Jedediah Smith, Luke Lin, David Bondsman and Rick Saundersson have created the most innovative bicycle drive in history: The Spinner, a technologically advanced device that produces and stores its own energy without using batteries. It’s 2011, and it’s ideally positioned for the just-emerging city bike market, and the world’s largest bicycle maker located in Taiwan is interested. Just before they are to leave for Taipei to discuss a licensing agreement with Joyful Bike, Luke is struck down while cycling and killed by a hit-and-run driver. Although heartbroken, the three friends decide to continue with their business travels, taking Luke’s fiancée Suzie Sun with them. At Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, the group encounters two Japanese agents of business espionage who don’t know what they have, but nevertheless want to steal it. The “information worms” pursue the cyclists to Taipei, where the stakes grow even higher and a battle of espionage ensues. The guys begin negotiations with Joyful’s director of business development, Jung-Shan Lai. She takes them cycling on Joyful bikes through Taiwan’s breathtaking scenery as they continue to thwart the attacks of the information worms. Jed promptly falls in love with Jung-Shan, and she with him. Will the team be able to secure and finalize their business deal with Joyful Bike? Will the agents of business espionage ride away with the stolen bicycle drive intelligence? Will the three friends get justice for Luke’s tragic death? Will Jung-Shan and Jed work out their cross-cultural love affair?
An eclectic mix of genres, Bridge Across the Ocean breaks through fiction stereotypes, thanks to the author’s engaging story that opens the door to a diverse readership. Bridge Across the Ocean by Jack B. Rochester is anaction-packed, adventurous story fraught with its share of suspense and what-happens-next, IP espionage, business and technological innovation, and a moving love story. An avid cyclist for more than 30 years, author Jack B. Rochester combines his love of cycling with his love of writing in his fourth novel. “This is a book about love,” he says. “It’s a story about four intelligent business innovators’ love of bicycles and cycling; the love by all parties of technological innovation; and a love between two people and the importance of unconditional love between all people.” To support his message and bring awareness to cycling safety, Rochester will be donating all royalties from Bridge Across the Ocean to organizations promoting bicycling safety.
As a grad student, JACK B. ROCHESTER longed to see a book with his name on the cover. Today, it’s on 16 books and counting. He launched his career as a business book editor and guided 65 authors’ books into print. With the publication of the bestselling The Naked Computer, he launched his editorial services company, Joshua Tree Interactive. He wrote three college textbooks and many more business books until 2004, including the publication of his nonfiction swan song, the internationally acclaimed Pirates of the Digital Millennium, co-authored with John Gantz. In 2007, Rochester turned to writing fiction full-time. His Nathaniel Hawthorne Flowers literary trilogy was published by Wheatmark (available in paperback, Kindle, Audible). He’s currently working on two distinctly different novels and a short story collection. You can follow his writing and read his alternating blogs, Saturday Book Review and My Brain on Grape-Nuts, at JackBoston.com, his innovative website. Today, Rochester spends a lot of his time mentoring writers, counseling writers one-on-one and in writing workshops across the country – er, the internet. With Caitlin M. Park, he’s the co-founder of The Fictional Café, an online ‘zine publishing fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, fine art, photography, and fictional podcasts for nearly 1K subscribers in 67 countries. The Strong Stuff: The Best of Fictional Café, 2013-2017 was published in a limited edition in 2019. A new edition featuring work from 2018-2020 will be published soon. Rochester earned his Master’s degree in Comparative Literature from California State University, Sonoma. He grew up in South Dakota and Wyoming, and spent 15 years on the West Coast. He and his wife split their time between Boston, MA and Florida. An avid cyclist, he owns five bicycles. As he likes to say, no moss grows beneath his feet.
Giveaway – to win a copy of Bridge Across the Ocean, just answer this question below: which character’s death happens just before the planned trip to Taiwan? (US only, book will be sent by the publisher directly to the winner, closes 17th September)
The Ride – Excerpted from Bridge Across the Ocean
Excerpted from Bridge Across the Ocean by Jack B. Rochester. Copyright © 2021 Jack B. Rochester. Reprinted with permission from Jack B. Rochester. All rights reserved.
After breakfast, the four went back to their rooms to change into their cycling clothes. Jed, entering the hotel lobby, found Jung-Shan in Team Joyful pink-trimmed black cycling shorts and a pink-and-mauve jersey. She looked at him over her shoulder, then turned to face him and smiled. She was breathtaking to behold, her feminine curves gracefully pronounced by skin-tight spandex.
