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Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman's Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China, & Vietnam

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  243 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Erika Warmbrunn's amazing 8,000 kilometer cycling journey through Asia. Winner of the Barbara Savage Miles From Nowhere Memorial Award. ...more
Hardcover, 249 pages
Published September 18th 2006 by Mountaineers Books (first published January 1st 2001)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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Start your review of Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman's Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China, & Vietnam
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adventure-true
I’m Leaving on a Fast Plane

When Sarah Marquis, in her book, “Wild by Nature,” walked through Mongolia, she was harassed by men on horseback, and sometimes one of the men would urinate next to her, as if he were marking his territory. I never understood why, it was never explained in her book. The women were also not friendly, which made it impossible to get to know any of them. So, I thought maybe this book by Erika Warmbrunn would provide an answer; it did not. What I received instead, was a gr
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to veronica by: Marcello
A thoroughly enjoyable travel book from the point of view of a woman who is not really soul-seeking, not healing from a tragic life event, not exoticizing the people she encounters or the places she goes.

Erika Warmbrunn is a young woman in the early 1990s who has a lot of world travel under her belt. A somewhat failed theater nerd with serious wanderlust, she sets out to explore a place that not many people go, that wouldn't be on most people's summer itineraries -- Mongolia. She decides to ride
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
A young woman takes a trip through three countries on a bicycle. The premise is remarkable. The woman knows almost nothing about the places she visits, but learns a little something along the way. While I usually cringe when people jump into a world and culture vastly different from their own without any preparation, I have to give credit to Erika for her writing. She conveys the trip so well that I can really empathize with Erika along each step of her journey. When she is amazed and inspired I ...more
Sirena Leoci
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
Learning about Mongolia’s culture was the best part of the novel and it really should have ended there. As Erika travels through China and Vietnam her tone and demeanour begins to change. The way she treats Chinese and Vietnamese villagers literally living in poverty (!!!) is appalling and her distaste for the culture is obvious. Erika is an American woman travelling alone on a bike, her privilege is literally overwhelming, yet she can’t pay an extra 30 cents for her food and board in a poor vil ...more
Oct 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Linda by: Mary Handel
Shelves: travel, asia, adventure
Warmbrunn is a remarkable woman who goes on a remarkable journey and writes this mostly excellent account of it. I would have rated this book more highly except that I can't stand it when people refer to their cars, guns, or in this case, bikes, as if they were human. Warmbrunn's continual reference to "Greene", her bike, as if it were a person, was a distraction and detracted from the otherwise eloquent telling of an amazing tale. ...more
Nicole White
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: leigh wadden
Are you kidding me? This woman take off in 1992 and travels thru mongolia, vietnam, and china. BY HERSELF!!! She meet the locals, and they invite her in. She sleeps in the same bed as the entire family, and sometimes sleeps under the stars. gets me ready to explore off the grid. (on my bike, of course)
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish reading this book. I love cycling and I love travel, and I love them mashed together; however, I can't stand the author's tone. She's so critical. A book that can appreciate other cultures without disparaging others would have been better. ...more
Sep 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
Having recently suffered thru Sarah Marquis’ trek thru Mongolia in Wild By Nature I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to go there. Hearing that this woman had a much more pleasant trip thru Mongolia on her bicycle I decided to read it.

Yes, she did have a better time. She hung around awhile, made some friends and even taught school. It’s like it was a different Mongolia. She then went on to bike thru China and Vietnam which she didn’t enjoy so much.

I usually want to travel to the places I read about
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, for-fun-uni, cycling
Interesting, for the most part an account of cultural travel and realization that was not too Eurocentric or "white man's burden"-y. But oddly kind of flat, started down certain roads and never really completed the journey or thought, sort of like certain accounts of her abbreviated travels. ...more
Gail Pool
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why travel by bicycle? “Because a bicycle is freedom; a bicycle is independence; a bicycle is self-sufficiency,” writes Erika Warmbrunn. “Because a bicycle lands you in places you didn’t know you wanted to go, and shows you things you didn’t know you wanted to see…”

