Gary used to work in the military and has patented several agricultural devices. He has also written an agricultural directory, which he considers his first book.
His book – Destination North Pole – is his 7th book. He decided to take a trip to the North Pole via pedaling and logged his journey.
Gary Wietgrefe, an inventor, military intelligence veteran, economist and lifelong South Dakotan, is
now a multiple award-winning author!
Gary was the recipient of not one but two awards and finalist at the prestigious Global Book Awards,
this past week. Gary’s memoir, Destination North Pole–5000 km by bicycle, won Silver in the Travel
/ Adventure category. In addition, and just to show how well-rounded Gary is as a writer, he also won
a Bronze award for his non-fiction release Relating to Ancient Culture in the Historical Study
Category. Lastly, his 420-page book, Relating to Ancient Learning, was also finalist in Global
Awards’ Education and Reference category.
So today on discovered word Smith, I wanna welcome Gary who has written a great book.
We’re gonna talk about called destination north pole, Gary, how are you doing today?
[00:00:51] Gary: Doing fantastic. Thanks for calling.
[00:00:53] Stephen: Yeah, it, this is gonna be a great talk. I can’t wait to hear about this book, but before we do that tell us a little bit about who you are and some of the things you like to do outside of writing.
I see you have a lot of great books. So obviously I,
[00:01:07] Gary: I, yes, I do. I like to read, obviously that’s one of ’em, but I, my background is agri agriculture, but the first I’ll call it seven years of my life, besides going to school, I was military intelligence. Did things like copy foreign signals and brief and debrief pilot.
So I think that gave me a lot of background to being more critical is what you hear, what you. What you learned, what maybe what you absorb, but I may have been living in agriculture. My patents are in engineering and biomass processing and things like that.
[00:01:41] Stephen: Wow. That’s pretty cool. So why did you wanna start writing?
[00:01:47] Gary: Ooh I think I’ve been writing all the time. My, my first job outside of military was actually working in South Dakota department of agriculture. And I we didn’t have an organizational directory of all the organizations we were working with 50, a hundred, whatever it was. And so I started organizing that.
So that became my first directory. Then I did a second edition and another thing we were supposed to be promoting South Dakota products, but we never had a list of products or producers. And we were involved in exporting and we didn’t have the list for exporters. So I created agricultural export directory also.
So that was my first two directories, which helped in the organization as any writer knows it gotta be organized.
[00:02:34] Stephen: The writing started off with work doing things for work. Sure. Yeah. Okay. So how did that lead to you wanting to write your book?
[00:02:45] Gary: The destination north pole of 5,000 kilometers by bicycle is actually my seventh book.
Oh. But it’s my fir it’s my first travel log. Nice. Okay. And so I turned 65 on book tour. Am I relating to ancient series? And that was a several year process. And on the book tour, I turned 65 and I go, wow. If I’m ever gonna do my long distance bicycle ride, it’s probably time to start ping. And so I asked my wife if she would want to go along with me to north pole Alaska, that’s where my niece and nephew and grand niece and nephews lived.
And she said she would rather drive. And so I took off on May 20th and bicycled. I I got there, I thought it was gonna take me two months and I got there in 40 days. Wow. Nice. So it’s 75 miles a day average for 40 days.
[00:03:42] Stephen: Okay. So the book is your adventures on the trip? A year later COVID shut everything down.
[00:03:50] Gary: So I couldn’t even get into Canada if I wanted to that year. And so I we ran the cabin up in black Hills of South Dakota where. South Dakota residence rent the cabin up there and I go, wow, we’re gonna be locked out. I’m gonna write a book about traveling up there. And so I every day was an adventure hundreds of black bears and Grizzlies and wood bison, and elk wolves, everything that could kill you.
And so I made it up there and they didn’t die. And I figured I’ll write
[00:04:19] Stephen: about it. That could have been a second subtitle and I didn’t die. It, yeah, that could it. Yeah. So did you have any animals or anything like chase you cuz you always see videos like that? Yes.
