A free-spirited Army veteran tours Southeast Asia to honor fallen Vietnam War soldiers in this debut memoir.
In 2008, avid motorcyclist and writer Rinowski began what would become an epic, life-changing, four-year solo pilgrimage across Vietnam to commemorate the American soldiers who died in the war. With an entertaining blend of vivid details and congenial prose, the Minnesota-born author traces a particular affinity for adventurous road trips back to his youth, when lifelong appreciations for “the spirit of freedom, the good nature in people, and the Harley Davidson” began, enduring to this day. Purchasing his first bike in 1975 was just the beginning of a series of free-wheeling expeditions and escapades that broadened his respect for human kindness, created new and cherished memories to share, and satisfied his wanderlust. The book is chockablock with entertaining anecdotes about his struggles after losing a job, selling his bike, and trying to recapture a sense of the life he had before his employment woes settled in. He recounts stories of a 1997 move to the Far East, where he searched for opportunities and personal enrichment but ultimately felt life in China overwhelmed him. He fell ill with meningitis while in Hong Kong, then spontaneously accepted a family member’s offer of money to buy another motorcycle and start again. The author writes lucidly about a 2008 project management job constructing golf courses in Hanoi that sadly ended yet inspired him to realize a long-held goal of trekking unencumbered across Vietnam.
Traversing over 40,000 miles around Vietnam—visiting now-familiar sights, village families, and stretches of roadway—Rinowski realized that the most important aspect of his travels was not the destination but the journey itself. “Chance, fortune, and curiosity led me more than an itinerary,” he writes poetically. “I immersed in each with bliss and joy.” Through oppressive heat, chilling drizzles, and chronic lower back pain, the author persevered and enjoyed the motorcycle odyssey while garnering quite a reputation for his renowned “Fat Boy” bike. Rinowski’s sense of place is astoundingly striking, and readers will be able to visualize the many locales through prose that shimmers with authenticity and frank descriptions. Despite a language barrier that he worked hard to surmount and warnings to be wary of riding alone, the author soldiered on, and his wonderment at the people and places he saw is palpable in the pages of his engrossing memoir. From sweltering summers in Hanoi to Vietnam’s Dak Lak mountains to hairpin turns descending toward the Lamayuru Buddhist colony in India, his travels are breathless and exhilarating yet also poignant, as when he returns to American soil in 2013 to pay tribute at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Several sections of gorgeous, uncredited color photographs not only bring Rinowski’s expansive trip to vibrant life, but also spotlight the many people (of various ages and ethnicities) he befriended along the way. Suffused with immense pride and self-confidence, the author exhibits great daring and vigor within a rousing travelogue that’s appealing, historically astute, crisply written, and a terrific guide on how to cover long distances by motorcycle. The book is ideal for armchair adventurers, travel enthusiasts, and members of the military.
An impressively detailed, spunky thrill ride steeped in wanderlust, renewal, and the excitement of the great outdoors.