Jonathan Beardsworth, an over-achieving, under-conditioned Brit, takes a leap of faith when he agrees to join a ragtag team of friends biking over Spain’s famed pilgrimage trail, the Camino de Santiago. Chugging through the Pyrenees with a crew of “mature professionals” in their 50s (three couples, a nurse/caravan driver, and school headmaster), he faces the twists and turns of an on-the-road adventure, recounting it all in his entertaining memoir, The De-Caff Camino.
The trip is organized by the team’s competent and fit women. Beardsworth plans to go with the flow. Decidedly not hardcore, he prays that these “De-Caff Pilgrims” will not be running on high test and counts on potential discomforts being mitigated by the not-very-pilgrim-like accommodations, quality food, preponderance of alcoholic beverages and cigarette breaks — and Helmut, an old luxury-caravan (complete with kitchen and shower) that will be shadowing their journey.
These “friends of varying fitness and circumference” nickname themselves The Peloton (the term for the lead pack in a bicycle race). They are iPhone-focused as they wend their way along the trail while generating much “cyclo-babble.”
Their competitive group dynamics and wry biking banter make for a witty, easy-going read. And the author’s lively and informed historical narrative delivers an entertaining guidebook as well.
The narrative is not without its issues, however. Excerpts from fellow-biker Charlie’s blog interrupt much of Beardsworth’s storytelling. This blog-inside-a-book — in which the author comments on the blog commentary — becomes awkward. And with team members often pairing off, riding ahead, or taking detours, the journey’s “who’s who” becomes confusing, especially given Beardsworth’s numerous nicknames for fellow travelers (The Generalissimo, The Tour Guide, etc.).
Not everyone completes the journey. Some have life-changing experiences; others crash and burn, but The Peloton has much to celebrate overall. Despite the story’s challenges, anyone planning to hike, bike, or drive over this ancient trail will find a useful guide, a cautionary tale, and more than one good chuckle in these pages.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.