Back to School... by Bike

Monday, August 12, 2013

An icon of a cyclists on a map that indicates a route from Ontario to Nova Scotia

Last week, I was grabbing beers with an old friend and her friend that was passing through Ottawa. Matthew explained to us that he was on his way to university in a less than conventional way. He is undertaking his journey to Halifax by bike—a method which obviously interested me due to its sustainable nature. I have never been on any sort of lengthy bike ride and I asked if he would write to me about his experiences. The following describes part one of his travels.

About a week ago, I left on my bike from my parents' farm in Northumberland County, Ontario, with one goal in mind: get to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 23 days. That number includes off-days in Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. So far, after 700 km of biking, I have made it to Montreal. Although that seems like a large distance, it is barely more than a 1/4 of my journey east. I guess a logical question would be "why did I decide to do this?" 

The short answer is that last fall I traveled to Europe and in visiting 14 new countries (well, 13, Vatican City is not really a country) I realized how little I have seen of my own. From that realization stemmed a desire to travel more within Canada. I am an avid cyclist in my hometown of Toronto, but I have never done anything quite like this. A couple months ago I started planning, training, acquiring the requisite gear, learning some basic bike repair skills and saving money to fund this adventure. I have put in over a thousand kilometres of training and almost as many dollars in gear. 

So far my journey has been a great success. That said, I have only really ventured through the realm of the known. I had family in Cobourg and friends to stay with in Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal. I had been to most of these places before and, with the exception of about 100 km of Quebec, I was within my home province where everyone spoke my language. The part of Quebec I have gone through so far is within a stone's throw of Ontario and pretty much bilingual everywhere. I would say that apart from some small mechanical issues and getting lost a few times, this has not been that much of a challenge. I knew what I was in for, I had contacts in nearby places to fall back on and I knew that worst comes to worst, Tim Hortons has wireless internet.

Tomorrow, however, is a different story. Tomorrow I enter rural Quebec. Yes, I will be passing through established cities such as Riviere-du-Loup, Victoriaville, and Quebec City but for me, and much of my peers in Ontario, other than Montreal, we know about as much about Quebec as we do about Russia. They use the same currency as us, but in many places they only speak French and that French is very different from the French I took in school up to grade 9. I am excited to leave what I am familiar with and to get outside of my comfort zone. After all, that is what travel is all about: experiencing new things. 

After following, more or less, the Saint Lawrence River through Quebec. I will head south along the Saint John River through New Brunsick and curve around the Bay of Fundy and into Nova Scotia. After I cross the N.B./N.S. border, it's two full days of biking and I am in Halifax. I honestly have no idea how this will pan out, but I will keep you posted.

Keep us updated, Matthew. We look forward to hearing more about your sustainable transportation journey.

~ merissa - campus sustainability coordinator
Photo credit - jonathan rausseo and matthew apostolides duquette 

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