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Letters to Zerky:  A Father’s Legacy to a Lost Son and a Road Trip Around the World

Bill Raney and JoAnne Walker Raney

Nickelodeon Press




The year was 1967, San Francisco, during the Vietnam War when the Raneys--Bill, JoAnne, baby Zerky, and their miniature Dachshund, Tarzan--embarked on a one-year trip across Eurasia.

Bill Raney has written an extraordinary travelogue in memory of his son Zerky and his wife JoAnne, who both died a few years after returning to the United States.  Thirty‑six years later, Bill would compile Letters to Zerky: A Father's Legacy to a Lost Son and a Road Trip Around the World, including the diaries written by JoAnne. Fascinating photos and maps are interspersed throughout the book, each telling their own story.

The Raney family journey began in Munich, Germany, where they bought a new Volkswagen Van that would be their home for the next year. They would travel over 23,000 miles, about 1,000 miles short of around the world in a heart‑warming adventure most people would not experience in a lifetime.  Traveling in those years was relatively safe and the dollar as strong.

In their travels, they faced cold weather, hot weather, rain, snow, and even got sick.  At times, having a small child and a dog in tow was not easy. Medical care and veterinarians were limited.  One huge problem was flat tires due to rugged road conditions, which frequently hounded them.  Mechanics were scarce and tire tubes were hard to find. 

They returned home in April 1968.

Bill Raney remarried two years after JoAnne died.  Years had passed before he dedicated a small grassy area near the high school where Zerky had been killed by a truck. After writing his stories, Bill wrote Zerky's Waltz, a CD that comes with this book.  Bill still rides his VW dubbed "The Zerky Mobile."

Letters to Zerky is a wealth of information about this amazing adventure taken a long time ago, and a story that deserves telling.

Clark Isaacs

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