Category Archives: From the Club Chair

The adventures in between. From research to quick jaunts, these are the adventures that don’t require an expedition.

The River of Doubt

The River of Doubt

By Brian K. Brecht

In May of this year we posted about Michael Canfield’s book, “Theodore Roosevelt – In the Field”, where we highlighted our new found exposure to the non-political life of Theodore Roosevelt. Since that reading we’ve continued in our fascination of Teddy and his life outside of the Oval Office.

This time, we found ourselves lost in the 2005 book from Candice Millard titled “The River Doubt”. Where “In the Field” spent most of it’s time in Roosevelt’s pre-presidential life, “River of Doubt” focuses solely on the time after his presidency. In fact, it was the loss of the presidency that eventually turned Roosevelt’s eye toward South American and an “uneventful” speaking tour through the Amazon.

Roosevelt’s 1912 presidential defeat weighted heavily on the now ex-president, and Millard sets up the desire to journey to the Amazon well, emphasizing Roosevelt was “hunkered down” at Sagmore Hill, and “the telephone, which had rung like sleigh-bells all day and half the night, was now silent”. His family was so concerned about his mental state that they dispatched Dr. Alexander Lambert, his physician to pay him a visit.

Eventually an invitation from Argentina’s Museo Social organization, a group of forward-thinking business and political figures, would entice Roosevelt enough to head south for an extended speaking tour. Aside from the soothing of a bruised ego, the trip would also afford him the chance to see his twenty three year old son Kermit.

As the trip plans are made however, opportunities to explore begin to turn a quiet speaking tour (Roosevelt brings his wife and cousin on the trip) into a plan for one last grand adventure, an expedition to map the unexplored River of Doubt, one of the many unmapped tributaries of the great Amazon River.

As with many great adventure or exploration biographies, Millard exposes the plans and preparations for the expedition. Along with specific personalities that were hired for the trip, she unravels a number of variables and poor decisions that led to a number of the difficulties Roosevelt and his team experienced during the trip. In contrast to his African expedition that had impeccable planning, this trip was sorely lacking in expertise and had a plethora of false credentials.

Though not a story that is “stranded and beyond all hope”, its not far off. The team that Roosevelt leads, along with his Brazilian co-commander Colonel Candido Rondon, experience a level of difficulty and extraordinary effort, it’s a wonder how any of them survived. At one point, on what at the time seems like his own death bed, Roosevelt says to his son, and friend George Cherrie “boys, I realize that some of us are not going to finish the journey. …I will stop here.”

The book balances the flaws that existed in Roosevelt, while once again shining a light on the determination and tenacity that was Theodore Roosevelt. A perfect companion to “In the Field”, and an enthralling journey all unto its own.

In The Field


In The Field

By Brian K. Brecht


A birthday present has brought a new perspective on how we see our 26th president. The book “Theodore Roosevelt In the Field” by Michael R. Canfield, highlights the focus Roosevelt had as an outdoorsman and self made naturalist.

Certainly his education, time as a Rough Rider and political life are part of the narrative, but in this telling, they are not the primary focus of the biography. Happily they are there as the backdrop to how and why Roosevelt spent so much time hiking, hunting, and riding through the various wildernesses of the world.

The image of “The Bull Moose” has been ever present when it comes to describing Theodore Roosevelt, but here we see just why that description was so appropriate. It also shows something of the contradiction that existed, if not just for Roosevelt but also the time of the late 1800 and early 1900’s. Something we see even today, the need for conservation, while allowing the hunter and outdoorsman to exist side by side.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the book highlights the notes and journals Roosevelt had written since his youth. Never realizing the volumes of writing he did not only as a naturalist but also as a professional, writing various articles and books for the likes of Scribbners. The book details his handwritten journals and has inspired us to revisiting our own journals from our various travels.

Whether you enjoy presidential history, science and conservations, or tales of the great outdoors, this book is sure to satisfy.

