KingMidget's Ramblings

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Into The North Wind by Jill Homer

I went to Spring Training in Arizona this past weekend.  In preparation for the trip, I decided I needed some books.  Yes, I’d be watching a lot of baseball.  Maybe doing a few other things.  But, while the other guys were playing golf, I was going to have some down time.

I golfed at one point in my life.  Five years or so when my kids were just in the process of becoming members of the human population.  I gave it up because I took it too seriously and had neither the time nor the money to get any better at the stupid sport.  I’ve golfed rarely since then, and not nearly enough to justify spending the money needed to golf in Arizona in March during Spring Training.

So, I thought I might read a bit.

Or maybe I might write.  I took my laptop, too.  Never cracked it open.

To ensure adequate reading material, I found a couple of books on a list I thought were interesting.  I also asked Cinthia Ritchie for some recommendations.  Cinthia is a writer, runner, reader, and just all around fascinating person — one of those people I’ve “met” through blogging that intrigues me.  She occasionally writes about the books she has read and she always seems to have a good mix of books to recommend.  So, Cinthia, what should I read?

She offered me some suggestions, I took almost all of them.  Before I left for Phoenix, I had ordered six books — four of with arrived before I left, two of which arrived after.  I plan on posting about each of these books as I finish them in the next few weeks.

I began with one of the books I know was a Cinthia recommendation.  Into the North Wind by Jill Homer.  In Cinthia’s words, once she started this book, she simply could not put it down.  I’ll have to agree.

I never knew this was a thing.  A mountain bike race.  Across 1,000 miles.  Of Alaska.  In winter.  Alone.  Virtually without support.  And that’s what Into the North Wind is about.  Jill Homer’s 10-year fascination with this challenge.  The race follows the Iditarod trail.  It’s relentless.

I do have a couple of issues with the story.  One that is really just me being picky — there’s some repetition here in Ms. Homer’s struggles across those 1,000 miles.  That’s kind of understandable, so I’ll let it go.

My other issue relates to this.  The annual challenge along the Iditarod trail involves a number of different distances and options.  There is the 100 mile distance, 250 miles, 350 miles. And the full-blown 1,000 mile trip through a frozen hell.  And, really, any distance in between if the participant so chooses.  The distances can be accomplished by running, walking, skiing, or mountain biking.  There’s a whole lot of flexibility here.  Which isn’t the problem.

What the problem was is that in the initial reading, the impression is made that once you get past the 350 mile point, you are utterly and completely on your own.  You are in a vast wasteland for 650 miles until you get to Nome.  The only problem is that once Ms. Homer got past the 350 mile point, there were still villages, there were still shelters dotting the trail.  This is a minor quibble — it doesn’t really minimize the accomplishment described in the book — but it just felt like a little bit of false advertising, a little bit of making it sound much worse than it really was.  Which made me wonder what else might have been an exaggeration.

So, you’re probably wondering if you should read this.  I’d heartily recommend this book to anybody fascinated by such things.  These extreme adventures people put themselves into fascinate me.  Into the North Wind is a really good story about the extremes some of us humans put ourselves through to achieve these odd dreams.


6 responses to “Into The North Wind by Jill Homer

  1. Pingback: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis | KingMidget's Ramblings

  2. cinthiaritchie March 31, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Awesome–so, so glad you read “Into the North Wind.” But as someone from Alaska also familiar with the village lifestyles, I have to say that I don’t think there was any false advertising. During the race, you are pretty much in a vast wasteland a good part of the time. Oh, there are small villages and some shelters but the truth of the matter is that if you get into trouble, especially after McGrath, where most of the racers stop, you’re pretty much on your own. Yeah, maybe someone will come along and help save your butt, but then again, maybe they won’t. Every year villagers die of exposure after being lost or stranded via snowmachine in the same area. Trust me: when it’s 40 below with high winds, it doesn’t take long for trouble to find you.

    • kingmidget March 31, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      I totally get the extreme nature of the weather and isolation along that stretch. And there were one or two villages that weren’t exactly friendly. Maybe I was being picky, but in the opening chapter, she made it sound like there was no chance she would come across another human being for 650 miles.

      And who am I to be picky … I can’t even begin to imagine what temps below freezing must feel like.

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  4. 43bluedoors April 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Here is a good review of the book from an Alaskan.

    To me the book conveyed what it might feel like to ride this race. I never once thought of it as exaggerated. Of course I can’t imagine ever even thinking of doing that race. I hate being cold. Maybe that was why I loved the book. Something outside of my comfort zone.

    • kingmidget April 9, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Very much outside of my comfort zone as well. That’s why I read these books as well. It’s fascinating what people will put themselves through for the sake of an accomplishment. I also have no doubt that the experience is as much as she described it.

      My only beef is that in the opening chapter when she describes her previous year’s experience, she made it sound as though the journey beyond would be completely alone without any support or help. And that wasn’t the case. That certainly doesn’t take away from the extreme nature of the accomplishment and what she went through.

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