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The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Written by Rinker Buck

Narrated by Rinker Buck


The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Written by Rinker Buck

Narrated by Rinker Buck

ratings:
4.5/5 (19 ratings)
Length:
16 hours
Released:
Jun 30, 2015
ISBN:
9781442386228
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Includes an extended behind-the-scenes conversation with author/narrator Rinker Buck with his brother and trail companion Nick Buck.

In the bestselling tradition of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, Rinker Buck's The Oregon Trail is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the entire 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules-which hasn't been done in a century-that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.

Spanning 2,000 miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used it to emigrate West-historians still regard this as the largest land migration of all time-the trail united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads. The trail years also solidified the American character: our plucky determination in the face of adversity, our impetuous cycle of financial bubbles and busts, the fractious clash of ethnic populations competing for the same jobs and space. Today, amazingly, the trail is all but forgotten.

Rinker Buck is no stranger to grand adventures. The New Yorker described his first travel narrative, Flight of Passage, as "a funny, cocky gem of a book," and with The Oregon Trail he seeks to bring the most important road in American history back to life. At once a majestic American journey, a significant work of history, and a personal saga reminiscent of bestsellers by Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed, the book tells the story of Buck's 2,000-mile expedition across the plains with tremendous humor and heart. He was accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and an "incurably filthy" Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, Buck dodges thunderstorms in Nebraska, chases his runaway mules across miles of Wyoming plains, scouts more than five hundred miles of nearly vanished trail on foot, crosses the Rockies, makes desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water, and repairs so many broken wheels and axels that he nearly reinvents the art of wagon travel itself. Apart from charting his own geographical and emotional adventure, Buck introduces readers to the evangelists, shysters, natives, trailblazers, and everyday dreamers who were among the first of the pioneers to make the journey west. With a rare narrative power, a refreshing candor about his own weakness and mistakes, and an extremely attractive obsession for history and travel, The Oregon Trail draws readers into the journey of a lifetime.
Released:
Jun 30, 2015
ISBN:
9781442386228
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Rinker Buck is a staff writer for the Hartford Courant and a former reporter for New York magazine, Life, and many other national publications. The article that launched this book won the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award. He is the author of the acclaimed Flight of Passage and First Job and lives in northwest Connecticut.



Reviews

What people think about The Oregon Trail

4.4
19 ratings / 9 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    This entertaining, often enthralling, mix of history, humor, travelogue, family memoir, and no holds barred social commentary reminds me of my favorite Bill Bryson books--especially A Walk in the Woods about Bryson’s (mis)adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. When Rinker Buck discovered that large stretches of the Oregon Trail still exist, he had romantic visions of a back to basics journey across the western half of the continent and began obsessively and meticulously preparing for a mule-drawn covered wagon trip along the old pioneer route. Since he was divorced and his daughters were grown, why not? Rinker planned to go solo, but even replica wagons have breakdowns, so fortunately for both him and his readers Rinker’s handy, force of nature brother insisted on coming along too--a brusque, big-hearted, syntax challenged, mechanically gifted giant of a man who has some resemblance to Harry Potter’s Hagrid.Rinker blends the fascinating if fraught history of the mass migration westward into the story of his own journey. Pioneer journals were his guides, and the sections devoted to their lively accounts of trail travel were some of my favorite parts of the book. Rinker also writes movingly about his father, an adventurous, family-centered man who inspired his trip. I found the chapter about the surprising (to me) importance role of mules in 18th and 19th century America--starting with George Washington as a savvy land speculating donkey importer and mule broker--utterly captivating, and it’s a good example of the atypical historical perspectives and insights that make this book so riveting. But The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey is as much about the modern day West and its people as it is about the past, and as an Easterner I learned a lot--Rinker, his brother, and their mule team often spent their nights in open publicly maintained corrals where teenagers gather to hang out and practice rodeo skills, not something we encounter here in the Boston to Washington megalopolis. The writing about the actual trip is detailed but evocative, so I felt like I was watching the scenery and riding along in the covered wagon myself. I wasn’t quite so interested in the wagon maintenance aspects of their journey, but I’m sure those sections will delight some readers.
  • (4/5)
    Really enjoyed this book. The reason that I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5: it has more detail about the wagon and trail pup configuration and the views. I really like the info that Rinker shared about some of the trail journals that he had read.
  • (4/5)
    When this book was proposed by another member of my book club, I was unenthusiastic. The more I read, the more enthusiastic I became. Buck's book is filled with history, observations about the contemporary American west, and honest talk about his family and his own weaknesses. He tells the story of his journey by mule-drawn wagon from Missouri to Oregon with grace and humor, but most of all with consummate skill.
  • (4/5)
    Two brothers decide to head west on the Oregon Trail, complete with a wagon and mules. They run into plenty of obstacles, as you might expect, including accidentally crossing into private property and balky mules and wagon breakdowns, but the trip gives author Buck an opportunity to reflect on the original Oregon Trail pioneers and to muse about life in general. A great trip.
  • (5/5)
    The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck is a very highly recommended account of two brothers traveling along the Oregon Trail today.

