Adventure Stories - Part 1

Updated: Jul 27, 2019

“The Adventure Stories”

~Part one~

By Brian K. Brecht & T. Dietz

As we strive to expand on the goals of the Gentleman Adventurer’s Club, we continue to look back to find the origins of the concept. Where did the desire come from and why do we find ourselves hunting for more meaningful adventures in our lives?

We’re sure the footprint will continue to evolve as ideas, time and resources allow. But looking back, it’s not hard to see the movies, books and stories of our youth play a distinct role in the Club’s development.

Characters and adventures like those of Errol Flynn, Indiana Jones or Jacues Cousteau are hard to ignore but under closer scrutiny as we discussed it, Tom and I realized it’s been a collection of books that have been the spurs that moved us forward.

We both found common inspiration in certain stories like the motorcycle trips of Ewan Macgregor and Charlie Boorman, and we’ll talk about how some of Steingbeck’s works catalyzed our thinking. However, very quickly, as we would expect, we each have our own influences as much as we have ones in common.

In the following article(s), we’ll highlight some of the books and stories that laid our foundation, providing much of our inspiration. The first part will be my (Brian’s) list, most stemming from early road trips in my youth. Our second part will come from Tom and some of the volumes he’s read over the years that had a lasting impact.

Trolling through the Internet, you’ll find any number of lists claiming the “books every man should read”. Our list, not meaning to be exhaustive or definitive, is what we’ve found as our inspirations. There are other authors, other favorites that hopefully inspire you to find adventure of your own. But here we offer our suggestions on narratives you’ll find worthy to add to your own library.

So lets begin…

“On The Road”

For me, it all started with “On The Road”. In my young adult years, the friendships that cemented who I was to become, came from a group of friends I hold dear to this day. Rick Cleveringa, who provided the GAC’s first member written content (*See his article “Pappa’s House”), introduced our little band to “On The Road”, all in the spirit of an annual road-trip. Rick, working construction at the time, always had winters off. So it was common that every February, the four of us, crammed ourselves into a vehicle, and headed south (usually) for sights obscure and unknown. Being a bit uptight in my youth (to put it mildly), following Rick’s “no plan, find what we find, stay off the beaten path” attitude was something that took a lot to come to grips with. And in this spirit, perhaps following in the footsteps of the Beat Generation, started delving into authors who could “expand our mind”.

Keeping with the road theme, Kerouac was at the top of the list. For me, I found Kerouac extremely hard to read. It was a broken, sporadic, back and forth (bebop) structure that took a lot for me to hold on to. But despite the difficulty, we all got sucked into the story. Following Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty became canon for all road trips to follow. The irreverence, and counter culture experienced within, the desire to “ball that jack”, provided the language we would all speak from then on.

“On The Road” was the linchpin that started it all. And it was the attitude and free spirit style of “On The Road”, that would begin my slow transformation to shed schedules, plans and carefully crafted itineraries. From here our early adventures took us to Memphis, St. Louis, Louisville, Huntsville, New Orleans and the like. We expanded on Kerouac with “Big Sur”, and “Dharma Bums”. But always, it was Sal and Dean that provided our foundation. For me, this was the beginning of my search for adventure.

“Blue Highways”

“Blue Highways” is interesting, not for it’s inspiration to me, but to Rick. As you can see, Rick has been and continues to be, a huge influence in my life.

“Blue Highways” was written by William Least-Heat-Moon and published in 1982. Blue Highways refers to the color key on old highway maps of American, where the main routes where red and the back roads, printed as blue. But Least-Heat-Moon goes into further detail by saying;

“…in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk – time neither day nor night – the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it’s that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.”

It was “Blue Highways”, before we four dove into “On The Road”, where Rick found the catalyst for his wanderlust. It was this idea; those hidden back roads, which fed our journey into Kerouac and beyond.

Least-Heat-Moon followed “Blue Highways” with additional works, two of which I’ve enjoyed as much or perhaps even more. “Prairy Erth” & “River Horse”, have both pulled at that place in my mind of wanting to see and learn more.

My favorite line from “Blue Highways” is literally the first line of the book;

“Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren’t turned properly; they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote of sources.”

I continue to think, our inspiration for the GAC has come from thoughts such as these.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

Though less of an adventure, and more of a twisted, alcohol fueled, exploration of the 1970’s drug culture, Hunter S. Thompson, quickly became one of our gospels in the bible of literary influences. Thompson, like Kerouac, is not always my cup of tea (or blotter of acid in his case), but there is no underestimating the power of this man’s writing and what he brought to American literature. And no denying how much this book played into our explorations of the country and ourselves. There’s always a copy of it with us.

Rico, one of the band of four, loved Thompson, and being a huge music fan, loved to read us articles written by Thompson in whatever issue of Rolling Stone that happened to be on the magazine rack. Listening to Rico quote Thompson as we burned down the blue highways was a favorite way to pass the miles.

Thompson to me is honest. Whether you agree with what he writes, or follow his lines of thinking, you always know it came first hand. He instigated what came to be known as “Gonzo Journalism”, where the reporter involves himself in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories. It was this style that made us want to tell our own stories.