[00:04:31] Gary: Oh really? Yes. I, yes there’s so much people worried about me getting hit by vehicles, but I had nice wide shoulders, especially in Canada, which was two thirds of my trip.
And especially in the Yukon big wide shoulders, a car could be on the shoulder and still be off the off the driving area. But as you get up, especially in the Yukon the Bush, they call, it gets fairly close to the roads cuz they don’t get it cut every year. And so you can have bears and wood bison in there 25% bigger than the planes bison than I’m used to.
And the bulls turn around and face. You unlikely my front brakes squeaked one time. And I was rolling fast enough that I scared him and I had a crane draft me a Sandhill crane was and look over and I’m eyeballed to eyeball the crane and it drafts me lands in the ditch and I and then it gets in the Bush and starts squaking at me.
And I sit there and eat my peanut butter sandwich. And so these are the kind of stories that I, I talk about in the.
[00:05:33] Stephen: Nice. Nice. So your wife drove. Did she mirror you, so you met up with her or did she just go up and wait for you to get up there?
[00:05:40] Gary: Actually I took off me on the bike weighed 285 pounds.
When I left, I was fully loaded with all my gear, extra tires, extra tubes extra food, clothing, whatever. And then she cut up with me in Western Saskatchewan. And from there on it was, would be harder and harder to find nightly lodging. I never camped once. So I biked and that’s why I left on May 20th, longest day of the year, June 20th, I was gonna take two months, at least when I got to the Yukon, there was light.
And if I had a bike at midnight, I could still bike in the light. And so I biked until she found a clean bed. Usually she’d catch up with me. Oh, say 11 o’clock in the morning or something like that. See if I needed anything, refill my water bottles. Cause I carry about a gallon of water with me.
And then she would go ahead and fine lodging. We had a general plan of where we were gonna go. And luckily by leaving that time of the year there’s lodging whether it’s work camps or Airbnbs or bed and breakfast, there’s usually some kind of lodging every a hundred miles
[00:06:43] Stephen: or so.
Nice. And you said you wrote some other books they all sound were they all nonfiction like this? Yes. Or
[00:06:51] Gary: yes. They’re all nonfiction besides directories. You probably see a couple up on top of relating to ancient culture relating to ancient learning. They are I’ll call it heavier books, but we’ve traveled around the world since we retired 10 years ago.
And every country talked about how culture is changing, how learning is changing. And so I tried to answer that question. Why is culture changing? So that’s actually written as a mystery. So 20 of the 22 chapters starters, riles, and you try to figure out as I did, what’s changing culture. And learning and using the past, I like history.
And so looking at the past, how does the past influence and how will learning change in the 21st century? So it’s learning uh, Into
[00:07:33] Stephen: the 21st century. Oh, I think that’s great. Cause I’m doing a talk kind of the same vein where it’s targeted to middle school parents parents of middle school kids and basically helping them open their eyes to the other possibilities kids have that they can actually start looking into in middle school as skills and careers for something to do eight, 10 years later preparing for it and oh,
[00:08:02] Gary: that’s F fantastic.
It’s that? That’s fantastic. Thank you Steven, for doing that. It’s my, my marketing title the title is relating to ancient learning what the marketing title is learning as it influences the 21st century. And so it, it sounds like right in line with some of the things you’re doing.
[00:08:22] Stephen: Yeah. I think that’s great. So that. The biking one sounds a little different. Do you think you would’ve written it if COVID hadn’t hit? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. My, my goal originally was I just wanted the bike out there. I It’s 3000 miles. And so I had no idea. A 65 years old, I had a 10 year old bike people told me to a road bike or a mountain bike or a better bike, an e-bike whatever.
[00:08:47] Gary: And I go, I know this bike I’ll just try it. And I didn’t know if I was gonna make it. I went every day and I started putting on more miles every day because distances were farther between lodging and I was in better shape as I got 10, two weeks into it, 10 days, whatever. And I was starting to do a hundred miles a day.
