There & Back Again To See How Far It Is
By: Tim Watson
Hardcover: 264 pages
Publisher: Haynes Publishing UK
Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
Cost: $29.95 list/$21.07 street
I just finished a really great book. Don’t let the title, which is rather oddly worded, put you off.
“There & Back Again To See How Far It Is” by Tim Watson is a delightfully entertaining read, and as an avid reader, I may not know what truly great literature is, but I know when to throw a book out or keep on reading.
This book kept a smile on my face the entire time I was reading it.
Tim Watson is an Englishman. His great idea was to travel around America and see what this country is really like.
So right there you’re thinking, “Oh, boy…”.
But really, it’s not like that! The book is very well written (unlike this review).
His Englishman’s perspective on this country — particularly when he compares it to his own — is hilarious, especially for those of us who live here and/or never get out of the city and have a tendency to take so much of this country for granted.
His adventures into small town America is refreshing and definitely seen through the eyes of a non-American.
You can well imagine how an Englishman residing in the hustle-bustle of California would find the people of small town America. And it doesn’t disappoint! He takes great delight and pleasure in discovering small idiotic things and describes them with such enthusiasm that you can’t help but smile.
How he came by some of his more eye-opening facts and trivia about the towns demonstrate that he obviously did his research…someplace. He freely admits he is a lousy motorcycle rider, which makes his mis-adventures only that much more fun to read. You either shake your head thinking “What an idiot!” or nod sagely because the same thing has happened to you.
And the best part is he doesn’t actually get any better or wiser! He gets more “comfortable”, but competent or proficient never enter his vocabulary. So many riders are so quick to point out how great they ride that it’s refreshing to hear somebody admit they are awful at what they love!
In this book, there is no “We took Route 32 for 4.7 miles and turned left onto Blah Blah Blah Road. He gives the route number, describes the breathtaking scenery from this town to that, talks about what disasters befell him on the road and what strange discoveries he made in the towns he visits. But he does it so well that you really want to ride some of the roads he talks about the next time you’re “out that way”.
Watson’s inability to read a map — or, apparently, his fuel gauge — makes the rest of us seem like highly competent travelers.
And if it wasn’t for his apparently long-suffering and patient wife following him on her own motorcycle (smart woman), he’d be riding the Pacific Ocean.
I would love to read a sequel to this book, because in “There and Back Again…” he only gets around the western part of the U.S.A., but he’s still amazingly out of his element, especially for a guy who has lived all over the world.
I would also love to hear his British accent trying to initiate a conversation with a dyed-in-the-wool Southerner. The possible and probable communication misunderstandings between these two very different accents would be the height of entertainment. You would have two people speaking a common language (English) and neither understanding a single word the other has said. The potential for disaster would be alarmingly funny.
Go out and buy this book; you don’t even have to be a motorcycle rider to enjoy it (although some of the nuances may be lost on a “cager”). Read it and keep it. Buy extras to give to your friends.
This is a book that easily lends itself to re-reading and enjoying again. I finished the book a week ago, but just thinking about it still makes me smile. You can find it for around $21.00 online — well worth the price if only for its ability to brighten your day.
Review Date: April 2014
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From “B.E.” (May 2014): “I just forced myself to finish There And Back Again To See How Far It Is. I purchased and read this book solely on your recommendation, as I have many other items recommended by your website over the years.
I have to say that this book was very disappointing. I found it to be extremely shallow. I got very little out of it other than it’s hot in the desert southwest (who knew?), the author is a terrible motorcyclist, as he continually points out, and almost running out of gas is his mantra.
There was only one single page that was somewhat humorous, which was his description of cheap hotel’s elderly buffet groupies. The author’s executive background suggests that he should have the ability to do better.”