Bike trip book: Achievement, therapy and a lasting image

By Michael Smith

The first copy of Bill Hancock’s memoir, “Riding With The Blue Moth,” arrived in the mail at his Kansas City home in 2005. He eagerly pulled the book from its wrappings like a present on Christmas morning.


Ryan Weavet

As soon as he opened the book and began to read, Hancock, who majored in journalism at the University of Oklahoma, found an error.

“And it wasn’t the sort of thing that I would have written,” said Hancock of the memoir, which chronicled his 2,800-mile coast-to-coast bicycle ride across the U.S. in the summer of 2001.

Hancock phoned noted sports author John Feinstein to vent. He couldn’t believe what he had just read. How’d that mistake get in there? Hancock asked. 

“Bill, that’s why you write a second book — to get it right this time,” Feinstein told Hancock.

If the book and the ride — which Hancock credits with helping him deal with the death of his son in the January 2001 Oklahoma State basketball plane crash — were a show, he would have been the star. But he would have shared top billing with his wife, Nicki, who shot the compelling cover photo. 

The picture showed Bill on his bike and came just moments before sunrise in the Texas panhandle. The sky behind Bill’s silhouette is layered with yellow, orange and different shades of blue. 

What the readers couldn’t tell about the shot was that Nicki had stretched out on the warm asphalt road in order to get the best angle, even as mosquitoes hovered around her.

Always a page turner

Bill Hancock earned his voracious appetite for reading honestly, growing up the son of a newspaperman.
These days, Hancock is enamored with the late author and American historian Stephen Ambrose, and he enjoys Southern authors like William Faulkner.
Most recently, Hancock finished “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” all 1,245 pages of it from Hitler’s birth to the end of World War II.
“I read a long time about the rise,” he said. “I kept wondering when the ‘And Fall’ was coming.”

“I remember thinking that I got the shot,” Nicki said. “I was just hoping that I had gotten enough of the bike in the frame so you could see it.”

After the book had been picked up by Nautilus Publishing, a company representative phoned him to set up a time to shoot a cover photo.

“Actually, we’ve got one that I’d like to show you,” Bill said. “They were like, ‘Yeah, OK,’ but you could tell that they weren’t taking it all that seriously. When they saw it, that was the one.”

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