My longest day was actually in Saskatchewan, 166 miles. And so I did a daily blog cause people started asking me about where you’re at. You’re gonna make it. And so that was the, that was it. I made it and I had the blog and then I go I’m not gonna, I’m not one to sit around.
And I, yeah, I like to hike. My wife likes hike, likes to bike, but during COVID you gotta do something about thinking. And I thought, wow what a good opportunity when I can’t interact with socially let’s write something that people can sit in their arm, cheer and enjoy a trip without going.
[00:09:45] Stephen: And so the plan wasn’t originally to write a book, but you took it opportunity, the advantage of what you did to get a book written. I’m just kinda pointing that out for other authors listening. Cause sometimes I think people miss opportunities.
[00:10:00] Gary: Oh, we all do. We all do. I am an international researcher, so I’ve done a lot of my re agronomic research and Turkey.
And my last paper was on a Mongolia. And I think I, I like to collect data and so on my trip guide to north pole I had a spreadsheet where I wrote down the time I started at the time I got there, how many miles, what the elevation, how many calories I burned, what my speed. And that became the little index or the travel guide the first 10 lines of each chapter.
And so that was data. And so I used the data. Oh, what happened that day is, was in my blog, my daily blog. And so it just, I developed the story. So I three or 4, 5, 6 pages each day was a story of the bear that didn’t turn around and grabbed me, or or the dog that, and dog Wolf crossed that.
Scared. I it’s in the book. I don’t even like to talk about it because it’s things that can kill you. And so people do follow the travel guide. They wanna, may wanna read the book and evaluate the risk before they do it.
[00:11:08] Stephen: Got it. So you mentioned also that you have worked with other countries and cultures.
So going from America into Canada and driving, did you notice any culture differences or did people treat you differently? Cuz you’re biking across large swaths of country.
[00:11:25] Gary: You it’s Canadians are so fun. We often spend the winters in Mexico and the village that we Mexican farming and fishing village that we stay in is.
Probably 90% Canadians wintering down there. So I’ve been exposed to Canadians. And so we ended up stopping one night at at a farm that they hosted this. We had met ’em in Mexico. Another place I ended up I took two days off the whole time, so it was actually 42 days. So two days off and one couple invited us to, to stay at their place and happy degree, Amy raining that day.
And I go, wow, what a better chance to get to, to visit and know them better. And I got to go out in the woods with them and it was really
[00:12:06] Stephen: cool. Nice. So people reading the book, what type of feedback have they been giving you?
[00:12:11] Gary: All really good. don’t, I have all five stars like on Amazon or whatever, except one was a four star.
And so I knew the guy. And so I say, you know what? I really wanna know what was wrong as all authors. Do they want to know what what you didn’t think was up par. And the guy said on your blog, you had a picture every day. And in the book you don’t have as many pictures. So I go oh, okay Hey, that’s fair.
[00:12:37] Stephen: I guess. It
[00:12:38] Gary: is, it is. And an ebook, what a lot of people don’t realize is you are allowed something like Tim Tim’s sketch and uh, 10 sketches, figures, diagrams, whatever. And so you end up writing, I think, in, in shrinking those things out as you’re writing to try to allow both an ebook, paperback, and hardback which I have.
[00:13:00] Stephen: Yeah. And you also, the more pictures it’s more print and they charge you more. So
[00:13:06] Gary: That’s true. I printing few extra pages. If a if a photo or a diagram adds to. Definitely I’d recommend definitely authors included, but if it adds limited value and you’re trying to convert it, or even doing solely as an ebook, you can probably eliminate a lot of ’em.
[00:13:26] Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. Agreed. Okay. So this is traditionally published. Are all your books traditionally or independently published as opposed to yeah. All self published. Yeah. Did you look into any tried traditionally published or you just wanted to do a little bit
[00:13:42] Gary: By relating to ancient series books are the most complex books that I’ve written?
I did hire a book producer professional proofreaders, professional editors. The best thing I did is hired a professional indexer which is I was at a book fair this weekend and the lady asked me about Morris code because that’s something that I did her brother did. And I go let me check the index.
