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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.


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