“Not polite to stare, Jed,” said Jung-Shan, giving him a coquettish smile. “Where is yours?”
“My . . . mine? My what?” he spluttered.
“Your helmet. Your gloves.” She pointed at a table. “Oh, look! They are right here. You see, I am taking care you.” She gave him a mischievous grin.
“Ah, yeah,” he stammered. “Thanks.”
Holding the door open, she said, “The others are waiting for their captain outside,” delighting in the effect she had on him. Jed grabbed his helmet and gloves and hurried past her.
Wei-Ting drove them from the Serenity Garden inn to Longshan Riverside Park to begin their day’s ride. The early August morning was already hot and quite muggy, but once the bikes were rolling the riders cooled right down. Following Jung-Shan’s lead, they pedaled the wide paved bikeway north alongside the Tamsui River, warming up, getting a few muscle kinks stretched out. All around them people walked, pushed strollers, sat on benches smoking, gazed at river boats, practiced the ancient Chinese movements known as Taijiquan on the lawns. Cyclists of every ilk rode bikes of every ilk: kids on BMXs, women on rusty clunkers with wire baskets filled with fruits and vegetables, young men on racing bikes streaking along, teenaged girls pedaling in twos and threes, three-wheeled bike-carts transporting cartons of commerce and who knows what else, all cruising along with utter disregard for a left-right traffic flow.
They rode northwards, following the river, feeling the travel tension diminish. The bikes were performing flawlessly. David said, “Hey guys, what do you think of the carbon fiber?” Jed and Rick raised their fists in approbation. “I think we ought to look into this when we get back home.”
Jed said, “I keep saying this! I don’t know why we haven’t already.”
“But I told you, a CF fab shop is gonna cost a lot of money,” said Rick. “It’s a whole different process. Lots of handwork.”
David said, “That’s true, Rick, but the cycling world is moving toward CF and we ought to, too, before we become heavy-metal dinosaurs. I remember seeing the first CF bike back in the mid-eighties. A Kestrel, I think. A few guys in the MIT Cycling Club had ‘em. In fact, I rode a guy’s once, a Specialized. I wasn’t overly impressed at the time, but this Joyful bike is turning my head.”
Jed smirked to himself, Yeah, like Jung-Shan is turning mine.
She rode breakaway, five to ten meters in front of the guys, but always close. Her long hair, pulled into a ponytail, fanned in the breeze at her back. Jed had no trouble keeping his eyes on her.
They drew deep breaths to oxygenate their blood, all the while laughing, swilling water, grabbing the lead from one another while taunting the others to catch up, but never once getting ahead of Jung-Shan. They rode through Yanping Riverside Park, where fully clothed people lay sunbathing on the manicured lawns. A young guy with long hair flew a radio-controlled helicopter with great skill, making it dive and swoop and climb, flipping it to hover upside down. A photographer with several cameras slung around her neck shot pictures of three college-age kids, two girls and a guy, wearing matching team kits as they stood astride their bikes. They rolled on, crossing the Tamsui on a bridge ramp designated for bicycles. Rick called out, pointing ahead, “Hey, Jung-Shan, isn’t that the Grand Hotel?” She raised two fingers in
a V and wagged them. Yes.
They rode kilometer after kilometer along the Tamsui until they reached the bright red double-arched Guandu Bridge. Traffic was heavy. “Please be careful and stay in one line behind me,” Jung-Shan called out. They crossed to the east side of the river and turned north on Longmi Road, stopping at a rest area on the Gold Coast Bicycle Path where food stands congregated in a grove of banyan trees. Outdoor toilets designed for a person and their bicycle stood nearby. Rick said, “I gotta take a picture of this!”
They continued riding through the Mangrove Preserve, crossing over little wooden bridges, the swamps below filled with birds, sharing the trail with scooters, dog-walkers, jitneys and bikes. Boats of all types navigated the river, shimmering in the bright sunlight. Cruising around the BaLi District, Jung-Shan pointed out the beautiful Hanmin Shrine, where they turned and rode back to the BaLi Pier and took the ferry across the river to the Tamsui District, New Taipei City.
