Monday, May 11, 2009

#73 - "Queen of the Road" by Doreen Orion

With this entry, I have officially finished reading a book that starts with every letter of the alphabet. Was there any point to this mini-diversion? No, unless you want to count it as an unnecessary distraction from the things I should be doing; or that it's fulfilling my somewhat obsessive-compulsive tendency to complete things. I can rationalize it by saying that it encouraged me to find some books I enjoyed but otherwise wouldn't have read. This certainly ended up being the case, but I still can't help but cringe at the dorkiness of it. Anyway, "Q" and "X" were the only letters where I had to actively search for books. I typed "qu" into Amazon and immediately had a much larger selection than with my previous "X" search. I settled on Queen of the Road (2008) by Doreen Orion, "the true tale of 47 states, 22,000 miles, 200 shoes, 2 cats, 1 poodle, a husband, and a bus with a will of its own" because I apparently like travel memoirs, and it had lots of reviews and over four stars.

I have come to realize that I have a general stereotype in my head of "RV people," so I wasn't sure how much I would have in common with Doreen Orion, especially when she described herself as a lazy, shopoholic, Long Island, princess who hates exercise and the outdoors. I do have a knack for being lazy when I want to be, but I love being outdoors and exercising. And even though I can appreciate that heels look much better than an old pair of dirty running shoes, I will almost always choose comfort and practicality over style, and my tolerance for shopping has its limits.

But as I read the book, I found that Orion had created a caricature of herself that wasn't completely true. She might describe herself as lazy, but she still finished college in only 3 and a half years, is a triple-boarded psychiatrist, and along with her psychiatry job is an award-winning author. She also works out almost every morning and the picture in the back is of her in a t-shirt and hiking boots. I'm not sure if she was trying to relate to more people, or if she really sees herself this way (and she is "lazy" when you compare her to her workaholic husband), but she's a much more rounded person than I was expecting. I also discovered I had much more in common with her than I initially thought when I read that she lives in Boulder, Colorado (I live in Denver now, but I grew up in Boulder), and that her husband and I graduated from the same college (it's always very exciting to hear about others who went to Pomona because it's such a small school).

Anyway, Orion tells a humorous and entertaining tale of her life on a bus as she and her husband travel around the United States for a year. They customize their traveling bus with granite countertops and other accoutrements that allow them to live rather luxuriously for such a small space. Hitting almost every state, they meander through the Northeast before turning south for the winter and then back up to Alaska for the next summer. Orion manages to discuss enough details of their travels that you get a good idea of what they've done without getting weighed down. From Roswell's UFO festival, to Disneyworld, to the nudist camp, to the corn palace, I enjoyed reading about their vacation. But the heart of the story is Orion's relationship with her husband. On some level, they are opposites, but as I read the book, I realized that they complement each other quite well. It was sweet to read about these two people who could enjoy and have fun with each other no matter where they were or what traveling snafu they were dealing with.

Some of the more negative reviews on Amazon criticized Orion for trying too hard to be funny and constantly making jokes. I noticed this but wasn't bothered by it. At some point I just accepted that it was Orion's personality to make jokes about everything. In the end, Queen of the Road worked for me because Orion described her bus vacation in a way that had me (surprisingly) wishing I could have been there.

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