And there is also the sheer exhilaration: “The flying abandon of a bicycle, legs pumping, body and wheels skimming above the land, cycling for the sake of cycling”—at least when the roads are good. Often, of course, they aren’t good:
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
There is good and bad to this book. I would recommend it only to a reader who is particularly interested in this specific genre, rather than a general reader eager to expand her horizons. When I sit down and read an adventure memoir, I expect a couple of things. The first is to become a traveler in the land where the author is and explore it from my couch in my mind's eye. The second is to be told the tale in a well-written style. While Warmbrunn is not a bad writer, she isn't a terribly good on ...more
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bicycling
Having traveled China in 1999, Erika’s bicycle trip brought back memories of Beijing, Xian, and Guilin. Although she bicycled the country 5 years before my visit, her descriptions of the nation and people seemed like a different world. I expected a lot of bicycles in Beijing, but what I mostly remember were “flocks” of sky cranes and half constructed buildings. Life gets hectic and busy with responsibilities as one grows older -- traveling in your 20’s holds a lot of magic. Traveling by bicycle ...more
Mar 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
This is one courageous woman who hops on her bicycle and braves the unknown road ahead. This book makes me get on my bicycle and see my county, state, and country (never mind the world!)! It felt like she was in a rush to get back to Russia, though, and didn't spend as much time elaborating on her travels in Vietnam as she did on the time spent in Mongolia and China. But even she writes that she was tired of traveling at that point and being such a spectacle. It must have been incredibly frustra ...more
Marcee Rogers
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erika's story is engaging. It is filled with great moments - some of which make you laugh and wish you had been with her, others make you fret a bit and make you wonder why she set upon this trip. She does a nice job of including historical and cultural information about the areas she traveled without coming across as a text book. As she moves through Mongolia, China and Vietnam you do get the sense that such a bicycle trip is the way to see the heart of an area, but it is evident once she reach ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was an amazing account of the real-life situations that Warmbrunn faced in different cultural contexts. Her frankness and her personal insights related to the various human and cultural interactions were very appreciated as I read through her adventure. One of the quotes that resonated with me was:
"It is, of course, one of the great hypocrisies of the western traveler, wanting the people we visit in remote lands to remain charming, simple, exotic, and untouched by the information, possessio
Jan 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have met the Master of similes and metaphors and she is the author of this book. Besides her amazing ability to describe places and feelings, Erika is undoubtedly very strong and courageous (or stupid and very lucky). She rode her bike alone, through mountains and rivers, in blizzards and mudpits, so she could get to know the people and countries of Mongolia, China and Vietnam. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Erika's book and riding alongside her in my mind. I'm not fooled though. I would not enj ...more
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
A friend of mine is going into the Peace Corps in Mongolia and another friend who had recently been there recommended this as a great getting-to-know Mongolia book. I really enjoyed it! The author seems like she's someone you would want to get to know, and her book is open, well-written, and insightful. I was impressed all around by this book and it definitely made me want to go out and see the world. ...more
Aug 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. Knowing this is something that I will never experience first hand, it was great to be able to live vicariously and share the author's journey. The Mongolia section was definitely my favorite, but the China and Vietnam sections were important in telling the whole story, struggles and all. I imagine Erika Warmbrunn would be a very interesting person to visit with. I liked how she was able to empathize and also how she pointed out when her empathy ran short. ...more
Joni Taylor
Apr 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked so much about the story. And the beginnings in Mongolia, and the adventures in Mongolia were amazing. For sure more a 4 star through Mongolia. But as the journey continued, and I am sure as the fatigue set in, the writing also fell to the fatigue and I had a hard time staying interested...still fascinating through China, but the writing lost me, and by was maybe a 2 star, BUT overall a 3...maybe a 3+. I would recommend it though.
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've had this book in my to-reads for five or six years. I wanted to read it then for inspiration, and here I am, my life so changed from what I had expected it to be when I added it. So I read it from here, and I am inspired. For this, I give it four stars. Maybe I am no longer traveling but I am definitely motivated to get back on my bicycle here, until I can get back out there.

Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
This is a wonderful, wonderful book about a woman's eight month solo trip from Russia to Vietnam by bicycle. Anyone who has travelled alone (do you have to be female to identify with her?) will appreciate Erika's insights into the pleasures and challenges of solo travel. She's very, very inspiring. ...more
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Erika traveled solo by bicycle through Mongolia, China, and Vietnam. She connected with the people and cultures. Excellent descriptions, short and open ended. I enjoyed Mongolia the most, a beautiful people and country.
Nov 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, travel
reminded me a lot of my time in Indonesia. I enjoyed her honesty on how tired she was of being targeted for being white in another country. Her random adventures and ability to meet people and learn quickly and learn from mistakes is refreshing. I can't wait for my next adventure! ...more
Aug 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting story. Curious how critical she was of the other tourists and how she thought the locals were quaint. Makes me want to read a chronicle of an Asian person backpacking around America. Do those exist?

Book smelled really good too.
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
While the trip itself is only for the brave at heart, Erika's connections with the everyday people of these countries is heartwarming and unique. The book is well worth the read even if you never dream of pushing a bicycle thru the snow on unpaved roads. ...more
Jan 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Her descriptions of the trucks honking in the coal villages in China, the "toilets", the unabashed staring, and the sleeping arrangements are spot on! Just perfect, I thought that I was back in China. Wish I could bicycle thru China! ...more
Mr. Wakiki
Jan 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sailing
I thought it was an interesting book, one that I will likely reference from time to time because of her discussions on language and converstations.. I thought the interest kind of ran out of steam about 2/3 through
Apr 29, 2007 rated it liked it
worth reading if you bike & wonder what it would be like to travel without a written guide.
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in travel
A fascinating book - - the author rode a bicycle BY HERSELF through Mongolia, China, and Vietnam - - and I thought I was adventurous!
Mar 20, 2008 rated it liked it
This is my favorite tale of a female solo cyclist so far ... out of two. Seriously, she does it right.
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