Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: Changing Gears, a Family Odyssey to the End of the World

In 2008, the Sathre-Vogel family--mom, dad, and two ten-year-old sons--began their bicycle trek from Alaska and the Arctic Circle to Argentina's Tierra del Fuego. The trip lasted about three years, and mother Nancy Sathre-Vogel chronicles the family's adventure.

Quite a journey it was, with desperately difficult terrain, medical emergencies, and equipment failure. Nancy Sathre-Vogel honestly tells their story, including her doubts and weaknesses, the powerful strength of family bonds, and the innocent exuberance of the boys.

Part of the journey's goal was to break the Guinness World Record for the youngest travelers to make the trek, and even though at one point the narrative reveals that over time the journey became more important than the world record, the official quest was a powerful factor in determining how the journey developed.

My personal opinion is that somewhere along the journey, the parents should have sat down with the boys and told them that the joy of the journey was more important than the Guinness record, and that they were all taking the next bus out of Long-suffering Town to a less hostile environment before continuing on bikes. The writer chronicles the family's suffering, their extreme conditions, and after a while I just got tired of the litany of suffering. After all, according to the mom, the journey was more important than the world record. Lots of bike travelers catch a bus or train to skip a particularly unpleasant area.

The sections of suffering aside, much of the book describes the beauty of the Americas and the "up close and personal" experience of traveling by bicycle. I enjoyed the book, for the most part, and admire the achievement of the Sathre-Vogel family. Because the book describes the entire route, it is a good reference source to know what awaits you if you choose to make this journey . . . and it may just convince you that you don't have to pedal every since inch of the journey.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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