This book impacted me in such a significant way that after I read it I listened to it on Audible to further soak in the harrowing quest that the author undertook. It is the most quintessential American journey and included all of the elements of a story that I love: history, pioneers, nature, hiking, overcoming obstacles, sibling time, perseverance… just to name a few.
Rinker Buck and his brother Nick set out to complete the Oregon Trail in the original mule and covered wagon set up common to the time. Although now the trail has many modern inconveniences (highways, private land) these brothers had the gumption to take on the American West. The interweaving storyline of their journey sprinkled with the historical accounts of everything from the food that pioneers ate, how mules came to be such a commodity, the types of wagons, heroes on the trail – most interestingly in my opinion Narcissa Whitman – were researched so thoroughly that I could so easily picture the journey that American ancestors embarked on.
In some ways, this book encouraged me to take my own American adventure (documented here). I drove 8,000 miles around the American West from my hometown near Seattle down the Oregon and California coast, into the desert of Arizona, up through the mountains in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and finally the home stretch of Montana and Idaho until we were home again. My own trip took 2 months (vs the 4 months it took Rinker and Nick Buck – using a different route and means of transportation obviously) and we drove through some of the land that the heroes of the book trekked. I cannot express how much value this book added to my life and the trip I took.
The collective American Dream might just be a crazy-ass (a term that Rinker uses regularly to describe his recklessness) choice, throwing caution to the wind and embracing our American roots: risk-takers, adventurers, and curious about the natural world.