The Bar Mitzvah and Beast: One Family's Cross-Country Ride of Passage by Bike

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The Mountaineers Books, Feb 21, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages
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* A light-hearted and hilarious memoir of an ordinary family’s extraordinary cross-country bike adventure
* Kids fighting, equipment breaking, characters popping up around each turn -- all the good cycling material is here

Amateur bike rider, father of three, and everyday public school teacher, Matt Biers-Ariel never dreamed of riding a bike across the United States. But then his hard-to-impress teenage son, Yonah, refused to have a bar mitzvah as he approached age thirteen. No dancing with grandma or chanting traditional prayers? Something had to be done to celebrate this rite of passage.

So Matt, his wife Djina, Yonah, and little brother Solomon decided to saddle up for a physical ride of passage -- one that would take them 3,804 miles by bicycle from the waters of the Pacific Ocean, over the Rockies, through Midwest small towns, and all the way to Washington D.C. Armed with ibuprofen, several gallons of Gatorade, and one unpredictable tandem bike (the “Beast”), the Biers-Ariel family cycled across the middle of America, chatting with colorful characters along the way, roasting marshmallows at campgrounds, and quarrelling over the state of climate change, religious identity, and several flat tires. They also collected thousands of signatures on a self-made global-warming petition calling for the United States to undergo its own rite of passage -- one of energy conservation.

The Bar Mitzvah and The Beast is a funny, thoughtful memoir of one ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey by bicycle, and an enlightening, warm exploration of the bond between a spiritual, nature-loving father and his ambivalent, computer game-loving son.


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The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast

User Review  - Audrey Barbakoff - Book Verdict

Jewish or not, many teens will identify with conflicted 13-year-old Yonah, who rejects a traditional bar mitzvah. Instead, his family creates its own rite of passage: a 3,804-mile bicycle ride from ... Read full review


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About the author (2012)

MATT BIERS-ARIEL currently teaches English at Winters High School in California. Prior to becoming a public school teacher, he held a variety of educational positions in the Jewish community.

Matt is a contributor to the Perspectives series on KQED radio and has done commentary on NPR's All Things Considered. He also wrote a monthly environmental column for Tikkun magazine (bimonthly Jewish critique of politics, etc.).

As a storyteller, Matt is well known in Northern California, performing in a variety of settings such as schools, synagogues, and retreats. He does workshops for Jewish educators throughout the country. He is an active member in two bicycle lobbying and educational organizations: California Bicycle Coalition and Davis Bicycles!. He is also active in the environmental organizations The Sierra Club and He commutes 5,000 miles a year on his bike.

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