Earl Norman, 1926 to 2023 - CycleBlaze

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Earl Norman, 1926 to 2023

Jeff Lee

For some reason while I was out riding yesterday, I thought of the author of some of the first bicycle touring journals I ever read, back when I started riding in 2005.

When I got home I did some Googling, and found this obituary of Earl Arthur Norman.

By the time I found his journals on CGoaB, he was already in his late 70s or early 80s. It looks like he continued touring into his 80s.

He was 74 when he rode across the USA on the Southern Tier. Back when I originally read this journal, almost 20 years ago now, I thought that Earl seemed impossibly old to be doing something like this. Now that I'm almost 58 myself, 70-something doesn't seem quite so old, but it still seems very impressive.

I get a kick out Earl's writing still. I find his combination of "just-the-facts" reportage, detailing down to the penny how much things cost, combined with the sometimes uncomfortably blunt observations about the people he meets (and about his own missteps) pretty funny. I recognize myself in some of his anecdotes, as when he drily recounts losing his temper at a locked bathroom door in a campground, kicking a hole in it, then hightailing it out of the there early the next morning before his crime was discovered.

His journals are worth checking out.

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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jeff Lee

Thanks for the referral, Jeff.  He sounds like a writer I’d enjoy also.  His bathroom door story reminds me of the time in southwest France when I locked Rachael inside of an outhouse, discovering too late that there was no door handle on the inside.  I had to carve a hole in the door with my Swiss Army knife to rescue her, and we also quickly slipped out of town.

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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jeff Lee

Thanks for the referral, Jeff.  He sounds like a writer I’d enjoy also.  His bathroom door story reminds me of the time in southwest France when I locked Rachael inside of an outhouse, discovering too late that there was no door handle on the inside.  I had to carve a hole in the door with my Swiss Army knife to rescue her, and we also quickly slipped out of town.

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3 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo Jeff Lee

That was pretty cool how you remembered an early influence to your bike touring career while on a bike ride.  Typical of my vanity, your story made me wonder if anybody will be riding their bike twenty years from now and have ME pop into his or her head.  I think I know the answer to that--NOPE!

I liked your forum post for a couple other reasons as well.  In a couple of my journals, I predicted that I will still be touring into my 80's and 90's.  People like Earl provide some degree of hope that my prediction could come true.  Also, I looked into his journals and saw he had toured in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  That's where I plan to be touring within the next few weeks and, better than that, he went to a few of the same towns and a couple of the same campgrounds I plan to visit.

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3 weeks ago
Graham SmithTo Jeff Lee

Thanks Jeff. I’d not heard of Earl Norman till your post. From his obituary, he sounds to be one of nature’s gentleman. And an inspiration to us older cycle tourers.

Dervla Murphy’s famous book “Full Tilt” rekindled my enthusiasm for cycle touring after I’d had a long break. 

Dervla was in her 30s when she undertook her epic ride from Ireland to India. No youth but much younger than Earl when he headed for far horizons on a bike.

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3 weeks ago