Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur
2017, Palimpsest Press
Excerpt from the press release:
For three months Yvonne Blomer travelled by bike with her husband Rupert Gadd through Southeast Asia. A type one diabetic since childhood, she also dealt with the daily challenges of her chronic illness. Part love story, part travel adventure and part medical dance, Sugar Ride explores one woman’s passion for cycling and the roads it pulls her along. Blomer details the couple’s experiences and impressions as they explore Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos and Thailand, four countries with long histories of colonialism and war. Through the use of lyrical notes, past and present speak to each other across time and space.
Yvonne Blomer’s astonishing account of the three months she and her new husband biked almost four thousand kilometres through Southeast Asia is a riveting memoir on wheels -- spinning wheels, twisted wheels and occasionally broken wheels. Young, in love and diabetic, Blomer takes the reader on a strenuous journey that challenges both body and spirit. Her voice is so authentic and personal, I felt her exhaustion, fears and joy. Sugar Ride is a beautiful book. I didn’t want it to end. —Patricia Young, author of Short Takes on the Apocalypse
Running and Riding Away
Reviewed by Zöe Landale
Travel writing in Canada is alive, well, and robustly athletic.
Yvonne Blomer is Victoria’s Poet Laureate. Her foray into narrative non-fiction stems from a three-month bicycle trip across Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and Thailand that she took with her husband twenty years ago. The prose is layered. Blomer writes the trip in the present tense, with commentary in italicized sections written in the past tense. This innocent/experienced narrator juxtaposition gives a nice depth to the writing. The story jumps in time and from country to country. There are dates, so it’s possible to chart that we’re now in October and then back in September. Presumably Blomer had a strategy she was following—writing achronologically is more difficult than writing sequentially—but even a second reading failed to prevent confusion.
The title, Sugar Ride, refers to Blomer’s relationship with her husband, Rupert, her type 1 diabetes, and attempts to manage fluctuating blood sugars. At one point she ends up in the hospital. Half of what she carries in her bicycle panniers, and a third of what her husband carries, is diabetes testing equipment and insulin. Blomer is a likeable narrator, spunky and unwilling to be defined by her disease. The trip is meant as a farewell to Asia; the couple is on the way home after two years of teaching in Japan. A yearning for the familiar suffuses the adventure and imparts a longing quality to their travels. ... She and her partner move resolutely through a much more urban and at times menacing environment where they know no one. Sometimes they manage to make friends; sometimes other people attempt to take advantage of them, like the student who really wanted them to pay his whole year’s tuition. Blomer’s dialogue with her body is continual and disconcerting for her; as a blonde foreigner, she is such a novelty that she is never invisible. Food plays a big part in Blomer’s story—finding it, enjoying it or, sometimes, gagging it down to sustain herself, as when they find themselves in an isolated locale with nothing but rice fried in pork lard, anathema to a vegetarian. Blomer’s prose is crisp and well paced; she worries about being part of a colonial narrative.