Free Country by George Mahood : Penniless Adventures.

September 2, 2013 in Resources and Research by M C

I never would have read this unlikely book if it hadn’t appeared, randomly, as an Amazon suggestion.  And now, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

It is such a comfort to know other people are every bit as silly as you are.

In the interests of full disclosure while I did not start the trip off in my underwear at about the same age I found myself in similar circumstances: slightly broke, functionally homeless, and at loose ends.  I’d spent all of my life (including my college years) in Vermont and this seemed like the opportune moment to see something of the United States.

So I rode a bicycle from Yorktown, VA to Portland Oregon.  4,500 miles in 90 days.

Along the way I met two scary men and an inspiring number of amazing and friendly people.  I had one coke can thrown at me from a moving car and at least 100 people offer to give me a coke or to fill my water bottle.  On balance, the good people from Virginia to Washington outweighed the bad by a very large margin.

I’d also decided, by the time I arrived in Portland Oregon, I really don’t like sleeping on the ground, and I never had to do such a ride again.  I flew home, and have stayed in Vermont ever since.  It was a great experience, but I never did find a place that fit quite as well as my old farm fits.  The fact that we’ve had over two centuries to refine that fit might have something to do with it, but home I came, and home I remain… with one very long trip across the country to my credit.

So I am in complete sympathy with someone who decides to go end to end across their country, on a bicycle.  The fact that they started in nothing but their underwear, determined to make the whole trip without spending a dime, dependent on the kindness of strangers, just reaffirms my faith in the sheer joy of being just a little bit mad.

The book is short, very funny, and has inspired me to commit myself to a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  I, however, will plan on starting out with clothing, a bicycle, and a couple of inn reservations along the way.

If a book can inspire you into madness?  It’s well worth sharing.



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