Circumnavigating the Globe

At least in literature, adventure often surprises the least adventurous and the most unsuspecting people in their ordinary lives, dragging them off and away to save the world, to do daring deeds, or to travel the world in eighty days.  And that is exactly what happens to rich, gentlemanly Phileas Fogg, a man who does the same thing every day for years, until one day.  In Around the World in Eighty Days, author Jules Verne spins an extraordinary tale of how Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout cast Fogg’s life of routine out the window and embark on a trip to circle the globe in eighty days.

The adventure begins in an unsuspecting manner.  Phileas Fogg is dwelling in late nineteenth century England and, as usual, goes to his club.  However, when Fogg tells his friends at the club of a newspaper article which states that, thanks to the modern transportation system, the entire world can be crossed in eighty days, his friends deny the article’s accuracy.  Fogg says that the feat can be done and enters into a wager with them, promptly setting out from England with Passepartout to prove them wrong at the risk of £20,000 (for the curious, approximately $650,000 by today’s standards).  Without any forewarning, the unadventurous pair find themselves thrown into a journey through exotic countries full of dangerous people and treacherous paths.  And to top it all off, they are being secretly trailed by Detective Fix of Scotland Yard who suspects Fogg of being a bank robber.

Without Phileas Fogg as its main character, Around the World in Eighty Days would be an entirely different book, for Fogg is most unusual.  First of all, he is very honorable and sticks up for his views, no matter what the risk to himself or his fortune—hence the wager with his friends and the venture around the world.  In addition, Fogg is timely and very particular, but the best aspect of his character is that, beneath the indifferent and meticulous outside, hides a good, generous heart.  One of the few characters who delves deeply enough to discover this heart is Passepartout, Fogg’s French valet.  When he enters Fogg’s service, Passepartout thinks he has found the ideal master and is ready to settle down in a quiet, well-ordered life.  Consequently, the journey around the world, which begins the very day Passepartout starts working for Fogg, delivers quite a blow to Passepartout’s ideas of an easy life.  Passepartout is a likeable man who makes friends easily but is also careless and absentminded at times.  After resigning himself to the hectic journey his master is dragging him on, Passepartout eventually realizes that he is enjoying himself and that perhaps a quiet life can wait for the moment.  The story’s third character is Detective Fix, and he is determined to apprehend “guilty” Phileas Fogg.  However, this requires Fix to tag along with Fogg around the world, and Fix finds himself participating in many of Fogg’s and Passepartout’s adventures.

Van Gool's Around the WorldAround the World in Eighty Days is a delightful adventure story.  Tagging alongside the main characters as they traverse Europe, India, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, America, and the Atlantic is a fun pursuit, and Verne’s book is a well-woven tale that has certainly earned its position as a classic in the library of fiction.

P.S. A fun version for children that has forever shaped how I imagine Vernes’ characters is Van Gool’s adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days (see picture on left).  The illustrations are  engaging, and I would highly recommend it for kids!  I loved it as a little girl and still feel nostalgic just thinking about it.

Winter Storm Warning

We had been out hiking for most of the day, and it seemed like the snow kept falling harder. Starting in the morning, we had set out on a hike up the east side of Mt. Elden, a mountain settled slightly northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. The trail was called Fatman’s Loop and led up the mountain in a circuitous fashion. Rocks, shrubs, and trees dotted the upward slope as we hiked.

At one point the trail thinned out, and we began to notice a large number of deer droppings in our path. After walking a few minutes more, we realized that we had lost ourselves on a deer trail. The trail eventually looped back, however, and we found ourselves again on the main trail. Wasted time, but we weren’t lost.


Google’s weather forecast had been calling for a winter storm to pass through Flagstaff starting at 11am that Monday–predicting 8-10 inches of snow over the next day. On Sunday afternoon, concerned that our tent-camping expedition might not be able to handle such a large amount of snow, we walked by the KOA office to get some wisdom.

“Yeah, the weather people keep saying there’s gonna be less and less snow,” said the man at the desk. “It’s probably not gonna be too bad.”

I said I heard there were going to eight to ten inches. “Yeah, from looking at the radar, I wouldn’t expect it to be that bad,” the man said. “You should be fine.”

Because of this assurance, we had decided to stay one more day in Flagstaff, for one more hike.