Polar Additions

Two new additions came this week to the GAC library, specifically for the Polar section.

South with Endurance

We continue to be fascinated but the Antarctic explorations of Sir Ernst Shackleton, specifically the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the Endurance.


“South with Endurance” – Frank Hurley

This time however, we’ve been focusing on the expedition photographer, Frank Hurley. Hurley’s images have long fascinated us and we finally purchased our copy of Hurley’s “South with Endurance”.

This title brings to life the story of the Endurance and her crew’s struggle for survival, all through Hurley’s dramatic photographs. It’s a must have for any enthusiast of the Shackleton story.






Alone on the Ice


Next, we recently came across a somewhat unknown Antarctic expedition lead by the Australian, Douglas Mawson. In “Alone on the Ice” by David Roberts, Mawson reveals himself to be every bit a contemporary of Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen, as leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Unfortunately that story has received nowhere near the attention as his fellow explorers. Robert’s book illustrates the desperate struggle for life Mawson finds himself in during the 1913 expedition, all while his fellow crew members prepare to depart from the far south.

A fascinating story on it’s own but also helps to fill in portions of the Antarctic history that surrounds the other great explorations. To our surprise, even heroes such as Frank Hurley and Frank Wild are involved here prior to their journey on the Endurance.

It’s definitely a recommended read for those who enjoy the tales of “the ice keeping what the ice gets”.




By T. Dietz

It’s been several weeks since the last snow fell in the Lake Tahoe region, and with warm temperatures, gliding sports are suffering. Not wanting to be deprived of a little outdoor adventure, I decided to fit my new “skins” to my skis and search out some backcountry terrain with whatever form of snow there might be.

Rose map

Mt Rose Wilderness


If you want to go backcountry skiing or boarding, you’ll likely need to climb (some do it in snowmobiles but they’re missing the good sweat). In an upcoming GAC article, Brian and I chronicle our snowshoeing trek up the Mt. Rose Wilderness. my go to area for “close-to-civilization” backcountry





Skins for skiing have been around for a very long time, thousands of years in fact. Up until the free ride up the mountain by way of a ski lift, snow cat or other means, skiers earned their ride down the hill by first climbing. Historians report that the first skins were indeed skin, namely the skin of seals. The hair growing out of the seal skin, grows out at an angle allowing a smooth glide in one direction but gripping in the other. Think petting a dog in one direction IMG_0091 2 - Version 2where its smooth while petting in the reverse raises the fur. This dual action is the basis of using skins to glide the ski forward but giving it traction when you push against it. Skins can get you up fairly steep grades either directly or by traversing.

The new skins I acquired (fitting to my skis below) from Black Diamond are synthetic – nylon, while some enthusiasts still use mohair (goat hair). The skins are attached to the skis by means of a loop at the front and a hook at the rear. In addition a special, reusable glue is used that holds the skins fast to the skis but comes off fairly easily. Adhesives for skins have been around for over 50 years.

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The photos here show the very straightforward way I prepared my new skins to fit my skis. The process took about 30 minutes. The skins are first cut to length, fittings attached, then trimmed to get good coverage but leaving the ski’s edge accessible to the snow.

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Fitting skins to skis can be done by most ski shops that carry them but with a little patience you can produce a quality fit on your own.




IMG_0135Anxious to test the new skins and absorb some of the grandeur of the Sierra Nevadas, I set out for the Mt. Rose Wilderness. Wanting to get used to the whole process I geared up as if preparing for a much longer trek. To be prepared for more intense expeditions there’s nothing like getting used to your gear in a controlled IMG_0137environment.

Although the staging area was only a short distance from the road, I packed in my gear, skis, poles, etc, an
d then “skinned up” when I was ready to being the climb.









My skis have a backcountry alpine touring (AT) binding
from Marker that can easily transition from alpine skiing to touring with the flip of a lever. The binding allows you to step and pivot freely in a climb. The walking motion is very easy and comfortable especially with my boots set for walking mode.











