Friday, November 10, 2006

Avoiding the Gasoline Bandits

Wherein another writer

Tim Cahill, one of the founders of Outside Magazine. One of my favorite travel writers, he has a fine sense of self-deferential humor and a good eye for detail.

Road Fever, his account of riding shotgun in attempt to drive from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay in 23 days, might be the funniest nonfiction book I've read. But along the way -- amidst accounts of the zippys, roto-man tales, ranting about Northworst Airlines, and accounts of teenaged soldiers holding automatic weapons to his head during border checks -- he reveals informative nuggets about the lands he travels.

Garry Sowerby, the professional driver, is from News Brunswick:
Many of the Acadians live on the Atlantic coast and are fishermer. You meet men of forty who recall the shame of going to school every day with a bag lunch that was the mark of their poverty. The rich kids had peanut butter and jelly. Sonds and daughters of Acadian fishermen had to make do with lobster sandwiches.

This passage has me searching for a decent history of Colombia and Cartagena. So far, no luck:
The amount of gold that the Spaniards took out of Peru was staggering....All those riches poured into Cartagena, and the city was a tempting target for privateers, as the English pirates preferred to call themselves. They were only doing their patriotic duty, harassing Spain in the interest of England. Sir Francis Drake and 1300 men sacked the city in 1586. A Frenchman, Baron dee Pointis, took Cartagena with 10,000 men in 1697. In 1741, the great walls were in place, the fortifications strengthened and improved. An English force of 27,000 men laid seige to the city for 56 days but were finally turned back.

Ok, some humor. Stuck somewhere in Chile:
"Tim," Garry said, "promise me you'll take it safe."

I decided, in what seemed an enormous emotional sacrifice at the time, not to punch the hell out of Garry Sowerby on the spot. What I would do was wait until we hit Prudhoe Bay. We'd be standing in the snow at the edge of the Beaufort Sea talking about men and machines, time and the elements, and I'd just haul off and pop him a good one. Bam! That's for La Serena, you shitball.

"Tim, I want you to promise me."

He'd be lying there, bleeding in the snow in front of any reporters that might be on hand.



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