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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Review: The Masked Rider

I started listening to The Masked Rider before the COVID19 shelter in place orders, and after that got so distracted by various items that I forgot to listen to the audio book, so my memory of the book is kinda disjointed.

The book describes a guided tour Neil Peart took long before the events of Ghost Rider, organized by  David Mozer. I'm not a huge fan of guided/organized bike tours, but for a trip in Africa I would make an exception, but with Peart's trip report, I can certainly see why I've avoided those trips. The small group dynamics is painful, with annoying clashes of personality and disparate riding abilities, which would tax the patience of a saint.

Peart's personality in this book is completely different than that of Ghost Rider --- it's at times larconic, sarcastic, and even unsympathetic and racist in certain moments, describing the culture of most Africans as people who aspire to and want the nice material things in life that North Americans have (Peart is Canadian) but unwilling to do the work (e.g., practicing drumming) to achieve them. There are repeated encounters with locals where Peart repeats this statement.

The days of the tours are described well, but it's also clear that an adventure tour in Africa isn't for the faint of heart. The days are warm and hot (they do take the pains to start early) and the sleeping conditions could make life tough on top of the challenges of the bike tours. The encounters with local officials are a massive pain, and even exiting the country via the airport was fraught with bureaucracy and officials asking for their palms to be greased. I didn't get much of a sense that there was a lot of the joy of cycling to be found anywhere in Africa, or at least Cameroon. I remember my bike tour in South Africa being OK but not something I'd be in a hurry to repeat, especially with kids towing along

If I ever consider doing a tour of Africa by bike, I'll probably make myself listen to this book again just to remind myself what a dumb (and expensive) idea that would be. It would save me a lot of money. Recommended!

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