited a college friend who has made a life for himself in an artists’ community in Patagonia. I enjoyed the life stories of the people he encountered. He also explores how climate change might affect the regions he visited, including impacts on industries like fishing and shrimping. He also looks at the history of climate change in the region and recounts how drought was connected to the decline of the Mayan civilization.
This is a sizable book (413 pages) and when I first picked it up, I wondered how he would keep the narrative moving, given that biking across countries happens at a slow pace, but his story moves well, and I felt completely immersed in his journey. I have traveled to parts of Mexico and Central America he visited and felt he captured those cultures well. And it was fun to read the South American section and to learn more about places I was less familiar with, in particular, Colombia where I learned biking is popular and the major cities close their streets to cars on Sundays for bikes. If you’re looking to visit Latin America or to just learn more about the region, this book is worth picking up.
The author gave me a copy of this book.