Monthly Archives: August 2016

Farewell To Nova Scotia 

Are all endings bittersweet?

I write this in North Sydney, hours from boarding the ferry for Argentia, NL. In three days, I’ll arrive in St. John’s — bringing my cross-Canada trek to a close.

It’s been a long haul: two wheels, three months, and five time zones (and counting). I’ve been rain-soaked, bug-bitten, and wind-chapped. My clothes and bike have been through the ringer a few times. I suppose I have too.

On the other hand, what a journey it’s been. I’ve swum in oceans, lakes, and rivers. I’ve seen sunny days and starry nights. I’ve pedalled the width of a continent, made friends all along the way, and amassed enough stories for a lifetime.

That should be enough to make any man happy.

A few stories from the past while:

1. I’ve come across some more noteworthy town slogans in my travels. My new favourite? Stewiacke: “Halfway between the Equator and North Pole.” Tourists must be coming in droves.
2. After holding up so well for so long, my body is showing signs of weariness. I was hit with knee troubles en route to Sheet Harbour, forcing me to hitchhike the remaining 20 kilometres into town. Thankfully, I’ve had several strokes of luck. The first time, a good-natured mechanic named Ken offered me a lift without hesitation. The next day, I arrived at my host’s house in Sherbrooke — again, hampered by knee troubles — only to learn that she was making a quick trip to Antigonish that evening. Just like that, I had a ride to my best friend’s house, where I could rest and recover.
3. People in Antigonish are serious about their pizza — and fiercely loyal. I’ve learned you are either Team Wheel or Team Kenny’s — or, if you’re a renegade, Team Snappy Tomato. Choose wisely.
4. Cape Bretoners have a name for the rest of Canadians: mainlanders. The sense of hometown pride on the island is strong.

Things I’ve seen:

1. Splendid harbours.

Lunenburg is a national treasure — not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The splashes of colour along the waterfront give the town a postcard charm.

Halifax is a wonderful place in the summertime. The boardwalk bustles with life, as speedboats and ferries dance through the Halifax Harbour. You’re never far from a spectacular view.

2. Coastal cliffs.

This shot comes from a trip to Ovens Natural Park, just south of Lunenburg. The Ovens are a series of sea caves, some so large and deep that local legend tells of a man entering one and emerging on the other side of Nova Scotia.

3. Rugged wilderness.

This kind of view is surprisingly common in Nova Scotia — the two days’ ride from Halifax to Sherbrooke was brimming with them.

Distance travelled: 6,892 km
Donair sauce consumed: More than enough.



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The Maritimes

Some places make you feel right at home, even when you’re just visiting. The Maritimes are like that. Whether it’s the friendly people, the stunning shoreline, or the salty sea air, the place casts a spell on you.

It was the COWS Ice Cream and sticky buns that called to me as a kid. (They still do.) Now, it’s the thought of Peggy’s Cove and Jellybean Row that brings me back. In a way, I’m every bit as hooked as the mackerel at the end of an angler’s line in the Northumberland Strait: it’s my third trip to the Maritimes in the past year.

I started this ride with my bicycle tire dipped in the Pacific Ocean. As I write this, I’m drying off from swimming in the Atlantic. What a feeling. The journey isn’t over yet, but the finish line is getting closer and closer.

A few thoughts/stories from the past while:

1. One thing you notice a lot more of in Eastern Canada is the pride in provincial flags. New Brunswick’s red, yellow, and blue banner is everywhere, much like the blue saltire in Nova Scotia. Just as common is the Acadian flag. Name the last time you saw an Ontario flag flying from someone’s home. I’m willing to bet the next time would be the first.
2. In the span of a day, I had an egg thrown at me from a passing car (it missed), and I rode over a stretch of broken glass without getting a flat tire. In the deep recesses of my saddlebags, I must be carrying a horseshoe.
3. Speaking of luck, after seven provinces of problem-free riding, my bike’s magic run has come to an end. I had to repair the bottom bracket in Truro. Thankfully, it was a minor operation.
4. Oh, how good it feels to rest. After cycling 100km a day for the past two months, the prospect of sitting still sounds awful good these days. I’ll indulge in some longer breaks while visiting friends in Halifax and Antigonish.

Things I’ve seen:

1. Coastal cities.

From Campbellton, to Miramichi, to Halifax, I’ve covered Atlantic Canada’s coastline — leading to some of the most beautiful views on the entire trip.

2. Shades of blue.

Speaking of beautiful views…

Distance travelled: 6,500 km
Best ride: Campbellton to Bathurst, NB.


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La Vie En Rose

After countless interviews — as both interviewer and interviewee — few questions stop me in my tracks, but one has stuck in my mind of late.

Inquiring about my ride and fundraiser for mental health, a talk show host asked: With all that’s going on in the world, do you really think what you’re doing is making a difference?

A car mechanic in Ignace put it another way: Everyone’s raising money for something these days; the rest of us are just trying to pay the bills.

Tough crowd.

I’ll be honest: it’s pretty hard to view things through rose-coloured lenses these days. In a world where violence has become all-too-common, and the lines between race, religion, class, and political affiliation seem ever-more-rigid, how does anyone maintain hope?

It can seem a Herculean task, and yet, one I know is crucial — not just for my ride, but for all of us. Hope is often confused with passivity, but it can be an incredibly powerful force — it’s what allows us to picture a better world and work towards making it a reality.

Is a bike ride going to change the world?


At most, all I can hope for is to do my small part in tipping the scales toward progress — something which, at its core, looks very much the same in the mental health field as it does for what our world needs: a deeper sense of empathy for one another.

We rise; we rise together. We fall; we help each other up.

These things may seem so rare in practice, and yet I’ve seen them time and again in my travels — people who would open their homes and hearts to strangers; others who would willingly spend hours trying to fix a bike part they’ve never fixed before.

Things aren’t pretty — that much is true. We’ve got lots of work to do. But I’m hopeful — perpetually so — that we can make things better.

After seeing humankind’s capacity for kindness, how could I not be?

A few stories/thoughts from the past while:

1. I had heard so much about the trails on La Route Verte before even starting my trip, but I’m glad to say it’s true: in the words of Seinfeld, they’re real, and they’re spectacular. After the narrow (or non-existent) shoulders and bike lanes in Manitoba and Ontario, it’s a welcome relief to have beautiful trails and plenty of space on the road in Quebec.
2. Thank you, French Immersion. (And thank you, Mom and Dad.) In the past week and a half, those twelve years of schooling have paid off immensely – even leading to two radio interviews conducted entirely in French.
3. Signs I’m losing my grip on reality I’ve spent too much time on a bike: I’ve caught myself a few times looking down and to my left as I’m walking, expecting to see whatever’s behind me reflected in my bike mirror.

Things I’ve seen:

1. Inviting rivers.

Canada sure has its share of them. Of late, my cycling route has led me along the banks of two splendid rivers: the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River.

2. Masterful murals.

Montreal’s downtown feels like a living, breathing organism. The splashes of colour adorning so many of the city’s walls lends an element of excitement and spontaneity that is all too rare in other cities.

3. Old-world charms.

Vieux-Québec is as close as you’ll get to medieval Europe in North America. The cobblestoned streets, centuries-old buildings, and the ever-present Fleur-de-lis flags feel a world away from the rest of the country.

Distance travelled: 5,668 km
Crêpes consumed: Not nearly enough.

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