Santa was good to me.
I awoke Christmas morning to find a copy of Lorraine Lambert’s How to Cycle Canada the Wrong Way in my stocking.
Ms. Lambert has a cycling blog named Cycling in a Skirt that I have followed for several years. I have enjoyed her insightful, diverse posts, and knew she had cycled across Canada, but had no idea she wrote a book about her adventure. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it done.
I have read numerous cycle touring books, and am usually gravely disappointed. Too often they are unimaginative accounts documenting daily mileage, routes, and insufficiently detailed maps. Helpful, perhaps, but devoid of drama, suspence, or comic relief.
Not this one.
Ms. Lambert is a skilled wordsmith, recounting her daily adventures, of which there were many, in a personal, humorous, and insightful way. She did everything wrong. She had no previous cycle-touring experience, purchased a used bike without even a test spin, and cycled across Canada from east to west, battling the incessant prevailing headwinds the entire trip. Hence, the title of the book.
But this is not simply a travel memoir. It’s about personal development. Ms. Lambert, a “40-something” social worker, grew disenchanted with her daily commutes, and lac-luster work. She wanted something more. She decided to do what any single, young woman would do in her place. She quit her job, sold her house, bought a used bike, and headed to Canada to cycle across the country 😃
This story is as much about personal development as it is about cycling. Ms. Lambert did this alone. That’s right. She did this by herself, without any previous experience, partner, or plan. On a whim, she packed up, boarded a plane, and headed west.
At first, I thought this was absurd. What kind of fool does this? No preparation. No experience. But then I realized that is the point of an adventure. To test yourself. Face your fears head on. For, it is when we live on the edge that we reap the biggest rewards. It’s when we push ourselves to the limit that we realize our full potential.
Ms. Lambert did just that. She faced incessant winds, tortuous climbs, sweltering heat, bone chilling cold, long, arduous days, and an insatiable appetite. And, despite her inexperience, she made good time, made life-long friends, and experienced Canada as only you can from the seat of a bike.
What I liked most about the book is how Ms. Lambert interspersed email exchanges with her younger sister, who was beginning an adventure of her own, with her daily struggles, disappointments, and victories. They clearly missed one another, yet supported each other completely. This thread, this contact with her family, became a central theme. She also develops a special friend, a fellow countryman, another solo cycle tourist pedalling the same route, along the way to help with the gruelling, daily effort. Their on-again, off-again relationship fuelled an internal struggle to support one another. Or not. And, like the email exchanges with her sister, had her questioning what she was doing.
The book has everything. It’s informative. I have lived in Canada my entire life, travelled coast to coast several times, and yet managed to learn things about the country’s history. It’s dramatic, full of long days, epic climbs, inclement weather, and a few tears. It’s insightful. It’s not just about travelling on the road, but in the mind as well. It is as much about personal development, as it is about the incessant headwind. And, it’s suspenseful. The reader is continually wondering if Ms. Lambert will ever make it. Does she have the physical, and mental strength to succeed?
She does! In spades.
And then, after reaching the west coast, the book ends abruptly, leaving the reader hanging. What happens next? Is there another adventure? What happened to Tom, her sometimes travel companion? Will there be a sequel? I was left yearning to learn more.
For me, the measure of a good story is whether it moves me emotionally, and intellectually. Does it make me laugh? Cry? Rethink my priorities? Cycling Across Canada the Wrong Way certainly did. There is even a surprise ending that literally brought me to tears.
So, whether you are a cyclist or not, this book is an enjoyable, must read. If you are a cyclist, the book will challenge you to set new goals, and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
The book is available on Amazon in both electronic and paper formats.