From the top of North America to the tip of South America: Dominic Gill rode 18,449 miles on a tandem bicycle. Starting out alone, his hope was to collect riders along the way to help power his fully-loaded bike, provide companionship and co-star in the documentary he was filming.
Take a Seat is Dominic Gill’s story of his journey from Deadhorse, Alaska, as far north as a public road goes in Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina, as far south as you can drive in the western hemisphere. A British citizen, Dominic had tired of his office job in London. Having previously enjoyed the allure of bicycle touring, the pull of adventure became too strong. Dredging up an old dream of cycling the full length of North and South America, he sent a pitch off to a film producer in the hopes of selling a documentary on his ride.
“Sounds like a great trip,” the producer said. “but not interesting enough.” On the spur of the moment, the producer came up with the idea that Dominic should ride a tandem with an open seat for random passengers. After two weeks of consideration and a “home improvement” loan to finance the trip, Dominic agreed.
With brutal honesty, Dominic tells the story of his ride: screaming rage while riding up hills in headwinds; tears of loneliness; laughter and good times; and many, many new friends. Over 18,449 miles, there’s time for a lot of emotion and introspection, and Dominic’s openness about his highs and lows is remarkably refreshing.
The book is not all about Dominic, however. It’s also about the places he travels through and the people he meets. He started his trip with a great deal of fear: fear of the long miles, fear of not picking up passengers, fear for his safety from wild animals and unfriendly people. What he found, however, was that his fears which were based on external factors were groundless. He reported no confrontations with bears, moose or other dangerous animals, even in the wilds of Alaska and Canada. In every country, the people were friendly, generous and helpful.
Dom also found people to help him pedal; approximately 270 of them, in fact. Although he was hoping to entice locals to travel with him, whether for a few hours or a few days, he found that most, especially in Central and South America, were too busy making a survival to take time off for him. Most of his stokers were fellow travelers who were willing to abandon their own plans for a few days to accompany him. Everywhere, however, he was thronged by children, and sometimes adults, wanting a spin around town on Achilles, his bright orange tandem bike. No matter how tired or grumpy he was, these were the requests he always honored.
In the end, two years and two months after he started, Dominic Gill finished his trip with a wealth of memories and nearly 200 hours of film footage documenting every aspect of the trip. That footage went on to become an award-winning documentary. Take a Seat is well worth reading, whether you’re planning your own adventure or you’re just an armchair adventurer. Enjoy!
Note: I purchased this book with my own money and with no expectation of remuneration for this review.