Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

January 7, 2013

Series highlights adventurous bicyclists

By Wade Coggeshall
CNHI

INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Stoll hit his nadir just before New Year's in 1997. That's when his girlfriend dumped him, his roommate eloped, and he lost his job - all in short order.

"I was suddenly without money, my best friend, my love, my career," Stoll said. "My whole perception of reality, my identity, had been called into question."

So he did what any rational person would - spent four years riding his bicycle more than 25,000 miles across 50 countries and six continents. It's all detailed in Stoll's book Falling Uphill.

The Milwaukee native will speak about the experience at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 in Clowes Auditorium at the Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

It's part of a free speaker series presented by the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library and the Central Indiana Bicycling Association. Each guest speaker has traveled the world by bicycle and will discuss their journey.

Each event is 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month, through April, at the Central Library. Future speakers are Willie Weir, Jerry Williams, and Jim Gange.

After Stoll's incredibly rainy day, he began asking himself if there was anything he could do, without limitations or fear, what would it be?

"I realized I had been living backwards - trying to do everything right, hoping people liked me," he said. "Then I'll get what I want."

An avid bicyclist, Stoll decided to hop on his two wheels and pursue the happiness that eluded him.

"I figured it had to be in the world somewhere," he said. "I knew I liked to ride a bike. It all added up."

As spontaneous as that may sound, it still took Stoll four years to save the money necessary to begin his odyssey. He also took a ride from border to border and coast to coast in his native United States to prepare.

Once the real trip began, Stoll left his schedule open-ended and simply followed the weather and wind. When he wasn't near civilization, he camped and cooked his own food.

Along the way, Stoll endured some pretty nasty viruses and lots of aches and pains, dealt with more than 100 flat tires and other bicycle malfunctions, crashed dozens of times, was robbed at gunpoint, and even spent a day in a Zimbabwean prison.

But the experience also basically answered all of his questions.

"That's the beauty of why I'm still talking about it and why people still buy the book," said Stoll, who's a graphic designer by trade. "The trip keeps growing. It ended a relatively long time ago, but it still changes me. I still keep growing from it in ways I never imagined possible. When people go on such adventures, they may have one goal in mind but, if they're lucky, they come back with something more."

Aside from having to readjust to the culture of his native country, Stoll also admits his biggest fear after the odyssey ended was that it would be his life's pinnacle. But after a couple years, he discovered more unanswered questions he had.

"That started a new journey," Stoll said. "Luckily I've learned, and I know it sounds clichŽ, to find the adventure in everyday life. I definitely take a lot more joy in things I thought would be ordinary."

He's often asked what's the secret to fulfilling one's dream or even knowing what to do with your life.

"I always say step zero is all everything needs to fall apart," Stoll said.

Indeed, hitting rock bottom tends to offer drastically different perspectives. Stoll notes there are a plurality of movie characters who endure some kind of crisis before breaking through their proverbial walls.

"Fortunately, when you're watching a movie you can see the other side," he said. "In real life you don't have any idea, and that's probably the most frightening thing there is. In my experience, you basically have to throw everything away and start over."

wade.coggeshall@flyergroup.com