The Road Headed West by Leon McCarron

The first time I got in my head that it might be a great idea to cross North America by bicycle was some four years ago at the UBC bike co-op. I was taking a course in bicycle building and spending some time in the workshop catching up on my build. Serving a sturdy bike at the stand next to me one evening was a woman from Quebec. I asked about her bike and it turned out that she was going on a bicycle trip across Canada together with some friends. From the Pacific to the Atlantic as part of a HIV awareness project.

Hearing about their plans sowed the first thoughts of doing something similar in my own mind. But I decided I wanted to do it East to West, leaving from the Atlantic and arriving at the Pacific. In particular I wanted to know how it feels to glimpse the first peaks of the Rocky Mountains after weeks on the flat prairies.

I haven't made the trip yet, we moved back to Europe for a while, and I found other trips to dream and plan of. This summer however my partner gave me The Road Headed West - A Cycling Adventure Through North America, by Leon McCarron and I re-visited the idea in book form at least.

Leon McCarron is an adventurer (his own words, but it is probably a good job description for someone who specialize in human powered travel) and The Road Headed West is his first book, a tale of how he set out to cross North America from New York to Seattle (and then along the west coast down to the Mexican border). This was McCarron's first long distance trip, and he has a lot to learn, leaving New York without much of a clue and way to much luggage; arriving three months later in Seattle as a seasoned traveler with a slimmed down bike trailer. It makes for a pretty good story.

The book is a string of events and people along the way, east to west. Not all are happy and some - like being chased by drunken gunmen - are scary, but the tone of the book is very positive. I get the feeling that Leon really have good memories of his trip, and that he experienced genuine warmth from most of the people he met on the road.

The memories from eastern US and the heartland are a bit more focused than those from the West. Once Leon reaches the Rocky Mountains things feels hurried. Though I really appreciate that it would be impossible to fit everything from such a trip into one book. It is a pleasant read, the language is clear and sometimes witty. There are sometimes gaps in the text, and at one occasion Leon wrote that it was past mid-June when he in the previous chapter had written about spending fourth of July with an American family. I assume that is a typo not caught in the copy however.  But, I whine about trivialities. To be honest, it was a good read. I liked it and hope Leon McCarron continues to write about his other adventures.

I also found that reading the book rekindled my own ideas of crossing Canada. McCarron's trip was mostly in the USA with the occasional excursion into Canada, but like my dream trip it goes from east to west. Most people travels west to east. The reasons are the head winds on the prairies. Something that probably shows how little I know. The inspiring thing however is that so did Leon McCarron. Yet, he did it. It can't always have been easy but he made the trip.