The pictures from midway up the climb and from where I stopped to transition to downhill don’t do the scenery justice. The 30,000+ acres Mt. Rose Wilderness is named for the highest peak in the Carson Range, the area being wholly situated within Nevada.






From the trailheads near the top of the Mt. Rose Highway I head west. This area is also trafficked by snowmobiles whose tracks you can see in the photos.







This wilderness is a real treat and only 40 minutes from Truckee.   There are deer, black bears, mountain lions,and coyotes among other animals here. Although I wrote this time mostly about the skins and using them, the real motivation is to get out into nature and places that not a lot of others are willing to take the time or energy to get to. The gear is fun but it’s also a means to get to those unique places that can take your breath away.




Adventure Stories – Part 2

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“The Adventure Stories”

~Part Two~

By T. Dietz & Brian K. Brecht

Tom’s List:

There is a very direct correlation to the books I had access to as a kid and young adult , and how they fueled the vast majority of my adventure seeking behaviors, hobbies, and my career.

“Wild Life in South Africa”

securedownload2The very first book that I remember vividly, and still have today (it actually sits on my desk), is “Wild Life in South Africa” by J. Stevenson-Hamilton who at one time carried the title Late Warden, Kruger National Park. The book was first published in 1947 with a second edition in 1950. An illustrated edition followed in 1954, which is the one I possess. It’s worth a few words how I ended up with this book. My mother was an immigrant to the US from Switzerland in the late 1950’s. As a first job she worked for a wonderful family physician, Dr. L Berg. He was a staple in my life for my early years and new of my enthusiasm for collecting insects. I was a born naturalist, enthralled by all sorts of animals. But all I could talk about was Africa, that very mysterious place with incredible animal life. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 when he presented me with his own copy, a gift given to him by who I don’t know in, 1957. I have read this book dozens of times. It is not an adventure in some sense, but for me it was an example of an adventurous life.








Stevenson-Hamilton had published his first version of the book in 1917 when he was the first Park Ranger of South Africa’s main wild life sanctuary, Kruger National Park. It is a factual book about the ecology of Kruger, the natural history of its animals, man’s influence over them, and man’s fortitude to protect them. The book has wonderful maps, photo plates, and descriptions. From when I first read this book to the many times since, I can see Stevenson-Hamilton out in the Park, noting his observations, making sure he is not in peril from predators, and camping in the open bush. The book fueled a lifetime desire to go to Kruger and that dream finally came true in 2009 – several of the stories from that trip will be forthcoming.


“The Silent World” & “The Living Sea”

securedownload4Then there are the two books by one of my favorite adventurers, Captain Jacques Cousteau, “The Silent World”, 1953 and “The Living Sea”, 1963.

The influence on me from these books can be seen in both an early career in Science, my tenure at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, SCUBA diving, and exploration. Cousteau’s undersea adventures are legendary and his respect for the sea extraordinary. I’ll look to write up some of my own underwater adventures as I’ve already touched on some on sea adventures with my GAC write up “Diablos Rojos”.


“Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage”

securedownloadNow Brian has his Shackleton voyage book and I have mine, “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage”, by Alfred Lansing, 1959. This is another book whose pages are well worn from its many years in my active library.

As Brian talks about, Shackleton’s ill-fated trip resulted in one of the greatest known feats of navigation and survival. Antarctic exploration has always fascinated me and like other adventurous places, it’s been on my list. I came close once.

While at the Scripps, a team of us made a request of the National Science Foundation to fund an Antarctic expedition to further my molecular research on animal adaptation to stressful and unusual environments. Unfortunately, Federal funding for this type of trip was waning and the wait seemed too long. In the end, we settled for a warm water collecting adventure in Baja California.



“The Right Stuff”

securedownload5There are many more books by the likes of Hemingway, Roosevelt, Carter, Hillary, Scott etc, that have kindled and kept the thirst for adventure and exploration alive for me, but I will mention one last one, “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe, 1979.

