UNIVERSITY lecturer and ‘outdoor philosopher’ Dr Kate Rawles will deliver the first talk to be held in the newly-refurbished Percival lecture theatre at the University of Cumbria’s campus in Ambleside.
It marks the start of a series of open lectures being launched by the university’s outdoor studies department in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society’s north-west region.
Kate will present a slide show about her 4,553-mile bike ride from Texas to Alaska, following the spine of the Rockies and exploring North American attitudes to climate change.
She tells the story of the epic journey in her book The Carbon Cycle; crossing the great divide, which was published in 2012.
The lecture also co-incides with the opening of a new exhibition in the Glasgow Riverside Transport Museum, entitled Adventurers, which features Kate’s bike ‘Rocky’ alongside the two motorbikes actor Ewan McGregor used during his Long Way Round and Long Way Down expeditions.
The exhibition brings together essential objects belonging to five adventurers who each set out on their own marathon journey, pushing themselves - and their bikes - to the absolute limit.
Other intrepid travellers featured in the exhibition are paralympian Karen Darke who conquered almost 1,000 miles handcycling in the Himalayas; explorer Mark Beaumont who cycled some 13,000 miles across the Americas from Alaska to Argentina and Andy Brown, who cycled 9,300 miles in just 364 days across three southern continents.
Kate, who lives in Ulverston, is a passionate environmentalist and cyclist and explains: “Bikes and motorbikes are fantastic facilitators of adventure. If you turn up in a remote town or village in a car, not much happens. But arrive on a bike or motorbike and everyone comes to talk to you. On a bike, you are really in the landscape you're travelling through; you smell, hear and feel it quite differently.
“For all their simplicity, bikes are amazing technology. I once read that on a flat road with no head wind a cyclist can cover ten miles on a peanut! Cycling is the most efficient way of moving humans around that we've ever come up with, so bikes are great from a climate change perspective too.
“And they make adventures accessible for ordinary people, like me. Unlike the others in the exhibition, I'm not a great athlete or famous. If I can have an adventure like this on a bike, then anyone can.”
Her lecture and slideshow will tell the story of her trip, cycling across unforgiving but starkly beautiful landscapes, averaging 75 miles a day, passing through deserts, mountains and forests and climbing over 300,000 feet, more than ten times the height of Everest!
Her route took her through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon and Alaska and along the way she talked to Americans about climate change – from truck drivers, to the Mayor of Albuquerque – to find out what they knew about it, whether they cared, and if they did, what they thought they could do.
“The trip really brought home to me what a wonderful, diverse, extraordinary place planet earth is and made me feel even more strongly about the need to protect it”, Kate adds, “but alongside the fantastic landscapes and wildlife it confronted me with the worst excesses of consumerist culture; North America holds up a mirror to Europe and allows us to ask, is this really worth paying the earth for?”