Somehow life has been flying by so quickly! Just because I have posted recently doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading! I’ve got tons of books lined up here to write about. With the holidays and winter weather descending and the various blahs and blues of midwinter, somewhere my time faded along with the daylight! Enough of that though and on to good books and great reading!

On one bleak and stormy day, I devoured a delightful tale of 2 hikers in A Blistered Kind of Love (2003, 2005). This award-winning book, classified as “adventure narrative” was just the book I needed, feeling all couped up and dreaming of a nice long backpack, getting away from it all! The authors, Angela and Duffy Ballard write about 4 months on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on the west coast. They begin at the border and end in Canada. This is one of my backpacking dreams of a lifetime! What makes this narrative so enjoyable is its humorous, honest, and realistic views. I especially appreciated Angela’s perspective of the trail and relationships. When you are on the trail for months on end, spending so much time together, when at your grubbiest and most tired, that is when you see the true colors of a relationship. Angela and Duffy share it all is their memoir, which won the Barbara Savage Memorial Winner Award from The Mountaineers Books.

This book is so appealing for its diary-style entries, the back and forth narratives from the authors, in chronological order, and the honest desire for food and nourishment while starving on the trail. From candy bars to hamburgers, to nice meals out, to blisters and other bodily ailments, and an honest-to-goodness place to launder belongings and self, I found myself relating to the turns and twists that the Ballard’s relate. As an American, if you’ve gone a week without showering, you must either be conserving water, crazy or a backpacker. I laughed out loud in several sections when the authors wrote with gusto about certain bodily functions. I cried when the proposal didn’t happen on the trail, but saw that the authors love strengthened and flourished. I cringed with empathy when relating to Angela’s struggle with Reynaud’s (ice cold hands, fingers, and toes at the drop of a cold hat are not fun). I rejoiced with them at the end of the trail in Canada. I highly recommend this great memoir to heal the soul in the middle of winter and get you inspired for hiking and backpacking in spring and summer. Happy Trails!

The Barbara Savage Memorial Award from The Mountaineers Books is fully worthy of its honors. A month back, I read Barbara Savage’s memoir, Miles From Nowhere: A Round-the-World Bicycle Adventure (1983). This travel memoir is perhaps the best of its class that I’ve read. It makes perfect sense to have created a memorial award in honor of this author who shared her passion, heart and soul in her 25,000 mile trip around with world with husband Larry Savage in the late 1970’s. Sadly, as the book was coming to press, the author was killed in a bike-to-car collision. That running through my mind as I read this outstanding book, made every word even more poignant and telling. The author wanted to partake of an amazing travel adventure while she was still young, while she could. She wasn’t a cyclist when dreaming up this adventure and trained in a few short months and on the start of the trip. Barbara and Larry planned their trip by saving up, purchasing bicycles and supplies, routing the trip across the US and into Europe, Africa and the South Seas. The trip was meant to be fulfilling, timely and inspiring. It was that, and much more. Challenging, frightening, lonesome, and congregational, Barbara writes with utmost honest about the sites and people they encountered. From which states are the least pleasant, to most pleasant, to where the cobblestones will jar a cyclist, to where stones are thrown, this epic memoir recounts every detail in both pleasant and unpleasant memories. From encountering rude people, to being pushed off the road by vehicles, stones thrown by Egyptians, leering men in the middle east, to wonderful new friends, a strengthening relationship, a new sense of security and dependance, Barbara recounts it all. This is truly a memoir to read right now, or whenever feeling like you need a bright spark in your life.

What’s most telling is that Barbara had a premonition throughout the whole book that she was either going to die on the trip or die young. That is the most saddening aspect of the book. It really makes you wonder about what signals we listen to our in our life and what we act upon. Barbara wanted to travel while she could, while young and unencumbered, and to be able to write about the experiences to share. She certainly has touch lives with her memoir, including mine. She embodies the statement, “live each day to its fullest” and “waste not, want not.” I loved how they lived simply for 2 years on their trek across the world, only buying and using what they needed at the moment. They did not purchase 2 dozen pairs of socks or shoes, but rather carried only what they could, which usually meant very little. Food too was acquired in the manner of locals, depending on where they were. They ate rice in Tibet. Ate fruit, cheese and bread in Spain, and were fed like kings and queens in the US from the kind people they encountered. In their case, the kindness of strangers was truly beautiful. It has made me think twice about how our society treats strangers, exactly as that, strangers. The authors saw most people as friends and so many saw them as kind souls, embarking on a trip of a lifetime. Many people saw that urge to do something unique, travel the world, and yet had not been able to do so themselves. Many of the people the Savages met perhaps felt they could live vicariously through Barbara and Larry. This travel memoir is highly recommended and guaranteed to leave you your own memories and new travel desires.

Happy Reading in 2009! May the New Year be filled with peace, wisdom, and integrity for all.

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