The town was filled with interesting shops but the streets grew increasingly narrow, shared equally by cars, scooters, bikes, and jaywalkers. Jung-Shan popped out of her clipless pedals and stopped. “I suggest we walk our bikes.” Even that was difficult: the sidewalks were overrun with tourists, shoppers, scooters. They ate some street food for lunch, little gua bao sandwiches with a slice of pork and a sprig of greens inside, and refilled their water bottles at the 7-Eleven across Zhongyang Road.
Jung-Shan said, “If anyone is tired, the Danshui MRT station is near. We can ride the train back to Taipei. Bikes are allowed.” The guys cried “NOT!” in unison. They remounted and eventually were riding north again, heading toward where the Tamsui flows into the Strait of Taiwan. The river was enormously wide here; they stopped to caffeinate at a Starbucks where they could gaze upon its mighty effluence.
Jung-Shan, “Come. I will show you something special.” They swung back on their bikes, still heading north, pedaling along a narrow spit of land with the Tamsui on their left. A beautiful bridge came into view on the right. “This is called Damsui Lover’s Bridge,” she said. It was pure white, suspended by cables from a single gracefully curved wishbone-shaped tower. “Ready to go across?” she said, smiling. “We must walk our bikes.”
“Why do they call it a lover’s bridge?” asked Rick.
“The bridge construction started on a Valentine’s Day,” she said.
“I thought I heard you call it Dam-shoey,” said David.
“Yes. Often there are many ways to spell in English,” she said.
“Danshui, Damsui, all means the same thing as Tamsui. They can sound the same when you speak.”
“We have some names like that, too,” said David. “Like, the English spell the name of Köln, Germany, differently than the Germans do.
They—we—write it like the perfume, Cologne. I know there are lots of other examples.”
“Peking,” said David. “Beijing.”
“Tao, Dao,” said Jed.
Crossing the bridge, they turned south and rode back to the Tamsui District. Jung-Shan stopped them at the MRT station plaza and said, “OK, if you are warmed up, want to have some fun?” Straddling her bike she tilted her head, grinned, and shook her handlebars back and forth.
That got a laugh. “Sure!” said Rick. “What have you got in mind?”
“Follow me and you will see!” she said as she clicked back into a pedal and pushed off.
They rode a few blocks south, then Jung-Shan signaled for a left turn. There was a fair amount of traffic, discouraging much sightseeing. Soon they were moving away from city congestion on Denggong Road, which became increasingly rural. The road went up and down—more up than down—tracing a route through hills and valleys as it turned south. Then it became steeper, narrower and more twisty. They took a sharp right turn onto Fuxing Road and began climbing in earnest. Homes and Buddhist shrines sprouted out of the thick semi-tropical forest on the mountain slope; no guardrails prevented a sheer drop on the opposite side. Jung-Shan was still leading, constantly downshifting and standing to pedal the more strenuous climbs. Although it was enticing to watch her lithe body in motion—the smooth rise and fall of her pumping leg muscles, the gentle sway of her hips, her beautiful shimmering pony tail dancing behind her—but the guys instinctively knew everyone had to take their turn pacing the ride. They rounded a nearly 180-degree turn and began another steep climb that slowed all four of them. David called out, “I got it,” and jumped into the lead.
Jung-Shan got right on David’s rear wheel and began drafting him. “Thank you,” she puffed. They formed a single line and took turns in the lead, one after another, sustaining the wind pocket to help each conserve energy. One rider pumped away for a minute or two, then dropped back for the next rider to lead the paceline. Not only did everyone begin to feel better, but the klicks went by much faster. At last they crested the final mountaintop where they stopped to rest, hydrate and take in the view of the rivers and the vast valley below.
“There is Taipei, of course,” said Jung-Shan, pointing. “The small river flowing east to west is the Keelung. We will ride to it. The larger one to the right is our old friend the Tamsui.”
“Awesome,” said Rick.
“Far away you see the mountains?” she said, pointing east “There is Yangmingshan National Park. I love to go there. Once it was a place of living volcanoes!” She swung her arms into the air. “Many rare flowers grow there. Nice place to stay longer.” She stretched her arms up again,
then out, up, and rotated her shoulders. “OK, all ready for the gift of the mountain?”
“Gift? What gift?” said Jed.
“Every mountain that goes up also comes down. We have now earned our ride down. Please be careful for cars on our narrow road. It is just like the road up. When we reach the bottom, we will arrive in Beitou. It is a nice town with the culture of mineral hot springs for enjoyable health bathing.”
“Hey, crazy,” said Rick. “I would love to do that! All us would, right, guys?”