Of learning and I go through yeah, here’s about eight references or something like that to Morris code. So I guess that you can it’s probably the best index book that I’ve come across hire a professional indexer is one of my recommendations if you’re into that kind of fairly heavy non-fiction
[00:14:25] Stephen: wow.
I never heard of professional index or as a service. So there’s something new
[00:14:31] Gary: It is. And they’re well worth it. And if somebody’s writing a textbook, especially uh, indexing is the book has to be completed before you even start the indexing process because your page numbers are gonna change.
And so you have to absolutely have it done all of the proofing that everything is done set, and then you go into the indexing process and. And the more thorough you do it. I, in my opinion and I use indexes it, it makes the book better.
[00:15:02] Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. I can see that. I just got a flat tire this morning and I was looking up where the little lever is to get the tire dropped and I had to look that up in the index cuz I’ve never done it on this car before.
And it was like, oh, okay. I see it now it
[00:15:17] Gary: is critical for and thank you for offering this service to other authors and with my patents you also have to think through a lot of minute detail. And so you just can’t assume that somebody knows it. If they assume like on a patent, if you assume they know it, it’s not patentable.
So you have to explain things so other people can find or repeat or do it.
[00:15:40] Stephen: And like you said, with Moore’s code, you looked it up and there were several references. And I know a lot of times in the books, it may not be a section on Moore’s code, but it could be related to something else which that so you gotta get those types of tra traversals through the book, correct?
Yes. Nice. Okay. So this is an a weird question for this biking book, but would you see this, if there was a, an interest as a movie or a TV show,
[00:16:11] Gary: actually it would fit both because if it was the TV stereo you probably wouldn’t want to have a half hour of shrinking 3000 miles because there’s I’ll put it this way. My grand nephew was in videography school. When we re while we were on this trip. And so when we returned, he asked for all our, my wife and my video clips of the senior animals people, interactions, things like that.
And he shrunk it down the whole trip into nine and a half minutes. And so you have two second clips of a bison three seconds of a bear just, he did a fantastic job. So that’s on YouTube, by the way, I have the name of the book on destination, north pole, 5,000 kilometers by bicycles on YouTube.
And so if you’re going to do a movie, you would actually wanna make it into, I think like a 65 year old retired guy. It wasn’t a struggle. I hadn’t been on my bike in eight months, so it’s not like you can’t do it. You just have to evaluate the risks and start peddling. So that’s a story.
I think it would be interesting movie, but as a as a TV show, if you wanted to run a season or two. There’s plenty of material from here to the Arctic
[00:17:23] Stephen: circle. Yeah, I know. I could see it a couple different ways. You could have it as like a reality show with cameras and every day, good point
[00:17:32] Gary: 75 miles.
Good point. Yeah, because there’s, and a lot of people that, that drive like the can, the, they call Alaska highway was about half the trip. And a lot of people have made that trip and said, eh, I didn’t see that many animals, no, I maybe seen one B and I go, geez, I seen hundreds. And when do you know people drive from nine o’clock in the morning until five at night?
You’re not gonna see the animals. It’s too hot. This time, that time of the year bears are out grazing dandelions until about 9, 9 30 in the morning. And the wood bison are eating grass bowl by nine 30, shoot there in the Bush
[00:18:08] Stephen: getting shade. Yeah. People do that at the zoo all the time. They’re like it’s July 20th and it’s 120 degrees.
Why aren’t the animals doing anything? Yeah. Where’s the polar bears. Yeah. when you’ve got a fur coat on, do you feel like moving around when it’s on your 20? I’m like, geez, I’m good people. Yeah.
[00:18:22] Gary: Good point zoo is a good analogy.
[00:18:25] Stephen: Yeah. Nice. But I could also see it fictionalized where it’s a, like one a discovery coming of age type story or something like that with a bike trip and using based on true events almost or something like that.
I could see it going different ways.
