You can plan a journey, a vacation or a learning opportunity, but can you plan an adventure? Adventure is defined as "an undertaking of uncertain outcome", "a hazardous enterprise", but also as simply "an exciting experience." It's natural for people to look for new paths and test themselves against the unfamiliar. It certainly makes for a good story. Encountering life in the wild can be chilling or elating, a human experience that reminds us humans of how we are part of a world that we can't always control.
M. W. Lovegreen is one of those people attracted to outdoor adventures, and the kind of guy you'd think could easily deal with the unusual, unexpected and strenuous. He grew up in New York City's borough of Queens -- where a walking path along an abandoned motorway or a fetid patch of swampland can pass for a nature preserve -- but he has lived for the past four decades in the state's bucolic Southern Tier. Mike is the Conservation District Manager of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, a guardian of the environment and our natural resources. He has written many technical papers with titles like "River Conservation Plan for Sugar and Towanda Creek Watersheds", and now he's authored a book for a general readership about life in the great outdoors. It's sometimes amazing that he lived to tell about it.
"Trips; or, Everyday Adventures" follows Mike, his wife Elaine and their four kids through many vacation mishaps and hard-won wisdom. There are 22 chapters, tales of peril and survival on land, sea and air. Mike heads Out West and into a possible plunge from a narrow mountain roadway, joins a rubber raft excursion down the Black River in the Adirondacks and nearly drowns, is eaten alive by mosquitoes and even embarks on a scuba-diving expedition to the Bahamas only to find those tropical islands bathed in a rare cold snap. Much of what Mike Lovegreen writes in "Trips; or, Everyday Adventures" carries the authority of an environmental status report, the immediacy of a diary and the patient humor of a vacationer still determined to have a good time.
"[Dining on lobster] was a real unique experience with our kids. Having grown up in the country, they knew where food came from -- often from animals they had helped to raise and prepare. Alien-looking lobsters were another thing altogether. The younger, more-timid ones absolutely refused to even consider the possibility that these creatures from the deep were eatable. The braver ones were challenged in breaking through the shells, which resulted in spraying the timid ones in lobster juice and associated parts, which went further in the non-eatable theory."
-- from "Trips"
There is also much in M.W. Lovegreen's book than can be taken as good advice, or at least dire warning.
"The Adirondacks are another good area to not trust the signs. It's an area that the mapping interns insist that, from their flat maps on their flat desks, it is only 1.75 miles between the two points. It is also land up and down, up and down, and those 1.75 miles is in reality more like 7 or 8. This really plays havoc when you are carrying 60 pounds of gear and plan on being at a certain point by dark. Oh well, the crows are always waiting for us when we get there."
-- from "Trips"
But adventurism and wanderlust are built into members of our human race, and the big beautiful world out there will always draw travelers who are curious, or just want to get away from home.
From time to time in "Trips", Mike Lovegreen wonders if he and his family may have been just as well off staying home and watching the travel shows. Impossible!
M.W. Lovegreen joins Bill Jaker to tell of his travel adventures, read from "Trips", offer advice and swap tales with listeners.