Doug Firby, publisher of Troy Media, and columnist Lisa Monforton are part of a group of Canadians who call themselves ConnecTour. Starting on May 28 in British Columbia, they hope to make an 8,000-km bicycle journey across the country, discovering how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives and our sense of community. Watch for the ConnecTour Chronicles on Troy Media. More information on the tour is available at ConnecTour.ca.
We’ve only been on the road for 18 days of our 110-day ride, but we’ve racked up pannier loads of experiences – most of them fun and fantastic, others more of the physically exhausting and unexpected, crazy-weather kind.
From time to time, we’ll compile a list of the highlights and lowlights and some bike-touring tips for anyone who plans to see all or part of Canada from the seat of a bike.
First, we’d like to give big shout-outs to a collection of roadside caregivers who’ve been so kind to us.
- We stopped at a private RV community for lunch on the lawn of the community’s clubhouse, knowing we were on private property. But it was a scorcher of a day and there was shade and a picnic table. Ian saw us rolling in and at first seemed leery that we should be stopping here. As we ate lunch, Ian walked over with a massive jug of water and a bag of ice so we could refill our bottles. “I didn’t know what to do, he told us. But, he said to himself, “I’m a Canadian, so I should do something nice.”
- Heading into Trail, B.C., we didn’t have a campsite booked for the night after a cold and rainy day. Rick found one on the edge of town and spoke to the manager, B.J., to see if we could tent there for the night. B.J. was genuinely concerned for us, soaked in our gear. He kindly offered a site for three tents at no extra cost and threw a pile of wood into the deal. “I just want you to be safe and warm,” he told us. As we left the next morning, B.J. bid us safe travels and asked us to write to him when we got to St. John’s, N.L.
- After an arduous day climbing a couple of summits, over 1,100 metres, and getting caught in a frigid rain, we finally arrived at Nancy Greene Provincial Park, cold, bordering on hypothermia, and tired. We ran into Annie, who was worried about us as we huddled in the overhang of a locked camp lodge. As a COVID-19 precaution, the lodge was bolted shut. Annie grabbed her screwdriver and got the door open, allowing us to light a fire in the wood stove to dry out a bit. She came to check on us regularly to see how we were doing. A couple a few campsites down, Bill and Elaine, told us to come and get some of their wood, which they chopped for us before handing it over.
- We’ve stayed with several Warm Showers hosts who have opened their homes and yards to us, including Jan and Zak in Creston, Chris Troy in Canal Flats and Doug and Angela in Wycliffe.
Individual highlights and tips
Andrew Hawes: There are so many highlights, it’s hard to just come up with one. The amazing experience of rolling into Moyie and finding Sherry Parsons, who had the keys to the church and let us sleep and cook inside on what was going to be a rainy night. And then the next day we rode into Canal Flats and stayed in the lovely cabin of a Warm Showers host overlooking Columbia Lake. Hot and tired, we jumped in for a refreshing dip in the lake.
Join us at our next stop in Drumheller Alberta. Contact us for details.
Andrew’s tip: Go on a ride like this with Rick McFerrin.
Lynn Marshall: Staying with Angela and Doug in Wycliffe. They had a stew dinner and mashed potatoes ready for us after a long day on the road from Cranbrook, and then blueberry pancakes for breakfast. “It was like she was looking forward to seeing us,” says Lynn. Angela told us she was “paying it forward” after having been hosted on her own cycle-touring trips in Europe.
Lynn’s bonus highlight: Finding the ice cream shop – Two Scoop Steve’s – at the top of a hill outside of Yahk, B.C.
Lynn’s tip: Always have warm socks and a jar of peanut butter.
Rick’s tip: Be flexible and bring what you think you need, knowing you can always leave behind or buy what you need along the way.
Lisa Monforton: The overall curiosity, questions and enthusiasm for our ride by random people we’ve met on the road.
Lisa’s tip: Learn to take it one pedal stroke at a time. And even though that hill ahead can look intimidating, just get into the zone and take it slow and easy – and get over it.
Doug Firby: The morning mist and the call of the loons on the lake at Nancy Greene Provincial Park.
Doug’s tip: No matter how daunting things may look at any given moment, keep calm and carry on.
There haven’t been too many bad experiences, except for two we all agree on. The first would have to be the disappointment in a portion of the Kettle Valley Trail.
After starting the ride along the beautiful Myra Canyon trestles, the KVR quickly devolves because it is poorly maintained and used regularly by ATVs, which destroyed the path all the way to Chute Lake. It was potholed, rock/boulder-strewn, and had arduous sandy stretches and at times deep puddles the width of the trail. We all had our turns falling off our bikes. There were bruises and scraped knees, and we finally decided to cut short our day and stay at a rec site at Chute Lake.
The second lowlight was the long climb up to Nancy Greene Provincial Park, where we got caught in a sudden downpour and a temperature drop to around 0C. We were all frozen, bordering on hypothermia, our fingers so cold we couldn’t unsnap our panniers to get at extra layers.
With the others ahead, Doug and I hunkered down in a rest area washroom to warm up for 20 minutes and put on more layers, and then made the last five-km dash to the park. The happy ending was that the sun came out and fellow campers gave us wood and opened the park cabin so we could warm up around the wood stove.
Stay tuned for more highlights and lowlights from the road in the coming months.
Travel Like This editor Lisa Monforton is an award-winning Calgary-based travel writer. Follow @lisamonforton on Instagram and Twitter. For interview requests, click here.
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