Posts Tagged ‘Isek Dinesen’

 “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Ten of Hundreds


Lake Powell, which destroyed Glen Canyon and which wouldn’t ever have existed if Edward Abbey’s “Monkey Wrench Gang” characters had anything to say about it. — Photo by Pat Bean

I won’t say these are my 10 favorite travel books, because I could name 10 more just as easily. But these are books that influenced my decision to become rootless and make the road my home for the past eight years.

I Married Adventure, 1940, by Osa Johnson. I picked this book up at the library when I was about 10 years old. I was always sneaking into the adult section. I think I already knew I had wanderlust, and this book simply confirmed it. I, too, wanted adventure.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. My 22-foot RV, Gypsy Lee, is my version of Moon’s green van, Ghost Dancing. I loved this book so much that I’ve given dozens of copies away as gifts. The green-dotted scenic byways marked on today’s maps are my blue highways.

Road Fever, by Tim Cahill, I have loved everything this Wyoming author has written, especially this book that details a 15,000-mile trip from Tierra del Fuego to the top of Alaska. I’ve read everything this author has written that I could come across, including his many Outside magazine stories.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. This book fueled my desire to walk the Appalachian Trail, but except for a few miles on various sections it’s a to-do list item that I’ve waited too long to get around to doing. But I still have time to hike at least a few more miles on this trail whenever I come across one of its many trailheads.

One of Charles Kuralt’s more popular “On the Road” episodes wat the time he hooked up with a botanist to put names to all the wildflowers he was seeing, like this fireweed. — Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. I read this book many years ago, but reread it when I took to the road in 2004. My wordsmith friend, Charlie Trentelman, mentioned that I was the female version of Steinbeck, thus the title of my travel book, “Travels With Maggie.” Thank you Steinbeck.

On the Road with Charles Kuralt. Charles Kuralt was also influenced by Steinbeck. Kuralt, meanwhile, is actually the traveler most like me. We were both journalists, and we both prefer looking at life’s brighter side. I cried when Kuralt died, and one of my favorite travel photos is of his “On the Road” RV that’s on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthieson. A fantastic writer who makes one think. This book brought the Himalayas to life for me. I was privileged to have once heard this author speak.

Out of Africa by Isek Dinesen. Like Osa Johnson, this book made me want to travel to Africa. Not only did I do that in 2007, I visited Dinesen’s former coffee plantation in Nairobi.

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. While I loved this book, Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is my favorite of all that he has written. It, too, could be considered a travel book in that it includes awesome descriptions of Utah and Arizona’s red-rock landscape.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. No travel book collection would be complete without Theroux. This is my favorite of his many.

Book Report: Busy morning, then a four-hour lunch with a group of mostly crazy old broads, whose Bay of Pigs nickname rivals my former group of crazy old broad friends called the Murder of Crows, that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. It comes under my umbrella mantra of smelling all the flowers and grabbing all the gusto this life has to offer. While I will do some editing as part of the rewrite of my travel book late this afternoon, I doubt I will add any significant word count. It’s the story of my writing life, conflicting goals. The good thing is that I no longer flagellate myself for such lapses.

Bean’s Pat: Photos and Facets; http://tinyurl.com/ckpfxer No! It’s not the London Bridge you’ve been seeing on television.

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 “Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.” Adolph Monod

Final Breakfast at Little Governor's Camp. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Karen Blitzen Museum

Joseph got us back to Little Governor’s Lodge in time for breakfast, where Kim and I ate the last of those great little sausages that had become a breakfast standard since first we had them back at the Norfolk Hotel.

As usual, breakfast here was served beneath the open sky with a grand look at the swamp in front of us. It was full this morning with sacred ibises, rufus bellied herons and white-faced whistling ducks, which were in fact whistling.

At the landing strip with Joseph and the "Kids" from London, Frankie and John.

All too soon, however, it was time to gather our belongings and make out last crossing of the Mara River, where we would be met by Joseph for the ride back to the tiny airstrip where we would catch our fight back to Nairobi.

In Nairobi, since our flight back home, didn’t leave until midnight, we would check into the Karen Blixen cottages to spend the rest of the day. Like most of the tourist hotels in Nairobi, this one was located behind guarded gates.

After lunch, I wanted to go curl up on the bed in our cottage suite, and take a nice long, and I thought well-deserved nap. Kim wanted to walk a half mile down the road to the Karen Blixen Museum. I suggested that there were guarded gates around our complex for a reason but Kim would not be deterred.

Our ride back to Nairobi touches down. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I certainly wasn’t going to let her go wandering off by herself, so off we went, two white women in a sea of black, sometimes scowling faces, walking on the edge of a narrow road. This was the real world, not the sheltered tourist wonderland where we had roamed for two weeks.

I was nervous at first, but then relaxed and went with the flow. I’m so glad I did.

Blitzen as Isek Dinesen, wrote “Out of Africa,” which was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

“”I had a farm in Africa,” her book began. The museum was that farm, and we were told it is little changed today from what it looked like then. Blitzen turned the farm into a coffee plantation, and because it provided jobs was much-loved by the locals.

Minutia from the Streep and Redford movie was mingled in with the museum’s displays. But it was the one huge photo of Blitzen, slender and sophisticated and smoking a cigarette in her later years, that captured my attention. It made me think of Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis’ fictional aunt whom I’ve always admired. .

Kim in front of Karen Blitzen's home, which was the setting for her book, "Out of Africa." -- Photo by Pat Bean

There’s a mental game I’ve often played that calls for you to name six people you would like to invite for dinner. Margaret Mead, Carl Sagan, Shirley MacLaine, John Muir, Maya Angelou, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sean Connery, Gloria Steinem, Gandhi, Golda Meir, Agatha Christie and Charles Darwin, among others, have all at various times received mixed and matched invitations.

I added Karen Blitzen to my address book today.

Still digesting the things we had observed during our visit to the museum, the walk back to our day cottage actually seemed pleasant.

Later in the year, Kenya would erupt with protests about electoral manipulations after President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected. Nairobi would see some of the worst violence, and over 800 people were killed during the protests.

Kim and I, in a long-distance phone conversation, both expressed thankfulness that the riots hadn’t occurred while we were there. Suddenly our State Department’s travel warning didn’t seem as trivial. While we had both enjoyed flirting with danger while on safari, the violence humans can inflict on one another was not the kind of adventure we would ever want to impinge on our memories.

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