Biking was a big part of my life from 1991-1996 while I finished high school and went to the University of Calgary. With Banff and Canmore being in my back yard, mountain Biking became a passion.
During this era I also ventured outside of Alberta and completed some of North America’s classic rides. The Colorado Trail in Colarado and the Kettle Valley Railway in BC were two of note. Some great memories are also due to Moab, Utah and Pikes Peak, Colorado.
The height of my cycling era came in 1996 when I had just graduated from the Haskayne School of Business and decided to skip my convocation to attempt a cycling trip from Victoria, British Columbia to St John’s, Newfoundland. This more than 8,000 km journey needed to be completed quickly as possible as I needed to get back Calgary, to write my qualification exam to become a Chartered Accountant. There was just one more problem…. I was flat broke.
Thankfully my sister Stacey lent me and my folks gave me $500 each allowing me a budget of $1,000 total to fly to Victoria, BC cycle to St. John’s, Newfoundland and fly back to Calgary.
Unfortunately my bike was not a road bike, it was a Specialized Rock Hopper mountain bike. So my first expense was bar ends, slick tires and a gel seat.
Even in 1996, $1,000 was not much so other than a couple of nights at youth hostels that enabled me to get a shower from time to time, 90 percent of my nights were spent in my unisack in random ditches, closed camp grounds and vacant farmer’s fields. In one particularly bad rain storm in Saskatchewan I sought refuge in a talcum factory. As an aside, bears were an unnerving threat in more than few of Ontario’s vacant camp grounds. I always left my bike with my food, on the ground about 20 ft, away as I always figured that if I hoisted the food up in the air the only food within reach became me.
Due to my budget constraints food also needed to be cheap and almost daily I bought a loaf of bread, a jar of jam and a small container of peanut butter. Outside of the odd breakfast at McDonald’s that would include 4 sausage and egg McMuffins, 4 hash browns and a large OJ, every other meal was a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I didn’t even stopped to make the sandwich, I made them while I cycled. Some things you need to do to hit a 260km/day target. Six of those days were over 300 km with the largest day 348 km.
As soon as my friend, Andrew and I got through the Rockies from Victoria, his knees were done. Mine were too, but I decided that over dosing on extra strength Tylenol was the acceptable alternative, so I kept going alone and ate these pills like Smarties. ten per day for 20 days to be precise.
I have nothing but good memories from this ride, except for headwinds everyday but three, and severe rain every day but seven, and getting chased by large dogs everyday tested my mental stick-to-it-ive-ness for sure. We aren’t talking a breeze in your face head wind; once in Manitoba I was cruising down a steep hill that should have been an easy coasting 55km/hr but it required heavy pedalling to hit 14km/hr. On another occasion after being pelted by golf ball sized hail in torrential rains for more than 40 minutes I sought refuge in a gas station to find out that a tornado was upon us. Other than being hit by a truck in Montreal that twisted my handle bars which in turn gave me reprieve from a wicked knot in my back, I got very lucky with no other serious vehicle encounters.
Hitting St. John’s and dipping a tire in the Atlantic was quite a good feeling as that same tire enjoyed the Pacific Ocean 32 cycling days prior.
Unfortunately cycling is no longer part of my current hobbies as the punishing hours sitting on the bike seat on this journey took its toll on my urethra that ultimately ended up causing kidney failure and made it touch-and-go for a while. However I look back on this 32 day journey with no regrets and nothing but fondness of this adventure.