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Reaching a rocky outcropping, I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo. It was beautiful, misty, quiet. I was insistent that we hike as far as we could, so when we reached the Elden Lookout trailhead, we took that turn and continued up. With snow falling steadily but lightly, we had to watch our steps. “Three points of contact!” Sammy said matter-of-factly.

Pulling my phone out again, I discovered it was dead. Freezing temperatures played games with my phone battery–it had been fully charged only an hour or two before. I had forgotten to keep my phone in my pocket and had instead put it in my backpack. When pressed against my leg in my pocket, the phone tended to last longer, bolstered by the warmth of my body. Surrounded by cold, it quickly died.

“Sammy, your phone still has battery?” I asked.

“Yeah, for sure,” said Sammy. We decided that if his phone died too, we would turn around–our hike wasn’t especially dangerous, but we didn’t want to take any chances.

We stopped and ate lunch–PB&J’s and chips–and then kept climbing. The mountain reminded my nerd-mind of the Fellowship attempting to cross the Misty Mountains in The Fellowship of the Ring. It was snowy, and the rocks were snowy, and there was ice in places. The only thing missing was “a fell voice on the wind.”

We decided to turn around.

Getting down, I discovered, was trickier than I expected. Sammy slipped a couple times on the rocks as we descended. “Careful,” I would say each time, before slipping myself and sitting down hard with a thud. My self-righteousness vanished, and we continued down, carefully, one step at a time.

Reaching our car at the base of the trail, we climbed in and headed for town. It was snowing more heavily now from a cloudy, bright sky. We stopped at the Flagstaff post office and mailed off some postcards to family, then headed for a nearby coffee shop.

It was a small, cozy establishment–the White Dove–and just what we needed. I pulled out the book I was reading (a book by Kevin DeYoung on the Heidelberg Catechism) and read for a bit while sipping coffee and letting my phone charge. We were both thankful for the warmth–something we hadn’t had much of recently. It was a welcome reprieve from being almost constantly in weather hovering around freezing.

Eventually, we decided it was time to head back to camp. The car had been covered in a fine layer of snow, so we had to dust off the windshield before driving back.

At the camp, we walked to the main office first, and I shot a video journal entry with my phone on the way–we had been keeping a video log of our trip, and with all the snow falling and a winter storm warning, I figured it was a good opportunity for an update.

When we returned to our tent, it had collapsed. The weight of the snow had twisted it down into a pile. Shaking the snow off, we set it upright once again.

In an orderly fashion, we got out the campstove and made dinner–instant mac & cheese combined with a couple cans of chili–voila, chil-mac! When it was ready, we wolfed it down. Then, after washing the pot, cleaning up, and stowing our cooking gear back in the car, we got in our tent.

“What the–” said Sammy, feeling around the inside edge of the tent where he kept his towel and some clothes. “Everythings soaked.” His pillow was soaked too.

Throughout the day, the snow had melted and crept in around the edges of the tarp we laid down. The moment was sobering for us–we were prepared for a cold night, but we hadn’t counted on the moisture. At least our sleeping bags were waterproof.

“Here, Sammy,” I said. “Let’s move our sleeping bags and other stuff towards the center of the tent. That way if more snow leaks in during the night nothing else will get wet.” After more discussion, that’s what we did. There wasn’t anything to be done about Sammy’s soaked pillow, but we were at least a little more comfortable.

Sammy looked up the weather forecast for Utah–our next stop. It was supposed to be clear and warm(er) there. We talked excitedly about how we were going to get up in the morning, load up, and drive out of Flagstaff. From hearing us talk, you’d think Utah was the Promised Land–the thought of getting away from all the bad weather made Utah sound positively idyllic. Utah had better be nicer, or we’ll just go home, I thought to myself.

As we lay there, snow falling, a dull light from a nearby lightpost illuminating the skin of the tent, I could see snow piling up above me. It got heavier, and as the minutes ticked by the two supports of the tent began to twist. Sammy and I took turns reaching up and giving the tent a shake to dislodge the snow. It was a game for me, watching the snow pile up and guessing the point at which the tent would start to collapse.

The snow we knocked down collected at the sides of the tent and caused the sides of the tent next to our sleeping bags to lean in on us–a cold, wet kiss if I swung my head the wrong way. I pushed through the tent on my side, scooting the snow back and creating a little box.