Now this book really came after having already gotten the space exploration bug, as many of my generation had watching the Apollo program, especially Apollo 11.

As like most kids, becoming an astronaut and space explorer was high on my list, and lasted considerably longer than most, as my last application to NASA’s astronaut program was when I turned 46 – a glutton for rejection.

Many of my passions like diving, flying, science etc, had the dual purpose of filling its own desire, but were also pursued to give me the skill sets necessary to become a space explorer. Although that long chapter has many interesting stories, its now closed, but the journey to achieve it has brought incredible adventures.

Whisky Tasting

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“Whisky: Novice or Not”

By Brian K. Brecht and T. Dietz



"the finishing toast" The closing tradition

“the finishing toast”
The closing tradition

As we plan each adventure, two things have become clear.

First, in the GAC, we want to enjoy our experiences with a wider range of devotees. And second….. we really like whisky. It is in fact how we finish each of our adventures.

Tom and I found our fondness for whisky over time, and we’ve both settled on what we like and don’t like. So as whisky drinkers, we wanted to share our enthusiasm with our GAC friends. We realized we had some members that had some, little or even no exposure to whisky at all. And in discussing how to share our fondness without prejudicing your intended audience, it led us to the idea of hosting our own whisky tasting event.

In order to give our guests the full range of characteristics to the spirit, we took a broad approach, choosing to not steer toward just single malts or whiskies from a particular region. Our goal was to not bias the experience so instead of a deep dive into scotch, or jumping on the current Bourbon bandwagon, we’d start with comparing all the variations to better understand why one differs from another. In fact the deeper we went into the subject; we found things that even we weren’t familiar with. That peaked our interest.

The impetuous for the evening came from a similar conversation with newly indoctrinated GAC member Yves Metraux. After my discussion wit Yves we decided this was to be Whisky(ey)…… whether you were a novice, or not.


After some deliberation we settled on four specific variants, Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, and Rye. From there we picked two varieties of each. We hoped to find similarities in candidates, but also examples that might highlight the wide range between the two selections. Why we didn’t include Canadian Whiskey I’m really not sure, but it just didn’t seem to ring true for us. No offense Canada.

Interestingly enough, though we were planning for only those four types, as guests arrived we wound up with (what we called), the extra credit table. Here were brought other representations such as another high-end highland Scotch, a Tennessee whiskey, and a Japanese whiskey. So to give you the full picture, our menu was cast as follows:

our menu

our menu


The MaCallan (Speyside) – 10-year fine oak

Adberg (Islay) – 10-year-old single malt


Jameson – 12-Year-old 1780

Tullamore Dew – 12-year-old reserve


Knob Creek

Bulleit Bourbon

Rye Whiskey

Bulleit Rye

High West Double Rye

Extra Credit

Stronachie (Highland) – 12 year Single Malt

Gentleman Jack – Tennessee Whiskey

The Hakushu – 12 year single malt Japanese whiskey

From here it was all about planning the event and how we wanted to present our spirits. One of the first things we realized was that food would be a priority. Laying out our eight to twelve whiskeys, we realized we’d need a solid base for it all to sit on. We did something of a potluck but steered the courses to savory full flavor choices such as Tri-Tip, marinade peppers and olives, a ranges of heavy cheese and a mixed green salad in balsamic dressing.


the tasting cards

the tasting cards

We wanted to showcase all the variants at their finest. Again not wanting to slant toward any of the various brands, we pulled highlights and tasting notes from a variety of sources, and rolled them into tasting cards of our own so that it might entice our guests to each selection. We wanted them to find all the positive tastes, characteristics, flavors and aromas each had to offer.

