A Gorey Man’s Cycle From Alaska To Argentina

Book Review: Half The World Away

In February 2010, Ian Lacey met Lee Saville at a friend’s birthday party in Denver, Colorado. From the beginning, it was clear that the two of them were looking to do something very different with their lives. Another chance encounter with a delegate at an environmentalist conference would point Lacey in the direction of the Swedish mountaineer, Gören Kropp. Then, as luck would have it, Lacey happened on a copy of Kropp’s book Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey. This would sow the seed of a long term cycling project in Ian’s head- But this was a dream that also had a strong foundation built from childhood.

‘My childhood had thickly-bound atlases and time spent imagining the colour of landscapes where unusual place names were inked; as an adolescent, I had been captivated by the images of National Geographic; in my early 20s, it was Bill Bryson, Stanley Stewart, and stories of Shackleton’s voyages which held me in their grip. All of these had left an enduring mark at each stage of my life, slowly incubating a wanderlust that for a long time had very little outlet due to my age, stage of education, and financial circumstances.’

Looking at the world map on his living room wall, Lacey decided that he ‘should travel it by bicycle – for no other reason than the fact that he could.’ This statement was made all the more remarkable in that Lacey could ‘count on one hand the number of times he’d been on a bicycle in the past year.’ It was with this attitude that he embarked upon a 27,000km cycle from the very top of North America to the most southerly point of  South America.

This open honesty makes Half The World Away a particularly inspirational read. It gives the reader a real sense that practically anyone could drop what they are doing and achieve something similar. Over the course of 360 pages of this excellent adventure book, the reader is invited to take part in Lacey’s epic journey as if by his side.

Lacey makes this possible through a great command of the English language. Each setting is described beautifully. You can almost hear the crunch of the gravel or the smooth, slick sound of a sealed road. You can sense the bitter cold of the Arctic Circle as well as the dry humidity of Central America. You can hear the gurgling of rivers and the whistling wind. Lacey perfectly encapsulates the beautiful natural scenery of the American continent and gives us a flavour of the cultural life in each country that he passes through. For a first-time author, this is very impressive writing.

Memorable experiences include an encounter with a brown bear and her cubs. He stays with and randomly encounters many of the Irish Diaspora. He even discovers a mythical town of beautiful women hidden away in the mountains. Lacey becomes part of a community of cyclists engaged in similar challenges and makes many friends along the way. However, it is the local population of South America that really stole the show, as their down-to-earth kindness and genuine friendliness constantly impress the author.

At the heart of this book is the immeasurable personal journey that takes place over the 18 months. Thanks to diary entries interspersed throughout the text, we get a real sense of Lacey’s thoughts and feelings. It is tremendous to witness his athletic transformation from a struggling cyclist in Alaska to a cyclist regularly banging out over 100km a day by the end. All of this while struggling with colitis.

At no stage does Lacey wax lyrical about these experiences. He often includes the bad days, the disappointments and the worries. The deterioration of his relationship with his cycling partner Lee makes for some honest reading. Throughout the book, Ian also worries about his girlfriend Áine and how their relationship might change over the 18 months that he is away. All of these elements add a real human factor to the story.

As an independently published book, this is a story that can easily slip under the radar, however, Ian Lacey’s story is one worth hearing and I strongly encourage you to buy a copy to support this great Wexford man.

You won’t regret it.

  • This book is available on amazon.com as well as on http://www.ianlacey.com
  • The official blog of the trip http://www.350south.org adds to the reading experience
  • Ian Lacey dedicated his cycle to the Carers’ Association of Ireland and raised over €30,000.
  • At the end of the book, Lacey hints at further adventures to come in the future. This is an author that is worth keeping an eye out for.

@thebookchiefblog, Wexford Weekly

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