Hitting the Road Without a Map

Non-Fiction - Memoir
286 Pages
Reviewed on 11/18/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Hitting the Road Without a Map is a work of non-fiction in the memoir subgenre. It is best suited to mature readers owing to some instances of explicit language use and was penned by author Fred Rutter about an incredible cross-country journey and the impact it had on his life. When Fred is paired up with an unlikely companion and tasked to deliver an RV on an epic journey from Ohio to Oregon, so begins a journey of personal introspection against the backdrop of the American West. What results is a soul-searching and touching memoir that celebrates all the joy that can be found in life if we step outside our own little worlds to appreciate it.

Author Fred Rutter delivers a candid, heartfelt, and wonderfully entertaining memoir about his changing perspective on life, and this volume is exactly what memoirs should deliver in terms of its atmosphere, message, and reading experience. I was floored by how raw and honest the narrative is, with no holds barred on discussing personal demons and struggles that need to be overcome. The way this is juxtaposed with the humorous dialogue, interplay of characters, and the gorgeous scenery and celebration of America just sets the perfect mood so that nothing ever becomes too depressing or heavy to read. I also felt that the illustrations, maps, and images included made it very easy to imagine where sharp conversations and moments of poignant clarity are taking place. Overall, I would certainly recommend Hitting the Road Without a Map to fans of road-trip memoirs who also want a lot of truth and heart.

Melanie Kennedy

Hitting the Road Without a Map is a refreshing memoir by Fred Rutter about his trip from Ohio to Oregon in a giant RV (recreational vehicle). As a favor to a friend, Fred sets off with Todd to deliver the RV to its original owner all the way in McMinnville, Oregon. As the title of the book states, Fred and Todd started this arduous journey of more than 2700 miles without a map and no real plan on which routes to follow. Their impromptu adventure took them across the Mississippi, through the Badlands National Park, a look at Mount Rushmore, and on an unforgettable trip to Yellowstone National Park. Accompanying these interesting stories are several photographs Fred took of the scenery they encountered, immersing the reader in their quest.

Hitting the Road Without a Map is an exceptionally written memoir. Not only does Fred Rutter describe his ten-day journey with liveliness, but he has taken magnificent photos of their almost spur-of-the-moment trip. Hitting the Road Without a Map is not only a travel story but a reflection on Fred’s life and family and how lucky he felt to be part of the trip. You never know when an event might change your life, and I’m impressed with Fred for helping out a friend with such a daunting task. Fred does a wonderful job of describing the beautiful landscapes of the West and Midwestern USA. At first, I found Fred’s unplanned trip a little anxiety-inducing but realized that the spontaneity of it was what made it exciting and Fred taught me a great lesson: make my next trip a memorable journey.

Dr. Jordan Alexander

Hitting the Road Without a Map by Fred Rutter is a great story for those hankering to get a sense of traveling the open road in an oversized RV. You will take in the sights and feel as if you are along for the ride as the author describes the routes and fun facts about places that he and his companion see, while he shares his photos to bring the story alive. The drive through ‘Free Range’ country was my favorite as the oversized RV shares the road with a few free-range bison. Readers will enjoy visiting natural wonders like Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, sunrises and sunsets in campgrounds and The Badlands, and context photos like the RV next to a gas pump, proving its bigger-than-Texas size. No wonder the co-drivers were tentatively taking it from Ohio to Oregon.

The tenuous thread holding the pair together added to the angst of driving the land yacht cross country. At the start of the ten-day trip, the mere casual acquaintances only had Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in common. AA teachings caution ‘fear is the chief activator of all our character defects’ which naturally sends the wives of Fred and Todd into distress. Will their husbands fall off a cliff and not return from this Pee Wee’s Big Adventure? There are several laugh-out-loud moments like on their first night, trying to sleep parked next to a refrigerated semi that hums all night. The setting off without a map proves entertaining with zigzags added to the route west. Of course, no RV trip would be complete without the how many ways not to cook a frozen pizza story.

Hitting the Road Without a Map by Fred Rutter is dedicated to those recovering from addiction. The author gently encourages those wondering about sobriety to try it. The book does not preach about drinking, not drinking, or AA, but it does share the author’s journey in his new sober life. This deeper story makes the reader's experience of the trip different and special. I’m not a smoker, nor an early riser, but waited in anticipation as the author performed his morning rituals and mindfully let each day unfold. A pensive and spiritual man, Fred's writing provides a sense that you are sitting with him on the back porch with a glass of lemonade on a rocking chair, listening to him tell you what happens next. This is a feel-good read with adventure, funny mishaps, and what it means to live connected to yourself and a Higher Power.