Continental Quest by Fred McBee and Jack Ballinger, paperback, 216 pages, Overland Press (1984), ISBN: 0930479009
"Continental Quest" is a great inspirational book about the first wheelchair crossing of North America, co-written by Fred McBee and Jack Ballinger. This raucous, rousing true-life adventure of two wheelchair athletes muscling their way across the great expanse of America, was written while the memories were emotionally chaste. It is an honest, if sometimes unflattering, portrayal of the athletes' achievement, what they did and how they felt about it, on their way from Los Angeles to New York City. Barry Corbet, editor of New Mobility magazine, welcomed the book as "an American classic – one of the great disability adventures", and today – more than two decades after the event took place – what we read is still an epic story of high adventure. "Written into the text of this classic work, and inscribed between the lines, is a manly gut-wrenching courage portrayed with a macho gut-busting humor" says William Harrison, author of "Rollerball" and "Mountains of the Moon". "The fact that it is true, and that it is about guys in wheelchairs, tells us that we live in a world without limits or excuses," adds Jim Morris, author of "War Story" and "Operation Dumbo Drop". If the book had inspired generation of athletes, after its publication it also inspired Dick Bernard to put together a committee that raised millions of dollars to make the Statue of Liberty wheelchair accessible. He blamed this on "Continental Quest" recounting a story from the expedition: "When we got to New York City, Bernard asked us if there was something special we would like to see. 'Lady Liberty!', the team chorused. 'Sorry', Bernard had to tell us. 'It is not accessible'. Everyone appreciated the irony. We had just crossed a continent, conquered mountains and prairies, but we couldn't climb the stairs at the foot of the statue". Bernard says that moment inspired him to form his committee for making the Statue of Liberty a monument truly accessible to all the people in the world. Author Fred McBee, as a journalist, covered the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the first time that wheelchair racing was included in the Olympiads (the men's 1500 meters and the women's 800 meters were chosen as demonstration events by the International Olympic Committee). Former English teacher at the University of South Florida, Fred McBee retired from teaching to concentrate on international travel and disabled issues. Co-author Jack Ballinger is twice captain. He runs the fire boat for the Tampa Fire Department (occasionally you'll see him on the evening news, standing on the deck of a burning tanker, silhouetted against a wall of flame). He is also a certified charter captain, operating his own fishing/dive boat.