Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The summer reading continues......

Next, I did read "Not Without My Daughter." It was a chilling, true account of an American wife, Betty Mamoody and her 4 year old daughter, who traveled to Iran with her Iranian-American Dr. husband for a two week vacation. She had fears that once there, he would not allow his wife and child to return to the USA. And that's exactly what he did. "She was a virtual prisoner of a man who rededicated his life to his Shiite Muslim faith, in a land where women are near slaves and Americans are despised." She was in that horrible country for 18 months, the last year of which she placed her hopes and dreams of escaping in the hands of strangers in a dangerous underground world. Finally, after escaping from her husband, she and her daughter spent one very long winter week travelling, at the mercy of some very shady looking characters, via car, jeep, bus, and horseback over the very high and frozen mountains between Iran and Turkey. After checking into a very nice hotel in Ankara, Turkey she and her daughter were kicked out, with threats of the police being called, because their passports didn't have the correct stamps. After a few phone calls and a night in another hotel, she and her daughter finally found help through the American Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, and returned home to the the USA. But the drama didn't end there. She found it necessary for them to assume new names and live in an undisclosed location, in fear that her husband would retaliate.
This all took place in the mid 80's. According to current news stories, it doesn't sound like things have changed much in that horrible country. It was reported at that time that there were over one thousand American women in a similar situation in Iran and other Islamic countries.
I did see the movie, starring Sally Field, which I enjoyed very much. But the book gives a much more detailed account of the background of how she got to that point in her life, and many more details of the deplorable conditions in which she lived in and the ordeal she endured in Iran.


Staying with true stories, I then read "Misty's Long Ride," by Howard Wooldridge. Three summers ago, in 2006, while in Rapid City, South Dakota, I started following online the progress of a group of motorcycle riders who were riding to the 48 capital cities in the 48 continuous states, sharing with the American people the downside of illegal immigration as well as excessive legal immigration. The endeavor was the brainchild of Frosty Wooldridge, Howard's brother. Upon following the progress of the "21st Century Paul Revere Ride" I decided to meet up with them in Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, then continue on with them to Bismark, the capital of North Dakota. I had a great time and found myself a bit enamored with Howard. He was a very personable, intelligent and ambitious man, quite contrary to most of the men I have been enamored with. During an evening chatting with Howard, he told me about two very interesting years he had. In 2003, and again in 2005, he rode his horse Misty across the United States. The first started at the Atlantic Ocean in Savannah, Georgia and ended 6 months and 3200 miles later at the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Oregon. The second, a 7 month and 3700 mile ride took him from the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles, California to the Atlantic in New York City.
Howard wrote a book, or rather Misty his horse wrote a book from her perspective, on the first of the two rides. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about every day and every mile of the first long, grueling journey they took together. I opened my atlas to each new state they entered and followed along with their route. The big challenge for Howard, besides the weather and a few mountain passes, was finding adequate food for Misty everyday, and finding a dry, comfortable and safe place to spend each night. Howard paid only three times during the 6 month period for a camp spot. They walked along the shoulders of roads and highways constantly looking for water, grass, hay, oats, and cafes for Howard. Howard would ride for two miles, then walk for one mile in order to give Misty an easier day. Some nights Howard tethered Misty to a picket line strung between trees or posts, while he slept nearby in a tent. Sometimes they were lucky and Misty spent the night in a stall or an arena while Howard slept in a house. Most people, when asked, happily gave water and sustenance for Misty. Howard never asked for food for himself, or for a place to stay, but always accepted when it was offered. It was heart warming how many people across the country opened their hearts and homes to Howard and Misty. Both suffered minor health issues along the way, but always overcame them. It was a very heart warming story, made even more so since Howard has a special place in my heart. = )

Riding a 1,000 mile ride makes one eligible for the title of Long Rider. Riding across the country twice gave Howard the title of the only person to every ride cross the in both directions.

According to the Long Riders Guild, no one in recorded history has ever ridden both directions across North America. The Long Riders Guild selected Howard as one of the top dozen Long Riders in the world and Howard flew to London on March 12, 2005for a week and was honored with a weekend of events at the Royal Geographic Society Headquarters.
"I am still nearly punch-drunk for the honor given me. I am excited like a 6 year old before Christmas to meet the other 11, share a pint and stories of the road," says Howard.


Next, I read "Travels With Charlie, in Search of America" by John Steinbeck. In 1962 Steinbeck ordered an very unusual vehicle - a camper mounted on a 3/4 ton pickup truck. In 1962 RVing across the country was not something too many people did. Shortly after Labor Day, and Hurricane Donna, John and his Standard Poodle Charlie left their summer home on Long Island, NY and set out on a 3 month, 10-12,000mile adventure. Most of my RV friends would agree with me that such a trip should take at least a whole year, not a mere three months. Anyway, Steinbeck set out on his adventure in quest "to hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light and to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years." In this book he "reflects on the American character, racial hostility, on a particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and on the unexpected kindness of strangers that is also a very real part of our national identity."
Everywhere he went, Steinbeck approached fellow Americans and engaged them in colorful conversations. I'm suspicious that everything Steinbeck wrote about during his travels really happened. After all, he is a fiction writer.
But one common thread in all three of these books was the kindness of strangers. I myself try to do at least one random act of kindness everyday. Some days it doesn't work out too well, but I try.


At 1:29 PM, Blogger Diana said...

I saw the movie "Not Without My Daughter," and thought it was the scariest movie I have ever seen. I really admire your courage in reading the book after you had seen the movie.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Barbara and Ron said...

I wouldn't read the book or see the movie - too much for me. I did enjoy Travels with Charlie though.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger sally said...

Knowledge is power!!

At 8:18 AM, Blogger sally said...

Know thy enemy!!


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