Riding off the Edge of the Map
By David Bryen
Book Review by Mel Goldberg
What is it like to be lost in mountains where nobody speaks your language? Riding off the Edge of the Map by David Bryen relates the harrowing experiences of three motorcycle enthusiasts on a journey to one of the most dangerous areas in Mexico, Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon), the largest series of canyons in North America measuring seventeen hundred feet deep and four times the size of the Grand Canyon. The danger lies not only in the terrain but also with the narco-traffickers who patrol the area. Following a hand-drawn map, the three adventurers struggle with failing equipment, explosive relationships and narrow mountain roads with thousand foot drops on one side, sheer rock cliffs on the other.
The book is more than an exciting adventure story. Although there is page-turning excitement in each chapter, the author shares his understanding of masculine psychology through conversations among the men in which they reveal their feelings and attitudes. One of the major themes of this book is that the maps we follow in our lives are not always accurate. We all have mental maps which we believe represent the pathways of our lives.
This well-written book is also the author’s journey into what it means to be human, to face limits and test boundaries. He examines a significant question: is it better to die trying to accomplish a goal or to recognize and come to terms with our human limitations. Bryen’s book follows the classic pattern of the reluctant hero’s journey. Accepting the call to ride to Copper Canyon with his companions, Bryen shares many psychological and personal insights that have been shown to him in his dreams. One such dream relates his desire to know the secret to his life. An Indian maiden “stretched a single strand from a spider web across a delicate wooden hoop dividing the circle into two equal parts. ‘This is fire,’ she pointed to the left side, ‘and that is water,’ she pointed to the right side. ‘There is a thin space that is neither fire nor water. That is where you must live your life.’
Each chapter of the book relates the twists and turns not only of the ride into the canyon but also of the lives of each rider. The book is a recounting of life in that thin space between the external world and the internal world, between our un-validated maps and the reality.
Bryen, a professional psychotherapist, turns his ordeals in the canyon into wisdom. He teaches us there is strength in gentleness. He allows us to share in his internal journey and helps us relate it to our own lives.
The book is for sale at Diane Pearl, Oasis Cloud, Amazon, and Bryen’s website www.ridingofftheedgeofthemap.com. Also available on Kindle.