One of the best adventure books I’ve ever read.
In 2017, Gates ran 3,700 miles across the United States of America from South Carolina to San Francisco, meeting the most extraordinarily ordinary people, trying to understand the divided America, and putting together the story of the people who live there.
Cross Country not only shows you that you don’t have to climb mountains to make it hard, it also shows you how little you might know of your own home, even if you criss-crossed it in your car through and through. In his book, Rickey Gates sings a beautiful ode to foot travel, going slowly one step after the other and taking in everything the roads, trails, and rivers have to offer.
Complete with beautiful photography, this book is a piece of art, a collection of loving people and welcoming places, while keeping it real (cue a collection of photos of needles thrown on the sides of roads and in the grass on old playgrounds, or the gallery of roadkills).
This is what I value the most about Gates’ writing and photography: he shared it all; the good, the bad, the ugly. He didn’t pretend that the journey was filled only with pretty running and friendly people and comfy sleeping spots under the starry skies. He didn’t write in a flowery language that would describe an etheral sunset over the mountains; he wrote in a simple yet beautiful way, describing the last rays of the sun, noting the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, and sharing the misery of sleeping in the rain and treating his blistered feet.
As a reader, I trust fully that he was honest in his recounting of the journey, and this is a part of why Cross Country is now one of my favourite books. In every adventure book, I look for this sense of trust, the belief that the author isn’t glorifying their journey, that what they’re describing is exactly how they felt at the time of their voluntary trial.
Gates gives his readers this exact sense of trust needed in order to fully enjoy a recounting of an adventurer’s journey, and this is what makes Cross Country one of the best adventure books to exist nowadays.