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Hit the Road

So many books; so little time

There aren’t enough moments in my lifetime to read everything I’d like, but here are a few books on the travel shelf that I’ve managed to enjoy:

“The Other Side of the Ice: One Family’s Treacherous Journey Negotiating the Northwest Passage”  – Sprague Theobald with Allan Kreda. 

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve always been a bit confused about where the Northwest Passage is or is supposed to be, but Theobald’s book was the key to understanding for me (great graphic on pages 76 and 77.) What is harder to fathom is exactly why the experienced sailor decided to take his children and stepchildren on this treacherous 8,500-mile route. But make the journey they did during the summer of 2009 in a 57-foot yacht that appeared pretty puny as it glided through arctic waters dotted with massive icebergs. The accomplishment is especially notable because only about two-dozen other boats have completed this trip.

During this semi-circular journey from Newport, R.I. to Seattle, Wash., the captain Theibald and crew had plenty to learn — about navigating inhospitable waters and each other. The “overwhelming feeling of drama and tragedy staggered even the least sensitive of us,” writes Theobald, who overcame many obstacles to make the trip a reality.

A two-time Emmy award winner for his documentaries, Theobald also filmed this five-month trek. A DVD of the same name was released in 2013.

“Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis and Mayhem in Moscow” – Jennifer Eremeeva

Russia has been in the news a lot lately and what we see and hear does not endear us to the country. But keep in mind that we aren’t hearing much from ordinary citizens, and that’s what Eremeeva gives us — a half-real-half-fiction read about living in Moscow among Russian citizens and the American ex-pat community. Most books about Russia have covers “the color of dirty snow or congealed blood,” says the author who speaks Russian fluently and lives there part-time after spending two decades in the country. “I wanted to write a book that shows the funny side of the Russians.”

Eremeeva’s stories, characters and dialogue are not only hilarious, but she demonstrates how it takes patience, ingenuity and moxie to survive in Moscow.

“365 Guide: New York City-365 Restaurant Deals & Bar Specials” – Monica DiNatale.

Ask food show host and New Yorker DiNatale what’s in her refrigerator and she can tell you: “Parmesan cheese, because I like to have hard cheese with wine, and some Omaha steaks,” she said in a phone interview.

The answer comes easily and without hesitation because, well, her frig is nearly empty and she’s a New Yorker, which means she loves to eat out — “eight days a week.”

From the upscale eatery to the dive bar, DiNatale she loves them all, especially the ones that offer deals. After all, it can be expensive to eat in NYC, but she has made it her mission to know where and when you can get half-price appetizers and free hot dogs with beer. She shares it all in her “365 Guide,” a soft-cover that lists that many restaurant and bar specials by location, with plenty of details about food and drink specials.

“Food here doesn’t have to be expensive,” DiNatale explained. “There’s a high level of competition. You walk down the block and have 10 choices, so you have to deliver some kind of quality.”

“Rumble Yell: Discovering America’s Biggest Bike Ride” – Brian David Bruns. 

Whether you have or haven’t heard of RAGBRAI, (the Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across America, you’ll become intimately acquainted with this insane event in this book. It was started by two of the newspaper’s reporters in 1973, and is now limited to 8,500 riders to keep what has become the world’s oldest and largest bike touring event manageable. Bruns takes us along on the grueling ride from training to the actual trip, which is not quite what he anticipated. He envisioned a reunion of long-time friends…Not!

Though there are generous doses of horrific weather and aches and pains, Bruns, a best-selling author of nonfiction travel books, relates his adventure with plenty of humor. He also introduces us to small-town Iowa and characters both crazy and commendable.

“The World’ Great Wonders: How They Were Made & Why They Are Amazing” – Jheni Osman. 

Like just about every book published by Lonely Planet, “The World’s Great Wonders” is a beautiful thing. Through colorful, clear graphics and lots of photos, we travel to our planet’s natural and man-made wonders – both familiar and unfamiliar. From well-known monuments like the giant redwoods in Sequoia National Park and India’s Taj Mahal, to lesser known structures like the Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali (the largest mud brick edifice on the planet), this book provides many hours of fascinating, addictive reading.