It’s like Tom Sheppard opened the passenger door of his Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen, and I sat down for this ride through the wild desert. The esteemed Sheppard, with his legendary Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide now demanding nearly $400 per used copy in the U.S., puts his knowledge where his heart is: behind the wheel and camera lens, pointing both into in the Earth’s consumingly large,unforgivingly hot, and impossibly imaginable Sahara Desert. Out the other end came a book. Sounds like a hell of a time, no?
Try this, though. The months he dedicated to generating maps, gathering satellite images, and formulating a plan instantly dissolved when the Algerian government confiscated said maps and images. Turn around and go home? He weighs it thoughtfully, and, like many of us, the notion of giving up after the investment of time and money brings him to reveal the following as his admission of continuing onward:
I had come to explore this route and one other, on my own and at my own pace so that I could concentrate, await the light and the weather to savour the regal, majestic, dignified, achingly beautiful landscape and record it through a lens. There seemed now, after a traumatic four or five days, to be a chance at doing it. Albeit at some risk.
Admittedly, Sheppard has a leg up when it comes to off-piste driving in the Sahara. After 40 years of desert expeditions, he knows about the mazes of mine fields, governmental red tape that changes with the tides, 600+ miles between fuel sources, and the potential of crossing paths with bandits, thieves, and smugglers – and we haven’t even talked about Mother Nature yet. The desert has her own agenda: misjudge the landscape as you motor along, and you may find yourself in sebkha and then frame-deep in gooey salt. Does this sound like your typically yawning account of me-an’-Tom-went-wheelin’-last-weekend?
Traditionally, travelogues are tough sells, which is why few publishers will pony up with a contract to dreamy-eyed travelers caressing a manuscript. Good on Tom for self-publishing this tale, told with both humor and drama, and garnished with jaw-dropping photos. Celebrate and support your independent artists, please. He’s gone way beyond the Expedition Guide with this collection; Quiet for a Tuesday awakens the very desire each of us has to chase after the horizon. We’re not going to talk about the tools any longer – pack them in the truck and hit the road.
The gold is in Sheppard’s storytelling and photography: “But if nature had demonstrated a fit of past ill-temper, she was not above revealing some more little amazements to make passing travelers slowly shake their heads and smile.” Though I’ve never set foot on the Sahara, I believe I’ve been in my mind.
Here’s a book that you’ll open again and again, if just for a few minutes of browsing the photographs.
Related: Four Wheelers Bible
* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.