From the Library: The Masked Rider...


I picked this book up at a local used book shop for, oh, about $1 plus change. Some books hold their value, others gain enormously in value over the passing years, while others ... well. That said, I suggest you ignore the fact that this one falls into the latter category. What it lacks in value, it makes up for in story; it is, in fact, quite grabbing, and took me on a long bumpy ride down a series of tortuous, dusty roads.

I confess it is not what I expected when I picked it from the shelf. I didn't closely read the description on the back cover, until after I had started reading through the pages. Just another example of how I can be blinded by the mere sight of a bicycle on a cover. As a result, what I thought would be an anthropological study of bicycle use in West Africa, turned out to be a travelogue instead.

I also overlooked the name of the author at the time of purchase as well. It is, of course, that Neil Peart, drummer of the rock band Rush. As it turns out Neil is not only an accomplished musician, he can also compose a better-than-average travelogue and, I would judge, is a well-versed adventure / touring cyclist. (I'm hoping you noticed the way I worked those musical references in there - "composed", "well-versed" - I work hard for those moments).

Not only is the account of Neil's (as well as his four companions) engaging, it is also informative. For instance I learned things about the African nation of Cameroon, and the people who live there. I also learned that adventure cycling can be very philosophical. And with that I am going to close this review with a few of my favorite quotes from the book: 

"... I had experienced enough cycle touring to know that when you're finished pedaling by 9:30 in the morning, with the rest of the day free and a nice hotel by the ocean, you should enjoy it."

"...sometimes a slow rider has nothing to do with strength or age; it can be a mental thing. There's probably a metaphor for life there."

"The world is a friendly place from the saddle of a bicycle, and anything you can't actually see from that vantage point tends to recede into unimportance."

"How different it is to be riding through a landscape, rather than just by it. In some ways it makes a strange place less exotic, and yet it becomes infinitely more real ... there are no walls or windows between your senses and the world."

Peart, Neil  The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa  Lawrencetown Beach, Canada: Pottersfield Press, 1996

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