[00:18:41] Gary: Most people do distance biking when they’re younger and a lot of ’em are they’re stripped there’s bike trips across the us organized where you bike in a group. I was sold. And I didn’t camp. I didn’t have my camping gear. So you go unless I have a little bitty bag emergency things strapped on the back with an emergency Bo water bottle.
But other than that, you have incentive to find a place to eat in a clean bed.
[00:19:08] Stephen: Yeah. And I’m sure that felt good after a day of biking, especially as, without a doubt went
[00:19:13] Gary: on without a doubt. And that’s why I thank my wife all the time for being willing to stop and see me during the day, a little bit, check on me and then find a place to, to lodge at night.
And sometimes we had to cook because there’s place where there’s no restaurants, there’s no quick fast food places. Even there’s no gas stations where you can pick up a bar. You just, you find a work camp of air Airbnb or whatever off the side of the road and you bike to it.
[00:19:42] Stephen: Yeah. Nice. So Gary, let me ask you you got a lot of books and you like to read, what are some of your favorite books, some of your favorite authors. And do you read non-fiction or do you read both fiction and non-fiction,
[00:19:55] Gary: I, I primarily read nonfiction. Okay. do read a fair amount of fiction. Some poetry, things like that, but yeah quote, one of my favorite authors is probably Henry David Thau like in the early 18 hundreds, he died the year civil war started.
And he wrote about reality, his experience near Concord, Massachusetts and so he lived in the woods. And so he really talked about what happened to him. So my favorite authors as I go to book shows and book festivals and things like that, I tend to pick up books that are written.
50 to 200 pages written by people my mother-in-law, she was in her eighties and she wrote a book about quest for water. She lived in semi aired, South Dakota and water was always a struggle, especially quality water. And as as she aged it, it became important to her to explain how they they got by with limited water and how the dams forced them off the river bottom and created a light for people to enjoy.
And then finally, she had water piped to her house. It was like, wow. And so these are real stories. I just, my last book I just finished was bowling gypsies about. The families that traveled for 20 some years in the six late fifties, sixties traveling to missile silos and how they moved every, sometimes every two weeks to a different state.
And they had families and they Boeing the company, Boeing had put up lodging trailer houses is basically forum. And so they would move in and move out. They’d do their work and they’d be move to a different site. And she told personal stories of people they, they met and how they all socialized.
And it’s just wonderful, personal little stories. Them are great books to, to read, I think. And they’re again, mostly paperbacks and. Sell them over 200 pages, but they’re real life
[00:21:51] Stephen: stories. Nice. And I was just talking to someone yesterday that does a program with young people who are in juvenile lockup and they get them to write their stories and then they do a talent show.
And he said, some of those stories are amazing
[00:22:08] Gary: because it’s real life to them. They and that’s why your work with the schools even younger, sit down and write I don’t care if it’s if it’s penciling out on and wide space lines, but be able to explain what you think.
I, I, one of the quotes attributed to Henry David thoro is is really vain to sit down and write if you haven’t stood up and.
[00:22:34] Stephen: Nice. Yeah I read on Walden pond in high school, mostly because the teacher said here’s a list of books. That’s on the list, but most you probably wouldn’t enjoy them.
So of course I had to find one of those to read there. Yeah. Uh, Walden life in the woods is a good book. Yeah. Yeah. And is see it’s real life. This is what happened to me. And this is what I did
it. It’s definitely not a easy, quick read. No, there’s a lot to it. It’s very dense. it?
[00:23:02] Gary: It is.
But at the same time for writers now, a lot of them use are used to I’ll call it snippets. And it’s hard to read snippets because the context 10 or 20 years can, is not, is hard to pick up. And so one of my advices to authors is even if you’re writing fiction, you can have a few snippets, but as.
Get past a short conversation, then you need sentences to flow again because it makes it too difficult to just follow the train of thought and the personal interactions and things like that with snippets. And another thing when you’re writing, especially non-fiction as I mentioned on research papers pure research, you’d have to explain yourself on patents.
