Bicycle Odyssey: Feel Adventure Up Close

For me, life without adventure is not life at all.
As I near my 70th year, I seek even more exhilarating experiences, whether backpacking the long-distance trails of Europe or exploring the trails and bikeways of the USA while traveling in a small travel trailer.

When I can’t get out there, I pursue adventure through reading about others’ experiences. Bicycle Odyssey took me on the trip of a lifetime.
Consider what author Carla Fountain and her husband Dermot accomplished in a year. Planes, trains and buses transported them and their bicycles to the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Kenya, Uganda, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bali, and many more places. They rode in weather and situations that would keep most of us indoors.

The American couple quit their teaching jobs so they could spend the night in a tent while hippos shook the ground around them. They snorkeled off the Kenyan coast. They survived the dangerous roads of India, where truck drivers honked rather than move over. They confronted their fears with courage.

Fountain uses her journal to recreate the 1991 journey and her story comes from her heart. Her account feels fresh, brought to life through recreated conversations and fascinating details about cultural experiences. Her adventure causes Fountain to re-evaluate her life, including her marriage. She is introspective in a relatable way.

As much as I feel compelled to tackle risky experiences, I doubt I will come close to an adventure like Fountain’s. However, her story inspires me to stretch the boundaries of my life.

Rocket Boys: A Great American Comeback

Sputnik’s launch in 1957 thrust the Soviet Union into first place in the space race, causing fear about where its domination would lead.

But for some Americans, like Homer “Sonny” Hickam, the launch was just what they needed to transform imagination, ingenuity and hard work into a great American success story. From 1957 through 1960, Sonny and his West Virginia high school classmates, as the Big Creek Missile Agency, fired off 35 rockets, some wildly successful, some wildly disastrous.

Nearly four decades later, Hickam published Rocket Boys, a memoir that has flown off the shelves since, leading to the acclaimed film October Sky.

The boys dreamed that they would go to the moon, that their rockets would reach space, that they would escape a life working in the coal mine in Coalwood, West Virginia. But, in their wildest dreams, they could not have foreseen where their experiments would take them, their families, their community, their nation. As badly as Homer and his fellow scientists wanted out of Coalwood, their hometown came through for them when everything they had worked for was on the line.

Rocket Boys is an inspiring story for those who value education, community, family, and the dreams of kids growing up in West Virginia–or anywhere.

Nomadland: Read the Book, See the Movie

If you haven’t read Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century, I urge you to read it before seeing the film.

Director Chloé Zhao’s acclaimed adaptation of the non-fiction book is due for theatrical release in February. No word yet on where it will be streaming. It has swept awards at several film festivals and is creating Oscars buzz. Frances McDormand plays a woman in her 60s who loses everything in the Great Recession, then travels the West in her van, working various jobs.

Click here to see my review. One of my favorite books of the year.