    Author Rinker Buck, his brother Nick and Nick's “incurably filthy” Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl traveled over 2000 miles for four months along a route that was the Oregon Trail. They went from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, through six present-day states, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon, in a covered wagon pulled by three mules named Jake, Beck, and Bute. In the fifteen years before the Civil War 400,000 pioneers used the trail to emigrate west. The last documented crossing was in 1909, so this trip was a historical reenactment or at least a taste of what happened during the great exodus west.

    All it took to spark Rinker Buck's decision to travel the trail was learning from Duane Durst, an administrator from the Kansas Historical Society, that the 2100 mile length of the trail has been "meticulously charted and marked, with long, undeveloped spaces now preserved as a National Historic Trail. Except for two bad stretches of suburban sprawl around Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Boise, Idaho, most of the rest of the trail is still accessible along remote farm and ranch roads in the West." Rink decided he had to travel the trail, and do it in as authentic a manner as possible.

    If a travelogue of his adventures on the Oregon Trail today wasn't enough, Buck also includes a plethora of additional information on a wide variety of topics related to the trip. We learn a great deal about mules, wagons, the pioneers, cholera, marking the trail, plants along the way, burials along the trail, and the Mormon experience, to name a handful of topics. Buck also talks about a trip his family made in 1958. At that time his father decided to take his family on a month long "See America Slowly" vacation. They traveled in a covered wagon from central New Jersey across the Delaware River to south central Pennsylvania on a month long trip.

    On the back of the wagon for this childhood trip his father had a sign made that said: "We’re Sorry For The Delay—But We Want The Children To SEE AMERICA SLOWLY New Vernon, New Jersey to Valley Forge, Lancaster, Gettysburg, Penna." For their new trip Nick had taken the board to a sign painter in Maine for the similar messaging he considered appropriate for our trip. Painted on the back of the original sign was the new one: "We Are Sorry For The Delay, But We Want To SEE AMERICA SLOWLY St. Joseph, Ft. Kearny, Scott’s Bluff, South Pass, Farewell Bend."

    Buck is a perfect writer for this harrowing adventure. As he writes, "Only a delusional jackass, or someone seriously off his medications, would pull off the road at the Hollenberg Ranch one fine summer afternoon and concoct such a preposterous scheme. But you can’t save an addictive dreamer from himself, and that jackass happens to be me." He's a great story teller and includes a lot of self-deprecating humor along with all the additional support information. Even while letting us in on the mishaps and failures of the present trip, he includes references to past experiences and stories from his childhood, and manages to tie the two experiences together.

    After spending my early years in Nebraska, I learned about the history of the Oregon Trail every year of elementary school. It was fascinating to read this account of the trail today and the hazards crossing it. The year Rinker and Nick undertook this adventure was also a very wet year, with lots of rain, thunderstorms, and flooding, so it was not an easy year to travel the trail. I had to laugh at the fact that: "The brisk and incessant prairie winds of Kansas and Nebraska were one of the most persistent obstacles to travel that the pioneers complained about in their journals." I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

    Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review purposes.
  • (5/5)
    This is a fascinating history of the Oregon Trail and a modern travelogue of the route. You’ll learn a lot about wagon handling and the history of mules in America, as well. I could use a little less family psychodrama, but all in all, this is a great read.