Hi. I’m Tom. I was born in Sarospatak, Hungary. (This is me there a couple of years ago.)
I’ve spent most of my life in Canada. Today, I live a tale of two cities: Montreal and Toronto. I move back and forth between the two. My immediate family and close friends are in Toronto. Montreal is where I had worked for many years (mostly in documentary film making) and where my mother still lives. She, by the way, is on the cusp of 100, still lives on her own, plays cards four or five times a week with her buddies (all over 90 and sharp as tacks), and her memory is the envy of my peers. My best buddy, Christine, and I are making a film about them.
About a year ago I took up bicycling in a more serious way. Until then my cycling had been confined to running around the city on a heavy 20-year old Raleigh. It suited me and frankly I didn’t know any better. It served me well as a city commuter. Occasionally, I would take it for longer jaunts about the city; it was slow and cumbersome. That was ok. I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. I had been running for about 25 years, going for long, solitary runs. As I was getting older, I couldn’t run as I used to. I looked around for something else that would give me the same combination of endorphin rush and meditative distance from daily life.
By happenstance, at that time, a friend had signed up for a three-week cycle trek through Patagonia. He convinced me to join him. Patagonia is that fairy tale world where enchantment and mystery, delight and challenge commingle. We were a small group who stumbled into this world haphazardly, brought together by a tenuous link with a spin instructor, an aging Merlin, more sorcerer’s apprentice than sorcerer.
It turned out to be glorious. We cycled through temperate rain forests, alongside lakes tinted aquamarine by glacier sediment, through dusty villages of a long-ago era stopping for cook-outs by the roadside. As we flew back home I thought of the rough gravel roads, the steep mountain climbs, inclement weather and roadside stews we had left behind. We had also left something else behind, an ethereal otherness, a magic that, for a while, lifted us out of our everyday selves and made us knights in a glorious quest of our own devising. There was something addictive about that state of being.
One of our Patagonian group, Colin, an experienced cyclist, regaled us with stories of the time he biked the length of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. Twice! He spoke of it with the kind of ache we have for the lost glories of childhood. I was hooked. The romance of the road dug deep into me. The only hitch being that I was more than twenty years older than Colin when he had done the Tour d’Afrique with no real experience of long-distance bike touring. It had also been many years since I had set up a tent and camped in the wild. Yet the dream wouldn’t let go. So with some trepidation I signed up and began my preparations. So here I am.