I received this book directly from the author several months ago, and I thought I’d do a typical review of it like I had with the other books I’ve received.
But Dave Sylvester is no ordinary guy, so this is no ordinary book review. It’s more of a story…and an introduction. Meet Dave.
That’s the card that accompanied the book. How could I not love this book already?
He’s big. He’s loud. He curses a lot and hugs strangers. And if you read his book, he might just be your new best friend.
First off, let me say that Dave is no ordinary cat. When he sent me the book, he included his phone number…not something that often happens with the books I receive. He later told me that he gave out his phone number on the radio so people would call him, for better or worse. He also told me to include his phone number in this post (see below). Dave wants to know people. He wants to tell them stories and watch their responses. Yes, his book is about a bunch of bike trips he took across the US, Asia, and Africa, but really, this is a book about Dave meeting people…and people being drawn to Dave. It’ll happen to you, I guarantee it.
Let me get the technical review out of the way so we can move onto more important things: first and foremost, I think the title of the book sucks. It’s a cliche, but more importantly, it doesn’t give you the full scope of what Dave is about. Clunker title aside, the book reads more like a personal note to a friend (who turns out to be you), which is both comforting and oddly compelling. I’ve read a lot of self-published books, and most of them are unedited slop. Dave’s book bucks this trend; it’s fairly well written, though no one will accuse him of being Hemingway. Some of his sentences are uninteresting, so if you’re a literary type like D2, you won’t be wowed. Structurally, the book jumps around a bit too much for my liking, and there are some overly-schmaltzy sections that I wasn’t into.
That said, I was never, ever bored when I read this book. That’s high praise coming from a writer, believe me. The story zips along, and by the second chapter, you feel like Dave is your buddy. Someone you’ve known all along. Someone who shows up at your door with a six pack, a bike, and a smile on his face. Fucker’s infectious, man. I shit you not.
Most of the negative drama that happens during his lengthy bike tours happens toward the end of the book, and I would have rather seen those sections sprinkled throughout, as the story might have been a bit more compelling that way, but Dave made his case when I talked to him on the phone:
When it came to laying out the book, that’s one reason why I did it that way.
People need something genuine. I’m not the best cyclist in the world. I don’t have any yellow jerseys. My story’s not predicated on speed. It’s predicated on people.
In other words, Dave wants us to focus on what people are capable of, what they can do to make you feel better about life…but in the end, he doesn’t want you to forget that struggles happen, and the only way to get past it is to move. Roll on.
He never even mentions what kind of bike he’s riding. He doesn’t talk about adjusting derailleurs or upgrading to carbon bars. The bike is a tool to Dave. The bike gets him through harsh landscapes and remote towns so he can achieve his ultimate goal: meet people. Touch them. Smile with them. Laugh with them. In some cases, avoid them. In other cases, grieve with them. In many cases, he pisses them off (so much so that he gets kicked off one of the tours altogether…one of my favorite chapters in the book tells the story of Dave following the group after he is kicked out and completing his tour in a remote land, self-supported with a bit of help from Goldmember and friends).
Okay, now that the technical review is out of the way, let’s talk about Dave.
Dave lost one of his best friends when the World Trade Center went down, and this was the impetus for his first ride across the country. This ride led to another ride, and then another. This book is a chronicle of those journeys, but it’s not a book about a bike. It’s a book about people; one of those people is occasional DC reader and friend of D2, Goldmember. It was fun to stumble across him in the text and see a different side of a guy I’ve known for a long time; more than that, you as a reader will find their hijinks infectious. Goldmember can be gruff and sometimes strange, but that’s what’s endearing about him. Read the book and you’ll figure out in a hurry who this Goldmember fella is.
The loss of an important person got Dave moving. The others along the way kept him moving.
As he put it when I spoke to him on the phone:
“When bad shit happens in your life, and bad shit will happen, there is movement from that.”
Fuckin’ A. Movement. That’s what drunkcyclist is all about, isn’t it? Movement is such a key theme in the book that it almost takes on characteristics, becomes a person. Dave moves through the darkness through the southern U.S., his mind taking over and creating a fear that had no basis. He powers through desert heat in Arizona, stops at a nursing home and moves through the space like an elephant through a keyhole, because Dave is big, physically and metaphysically. Yet this elephant has a gentle touch with people and manages to bring out the best in everyone he meets. The fun of this book is seeing how people react to this big black guy coming their way: for some, he is intimidating and awful; for others, the initial fear or hesitance dissipates as soon as Dave starts talking.
The big scary black man, as he is often called in the book, attracts people. They want to know him, whether out of fear, admiration, or even at some points revulsion. Dave attracts you because in the end he is interested in you.
He says about his trips:
“I wasn’t in on the in-crowd. I still made my way, and that was fine. I was always confident at a certain point that this was coming down to being around people.”
He’s not so much around people as people are around him. At one point in the story, Dave stops at a shelter for battered women, and he is greeted with suspicion. Naturally, much of that suspicion does not go away because Dave is a man; yet he manages to make meaningful bonds anyway. That’s how Dave is: he’s the guy you can’t help but like, even when you don’t like him. You want to have a beer with him. You want to bullshit for hours over a football game. You read his story and you know who this guy is, no doubt about it.
Look, I know I’m gushing a little here. And believe me, when I received this book in the mail, I wanted to trash it. I took one look at the cover and thought, fuck, another self-published rag that I’m going to have to suffer through. I wanted to write that review, and to an extent, there’s plenty for me to pick apart and tell you how much it sucks. I made notes about everything I disliked about the book. It’s not a perfect book. Yet when I put it down, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Couldn’t stop turning it over in my mind. What greater praise is there for a writer?
So why should you read this book? Because on the other end of it, you’ll want to throw a leg on the bike…but more importantly, you’ll want to find meaning. You’ll want to help others find meaning. He says he wrote the book for a few reasons:
The initial thing was to show people how much I had changed on these trips…how they made me change. Some people in my life still say how can you spend all this money and still do all this shit? What’s happening on these trips that make you give up everything?
Another reason was I just wanted it in print to say thank you to all these people. That’s why in all these chapters I’m thanking somebody. Because these people made this journey special. That’s for the people I know; four the people I don’t know, I wanted to leave them inspired. I wanted people who hadn’t done a tour, or someone who hasn’t written a book, someone looking to take the next step, to say I can do this too.
Perhaps the most important reason you should read this book is because Dave wants to meet you. Seriously. A lot of people say that kind of thing, but Dave means it. Don’t believe me? Here’s his phone number:
Check out his website: findyourbike.org
Find him on Facebook: Dave!
I don’t care if you read the book, really. I just want you to meet Dave.
Dave Sylvester is a Drunkcyclist. Flat out, full on. Baller.by