Three months of beauty, camaraderie, hospitality, and humanity.
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Each travel book on my bookshelf is an accordion of folded pages, each fold marking some passage that captures the unique tang of wanderlust.
My favourites have always been the ones that make you feel like you could do this, too. The authors who write of experiences and adventures within your reach, brought to you eloquently and entertainingly in case you don't have the time or means to get them yourself just now.
I always thought it would be really neat to contribute to these accounts. That if I could write words to make one other person think "damn, that sounds great. I think I'll try bike touring", I'd consider the whole thing a success.
Mile 1000 in the Prairies, I'm on the left
Eastwards and Far is a book about cycle touring, set against a Canadian backdrop. It's about the rhythm of a tour, the joy it brings, and the opportunity it affords to live on a slightly different plane for a while. It's not about the technical or competitive aspects of the sport: instead, it's my pitch for the merits of pedalling as a temporary lifestyle.
Because if you get on a bike, aim your front wheel, and rotate your pedals thousands - maybe millions - of times, you can cross a continent. You can traverse incredible distance from A to B and see the beauty and humanity that fill the space between.
At mile 2000 we briefly swapped bikes for canoes
No unbroken route connects the east and westernmost points of Canada. The Trans Canada Highway comes closest, but its miles are filled with cars, articulated lorries, and speed limits way above those conducive to gentle exploration.
The Trans Canada Trail claims to go across, too, but if you lay out a map of the country, place your finger on the western tip, then run it eastward, you'll quickly realise it does no such thing.
Milestones aren't always scenic! Mile 3000 at a busy Montreal junction
The mainly improvised line we rode threaded its way through endless beauty: formidable mountains, sun-bleached prairies, unfathomably large lakes; dense forest, idyllic beaches, windswept headlands. Baking sun punctuated with torrential rain.
And everywhere, people were kind. Everywhere our ride was a springboard for people to jump into a story of some past adventure, of one being undertaken by friends and family, or to share some future plan. The first were the most substantive, but the latter were always my favourite: our ride playing the same role that written accounts of adventure had for me: "if they can do it, I can too."
Mile 4000 on Prince Edward Island
This book distils the majesty of place and the excellence of its people. It is a contemplation - and a celebration - of the joy of a bike tour; of what makes Canada Canada; of the kindness that pervades humanity despite the contrary narratives global affairs seem so intent to push.
Most of all, it is an invitation - and maybe an inspiration - for you, the reader, to discover this joy as well.
Mile 4542 at Cape Spear, Canada's most easterly point
Here, simply, is a tale of three months, thousands of miles, and the endless conversations, connections and stories that filled them. The rhythms of bike touring. The beauty, camaraderie, hospitality and humanity that abound in this world.
A tale of one ride, Eastwards and Far.