“Rick, you are probably only crazy one,” said Jung-Shan, laughing, and they all joined in.
The ride down was exhilarating, scary, fun, both hands on the brake levers all the way. They cruised into busy Beitou, its streets clogged with the usual mix of auto, scooter, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The guys wanted to linger, just to pedal alongside the hot springs stream
and the boardwalk beside it where pretty Taiwanese girls strolled with their colorful parasols, but it was late in the afternoon and Jung-Shan said they should keep going.
They followed Daya Road south out of Beitou, eventually crossing a bridge over the Keelung River. They rode a short distance to the Dajia Riverside Park, filled their water bottles and sat on the lawn to rest. Jung-Shan pointed back across the river. “What do you see, Rick?”
“Oh, wow, there’s the Grand Hotel again! What a great day! Awesomely great riding and scenery and, wow, just fun!” said Rick. “It’s different here, but it’s not. I don’t know . . . you know?” He looked helplessly at David and Jed.
“I think I speak for all three of us,” said Jed, looking at David and Rick, “but Jung-Shan, this Dragon Fire carbon fiber is just, well, I can’t say it in a single word. Your frame design engineering is exceptional. The CF ride’s smooth, really absorbs the road. It handles beautifully;
no work. It’s fast, and it responds instantly. I thought our Smithworks bikes were about the hottest bikes on the market, but this Dragon Fire beauty . . . and yeah, it’s beautiful, too. It might be as good as our titanium bike with the same gruppo.”
“Maybe better,” said David.
“Yep, I would agree,” said Rick, “Maybe. Even. Better.”
“So I guess that means we’re in agreement,” said Jed, “we look into carbon fiber when we get home?” They nodded.
Turning toward Jung-Shan, Jed said, “What are we doing tonight?”
“We are having dinner,” said Jung-Shan.
“Sounds good!” said Rick. “I could eat a horse.”
“Oh, Rick! You eat horse?” said Jung-Shan, her eyes widening in mock surprise. More laughter. “At dinner we will be joined by Derek.”
“To discuss security, I imagine,” said Jed.
“No, Jed. I told you before, no business talk while sharing a meal. But I am concerned about what happened at One Path,” she said. “What if we were discovered?”
“I’m a little worried about that, too,” said David, “but I have no idea what we can do about it.”
“Except wait and see if it happens again, I suppose,” said Jed.
“This is not the first time we have had problems with information worms. I have told you this before, too. You will be surprised when you learn how well prepared we are to protect you,” said Jung-Shan, getting to her feet. She brushed grass off her shorts and headed toward the bikes. Jed watched her walk away. Every step. Rick gave him a poke and a wink, and Jed got up.
“How long will it take us to ride back to the inn?” David asked as they put on their helmets.
“Oh, one hour, perhaps,” said Jung-Shan. “Can you make it?” She smiled, not serious.
“Of course we can,” said David. “We’re used to four- and five-hour rides. In fact, we were out on a hundred-miler with major mountaingoat climbs just before we left . . .”
The silence that followed spoke for itself. Thoughts of Luke drifted back. Jed replayed the crash scene in his head, a bad, bad movie. He shook it from his thoughts.
Wei-Ting was waiting for them at the Longshan Riverside Park, squatting with two other men, all of them smoking and talking and laughing. He jumped to his feet as they rode up and quickly walked to Jung-Shan. She spoke to him briefly; he nodded, ran to open the Jimmy’s rear hatch and began stowing their bikes.
Jung-Shan drew the guys together and said, “Wei-Ting informs me he is confident he has not been followed today. This is a good sign. Perhaps the information worms have not been able to find us after leaving One Path.”
“You can just say we shook them off our tails, like American cowboys would say,” said Rick, grinning.
“I thank you for teaching that to me, Rick. I’m sure it is simple to translate into Chinese,” she said with a withering smile. “Shook them off our tails.”
But they had not.
My thoughts: starting with a shocking event – one that rocks the characters and changes their plans, this is an interesting story about culture clash – between the US and Taiwan, and how we should learn from each other.
There’s also conspiracy and intrigue, corporate espionage, tests to the friendship between the three men and a love story. Something for every reader really. I don’t know a lot about cycling – I own a bike, but couldn’t even tell you what kind (thanks Cycle to Work scheme). But you don’t need to be into the cyclist’s lifestyle to enjoy and appreciate this book at all.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.