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category: Transportation
published: May 2019
publisher: Ronsdale Press

Riding the Continent

by Hamilton Mack Laing, edited by Trevor Marc Hughes, introduction by Richard Mackie


Hamilton Mack Laing was an illustrious early British Columbia writer and naturalist. But few know him as how he described himself in his mid-thirties: a motorcycle-naturalist. For several years beginning in 1914, Laing used the motorcycle to access the natural world, believing it gave him a distinct advantage over other forms of transportation. During this period in his life he would take on a transcontinental journey, riding across the United States from Brooklyn to Oakland in 1915. His previously unpublished manuscript of this journey has been hidden away for nearly a century. Now, its pages telling the tale of his "six-weeks' perambulation" will be available to readers for the first time. Riding the Continent tells the story of a pioneering motorcyclist and independently thinking naturalist as well as an unusual road trip. As Laing put it, "the lure of the unending road is a call that will not be denied." Laing's tale explores the beauty of North America's bird life, describes the sights, scenery and people he encountered, and takes us along for the ride on a 1915 Harley-Davidson he named Barking Betsy. Also included are a foreword by Laing biographer and B.C. historian Richard Mackie and an afterword by editor and motorcycle travel writer Trevor Marc Hughes.

About the Authors

Hamilton Mack Laing

Trevor Marc Hughes

Richard Mackie is the author of Mountain Timber: The Comox Logging Company in the Vancouver Island Mountains (Sono Nis Press, 2009), Island Timber: A Social History of the Comox Logging Company, Vancouver Island (Sono Nis Press, 2000), Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793-1843 (UBC Press, 1997), The Wilderness Profound: Victorian Life on the Gulf of Georgia (Sono Nis Press, 2009) and Hamilton Mack Laing: Hunter-Naturalist (Sono Nis Press, 1985). Mackie lives in Vancouver where he is Associate Editor of BC Studies.
Contributor Notes

HAMILTON MACK LAING, the renowned writer and naturalist, was born in Hensall, Ontario, in 1883. He had a distinguished career, with many books and articles in newspapers and outdoor magazines about the natural world to his credit. As a naturalist, Laing would travel far and wide on many expeditions, including the Smithsonian Institution's Lake Athabasca expedition of 1920 and the Canadian Alpine Club's Mount Logan expedition of 1927. He died in Comox, British Columbia, in 1982.

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