Roads Rivers and Trails

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Readers Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Inspirational Adventure/Travel Reads

by: Louie Knolle

Introduction:

I don’t know you reader, but one thing I do know is that you are human. Should I meet you someday, perhaps we will have a nice conversation about some books we have both read.  At one of my two jobs, I pick apples on an orchard and work in the farm stand.  Man oh man, how I have learned how subjective taste is.  What can taste sweet to one person, can taste more on the tart side to another. What one considers to be crisp, another can think of as soft. This is why I firmly believe in testing a variety of things, no matter the object of desire.  When it comes to things like travel destinations, foods, or reading books, the worst that can happen is you decide it is not for you.  Armed with this knowledge, you will be better suited for the decision making process on the next go-round.  I think we can all agree that learning more about ourselves in one of the most adventurous endeavors we as human beings can undertake in our lives.  I consider this way of thought synonymous with breathing, it’s just something natural that everyone has the ability to do.

Although I would consider myself a novice bibliophile at best, I always enjoy the books that I choose to read.  Whether they be travel memoirs, eastern philosophies, metamorphoses inspired by nature, classic literature, or even the standard 14 part fantasy epic, I am always intrigued by the books that end up on my book shelf.  Never able to succinctly answer when asked what I like to read, I prefer this M.O. of book selection and am able to learn so much.  For this reason, I have been assigned the duty of compiling a list of some of my favorite adventure, travel, inspirational, etc. reads.  Since our resident wordsmith and book bandit Man-goat is off finishing the AT like the child-like cherub that he is, I will do my best to elucidate in his stead.  This is by no means a complete list of course, there are thousands upon thousands of books that would fit in these genres, and I am but one man who knows what he likes.  Unfortunately I cannot read them all, that’s where you come in! I will do my best to explain what I liked about these books and share a few details without writing several book reports.  I hope that you will use these as a starting point on your search for both books to read and places to go out and experience in real life.  I know some of these have determined some of my both past and future trips.  Happy trails and happy reads!

zenZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance   Robert Pirsig

This book was published in 1974. Told through the frame of a long motorcycle trip across America, the book explores life and how to best live it.   Perspectives from Eastern and Western philosophy and religion are referenced, highlighted, and explored, and through this exploration, the narrator addresses the pivotal question of how to pursue technology in a way that enriches human life as opposed to degrading it. The motorcycle trip starts in Minneapolis, Minnesota and concludes near San Francisco, CA. The narrator and his son, Chris, are accompanied by a couple, the Sutherlands. As a contrast to the narrator, John and Sylvia Sutherland represent people who are uncomfortable with technology. They feel oppressed by it and use motorcycle trips to escape. At the same time, however, they are dependent on technology. This conflict hints at a larger conflict in society and life. The narrator aims to explore this conflict with technology and get to its root.

In Bozeman, Montana, the Sutherlands decide to turn back and not continue on their journey.  The narrator and his son then decide to embark on a hiking trip in the mountains nearby and a lot is revealed about their complex relationship and about the narrator’s troubled past.  Coincidentally enough, I read this book while on a 3 week road trip out west a few years ago and could not think of a more perfect place to have read it.  Both for getting to actively live and experiment with the ideals of introspection on the road and for the simple fact I love, love, love reading while traveling.  At the end of a long day of driving and sight seeing, nothing is more relaxing then reclining in a hammock at a brand new campsite.  Although this book has been around for decades, I still find a lot of friends who have not read it yet!

Read more of Louie’s Suggestions here.

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