What: Rinker Buck discusses his book “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey”

When: 5-6:45 p.m. Friday

Where: Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe, 135 NW Minnesota Ave., Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: dudleysbookshopcafe.com or 541-749-2010

T he closest most people will come to traversing the Oregon Trail is playing the eponymous board game during history class. But in 2011, at the age of 61, journalist and author Rinker Buck and his younger brother Nick set off on an epic 2,000 mile, four-month journey from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean along the Oregon Trail in a restored, 19th century covered wagon pulled by three mules.

On Friday at an event in Bend, Buck will discuss the dangers and discoveries he encountered while traveling along the famous migration route, which he chronicles in his 2015 New York Times best-seller, “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey.”

“I had a wonderful childhood that was based on adventures, learning how to ride horses, fix motorcycles and fly airplanes,” Buck said. “I think I was empowered and enabled by my youth and had the confidence that I could do it.”

The author is clearly not afraid of a challenge. In 1966 at the age of 15, he and his 17-year-old brother, Kernahan, became the youngest duo at the time to pilot an aircraft from coast to coast in the U.S. Buck chronicled that feat in his 1997 book, “Flight of Passage: A Memoir.”

Buck didn’t head out on the trail as a complete neophyte. He had been researching the history of the Oregon Trail for many years and spent almost two years planning and preparing for this journey. He had memories of a wagon trip with his family as a child, and having grown up on a horse farm, he had driven horses on a harness track while Nick was an experienced team driver and professional builder and carpenter.

What sparked Buck’s idea to actually re-create the experience of hundreds of thousands of pioneers who followed the Oregon Trail as they migrated west from the mid-1830s onward, was learning that the last recorded crossing by an authentic covered wagon was a century earlier in 1909.

“I was already planning a book about the Oregon Trail, but then I thought, ‘Wow, I could actually record the adventure of the trail as well as write about the history,’” Buck explained.

The end result combines the brothers’ experiences with the history of the places they visited and the people who preceded them along the trail by more than 100 years.

Buck also wanted to more accurately convey the realities of life along the trail and dispel many of the misconceptions about the motivations and behavior of the people who used that route to migrate west and those they encountered along the way.

“We mis-teach a lot of history that’s a convenient myth, but there were all kinds of scams along the trail, and values weren’t all moralistic and proper back then the way people now imagine they were,” he said.

While Buck and his brother didn’t have to deal with dysentery or attacks, they did cope with many of the daily hardships of life on the trail that early settlers encountered: heat, dust, broken wagon wheels and axles, violent storms, runaway mules, lack of water and terrifying descents down steep, narrow trails with sheer drop-offs.

They also had to adapt to living and working in extremely close quarters, with limited tools and supplies, and without many of the modern conveniences we take for granted.

With two strong personalities in this situation for an extended period of time, some big fights were inevitable, but Buck said both brothers learned to put their egos aside in order to accomplish their goal of reaching the end of the trail.

However despite all his preparation and research, it took some time on the trail for Buck to realize just how much nonstop persistence and coping ability it took for the early settlers to complete their journeys.

“The big thing we realized about the pioneers is that no one would have done this if they didn’t have to,” said Buck. “It took a lot of improvisation every day, and we were both learning new skills all the time.”

It seems that Buck’s travels along the Oregon Trail have further whetted his appetite for adventure.

He recently completed a 2,000-mile trip piloting a restored flatboat down the Mississippi River, and is working on a new book about that experience and the role those boats played in the development of U.S. shipping and the economy.

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