Growing up in a small town tucked away in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, the majesty of Mother Nature was always something I felt connected to. I spent my childhood weaving in and out of pine trees, splashing through streams and watching the sun rise over the snowy white peaks of the Rockies. But as I grew older I became detached from this natural home of mine and it wasn’t long until I realised just how much I yearned to reconnect. I wanted to see more of my home province, the self-declared ‘best place on earth’.
My first cycling trip was a solo expedition, a backcountry ride up and over the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide from my hometown of Cranbrook to ‘the big city’, Calgary. During the five day journey I ventured into the provincial parks, riding alone, watching the trees get bigger and the sky get bluer. There were moments of fear, when I startled a bear early one morning after sleeping in a hunting cabin, and of sheer delight, when I came across a roadside cafe offering unlimited refills of lemonade in the summer heat. But the biggest thing I took away from this trip was a desire to see more of my country on two wheels. Over the next five years I set out on six more of these expeditions, some lasting a few summer days and some three months as I cycled my way across three of Canada’s western provinces. There is something magical about touring a country by bicycle. It becomes an entirely sensory adventure. You are able to hear more; the familiar sounds of your bicycle’s mechanics or the cadence of your breathing. Smells become stronger as the wildflowers and berries lining Canada’s highways invite you to pull over for a longer sample. Flavours are sweeter, whether it’s water poured from a glacial stream or cherries plucked from a tree. You feel the air, wind and rain and the environment becomes not just something you witness, but something you experience. And you see so much more – details in the landscape, animals peeking from the protection of the woods, trees and mountains changing as you move from climate to climate. The daily comforts evolve into luxurious moments of bliss. Clean laundry is not a chore but a sought out opportunity and a cup of coffee isn’t just a push to get going in the morning but a chance to light a fire, boil some water and enjoy the entire process.
Travelling by bicycle makes you more than just a tourist; you’re an adventurer, a voyager. People greet you outside grocery stores with freshly baked bread and ask about your journey. On my cycling trips I relied on the kindness of strangers many times after flat tyres or incorrect navigation. The bicycle adds a new dimension; it carries with it this sense of purpose. You are not just here to see the world. You are here to embrace it.