Finally the glasses. We had hopes of each guest leaving with a souvenir Glencairn tasting glass, but at $10+ a piece that just wasn’t going to happen. In the end it was really about first exposure, so at my local liquor store, I found a great prepackage tasting kit that included small rocks glasses, tasting note cards and even maps of the various whisky regions. Getting a little pre-made prep didn’t hurt the experience.


the presentation


For the purpose of this article, we won’t delve into the specific tastings of each bottle. There are plenty of sites that one can dig into the characteristics and subtle hints in each small dram. The purpose here is to highlight the idea that you don’t have to drink beer, wine or any spirit in any certain way. Our event was to bring like-minded friends together and explore something we each had different exposures to. For us this would be no rules whisky. If you like ice, then put it over ice, like it neat, that’s fine too. A little water, no problem, for us it was really finding what our guests would like and why. Taste, color, and of course the experience were all, vital to how we enjoyed the spirit.

All of us had different experiences with the various whiskeys. For myself, I found I still love Irish whiskey, and I still can’t drink Rye. Others found that specific Scotch they either love or hated. And some, found whiskey wasn’t their thing at all. But by the end of the evening, it became clear there were three bottles that were everyone’s favorite. For our event the general winners were The MaCallan, The Gentleman Jack, and The Tullamore Dew.

the winners

the winners

Here are some of the fun quotes I remember from that night.

Regarding the Ardbeg 12: Who served my drink in an ashtray?!

Regarding the Bulleit Rye: “It tastes like a red hot candy!”

Regarding the Hakushu: “They managed to make a whiskey that tastes like Japan”

Regarding whiskey in general: “Had a great night, but I think I’ll stick to wine……. and heroin.!”

Regarding the evening overall: “I would highly recommend the whisky tasting adventure.  It goes well with a padded carpeted floor and no sharp objects.”

And finally: “I like both the scotch and the rye… Just not in the same room!”

IMG_2242In the end we knew we had a successful evening when all of us, now having experimented with all 12 variations, each grabbed a glass of our favorite and found ourselves laughing, joking, and sharing adventure stories in the back yard among the stars. This is indeed what we had a hoped, and aside from the wonderful benefits we find in this particular spirit, in the end, it was the camaraderie of friends that we found truly meaningful.

Until our next adventure,


The Long Lost Club

The Adventurer’s Club

Continuing the hunt for all things GAC, we came across stories regarding “The Adventurer’s Club”, a themed nightclub in the Pleasure Island section of the Walt Disney World resort in Florida.


entrance to “The Adventurer’s Club”

Set in the year 1937, the “Adventurer’s Club” was fashioned after a private venue for world explorers. The walls boasted trophies and photos from various explorations, and a cast of characters filtered through, interacting and entertaining club patrons.

The club and its fictitious backstory, was created by the incredibly talented team of Disney Imagineers. Opening in May of 1989 until December 31st of 2005, every night was New Years Eve, and the shows and conversations were fraught with innuendo and silliness.

concept art

concept art

Over the years the club created quite a following with former patrons and fans rallying behind petitions to keep the club open when Disney announced it’s closure during the revamping of the Pleasure Island resort.

No more would greetings of “Kungaloosh” be heard, or would club salutes be given. In the end, Disney closed the club, and it’s artifacts and relics were disbursed amongst other Disney attritions. Some of these have taken on cult like status and are sought after as if priceless artifacts themselves.

Scrolling through the old photos, it’s evident; plenty of folks like us look for the feeling of adventure and the age of exploration.

We admit to being somewhat envious of this one time creation. There are elements here we’ve often thought about for our own libraries or a GAC lodge.IMG_1737

I’m sure we’d look for a less comical Disney flare, but nonetheless, a fun piece of adventuring history, even if it was all in jest.

As a final note, you can’ help but love the club motto:

“Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you, but always dress for the hunt!”

The Club

The Club

Adventure Stories

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“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…

Brian —

“On The Road”


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

“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”

Fear and Loathing

Fear and Loathing

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.