The game of keeping the snow away continued most of the night. I woke once to see the tent frame slowly twist, then twist some more. I popped out of my bag just in time to keep it from falling on us. The commotion woke Sammy, and I explained in guttural, half-awake tones what had happened as I rolled over and attempted to sleep some more.

The morning came quickly, and we were up with the dawn. After a brief discussion, we decided to go find the laundromat and dry out some of our gear. I checked my phone and saw a message from my mom–a picture of the king cake she had made and the words “Happy Mardi Gras.” It was Mardi Gras–I’d completely forgotten!

Unzipping the tent door, we were greeted by a lovely site–the world a giant open-faced ice cream sandwich. Over 10 inches of snow lay on the ground–maybe more.

Hopping over to the laundromat, I matched my steps to Sammy’s footprints to keep from collecting snow on my boots–like one of those Tusken raiders from Star Wars. We used all of Sammy’s quarters to dry a few loads. Then, after a breakfast of oatmeal, we set about getting past the next hurdle: driving out. A KOA employee with a front-end loader equipped with a snowplow had been out that morning clearing the main paths of the campground, but there was still a large pileup of snow directly behind my car, between it and the main path. We went to the main office and asked if we could borrow a snowshovel, so the office sent a man to help us. Walking back to our car, we passed the front-end loader making its rounds. The driver opened the cab and stuck his head out.

“Y’all are from Louisiana,” he said loudly. “You should be home celebrating Mardi Gras right now!”

We laughed, and I told him about the picture of the king cake my mom sent earlier that morning.

“You’re crazy!” he said.

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Back at the car, the man with the snowshovel took one look at the pileup and decided to call for backup, so soon we had the front-end loader swipe our area, clearing most of the snow.

“Just start backing up,” the man with the snowshovel said. “And if you get going, don’t stop.”

After a first attempt that ended in snowy wheelspin, I pulled forward, and backed up once again, keeping pressure on the pedal. The car burst free onto the path, and we were clear.

Getting on the interstate and heading west, we were delighted to see the weather clear up and become beautiful once again.

Outlaws of Time

Sam Miracle’s life has always been unusual.  He lives in a foster home in the Arizona desert with 11 other boys, has unbendable arms due to an accident he doesn’t recall, and experiences powerful daydreams in which he always dies.  Life only gets stranger when he learns his daydreams are true and only a time-traveling priest has kept Sam from being destroyed by the villain Sam is destined to stop.  Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle by N. D. Wilson is a Wild West fantasy mixed with plenty of time travel and adventure.

Although the story contains scenarios similar to other time travel stories, such as the villain going back in time to kill a younger version of Sam (The Terminator) and Sam repeating events in his life over and over again so he can find a way to succeed (Edge of Tomorrow), the story is very unique, and even the parts which are reminiscent of other time travel stories have many differences.

outlaws-of-timeThe team of friends, old and new, that joins Sam to protect him and help him beat his nemesis “El Buitre” is a motley cast of characters.  At first, Sam’s “Ranch Brothers” from the foster home just look after him and find him when he wanders off into the desert during his daydreams, but when an outlaw comes to kill Sam, the foster boys are prepared to stop him so their friend can escape.  Gloria, or “Glory” as Sam dubs her, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Spalding, who run the foster home St. Anthony of the Desert Destitute Youth Ranch.  Glory proves a steadfast and brave friend, ready to take on time travel, villains, and whatever other surprises await her and Sam.  Father Atsa Tiempo is a mysterious character who can travel through time.  He is Sam’s oldest friend, and his mission is to keep Sam alive so Sam can kill El Buitre, an outlaw who can control time like Father Tiempo and plans to use this power to conquer the world.

Sam, as the only person who can stop El Buitre, is caught right in the middle of all the dangerous, twisting action.  Sam’s friends are ready to sacrifice themselves over and over for him, but Sam doesn’t want to keep running away to live to fight another day.  Will he ever be quick enough to stop the Vulture?  Will he ever live to try?  How many of the people Sam cares about is he willing to lose along the way?

N. D. Wilson has written another novel that will take readers on a wild ride, not through Henry’s Kansas from 100 Cupboards or Charlie’s swamps from Boys of Blur, but through the deserts, cacti, and danger of the untamed American west.