Travel Adventure Book
Review - April 16, 2009
Douglas Jewell, the author of Roadtrip, has written an honest and riveting story about the adventures of his extraordinary life. Although an excellent student, this Baby Boomer decided early in his youth not to settle for a conventional lifestyle but to spend his time on earth living his every day to the fullest. It is obvious that he plans to wear out from usage rather than simply allowing time to take its bodily toll without challenges. When Mr. Jewell was twenty, he created a unique, and I think enviable, list of ten goals he wanted to accomplish during his lifetime. At the age of 57, after earning the status of being an expert hitchhiker, he has accomplished eight of these goals, living a lifestyle that many readers of today might find unnerving, dangerous, and plain unacceptable. However, as these readers become engrossed in his story, regardless of the dangers encountered and the sacrifices required, many will be murmuring, "I wish this could have been me." Why?
Mr. Jewell is an excellent storyteller, and his description of the places he visits and the characters he meets is vivid, colorful, educational and entertaining. I found myself smiling at some of the more humorous adventures while swallowing back my fears when he faced danger.
In this non-fiction adventure book, the author shares experiences that he encountered during three hitchhiking trips. The first coast to coast and return trip occurred in 1976, and the second in 1995. In between, during 1989-90, he made a solo trip to the U. S. Virgin Islands.
Although all three stories are excellent, I think I most enjoyed the first one in which the author was accompanied by his wife Mel and Osah, their mixed-shepherd dog. Visualizing this trio waiting for the "right" ride, I wonder if my husband and I would have stopped to pick them up. They made up their own safety rules which readers see put into effect more than once. In reality, the bad characters numbered only a few; most of their drivers were good people who often bought meals for them, provided great conversation, and sometimes even lodging. One woman, whom the author describes so effectively, even gave them a trailer to live in for a time in return for Douglas doing some chores while her husband was stationed at a naval base. This occurred in Wonder, Oregon and was where their daughter Amber was born. She was their first child. Soon afterward they returned to New England in their 57 Chevy station wagon where they purchased a cabin in Maine on five acres of land. They had a second child - a son named Mycah.
Each "thumbing" experience introduces readers to characters that they will take to heart. I was amazed how the right people seemed to come into the author's life just when he needed them. After he and Mel divorced, he made his solo trip to the Virgin Islands where he quickly made friends and shared a house with another construction worker. This trip occurred right after the devastation of Hurricane Hugo so there was plenty of work available. Though a bit of a culture shock, Douglas quickly found work, took pleasure in the sightseeing, and leisurely explored bars and restaurants. He particularly enjoyed the beach and crystal clear water. It was a true paradise; however, one filled with a few glimpses of darkness relating to crime, alcohol, and drug abuse, something he surmised was partially brought on by the fact that many of the men were unemployed. He stayed six months before he decided to return home to New Jersey and to a special friend who had become very important to him - her name was Joyce whom he would marry six years later; she would be his lifetime mate. Finding her had been on his list of goals that he had made years earlier. As for his return trip, readers must buy this book to read about the fateful adventure which was anything but ordinary and guaranteed to hold their interest.
In 1995, at the age of forty-three, Douglas Jewell made his second coast to coast hitchhiking trip, lightheartedly telling his friends this solo trip was his answer to a midlife crisis. He knew Joyce would understand because she understood him. Again, he met many interesting characters. Among the most impressionable was Johannes, an intriguing and friendly man from Africa. Douglas spent an adventurous four days with him as they drove through parts of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Though the author had intended to spend the summer hitchhiking and doing farm work in the west, a harrowing experience in which he was trapped in a mountainous box canyon changed his plans. This change occurred on the 52nd day of his journey. By hitching and traveling by bus he was soon on his way back home to New Jersey...and to his beloved Joyce. Though his physical body had taken a beating, I had the definite feeling that this rugged outdoorsman with the adventurous spirit would have done the same thing all over again, even knowing the outcome.
I haven't mentioned the variety of unique jobs Douglas held during his hitchhiking years; however, they are entwined within the storytelling as are many interesting subplots. Read this book and gain some understanding of the freedom that the author reveled in by refusing to be hemmed in by geographical boundaries and following the traditional "nine to five" crowd. I recommend this book, not only to Baby Boomers, but every generation that wants to share in the excitement of the journeys traveled by Douglas Jewell.
Bettie Corbin Tucker
For Independent Book Reviewers
Review - July 1, 2009
A boomer goes on the road - again, and again...
Douglas Jewell used to be the Herald's sports editor.