As I said, perhaps Thompson was less about an adventure and more about how we wanted to live our own adventures. Perhaps not as drunk or substance fueled, but honest, without compromise, and true to the world around us.

Recently Rico sent me a copy of “The Rum Diaries” and I found it to be another fitting inspiration if we ever find ourselves “on the road’ in San Juan, or the like.


“The Endurance”


The Endurance

By 1996 my career brought me to Northern California and my yearly road trips took a serious hiatus. But even with that, my connection to the Chicago boys remained tight as ever. In 1998, it was the book “The Endurance” by Caroline Alexander, which would take the adventurous fascinations of Rick and I to a completely new level.

The story of Ernest Shackelton and the ill-fate Endurance is well known, and for me it was this book that brought that harrowing experience to life. Never one to think that arctic exploration would be appealing, the stories of Shackelton and his crew became enthralling and soon Rick and I where discussing all aspects of the journey. Not just Shackelton, but the stalwart members of his crew as well.

Rick has always gravitated toward Tom Crean, second officer and stoic companion, I on the other hand; I’m fascinated with the work of Frank Hurley, the expedition photographer. The achievement to film and photograph the expedition was, by itself, spectacular, but when brought in line with the quality of the images he created, this becomes staggering. It continues to serve as inspiration to me personally, my career and my long-term film making goals, each time I revisit this story. Considering the breathtaking images he was able to save and return from The Endurance, it makes me wonder, what awe-inspiring images lay gone under the Weddell Sea.

It was this story that instilled in me the yearning for the age of discovery and the stories that came from that time.

Alexander’s book was, if you’ll pardon the expression, just the tip of the iceberg. Having sparked our interest, we soon branched off to Robert Scott’s diaries of his doomed Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole, Shackelton’s own telling of his Endurance story entitled “South”, Alfred Lansing’s book “Endurance”, and a collection of other arctic expeditions in Fergus Fleming’s book “Nintey Degrees North”. Those among other polar adventures have filled my bookshelves ever since.


“Travels with Charley”


Travels with Charley

Years go by and my bookshelf continued to fill with the various offshoots from the foundational books being mentioned here. But there was a time when I found refuge in a numbers of stories that would transport me, at least for a moment, to another place. In some cases, following individuals who were looking for answers of their own.

We have mentioned, “Travels with Charley” before and if any book gave birth to the GAC, I think we could safely say this was it.

In early 1998 I met a new friend in Tom Dietz who, like only the boys from Chicago, would I one day feel was more brother than friend. It has been that friendship which solidified the GAC and what we both, Tom and I, have come to feel as our next step in life.

“Travels with Charley” was my first exposure to John Steinbeck, but certainly not my last. Following his drive around the country in the early 1960’s, the book reawakened in me, that desire to seek the back roads and the personal communication one only finds face to face. To step outside of your own circle and explore what is around you, whether a simple talk over coffee, sharing a meal, or resting beside a campfire.

Following Steinbeck’s effortless writing, you are transported into his story and could easily be riding with him in Rocinante. When Tom and I discovered that Rocinante existed and was in tact in the Steinbeck museum in Salinas, it stepped us off on a path neither was expecting, but now could never turn from.

Since “Travels with Charley”, I’ve set a goal to read “Cannery Row”, and Tom has branched off and read “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”. In doing so, he found some local history in Monterey that I’ll will let him expand on in his list.


“Long Way Round”

Long Way Round

Long Way Round

One complaint Tom, Rick and I have all discussed was the seemingly lack of exploration and adventure going on in the modern day. Perhaps not completely accurate, the flood of “at the moment” access to information seems to minimize some of the adventures actually happening.

That was until I was turned on to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s story in “Long Way Round”.

The story was actually brought to my attention by a co-worker and motorcycle enthusiast, and it was the documentary that captivated Tom and I so much. But the book, published after the film series was complete, told the same story with added personal detail the TV series couldn’t fit in. The book was a back and forth telling from both Ewan and Charlie, each providing their own perspectives, sometimes in completely opposite ways.

