I used to live right around the corner from this awesome book store called The Book Zoo, in Oakland. It was one of the raddest book stores I'd ever been to, with an authentic old time "study" feel to it, complete with couches, big old reading chairs, and a pervasive, but not entirely unpleasant old book smell.
I still live around the same corner, but alas, The Book Zoo has moved to the more affluent and pedestrian-heavy Piedmont Street.
Last Friday, while taking advantage of the poor weather to do some long ignored-laundry, my wife and I decided to head over to Piedmont, hit a laundromat, and go check out The Book Zoo in it's new location.
I was happy to find that while smaller and slightly more cluttered, the new Book Zoo still felt homey and comfortable as it had ever been, with several reading chairs and stacks of books everywhere. The owner, and sole employee so far as I know, sat behind the counter, hidden behind a stack of old pulp novels that he was pricing with a pencil, one by one.
I said hello and began browsing the shelves. Almost immediately I noticed a green-covered book sitting atop one of the many piles of books that occupied the center of the room. Traveling By Bike. I picked it up and flipped it open, expecting another quirky and yet entirely dated and useless 1970s "how to" manual. While I wasn't totally wrong in that regard (the book does have some pretty epic "era specific" photographs and the quintessential 70's cartoony line art), I was struck by some of the articles and their continued relevance not just to modern touring, but specifically to randoneuring.
Particularly interesting was a technical article entitled "The Fine Touring Bicycle" Written for Bike World Magazine in 1973 by Joe Kossack. Kossack's harkens from a time before the American bicycle industry had really embraced the idea of bicycle touring, and the idea of a touring specific stock bike was unheard of. Not surprisingly, most of Kossack's recommendations come from across the Atlantic: Renee Herse, Alex Singer, and Jack Taylor frames, Mafac and C.L.B. brakes, Brooks and Ideal saddles, and of course T.A. cranks.
The book has many other gems, including an excellent article called "Idiot-Proofing Your Bike" by Harold Wooster, a hilarious run-through of everything that can and will go wrong with your bike on any given tour, especially on the first day. Not to mention a bunch of other cool miscellanea: old, photos, cool drawings, and a completely confounding article entitled "The Evolution of Trip Rhythm", which I'm still trying to figure out.
Ultimately, I set the book down and moved on to the lit section, but kept coming back to Traveling By Bike. Finally, after finding that my other purchases (two Marquez novels) came to the whopping total of $7, I snatched up the book, ironically paying a dollar more than the original cover price of $1.95.
Worth every penny.