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Book Review
Wild Rides and Wildflowers

Authors Scott Abbott and Sam Rushforth, $15.95, Torrey House Press

On the surface, Wild Rides and Wildflowers is a diary of four years of bike rides, mostly on the Great Western Trail in Provo Canyon. "Aging" university professors Scott and Sam note the passing seasons as a progression of flower and bird species on the trail.  But among the botany and birdwatching, you get to know two 50ish individuals who are dealing with loss of religious faith, a doomed marriage, career challenges, and concern for the state of the world as they ride.

The book is being released in March 2014, with launch events Tuesday March 18, 7 p.m. at The Kings English Bookshop in Salt Lake, and Wednesday March 26, 12 p.m. at Utah Valley University in Orem. (The book is currently listed on Amazon, but has not yet been released for sale.)
Details at

The book is taken from articles written by Scott and Sam in 1999 through 2003, published first in The Salt Lake Observer then Catalyst Magazine. Each of the 50 chapters consists of several sequential rides mixed with occasional dispatches from trips for business or family. A typical ride is a colorful short collection of science, philosophy, and the ride's challenges. During a ride Scott and Sam push each other physically and intellectually.

The authors could be described as environmentalists and humanists with an intense intellectual curiosity. Smothering under the religious conformism at BYU, both eventually flee to the intellectual freedom of Utah Valley State College. (Currently Scott is a Professor of Integrated Studies, Philosophy, and Humanity, and Sam has just retired as Dean of College of Science and Health at what is now Utah Valley University.) During these four years a marriage ends and the role of a father changes. A knee is operated on. Children go to college and on missions. You witness the growth of two adult men in the snippets between the Aqueduct road and Baldy saddle, between scarlet gilia and Steller's jay.

The writing is clever and intelligent. Science facts are tossed into the ride narratives, so you can't help but learn something. (You may find it helpful to refer to my "Poser's guide to Utah's Trailside Flowers" on this website -- many of the species they discuss are pictured there.) The changing seasons are noted through the botany descriptions, and the changing world is represented by favorite trailside haunts falling to the bulldozers of development. I enjoyed this book.

Review by Bruce Argyle