Thursday, December 3, 2009

Charles Kuralt's Life on the Road

I've just read another of my booksale finds. I think we all remember Charles Kuralt either from his "On the Road" series on CBS or from his 15 years as host of "Sunday Morning" also on CBS, or hopefully not for the scandal after his death in 1997 when it was revealed that although married, he had had a long-term affair with another woman. I really don't care about the affair; I care that for many years he educated and entertained us with the fascinating stories of Mr. and Mrs. Average American.

This book is amusing, as expected, but also relates moving stories from his coverage of the Vietnam War, and there is a story about a Russian dentist who was a POW in WWII befriended by American POW's that brought me to tears.

One great story near the end relates his trip hundreds up miles up in the Andes in Peru to meet a CBS producer. He was late and couldn't contact the man so he drove all the pitch black night on a narrow curving dirt road in a rental car. At 2 a.m. a cable broke to the accelerator and he had no way to fix it so he tied it in a knot. His dilemna then was that the car went at about 55 mph around sharp curves with horrifying drop-offs. I won't tell anymore; I'd much rather you'd find the book and read it the way he wrote it.

My mother always loved the nature piece at the end of the Sunday morning show and I loved watching it with her. Now I know how they found those places and made the films.

I was surprised to discover that Kuralt and the crew hated traveling in the motor home for "On the Road." They had tire problems, engine problems, and couldn't sleep in the RV so after two months they always stayed in motels and ate in restaurants. The only reason they kept the RV was that it was a good place to keep their equipment.

His pet peeves about travel are funny and so true. For instance, he traveled with a 100 watt light bulb because, as I've learned, in about 98% of motel rooms the lighting is abysmal, but he needed to read and/or work. Hear, hear! You'll love the story of the night he had to stay in a flea bag hotel because everyplace else was full, and then the fire trucks came.

Well, I could go on and on but he tells these stories as only Charles Kuralt could and I recommend you try to find a copy of this 1990 book.

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