Under the Cover: A Father’s Day Interview with Author S. Bedford and her Dad, Bill Bedford

June 14, 2016

Chronicling the embarrassing and ridiculous misadventures of best friends Sue (a neurotic waitress) and Sara (a cheery overachiever), It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker by S. Bedford is a hilarious glimpse at travel’s awkward side. In chapter two, the girls team with their fathers to attempt a grueling trek through the Himalayas—without prior training, proper equipment, or a full comprehension of the meaning of “trek.” In honour of Father’s Day, the following is an interview from the publisher between Sue and her dad, Bill.

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Chronicling the embarrassing and ridiculous misadventures of best friends Sue (a neurotic waitress) and Sara (a cheery overachiever), It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker by S. Bedford is a hilarious glimpse at travel’s awkward side. In chapter two, the girls team with their fathers to attempt a grueling trek through the Himalayas—without prior training, proper equipment, or a full comprehension of the meaning of “trek.” In honour of Father’s Day, the following is an interview from the publisher between Sue and her dad, Bill.

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Why did you want to travel together?

Bill: I never got a chance to travel overseas when I was younger, and hearing about Sue’s trips, I felt like I’d literally missed the boat. In the seventies, I drove around North America in a hippie van for the same reasons everybody did: to see if I could stand on my own. In 2010, as a sixty-two-year-old snugly cocooned within my average life, I wanted to once again prove I could survive out there. Also, backpacking with my daughter would let me get to know her as an adult as opposed to a kid.

Sue: Dad put so much effort into our relationship when I was little. He braided my hair into whatever ludicrous styles I could come up with, taught my friends and me how to do headstands, and came to rock concerts with me (because he didn’t want to wait in the car). Now it was my turn to reach out, so I invited him on the trip.

What were your expectations before you left?

Bill: I was completely naïve—the only thing I knew about Nepal is that Everest is there somewhere.

Sue: Ditto. In fact, I may have thought Everest was in Tibet.

Looking back, what do you think of your preparation methods?

Bill: Again, the word “naïve” comes to mind. It was definitely not a walk in the park, which is what I’d been doing to get ready. We assumed we could do it because Sara’s dad had done it before (we somehow overlooked that he’d been in his twenties at the time), and because Sara kept using the word “hike,” which to me implies a picnic lunch.

Sue: Forget the semantics surrounding “hike.” How the hell did we misunderstand “mountains”?

 

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Had you known then what it’d be like, would you have done it?

Bill: I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what it was like. Besides, the idea of going was far more overpowering than the idea of walking. Even if somebody could’ve accurately explained it to me, I probably would’ve blocked it out because I was just so happy to be embarking on this adventure with my daughter.

Sue: Absolutely not. At the time, Dad had yet to ever refuse dessert, and I had the muscular fortitude of a sea cucumber. In retrospect, it’s best I didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, or else I never would’ve tried.

At one point, the four of you thought you wouldn’t make it to the top. How did you feel?

Bill: That was when it took me four hours to climb this one damn staircase. Boy, was that awful. But even then I secretly knew I was going to hit basecamp—not only for personal achievement, but also to not hold anybody else back. Of course, right afterwards we all got horrendous food poisoning on Black Noodle Soup Thursday (which I’m not even sure was a Thursday), and that again made me wonder what the hell we were doing. Yet by then I’d already seen how gorgeous the landscape was, and that motivated me to keep going. Plus, my relationship with Sue was just entering its new phase, and it was great to be taking on challenges together as equals.

Sue: Ten minutes into the trek, I was convinced we weren’t going to make it. Even when we finally crawled into basecamp—exhausted, aching, sunburned, stinky—I assumed I’d tumbled into a crevasse and hit my head, and these were my dying thoughts. This was the most brutal physical challenge of my life, and I would’ve cried had I been able to spare the salt. What Dad said earlier goes for all of us: nobody wanted to quit because nobody wanted to be the one to let the others down.

It was Sue’s life goal to become an author, yet she kept her publishing deal a secret until she was able to surprise you with a book. Bill, how did you feel knowing she succeeded?

Bill: I couldn’t wait to tell everybody. When the book arrived in the mail it was a total shock, and I sat down and read it all in four hours straight. Oh, and it should be noted I received the censored version—Sue actually went at it with a box cutter and liquid paper—and I’ve decided I don’t want to know what she’s hiding. The next morning I had the cover printed on a t-shirt and posted it to Facebook so all fifteen of my friends could see it. I still don’t get why everybody thinks that’s hilarious.

 

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Sue, how did your dad feel about your goal to be a writer?

Sue: He always encouraged me to do what I loved. Even when I was waitressing at a seedy bar and sobbing over rejection letters, he never told me to pick a new passion. I don’t know whether it was because he truly believed I’d one day achieve my goal or if he knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I quit, but I feel extremely lucky to have his unwavering support.

 

Sue and Bill have since backpacked through Ecuador, Egypt/Jordan, China and Chile/Bolivia together, although they haven’t trekked again. Yet.

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Thank you to Brindle & Glass, especially Tori Elliott, for sharing this interview with Sue and her dad, Bill, and their adventures. For more great Father's Day reads, check out our Mantastic Reads for Father's Day book list.


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