I’ve been wanting to write more about this bike trip, to document it properly, to explain the obstacles only present in an endurance of this scale however when I write about the day to day events, I find myself at a loss for creativity and excitement. As I’ve hiked 1000km, kayaked 2500km, been lost in the mountains of Papua New Guinea to name a few, I never have to second guess myself as if I can accomplish this trip with previous endeavours like those under my belt. Yes, prior to this cycle I’ve never ridden a bike further than 40km in a day but anyone with great perseverance will know that they will make it to the end, no matter what, even if it means slugging out thirteen hour days of back breaking work for four months straight, or longer, whatever it takes, I will make it. So when a decision is made to cycle across Canada, that’s final, it will happen and I won’t give up until I either finish or get killed trying. It might sound a little dramatic but when you’re soaked through lying in a cold dark tent huddled in a wet sleeping bag as you listen to the wind howl in the trees above, the same wind that’s impeded on your progress for the past four days, it takes a constant reminder that dying trying is much more honourable than giving up on your dreams. It’s not that the fame of cycling across Canada is worth dying for, rather its dark lonely moments in a tent like these that make the rest of my life worth living for.
I hate writing anything without meaning. Meaning for me is something that comes from the heart and can be implied every day for the rest of our lives, so as I rewrite this now I’m scraping the 3000 words bellow that I just spent the past four hours working into an adventure about the events between Saskatoon and Winnipeg. I’ve realized that this cycle trip is tough, I mean really tough but contrary to what most people might get out of a trip like this is not a self-discovery of overcoming physical feats, it’s an emotional journey for me to reconnect with the people in my life which have meant so much to me in the past and of course meeting new and interesting people along the way. Being gone from my family for three years I can honestly tell you there were times I thought I would never see them again. There were times when I lay on a bamboo shelter in the jungle not knowing if I’d see the light of day tomorrow, there were times on the beach when I saved people and gave them another chance to see that light again, and there were times on the road when I witnessed people who would never wake up to see that light again. Now as I’m already half way across Canada it’s slowly starting to reveal itself. Every time I drive by a lake I’m reminded of my summer home in which is the catalyst for my love of the outdoors. Every time I sip a coffee I can smell the slow drip pot in my parent’s kitchen brewing a fresh cup. Every time the daisy seeds blow in the wind, they swirl like flakes of snow dropping from the sky at the Halifax waterfront on Christmas eve. These are my memories and each and every day they get stronger and more vivid. It’s a horrible aching tease for myself to want these things so bad and yet I throw in more obstacles to overcome before getting what I really want. I often times wonder why I couldn’t have just bought a plane ticket and see my family again. I often times wonder what I’m holding myself back from. What am I going to find at the end of this trip that I’m so afraid to see that I need to spend four months on a bike clearing my mind and writing about it. What is it that we all seek in life but are afraid to find?
On a trip like this it only really starts getting tough when your mind becomes harder to push than your muscles. On average I spend ten hours a day on a bike, prying myself awake at 4:00 am when everything is still soaking wet, cold, and uncomfortable. The early morning clouds offer no protection from the plagues of mosquitoes piercing my skin in hundreds of different locations and sucking that precious hard earned blood from my body. My back is sore from the log beneath my tent, the third time this week. The passing trucks during the night would lay on their horn when spotting your tent off the side of the road, just to be dicks. When the trucks don’t wake me, the curious moose, rodents, and mice trying to get into my food will. All a great nuisance however trying to cycle against a 25km/h or more head wind is the biggest moral thief I have ever experienced. Cycling hours into a head wind only to gain a measly 30km on the day is enough kill your spirits and send you into a depression. I had my first mental break down on my way across the prairies last week when I fought these conditions day after day. Eventually I couldn’t push on and I spent an entire day huddle in a cold wet tent all alone, contemplating my motives to finish this trip and contemplating pulling the plug on my entire adventure. I know better though, I’ve been among these ruins before and it won’t be the last for this trip, hang tight relax and things will get better, they always do. In hindsight I’m glad I have days like that because it makes the good days really good and ultimately when I do finish this trip Il remember every one of those thoughts and be happy I pushed through and didn’t give up. The reward is worth the misery.
On a 7000km bike ride your own mind and will power will most definitely be your biggest obstacle however from time to time some broken equipment can be a good distraction from the emotional side of it. My bike has been increasingly impressive. Each day I realize the bike I’m riding is much more capable than the legs that push it along but everything has its breaking point and as my legs get stronger, the hardware on my bike gets weaker. As I was chugging along down the #1 highway into Winnipeg the dreaded sound of a crack pierced through the hollow swoosh of cars and trucks blowing past my shoulder. Instantly my front pannier buckles and mangles itself into my front tire with bouncing metal against metal as the front spokes repeatedly hit the front pannier rack PING* PING* PING*. The constant bumps, bangs, and vibration from the imperfect roads between Vancouver and here have paid its toll on the lightweight aluminum front rack. The main support bar sheared off leaving my front right pannier in a sloppy flopping mess. Having done 195 km already that day I opted to throw up my thumb and hitch hike into Winnipeg where I could find a bike shop to have it replaced with a new strong one.
Winnipeg has been one of my favourite stops to date. Having no expectation what so ever and knowing nothing about the city at all set me up for a great surprise when I was greeted and hosted by my friend Bailey who I partied with in Vietnam for a week. Let me tell you that the location in which we find ourselves in has no effect on the amount we party, and partied we did. I’ve had an incredible time this week being shown around the city and exploring bars, geocaching, and riding the many bike trails that zig zag the city. I was so surprised to find so much culture and diversity here with an apparently limitless amount of things to do. The city has done a great job of keeping green spaces and public facilities, it almost seems as if every park has a little concert, show or gathering going on in it. I really like it here and I think I’m lucky to have been shown the things I have in the amount of time given, as an east coaster Manitoba is the black sheep of Canada and I’m so happy to have seen it with my own eyes and experienced it with my own hands. I spent an entire day at mountain Equipment Co-op where I met and hung out with the mechanic. I spent the entire day tuning up my bike in his shop as I replaced my broken front rack, put on a new back tyre and tube, and had my rear hub rebuilt cleaned. It’s been a great stop for me to drink up, sleep in and prepare my bike for the longest most isolated section yet, northern Ontario. Time to push off and head for the border into the USA where I’l reconnect and make my way into Ontario. Its been swell Manitoba but its time for me to push on and close the 2300km gap between me and my friends in Toronto.