For the first time in 37 years, I have been intimate with a woman who is not my wife! No, not that way! I mean intimate in the sense of really sharing... no co-experiencing... intimate thoughts and feelings. Marg Archibald has invited me into her inner self and for the last few weeks we have shared the kind of feelings that had me cheering for her, rooting for her, proud of her, and honestly angry with her. In other words we have shared the kind of relationship which is normally reserved for soulmates and other committed couples.
Cycling into Your Soul is less about cycling and more about a woman alone with her thoughts, exploring her inner world, who just happens to be pedaling around the world. Cycling becomes her vehicle in the literal sense of utility to get around geographically. But, the time she spends in the saddle and recovering from her rides allows cycling to become her mantra for entering into a journey of self examination with the physical world as her mirror.
As Marg sets out from her stepping off point in Russia, where everyone tells her that she will get killed or worse there, we find ourselves jumping into the deep end of the estrogen pool. This is a woman's book about a woman's thoughts, about the condition of a woman's soul. We experience people, art, food and music as we cycle with her around Moscow's Golden Ring. On her last day of cycling there, Marg has a particularly trying day. A day of head winds, poor to non-existent road and the heartbreak of knowing that she still had more to go when her energy was gone. She says, "Once across the boulders, sand and mud, I discovered that I still faced forty K more than I expected to Kostromi. I cried all the way to Kostromi. I cried for all the love I had looked for and never found. I cried for the fact that this trip will make most men all the more unsuitable for me. I cried for Brenda my cat, that I so desperately wanted to protect and didn't seem able to do. And I cried because it felt great." She made it! After, we enjoyed a luxurious shower, with two towels even... a luxury in Russia!
Many weeks later as Marg climbed a particularly torturous mountain, short of water and out of steam, she is rescued by a German named Mark who gives Marg and her bike a needed lift. They spend the afternoon together. He is young and attractive and I am really really rooting for Marg! My LIRR commuter train is lurching along into Manhattan and Marg is frolicking on the beach in Turkey with a younger man - I am engrossed.... "The water was warm - good ol' Med - the waves were big... Mark rejoined me on the beach bed... he asked me to put sunscreen on his back. The sunscreen was very warm, almost hot. So was the skin on his back. It felt lovely against my hand." Go Marg!
What can I say? Marg was traveling in strange lands, and I am traveling with her, also a stranger in a strange land, the land of a woman's mind. She sees the world colored by her femininity. It is a perspective I do not normally see, save in its reflection in another's eye. But, here I am peeringing at the world through the looking glass of a spiritual, sensitive, and growing woman exploring her inner self. She is pushing herself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. At times I am proud of her accomplishments. At others I am disappointed with her guardedness. Stil, I see her trying to overcome. I am a man, and therefor I do not understand. She is woman, she understands too well... we are in different worlds, and in this book briefly we collide and in that collision we almost merge.
Cycling Into Your Soul is a book that is a good read, engaging and flowing. It is a series of journal entries but, it is narrative and it tells a story of a journey through these entries. Do not read this book for a cycling treatise on gear and technique - it is absent. Do not read this book for a travelogue - it is not a guide book in the traditional sense of the word. But read this book if you want to share the most intimate feelings of a woman who uses her hours in the saddle as a window into her being. Use it as a guide for a similar journey for your soul.