Bicycling Crusader Follows the Silk Road

She climbed to a peak of academia as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and later as a scientist/graduate student at MIT. She dreamed of walking on Mars.

But for Kate Harris, work inside science laboratories could not satisfy her need to discover, so she and her best friend Mel set out to get lost in the world of exploration–for a year, bicycling the Silk Road of Marco Polo from Turkey to Tibet.

Thousands of miles, at altitudes higher than 17,000 feet, over every kind of terrain you can imagine, and through blazing heat and freezing snow. They eluded and tricked menacing military and police, adapted to cultures as different as they could be, and traversed geography as foreign to them as Mars. They found human compassion in many places, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Tibet, and Nepal as locals took them into their homes to save them from another night in their tent.

In Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, Harris eloquently and humorously weaves history, science, and compelling anecdotes from her adventure that left my jaw hanging open.

As I have learned while walking the long-distance trails of Europe, the borders of cultures, countries and languages are lost when you step outside the comforts of everyday life and push yourself to, or even beyond, your limits. On the Silk Road, Kate Harris went well beyond the limits of most humans and her book made me want to load up my backpack and leave my borders behind.

(Click on the cover if you want to see the book on Amazon.)

Sierra Nevada: A Beer Story Like No Other

Imagine having the opportunity to sit down with Ken Grossman, founder of perhaps America’s greatest craft beer company. As you sip one of his many brews, he tells you how, in 1980, he started a company that would eventually produce a million barrels of beer a year. As he tells his story, though, you sense that he is trying not to sound like he is betraying his humble nature. That is what it is like to read Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

With his bare hands, ingenuity and unflagging commitment, the longtime backpacker and bicyclist, now in his 60s, overcame obstacles that would sink mere mortals. He built a company with quality and sustainability as his guideposts; his brewery in Chico, California has become the city’s biggest tourist attraction. Sierra Nevada added an even more impressive facility near Asheville, North Carolina.

Ken Grossman’s story is remarkable in many ways. And his book came out before 2018’s fire that destroyed Paradise, just up the road from Ken’s brewery. His (and Sierra Nevada’s) response to that disaster reminded me of his dogged determination that created Sierra Nevada nearly four decades ago. He called a special brew Resilience and is donating all sales (not just the profits) of the beer to the Paradise recovery. And he convinced breweries across America to join the effort.

Beyond the Pale is an inspiring story and you can shop for the book by clicking on the cover above.

(In the interest of disclosure, my son works for Sierra Nevada in Chico.)