Book Review: The Oregon Trail A New American Journey

51xuy5BQbrL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_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.

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The Great Melting

20160109_IRM934_1 (1)“America is unusual, both for its obsession with race and for its superb statistics. Poor countries lack the means to collect precise data, and many rich ones choose not to. Some, like France, are so high-minded that they hold race to be irrelevant; in others racial censuses smell uncomfortably like fascism. A few countries distinguish foreigners from natives, though, and there the trend is mostly the same as in America.” –The Economist

Better Ways to Pay for College

20150822_LDC481The Economist outlines two of the 2016 presidential contenders’ plans on fixing the “paying for college” problem.

“America’s presidential primary campaigns are proposing serious ideas for how to deal with real economic problems. High among them is how to fix the country’s broken system of university finance.”

The Really Big One

faultThis article hits close to home for me, quite literally. The greater Seattle-area is home to the majority of my close friends and family, and when the Cascadia Subduction Zone drops, it will have disastrous effects on more people than any other natural disaster in North America.

What can we do with this fear that this article brought to the forefront of our minds? What can we do but live in fear or live in the moment? We can prepare. Know your exits in every situation, keep a backpack packed with food supplies, water, matches, water, flashlights, oh and did I say water? This article points out that it will take a month to a year to restore drinking water. And finally, lobby with cities to ensure that safety evacuations are shared with tenants, and buildings and roads are built with this ensuing threat in mind.

“On the face of it, earthquakes seem to present us with problems of space: the way we live along fault lines, in brick buildings, in homes made valuable by their proximity to the sea.”

The Really Big One: An earthquake will destry a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when by Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker

Glitch Perfect

“For a moment, the stoppage seemed like grounds for panic. It did not help that a mysterious computer glitch had caused United, one of America’s biggest airlines, to ground all its flights shortly beforehand. The excitable speculated that a coordinated cyber-attack was under way.” – The Economist 

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself one who takes conspiracy theories to heart, but this is more than a little coincidental. Check out this The Economist article from today!

EMILY’s List

I support the EMILY’s List organization because they believe that a balanced government of women and men is a better reflection of the people it serves. I agree with the sentiment that our country’s leaders should “genuinely and enthusiastically fight for greater opportunity and better lives for the Americans they represent.” I recommend getting involved with this group whether it simply be subscribing to their email news letters to donating to their featured campaigns.