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Know the West

Women take the wheel

  In the 1990s, the bumper sticker “Thelma and Louise Live!” sprouted on mini-vans driven by mothers in suburbs across America, proclaiming a craving for a journey beyond the kids’ soccer fields. The 19 women writers who contributed to A Road of Her Own: Women’s Journeys in the West have peeled out of the daily commute, and followed a new path, at least until their wheels got stuck, or their editors and husbands called them home.

This book is not a travel guide. Few of us want to follow Linda Hasselstrom when she meets every lecherous man in Nebraska on a hot summer day, or Kim Barnes as she bottoms out, trying to reach Idaho’s Clearwater River with two whining kids. But these women share the wisdom they gained along the way. Hasselstrom uses the old “I’ve got to get home to my four babies” line to escape harm, and stashes extra cash in her tampon box, the one place in her car she figures men would not dare search.

Other stories break away from the idea that a road trip must involve an engine and headlights. Bharti Kirchner finds inspiration running on San Francisco’s urban streets, and Susan Ewing drives a team of sled dogs in the Yukon.

One closes the book remembering that the road is not the exclusive domain of writers: It is open to all, and the only excuse a person needs is curiosity. Don’t wait until your husband leaves you or your mother gets cancer … go ahead and put the mini-van in “drive.”

A Road of Her Own: Women’s journeys in the West

Edited by Marlene Blessing

211 pages, hardcover: $24.95. Fulcrum Publishing, 2002.