They say time is money. I had neither.
I was back in the saddle, this time for the long haul. British Columbia to Ontario.
I ran out of money at Kamloops. I was beginning to think about school, it started in 6 days. My plan was to miss the first three weeks of 2nd year Civil Engineering. Not necessarily a good idea, but I was pretty sure I would be able to catch up.
My last few days in the Rockies were wonderful. The wide shoulders offset the high traffic and the majestic peaks reminded me that there was still much to see. The weather was good, and I was once again able to ride in my T-shirt...
I entered Alberta at night. It was dark but looking up to the stars was unforgettable and having crossed my last mountain pass it would be all downhill from here.
I was wrong.
Most cyclists go west to east, due to prevailing winds. Prevailing, did not mean guaranteed.
Day two on the prairies. The moderate but constant headwind was wearing me down. I had left at 5am and got lost in Calgary—some trails were closed because of the flood last summer and it took me an hour to get back to the Trans-Canada Highway.
I had enjoyed a good breakfast, as I realized that I hadn’t used the Tim Hortons gift card given to me at the 100 Mile house in BC.
I needed to reach Medicine Hat tonight, 300km from Calgary with headwind.
“I couldn’t see you in the dark.”
3am, near Medicine Hat. A truck had pulled over and the driver was going through his pockets taking out stuff. He gave me his reflective vest.
I thought of refusing, I was almost at my destination. I was too tired.
I don’t even know if I said, “thank you.”
I was 40km short of crossing Alberta in two days. I was out of food, I called my uncle and he was able to help me out.
Long days and longer nights...
My next stop was 230km away, and a late start at noon coupled with the persisting headwind meant I would have another night ride.
The shoulder was wide, but there was roadkill on it and in the dark I couldn’t see much except the white line and the rumble strips separating me from the highway. Unlike last night the wind did not die down when it got dark, and I was on the grind under the stars again.
I arrived at 2am, and slept on a trampoline in Jen’s backyard. I met her and her family in the morning. Jen is planning on touring Victoria Island, BC on a tandem with two young kids.
Well past midnight. Gas station in Saskatchewan.
“So, kind of like Forrest Gump?”
I really could not think of a good reply, I just nodded. Three days of headwind and little sleep had worn me down. This night was especially tough because it was my first all-nighter. On a bike. With headwind.
The occasional trucks that pass so close by you that you wonder if the driver has even seen you at all. I saw somebody driving in the wrong lane of the separated highway and a dead animal on the shoulder which I barely dodged. The amazing views of BC, Yukon and NT had kept me going well, but here it was a different story.
A few hours later I made a turn off the highway, headed out into a field and lay down in my sleeping bag. The stars were out but I was fast asleep.
My alarm would ring in 45 minutes.
“No, he’s turning on the lights and I have an open beer in my car.”
After reaching the border at Manitoba at noon the next day, I decided to take a ride offered by Warren. He was driving to the football game, but his wife’s beer was open and on the middle cup holder. The cop car had just gone past and we continued toward Winnipeg. This kind ride would save me about 300km and put me back on track.
Over the last 3 days I slept for five hours and had three one-hour naps. The headwind was lighter but the fatigue was catching up with me. I was not moving well at all and sometimes I could barely keep awake.
A few times I would close my eyes, but at the same time my legs would seem to lock up. The abrupt stop wakes me up.
I don’t fall, but it is the sign that I need a nap.
The rolling hills reminded me that I was now in Ontario. As a welcome, I will spend the next few days in the rain.
I spent the day with four firemen riding for charity from the Manitoba border to Thunderbay. The rain was so bad that I only took out my camera few times. I was able throw my stuff in their trailer and share the rainy rolling hills experience with them.
I was soaked and cold. I stopped at the golden arches for dinner and to warm up. After about an hour I was still shaking—tonight would not be a good night to camp.
For the first time on this trip, I checked into a motel.
It was time to go home.
Labs and tutorials were starting this week, and I couldn’t afford to miss two more weeks. Being able to say “I cycled the last 2,000km” was not worth missing a term of school.
I packed up in the morning, found a spot beside the road and stuck my thumb out.
In every end there is a new beginning, and I was now in love with travel. My first bicycle tour led me to one of the most remote regions of Canada, unprepared.
I wonder what comes next.