Rockford native to present on bike tour of North America

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Robert Downes is a seasoned traveler who has backpacked around the globe twice and visited over 70 countries. He has cycled across much of Europe, as well as South Africa, Peru and Nicaragua. Courtesy Robert Downes

Author Robert Downes will speak on his experiences in long-distance biking. 

Downes will be speaking at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at the Kent District Library — Krause Memorial Branch, at 140 E. Bridge St. NE in Rockford. 

The talk, which is free to the public, will recount Downes’ 5,000-mile bike ride from Seattle to the northern tip of Newfoundland, Canada.

The trip led Downes through the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains and the Adirondacks, camping all the way. Downes will share his own experiences and lessons learned along the trail in hope of inspiring others to take to the outdoors on wheels. 

At the talk, Downes will share some basics of bike touring, including camping, gear, nutrition, staying safe and routes anyone can enjoy.

“I hope to inspire people to take up bike touring as a low-cost way to have an amazing adventure of the sort that can’t be experienced while traveling by car. We’re living in a golden age of cycling, and there are literally hundreds of long-distance bike paths and routes in countries around the world.” 

Downes is a seasoned traveler who has backpacked around the globe twice and visited over 70 countries. He has cycled across much of Europe, as well as South Africa, Peru and Nicaragua. 

“I took my first bike tour to British Columbia in 1987 in the wake of a painful divorce,” Downes said. “I wanted to go on an adventure to reboot my life but found that hiking the Inca Trail and other adventure travel ideas were too expensive. Thus, I decided to go bike touring instead. 

Downes also will share ideas about bike touring in Michigan.

Born in Grand Rapids, Downes spent his first few years on his grandfather’s farm 10 miles east of Rockford and currently resides in Traverse City. He credits his early years finding arrowheads and other native artifacts in the Rockford fields with his father for his fascination with Indigenous peoples. 

This fascination led to the publication of his first novel, “Wendigo Moon,” in 2017. The novel, a historical story of the Ojibwe, won several awards and was followed last year by a prequel titled “The Wolf and the Willow.” Both novels will be available at Tuesday’s presentation, in addition to Downes’ cycling guide, “Biking Northern Michigan.” 

Reservations for the talk are recommended and can be made by contacting the library at (616) 784-2007.

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