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One for the Road: Revised Edition Paperback – October 5, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After a year working an office job in Sydney, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaperman Tony Horwitz finds himself longing for the open road. Spurred on by a colleague's "Aren't you a little too old for this game?" he sets off on a 7,000-mile adventure around Australia, hitchhiking to Alice Springs and beyond: through desolate mining towns, sheep stations, countless bush pubs (do not attempt to match his beer intake), and the forbidding, Martianesque emptinesses of Australian deserts. On the way he encounters hostile, friendly, and downright strange natives; jumps a train; survives a harrowing accident; and uses his relentless sense of humor to face down a cyclone:
I prop my pack against the fence as a windbreak. Huddled behind it, I pull on two pairs of pants, three shirts, four pairs of socks--my entire wardrobe in fact, except for the dung-covered shirt and five pairs of elastic-waisted underwear. No room for dignity here, at the center of a cyclone. I put the jockey shorts over my head, one pair at a time, fitting the fly over my nose to let a little oxygen in.
A wily melange of tenderness, eye-popping lunacy, and occasional white-knuckled fear, One for the Road will leave you yearning to have the never-ending-blue Oz sky above, the flavor of that red, red dust in your mouth, and a tinnie to wash it all down with. --Jhana Bach


"Ironical, perceptive and subtle ... will have readers getting out their maps and itching to follow Horwitz's tracks.... The internal journey is his finest achievement; he allows the reader into his heart, to go travelling with him there, sharing his adventures of the spirit". -- Sunday Times (London)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Revised ed. edition (October 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375706135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375706134
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tony Horwitz is fast becoming my one of my favorite authors. I loved "Confederates in the Attic" and "Baghdad Without a Map" and looked forward to reading "One for the Road", his very first book which describes his adventures hitchhiking across the Australian outback in 1987 at the age of 27.
With only a backpack and a sense of adventure, he shares his journey with the reader, skillfully describing the mostly desolate terrain and the people he meets along the way. His sense of humor and instinctive quest for the quirky detail made me smile often and I tried to read this small 206-page book as slowly as possible because I just wanted it to last.
I'm a mature city-dwelling grandmother and it's unlikely I'll ever stand by the side of the road with a cardboard sign and an outstretched thumb (or index finger as they do in Australia) waiting for a stranger to open a car door and share a little piece of his or her life with me. But for the moments that I was engaged in the book, Tony Horwitz brought me right there.
He made me feel the 100-degree-plus heat, the flies so dense he had to squint his eyes. My head swirled with the countless bottles of beer he described drinking as he tried to ignore the fact that most of the drivers who picked him up were drunk. He slept in his clothes by the side of the road, met aboriginals and opal diggers and got seasick working as a deck hand on a fishing boat.
And I also experienced the wonder of it all, the freedom of waking up in the morning and not knowing what the day will bring, the time to relish each moment, and the writer's eye to make the trip real for the many people destined to read his book.
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Format: Paperback
No book by Horwitz can be categorized easily. Rather than a "travel" book, it reads more like an existential narrative in which the author immerses himself in the Australian outback and studies the persons he encounters as well as the places. In the process, he seems to take a journey inward, and discovers some things about himself. I learned some about the outback from this book; Horwitz addresses racial tensions (though without the depth of understanding that he later shows in "Confederates"). He is terrifically funny, with just a thin edge of cynicism. To me, however, this book's real draw is what it teaches about humans who choose to live in the "bush", i.e., far from civilization. Those who do so often gravitate to one of two extremes. Either they become gregarious and extroverted (read: constantly ready and able to tell fabulous whoppers in which they are cast in the starring role), or they eventually see interaction with other humans a frightful chore (read: a thousand yard stare in a ten foot room). The characters vignetted by Horwitz portray this accurately, as I daily see the same two extremes, living in "bush" Alaska for 7 years. It's just colder here. Read this book if you're interested in people who choose to live outside the lines. I recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Tony Horwitz, with an Australian bride is residing in Sydney, and thoroughly fed up with the sameness of city life, embarks upon a hitchhiker�s tour of the Outback. At the outset, I couldn�t quite get my mind around the premise of trying to hitch rides in an area so desolate, a day or two might go by before a car was even seen, let alone a driver that would extend the courtesy of a ride. Tony is here to tell you it can be done with a lot of determination on his part and friendliness and compassion on the part of his Australian hosts. (At certain junctures, I would call these affable drivers �life savers� as well.)
The author has unique encounters with the �real� people of the Outback: truck drivers, farmers (�cockies�), Aboriginals, and opal miners. I enjoyed his laid-back sense of humor, his insightfulness, and �most of all�his willingness to be human like the rest of us. He dislikes spending the night under the stars, can�t pitch a tent, is agonized by flies and mosquitoes and becomes violently sea-sick while catching a �ride� in a crawfish trawler.
The chapter �Pearls Before Matzo Balls� describes trying to find a Jewish family with whom to celebrate Passover in the delightful town of Broome in Western Australia. He looks in the telephone book in vain for a Jewish name, but finally gets steered in the right direction by an unusual Catholic priest. This chapter epitomizes the hilarious strangeness of his entire trip to the red hot center of Australia.
It is a good idea to read the glossary at the back before you begin. I found that a �Pub� is called a �hotel� in the Outback, and I kept wondering why in world all these Holiday Inn/Marriott-types were sitting in the middle of nowhere. Another warning, the Outback is awash in beer.
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As another American who lived in Australia for many years, let me assure any prospective buyer of this book that the author really gets the place.

He started out like many, seduced by life in megalopolitan Sydney, thinking that the superficial similarites between two essentially suburban cultures mean that there's little for an American to learn from his adopted home.

Life on the road teaches him otherwise.

There's a certain melancholy to life in Australia, which Horwitz comes to understand over his journey; the physical journey across a forbidding continent contrasts with his internal journey as a moden young man, a lapsed rebel, a faithful husband and a sentimentally observant Jew (Is this trip his own wandering in the desert, perhaps?)

I was moved by the story of Horwitz's passage across the northwest of Western Australia (beginnning on page 136). It's here that he surrenders his obsession with getting to the next town, and begins to understand the weft and weave of his surroundings.

The story of finding a Jewish family in Broome with whom to celebrate Passover--an Akubra sunhat acting as a makeshift yarmulke--warmed my heart, simply because I know that any true Australian would be equally welcoming to a displaced stranger.

And the story of Anzac Day the following morning...well, I've never heard anyone capture the curious mixture of joy and pain that marks the Australian Memorial Day as succinctly as Tony did. An ostesnsible victory witout glory--what kind of a nation does this make? He summed it up in three paragraphs or so.

Buy it, even if you never intend to visit Australia. It will help you understand the mind of an eventual Pulitzer Prize winner, and the experiences that opened his mind.

Oh, by the way, Tony, I'm serious about the offer of a beer.
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