You have to explain yourself so others can understand it. It’s the same way. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you have to be able to have somebody understand what you’re talking about.
[00:24:01] Stephen: And I think that’s an interesting viewpoint cuz one of the things I do struggle with is I always put down on paper what I am thinking in my head.
So it doesn’t come across. And your practice with writing patents I’m sure helped alleviate that in your writing it,
[00:24:19] Gary: it did, but it also makes you critically think about what is different because you can’t patent something if it’s not different. And so I have six patents and some of my inventions, like I made a risk support bar for, to support my wrist.
When I went bicycling, I was 25, 30 miles. I’d give sore risk. And so the day before I, I left on my bicycle trip, I went to the hardware store and made a risk support bar that, that my wrists rest on. I got patented because I’m tired of fighting patent attorneys, but it’s very practical. And I, Saturday, a couple days ago, I was at a signing and the guy said, you have a patent cuz I had my bike there and I go make it.
I made a video YouTube video about it, how you can make your own for 25 30 bucks. And EV you don’t have to necessarily write a patent, but you have to think through something real practical and be able to explain it. And I tell about it in the book, for example, if so, if they wanna buy my book, they can see how risk support bar works, alleviate their
[00:25:17] Stephen: risks.
Do you have a picture of that? I do
[00:25:20] Gary: good. And they can look at the YouTube video and see four minutes of it there.
[00:25:25] Stephen: Nice. And I like that using your blog, your YouTube video. So it all goes together. So it’s all a mult, a multimedia type of thing almost. And the guy that said there’s not enough pictures in the book.
That’s one of the great things in the world. If you saw it on the blog and you liked it on the blog, you can still look at the blog true. I,
[00:25:45] Gary: I, as I mentioned earlier, I made my living in agriculture and my two of my books were on the crop millet. It’s a, it’s an ancient grain, but not many people know about it.
And what I did last year yes, I still sell that book and I have it in. 40 whatever countries it’s the book, if you’re going to produce that crop. And so what I did last year is towards harvesting, went out to the fields and did short videos maybe four, five minute videos on how to determine a crop, if it’s ready for harvest, because you can write it down.
But sometimes if you actually see the seed head and can squeeze the head in your hand and it shes out, you can visualize in your own field a little bit better. So I’m using multimedia now from books that are 30 years old.
[00:26:31] Stephen: Nice, nice. And you’ve mentioned your blog and YouTube. Oh, do you have a website or what’s your blog web address?
[00:26:38] Gary: I, I I don’t do a daily blog. I did a blog for a destination north pole meaning my bicycle ride, but, and they can go to my website relating to ancients.com. That’s my series of books relating to ancients. Like ancient, relating to ancients.com. And on there I have my, my patents my books, you can order my books.
You can get links to the YouTube videos things like that. Nice.
[00:27:06] Stephen: Okay. I’ll make sure and put that in the show notes too. Thank you. All right. So be before we move on to some author stuff for your book if someone said at a fair or book signing, Gary, why should I buy your book and read it?
What would you tell ’em if,
[00:27:22] Gary: if you want to travel adventure and you’re thinking about doing this kind of thing, you need a guide what are the things you can look at? Go to the index and the index is everything I. But most people aren’t that way they talk about it, but I’m the lady says I’m 60.
She said, Saturday morning, I’m 60 and I’m not about do it. I go, I was 65 when I took off. So yeah, you can do it just, you don’t have to go 75 miles a day on average, do 20 miles a day, go to the next town and buy a pizza and come back the next day just do it. You don’t have to make it long distances.
It’s just one of those practical things that you can sit in your armchair. Like I had an 80 some year old lady buy my book and a few weeks later she comes back and sees by, I see her in a picnic actually. And she goes, I love your book. I’ve never been on a bike in my life that was a good book.
Wow. You explain the details enough you connect with your readers.
[00:28:20] Stephen: I like that. Yes, absolutely. Agree with that. Great. Gary, thanks for sharing the book. We’ll make sure and have the show notes and links to it for everyone. Listening, interested. Thank you.