It was this style that Tom and I feel into when we wrote our first article about our Steinbeck trip. So not only was the story itself inspirational, but the book offered us a kind of language we would lean on to tell our own stories going forward.


“Green Hills of Africa”

Green Hills of Africa

Green Hills of Africa

It’s interesting how one book or story will feed into another. Having read Kerouac, Thompson and now Steinbeck, my mind wandered and I thought, it’s time to read some of the other classic authors, if only to say I had. The name that easily came to mind was Hemingway. I had never read anything by Ernest Hemingway but little did I know, my delving into that author would incite a whole new passion for stories and adventure.

There can be no doubt the good and the bad that is Ernest Hemingway. But as men, he elicits an image and passion we all think we want (and to some degree, really crave). Even reading Kerouac’s “On The Road”, Sal Paradise a budding writer, talks about Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa” as being the pinnacle of it’s day. Something he too should strive for.

Whether it’s Cuba, Paris, Florida, or Africa, Hemingway’s efficiency of words drew me in and I have never been the same. He paints and easy picture your mind willingly follows, but also the conversations flow so simply that you can’t help be feel they’re real. You’re sitting in the hot savannah sun, waiting for your tea or whiskey, debating whether to take a bath or not, listening to he and P.O.M. discuss the day’s hunt.

This is a book that has transformed how I write and instilled in me a desire to tell the stories I want to tell from my own adventures. Perhaps some day I too can be under a canvas tent, in the African wilds.

Reading “Green Hills of Africa” launched me into other Hemingway books such as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “A Farewell to Arms”, and “A Moveable Feast”, the later inspiring a dinner party Tom and I hosted that we’ll have to write about in a future post.

For Tom D., Tom C., Rick and I, “Pappa” (Hemingway) has become a cornerstone in our literary journeys.


“The Last Gentleman Adventurer”

Last Gentleman Adventurer

Last Gentleman Adventurer

So we find ourselves at the end, with one last book to highlight, if for no other reason than the name.

I joked with coworkers one night, when asked what title I’d like on my business card, I responded quickly “Gentleman Adventurer”. That was it, the idea stuck in my head for all times.

Tom and I have beat this idea back and forth for years but finally something started to take shape when the Steinbeck plans came together. Tom’s first write up of our day’s events was the push we needed.

As we dug into all things “internet” we realized, though you always think you’ve had the idea first, there were plenty of “Gentleman Adventurers”. Even more so, the term Gentleman Adventurer was the moniker use to describe the company incorporated by Charles II in 1670 as the ‘Gentleman Adventurers trading into Hudson’s Bay’ and led by Prince Rupert, all later to be simply called, The Hudson’s Bay Company.

Recounting his experience starting in 1930, Edward Beauclerk Maurice, a young boy of seventeen, applies and is accepted into employment by The Hudson’s Bay Company, for a five-year term of employment in the Arctic trading posts. This is more from financial need and less about a desire for exploration, but his story quickly pulls you into his experience of living and interacting with the native Inuit people. The refreshing perspective he provides illustrates how Maurice intertwined himself not only in the activities of the population, but personally and deeply within the culture of “the people”.

But why this book? It was the name at the beginning for sure. But the comical event of Tom, saying to me, “Oh hey I have that book!” solidified for us that somehow we were on the right track.

The book appeared on my front porch one Sunday morning and I’m finally getting around to reading it. It’s wonderful. Well written and ironically another polar adventure, so right up my alley.

But more importantly, what it reminded me is where this idea of The Gentleman Adventurer has come from. Yes my friends and I all have some amount of wanderlust and the historical expeditions have always provided large amounts of fascination. But never forgetting the adventures with comrades who share your passion is what makes these adventures really worth living. Its what we hope the GAC is all about.


In Part Two of our article, Tom highlights the books from his collection, rounding out all of our “Adventure Stories”.