One of my favorite authors is Bill Bryson. His travel essays are an absolute stitch. While not quite as sarcastic as Mr. Bryson, in Riding With Reindeer, writer Robert M. Goldstein tells a fun and humorous tale of his riding some 2,000 miles south-to-north through Finland, Lapland (part of Finland), and portions of the Arctic regions of Norway on his Bike Friday urban folding bike, with trailer full of supplies in tow. As an avid bike commuter who pedals an urban folding bike, I was particularly interested in learning how it (and he) fared over such a long distance and such varied terrain. Without issuing any spoilers, this book is a fun and fantastic read, even for those who may be armchair travelers. Mr. Goldstein provides and very interesting historical and geographic perspective on Finland, a nation most of us are much less familiar with than the other Scandinavian counties, sans the sauna and Nokia. He also paints a delightful picture of the Finns, as well as of their cities and impressive bicycling network.
Sure, there are headaches he encounters – lumber trucks, missing signage, weather demons, the ever-present mosquitoes, and the fear of being devoured by a golu-golu (residents of Ann Arbor will certainly appreciate what a golu-golu is). But, his trip includes many fine adventures and plenty of reindeer sightings. Apparently, Santa gives them the summer off to gawk at Americans and other tourists as they bicycle their way through northern Finland. One can only imagine what they are thinking as he pedals by on a Bike Friday towing a small trailer. Probably something to the effect of: What the hell was that just passed by us on two wheels? I don’t know dear, guess we’ve been in the midnight sun too long, as we are starting to see things! Read this jolly good book – once you start, Riding With Reindeer will be very hard to put down. Cheers!