Inspiration from “Mariposa Road”

Jan 18, 2011 | 2 comments

Thea and Bob in Oysterville, December 2010

     I began reading Bob Pyle’s latest book Mariposa Road the day after Christmas. It’s a hefty volume and I’m about halfway through it, enjoying every page and paragraph and word. Like all of Bob’s books, it is to savor, not to gallop through. I’m taking it to California with me, but I doubt that I’ll have it finished by the time we return ten days hence. I hope not. I hate for it to end.
     Mariposa Road is the story of Bob’s “butterfly big year” in 2008. In it, he describes his yearlong hunt for butterflies as he crisscrosses the United States in his venerable 1982 Honda Civic hatchback, Powdermilk. His goal was to find as many of the 800 species of North American butterflies, north of Mexico, as he possibly could.
     Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, internationally acclaimed lepidopterist, founder of the Xerces Society, possessor of a PhD from Yale University, author of fourteen books and countless essays, paper, stories, and poems is one of the nicest people I know. He is encouraging to struggling writers, and always has time to listen or to be of help. Besides that, he’s fun!
     So, even though my knowledge of butterflies is paltry and my ecological and environmental education scant, I knew I would love this book just as I have his others.  He not only makes me want to know more about the beautiful creatures he describes, but he has me vowing to begin a butterfly garden here in Oysterville. If it should attract the desired visitors, I might even learn to recognize a few and call one or two by name – the common name, not the scientific one.
     But beyond the information and great fund of knowledge and experience Bob shares in Mariposa Road, the book is chock-a-block full of humor and down-to-earth stories about the people and places he encounters along his way. His language is so rich and so encompassing that I sometimes have to stop for a breath or two before continuing. Surely, his vocabulary approaches the 600,000 word lexis of English – not the paltry 10,000 that most of us use!
     Bob’s 2008 journey began on January 2nd:  Thea crossed the long bridge over the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon, with me for a goodbye breakfast date at the Pig & Pancake. I loved that! He goes on to tell about his journey down the Pacific Coast Highway during one of our big winter storms and his description made me decide then and there that the next time we headed south, it would be on Highway One and “The One-Oh-One,” as they call it in Southern California.
     And so, we begin this very morning, crossing the same bridge Bob described but passing up the Pig and Pancake in favor of picking up my new and much-needed glasses which they tell me are ready. Then on southward, not following Bob’s route precisely but much more closely than our usual rush down I-5 would be. It will be a grand trip. Thanks for the inspiration, Bob!!


  1. Jim Courtnier

    I was wondering which route you’d be taking. US highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway, and California 1 are so beautiful, although you’ll miss Mt. Shasta. In good weather that route is one breathtakingly beautiful view after another. It’s drizzling, here in Oysterville, you may gloat if you must.

  2. Stephanie Frieze

    Bob’s prose is so poetic. What a wonderful holiday read!


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