He used to be a PGA caddie.
He used to be a dairy farmer.
He used to be a play-by-play announcer.
To save time and space, let me skip his other professions and pastimes and suggest you read his recently published book, Roadtrip: A Baby Boomer's Misadventures in Hitchhiking and Other Unconventional Travel.
The book is a catalog of his three hitchhiking trips to various points in the U.S. taken over a period of 20 years. The first trip, begun in 1976 at age 25 lasted two months - and he was not alone.
"My wife at the time, and our dog, took off from southern California (and 8,000 miles later) we ended up in Oregon," Jewell said in a recent telephone interview. "I just knew we would stop wherever destiny took us."
It took them to the rather curiously named "Rattlesnake Ranch," where they settled for the next several months. Eventually, Jewell established himself as a dairy farmer and lived the next two years dutifully milking cows.
But that was just another stint of on-the-job training.
"I had this yearning to live as many lifetimes as I could in one life," he said.
Jewell was to squeeze many of those lives into that trip, and two more hitchhiking sojourns, spread over the next 18 years, with the second trip in 1989, and the third (and he vows last) in 1994.
"People asked me why I did it (the 1994 trip)," he said, "and I got them off my back by simply stating, 'mid-life crisis.'"
But in actuality, Jewell seemed to get disappointed with people when he would settle into a profession or more traditional lifestyle.
"In 1994 I owned a newspaper - the Sports Tribune," he said. "But I closed the paper; I had had enough of people. I sat on the Delaware Bay in Villas one day and thought about it. Then I looked west. That was it!"
So, firmly ensconced in middle age, he began an 8,000-mile trip across the country.
"The ground is a lot harder at age 44 than it is at 25," he said.
During that trip, he got trapped in a box canyon, and broke four ribs in a landslide.
"I came back with my body broken, but my spirit refreshed," he admitted.
In between his first and third adventures, he hitched -at age 38 - from Cape May to North Carolina, where he caught a (ride on a yacht) toward the Virgin Islands and worked as a foreman on a construction crew for eight months.
Throughout these trips, Jewell kept a journal - quite a few journals.
"I filled about six notebooks," he said. I would write every day. I had to learn to write by the side of the road. Whenever I got a ride, I would ask questions, then write about that ride as soon as I got out."
Fourteen years after closing that sixth notebook, Jewell opened them all and began to chronicle the strange expeditions that had given so much meaning to his life. The result: Roadtrip.
The book is a 200-page triptych of a life (or many lives lived during one lifetime) spent variously on the road, on a farm, on a sailboat, on an island, and, oh yes ...trapped in a boxed canyon.
"When you hitchhike," Jewell cautioned, "your senses are heightened. You're carefree, but with an asterisk. You never know who is going to pick you up, so you have to be able to judge people."
"There was an occasional concern, but what I found out is that most Americans are great people. Some would take me to their home; others would take me to a bar, or a restaurant ...one even brought me home to swim in his pool. Those I met restored my faith in people."
Jewell and his present wife, Joyce, will be taking another trip - in about four years he estimates.
"We'll be driving back out west," he said. "We'll stay in motels along the way."
At the age of 20, Jewell wrote out his 10 goals that he hoped to accomplish in his lifetime (lifetimes, actually).
"I've achieved eight of them," he said. "When you're 20, you have no bounds of society on you. My travels have altered my life. I'm not afraid of a challenge. It doesn't scare me at all."
Roadtrip is available on line at Amazon.com, but you can probably get it quicker by visiting Jewell's web site: www.RoadtripBabyBoomer.com
You can also pick it up locally at his office, Jewell Real Estate Agency, 5602 New Jersey Avenue, Wildwood Crest.
Oh, didn't I mention - he's also a real estate agent?
by Jim Vanore, writer
for Cape May County Herald
Review - July 24, 2009
'Roadtrip' takes readers on cross-country trek
Jersey native Douglas Jewell pens book on his hitchhiking travels
Thickly-bearded Jersey native Douglas Jewell spends his days working as a realtor in Wildwood Crest. In the evenings, he goes home to the small farm he shares with his wife and business partner, Joyce. He enjoys the sounds of the waterfall on his property and cooks up delicious, healthy vegan dinners.
But Jewell's life wasn't always so peaceful.
Twenty years ago, in the midst of an epic cross-country hitchhiking quest, the realtor was lost in the woods and rocky valleys of a box canyon, near California's Big Sur River. He had cracked four ribs and dislocated a finger in an unexpected landslide, and he had no food except for a dusty old breath mint in his pocket.
