Journeys worth writing about

annie londonderry“Away on the road where the dusty clouds whirl
Away with a spirit ecstatic
Goes the cool-as-an-icicle bicycle girl
Bestriding the latest pneumatic;
She heeds not the scoffers who scorn,
Though knickers her kickers adorn,
The cool-as-an-icicle, bicycle, tricycle maiden by no means forlorn.”

— London Judy, Buffalo Illustrated Express, July 29, 1894

The image and poem above are from a delightful 2007 book by Peter Zheutlin, Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride.

Annie Londonderry

Annie Londonderry

The real name of this pioneer female cyclist was Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a Latvian-born Jew and the working mother of three who sought to escape her humdrum life in the tenements of Boston’s West End.
During the heyday of bicycling in the mid-1890s, before the invasion of the automobile, a cycling trip around the world was Annie’s chosen route to fame, and perhaps fortune. She adopted “Annie Londonderry” as her nom de plume for the spellbinding tales of adventures in exotic locales — some of dubious credibility — that she dispatched to The New York World.
The author of Annie’s remarkable story is one of her descendants; she was the sister of Zheutlin’s great-grandfather.
In Monday’s blog post, “That first crank of the pedals,” I wrote that I’m fascinated by stories about journeys. Some of the best ones that I’ve read over the years provide inspiration and fodder for this blog.
wal in woods 1One of the most humorous accounts of a journey — except perhaps Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It — is by Bill Bryson, about a trek along the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, an old buddy from Iowa. One passage from the book, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, has stuck with me and perhaps explains America’s problems with obesity and diabetes:
“Now here’s a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week. For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average the total walking of an American these days — that’s walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls — adds up to 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. That’s ridiculous.”
Some other favorite books about journeys:
Old Glory: A Voyage Down the Mississippi, by Jonathan Raban
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, by Stephen E. Ambrose
Gypsy Moth Circles the World, by Francis Chichester
CrowhurstThe Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall
Into the Wild, by John Krakauer
Over the Hills: A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle, by David Lamb
At One With the Sea: Alone Around the World, by Naomi James
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, by William Least-Heat Moon
Hokkaido Highway Blues, by Will Ferguson
Joshua Slocum and the sloop Spray

Joshua Slocum and the sloop Spray

Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum

I’d welcome from readers of this blog any other recommendations of books about journeys.



Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Journeys, Literary musings

5 responses to “Journeys worth writing about

  1. Ben P.

    Here are some good books about adventure, journeys, travel, survival, etc.

    Adrift by Steven Callahan
    A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
    What is the What by Dave Eggers
    In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
    The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
    Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
    River Town by Peter Hessler
    Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
    Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer
    Wreck of the Medusa by Alexander McKee
    Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado
    In the Heart of the Sea by Nathanial Philbrick
    The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
    The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz

    Plus any books by Pico Iyer and Paul Theroux

  2. Ben,
    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve read about five of the books on your list, but hadn’t heard of some of the others. I’ll be on the lookout for them.

  3. flashriversafari

    Here’s a handful of titles from my shelf that I’d wholeheartedly recommend:

    The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski
    Burmese Days by George Orwell
    Native Stranger by Eddy L. Harris
    Mississippi Solo by Eddy L. Harris
    Desert Treks from Riyadh by Ionis Thompson
    Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
    The Dangerous Summer by Hemingway
    Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
    African Visions by Mirella Ricciardi
    Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby
    Present State of the Cape of Good Hope by Peter Kolben
    The LL Bean Guide to the Outdoors by Bill Riviere


    Going Solo by Roald Dahl

  4. Pingback: Books about biking « Jim’s Bike Blog

  5. Pingback: They blazed the trail « Jim’s Bike Blog

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