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In May 2007, leaving China’s Great Wall is Car 84, one of 125 antique autos racing in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. The 1940 LaSalle is guided by Dina Bennett, the world’s least likely navigator: a daydreamer prone to carsickness and riddled with self-doubt. She’s married to the driver, a thrill-seeking ...
In May 2007, leaving China’s Great Wall is Car 84, one of 125 antique autos racing in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. The 1940 LaSalle is guided by Dina Bennett, the world’s least likely navigator: a daydreamer prone to carsickness and riddled with self-doubt. She’s married to the driver, a thrill-seeking perfectionist who is half-human, half-racecar. What could go wrong?
Funny, self-deprecating, and marred by only a few acts of great fortitude, Peking to Paris is first and foremost a voyage of renewal. As Dina and her husband, Bernard, nurse their car across the Gobi, Siberia, and the Baltic states and south to Paris, she wrestles with nuts and bolts, along with the absurd hope that she can turn herself into a person of courage and patience.
Writing for every woman who’s ever doubted herself and any man who’s wondered what the woman traveling with him is thinking, Dina brings you with her as she ducks rock-throwing Mongolians and locks horns with Russians left over from the Intourist era, endures a sandstorm facial, and is reduced to tears of joy over a bottle of red nail polish. It’s a rollicking ride, one that shifts the line between possible and impossible, and gives new meaning to the phrase “off the beaten tourist path.”
Posted August 31, 2013
Some books are written to be instructional; others serve to stir the senses - creating joy, agony, passion, misery, love and raw emotion. Peking to Paris… is all of the above and more. The story of Dina Bennett and her husband, Bernard, tracks their 7800-mile odyssey as they endure the long, treacherous, uncomfortable and, at times, beautiful journey that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the famed Peking to Paris 2007 Motor Challenge.
Dina has difficulty reading while riding in a car (which anyone who is prone to car-sickness can appreciate) and given her long history of motion sickness, it seems outlandish that she will agree to go along with her husband’s plan to be the navigator to his driver for this Rally. For Dina, it is the sacrifice she is willing to make to re-connect with her husband after 20 years of marriage; for Bernard, it is the thrill of a lifetime to compete in this august Rally.
Their commitment to the Rally is tested on each segment of the nearly 35-day expedition. Freezing nights and stiflingly hot days, a 1940 LaSalle 52 Coupe (dubbed Roxanne) that breaks down constantly throughout the Rally, and people who are avid racing enthusiasts, automobile devotees and reluctant companions make for a revealing, eye-opening adventure that will delight the novice and motor enthusiast, alike.
Dina writes with integrity and humor, sharing her challenges, fears, hopes, disappointments and ultimate victory with the reader, as she chronicles her naiveté at the beginning of the trip, balanced against the stark reality that enfolds her and Bernard as the journey progresses. She paints beautiful pictures with her choice of words on every page. The final chapter is heart-warming and satisfying. Appendices offer details referencing Roxanne’s rebuild list, what the couple packed in their car for the journey, a list of vehicles that participated in the Rally, the daily Rally distance and overnight stops, as well as Rally terminology.
For every woman who wonders if she can stretch beyond the fear of facing down the greatest challenge before her and every man who dreams of participating in the adventure of a lifetime – obstacles be damned – you’ll find something to love about this book.
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