Jewell's debut novel, "Roadtrip: A Baby Boomer's Misadventures in Hitchhiking and Other Unconventional Travel," describes three long hitchhiking trips undertaken in 1976, 1989 and 1994. The true stories it tells are sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad or frightening - but more than anything, they convey the courage and faith in the human spirit that has made Jewell's life so rich.
"You're gonna be a vice president of IBM," Jewell's parents insisted. But his studies in math at Salem State couldn't hold him.
"There was something pulling me," he says. "There was a force that was calling 'Come and get me.' I was being drawn out there. I wanted adventure."
So the young man went on the road with nothing but his thumbs, his charms, and a few dollars - not just once, but three times throughout his life, as if he was unable to remain settled for long - following the adventurous spirit that still calls him out into the unknown.
"I left (in 1994) with only $75 on purpose, mailed $50 to myself in Colorado so it's be there waiting when I finally made it. I wanted to be forced to be a vagabond." "roadtrip" lovingly describes the many odd jobs the migrant Jewell held on his voyages, and recounts the trials of his $2-a-day budget. It unflinchingly describes the confidence-testing crises of his voyages, like the eight days he spent trapped in a box canyon. And it venerates the generosity of the many Americans who gave him rides, food, and shelter - and who shared their lives with him, briefly.
"They open their world to you," Jewell says of those who poured out their hearts to him when he was a hitchhiking stranger. "It really renews your faith in people. All in all - people are so nice."
But Jewell never stayed in one place or with one benefactor for long. The road was always calling, and with a cheerful thank you and a "Have a nice life!" Jewell always moved on, to a new experience and a new friend.
The fast-paced, real-life stories of "Roadtrip" convey the rich diversity of experience that Jewell's life has contained. The memoir isn't only a hilarious account of Jewell's uproarious exploits on the road. It's also a story of adventure - an incredibly heartfelt testament to the intrepid strength and generosity of the human spirit.
Jewell, who once worked as a sports writer and editor, has an almost journalistic style which is eloquent and easy to read. For 40 days last summer, he wrote between the hours of 3 and 6am, in the pre-dawn quiet, piecing together the novel from old, stained road diaries - and memories.
"I learned to write on the side of the road," he says, "and my best writing was when I was hitchhiking. My mind was so uncluttered. I wasn't thinking of how my car needed a tune-up or of my electric bill. I was free - I was on the road."
If looking for an absorbing beach read or a true and funny page-turner, pick up this wise old hitchhiker's self-published novel. "Roadtrip" should entertain and may rekindle that spirit of adventure.
Order a copy of Roadtrip at www.RoadtripBabyBoomer.com
Jewell's already planning a second book and is on the lookout for his next adventure. And even though he can't sleep on the ground anymore, he and his wife will try to keep their traveling as spontaneous and un-cushy as possible. At heart, the Wildwood Crest man is still the vagrant with wanderlust.
by Leah Sivieri, writer
for Ocean City Sentinel, Cape May Star & Wave, and The Islands Sure Guide
Review - August 15, 2009
When he was 20 years old, Douglas Jewell made a life list. He had decided to live an unconventional life, unencumbered by the traditions of what he saw as a materialistic, consumer-oriented society. So he put pen to paper and came up with 10 ambitions, most dealing with life experiences that he wanted to have. Now 58, he has accomplished eight of these goals. His book, Roadtrip: A Baby Boomer's Misadventures in Hitchhiking and Other Unconventional Travel, deals with two of those accomplishments: hitchhiking across the United States (which he did twice) and living in the Caribbean (which he did partly by hitching boat rides there and back).
Jewell is quite a character and survived his share of adventures and mishaps during his travels. He broke his ribs after getting lost several days into a wilderness hike, was one of three crew-members on a sailboat without electricity during a vicious Caribbean storm, and had a few guns pulled on him during his hitchhiking days. Roadtrip is a recounting of these and many other adventures. It is also a rare travel book in that it deals almost exclusively with long distance hitchhiking and gives the reader insight into a type of travel that most people have never experienced.
Jewell's story was a pleasant read that drew me into his life story. He has an easygoing, conversational tone, mixed with a dollop of personal opinions and life views, that makes you feel as if you've pulled up a bar-stool and are listening to him regale you with tales over a cold beer. I also appreciated Jewell's insights into long distance hitchhiking. It almost makes you want to strap on a backpack, stick out your thumb, and find the open road.
By Bob Riel, Author