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    EXPLORE

    Self-portrait of a man with a loaded touring bike on a winding road beside a lake.
    For the past three weeks, I’ve been riding on the island of Newfoundland. I’m living my dream to explore Canada!

    My solo bicycle trip across Canada from east to west

    Expedition Statistics
    Am I Ready?
    On the Road
    My Dream and Those of Sick Children
    Day 100
    Chance Encounters
    Winter Is Coming!
    Surprise in Vancouver…
    Is this Really the End?

    Expedition Statistics

    1 broken spoke
    3 chain changes
    8 tires
    9 punctures
    15 km/h: average speed
    18%: steepest gradient
    18 hours: longest day
    -30 degrees Celsius: coldest day
    70 kg: weight of my bicycle with luggage
    100 km/h: strongest wind
    215 km: longest day
    16,500 km: total distance

    Self-portrait of a man with a loaded touring bike on a winding road beside a lake.
    For the past three weeks, I’ve been riding on the island of Newfoundland. I’m living my dream to explore Canada!

    Am I Ready?

    May 11, 2007—I land at midnight in Newfoundland. Three hours later, I cycle to the most easterly point in North America. A light spins around and around, and the Cape Spear lighthouse greets me with a blast of foghorn. At that moment, a strange sensation comes over me. I’m dizzy at the thought that, with the strength of my legs, I’ll cross the second-largest country in the world!

    I’ve been training physically, pedalling 50, 100 and even 180 km. And after those three consecutive days, I’ve realized that my mental strength will be the key to my solo crossing. As for equipment, it’s all there: a Devinci touring bike, Louis Garneau clothes and my Arkel panniers containing everything I need to be completely self-sufficient: stove, cooking equipments, tent, sleeping bag and so on.

    On the financial side, I’ve been saving every dollar for months, and even emptied my apartment with the help of my friend Claude Morissette. Finally, although I’m expecting the best on this expedition, I’m also preparing myself for the worst. And for the first time in my life, I’ve written my will. I’m excited to start this new dream, but I’m also afraid of failing… Am I really ready?

    Optical illusion of a paved road that seems to dive into the ocean.
    Another detour, now in Nova Scotia, along the coastline of Cape Breton Island, with its magnificent ocean views. This scenic 300 km road is called the Cabot Trail, in memory of the Venetian explorer Jean Cabot.

    On the Road

    To cross Canada from St. John’s to Vancouver on the West Coast, you’d have to travel at least 7200 km. Except that I’m not interested in the shortest way, since I want to publish a coffee-table book about Canada. In search of the treasures of my new adopted country, I estimate my journey at over 16,000 km.

    “Travelling from East to West, you’ll be driving against the prevailing winds,” several people warned me before my trip. I knew this, and from my very first kilometres in Newfoundland, I engaged in a tireless battle against the god Aeolus. Day after day, I finally get used to his presence and live with him. Even though I pedal slowly, I still make progress!

    After the wind, I also need to overcome my 70 kg bike. Convinced that my biggest challenge will be crossing the Rocky Mountains, putting my feet down to walk up Newfoundland’s “little” hills is out of the question. Through ignorance and pride, when one steep slope follows another, I put all my weight on my pedals. Unsurprisingly, after just 250 km, I injured my right knee. This error of judgment would later lead to many difficult climbs. But, no matter which way the wind blows or how steep the climb, what really matters is WHY I’m doing my first cycling trip.

    On a foggy day, a man pushes his loaded touring bike up a steep hill.
    With a sore right knee, I cover 20 km in three hours on the road to Fundy National Park in New Brunswick. My slowest ever!

    My Dream and Those of Sick Children

    From province to province, I meet sick children. John, aged 14, told me how grateful he was to the Children’s Wish Foundation. The mother of 3-year-old Dave told me that “it was reassuring to know that, if anything went wrong, the foundation was there to support them,” as were Brandon, Kurtis, Shelby and others. While some of them dream of children’s games, others of a trip or a meeting with their idol in Hollywood. “The foundation has even made a child’s dream of doing humanitarian aid in Haiti come true,” Annick, coordinator in Quebec City, explains. What a wonderful idea to help sick children make their dreams come true, while at the same time following my dream of exploring my new adopted country!

    I’ve been riding solo for almost three months now. The next few kilometres promise to be very different, with about twenty friends joining me in Quebec City. They all have two goals in mind: to pedal all or part of the 300 km to Montreal, and to raise money for the dreams of sick children. Many thanks to all these kind-hearted friends!

    Twenty or so people pose for a photo with a few bikes.
    From left to right: Michel, Julie, Mélanie, Véronique, – , Frederick, Patrick, me, Dominic, Sylvie, Franck, Éric, Claude, Émilie, – , Suzanne, André, Diane, Anne and Alain.

    Day 100

    After three memorable days among friends, our peloton arrives in Montreal. There’s joy on everyone’s face, a festive atmosphere and a sudden disappearance of fatigue. On this August 19, 2007, I’ve been pedalling for 100 days and have covered over 7,000 km on my bike. What an incredible invention!

    After Montreal, I head for Ottawa with my friend Liliane, before continuing on my own to Toronto. After a 190 km day, I reach the heart of the Canadian metropolis, exhausted. On this Saturday evening, city life is in full swing, crowds stroll along the waterfront and the terraces are packed. That’s all well and good, but… where am I going to sleep?

    Late at night, as the calm settles in, I decide to take my bike down to a dock with no boats. There, I unroll my sleeping bag and mat. Here, at least, I’m not disturbing anyone, and I hope I won’t be disturbed…

    In the days and weeks that follow, I go from one extreme to another. After the urban bustle, I reach the tranquility of Ontario’s forests, follow the wild shores of Lake Superior and discover the vastness of the Canadian Prairies. 

    Small marina with a cruise ship at the foot of the illuminated buildings.
    Although Toronto is the most populous city in the country, its population is much smaller than in Tokyo, which actually has more inhabitants than the whole of Canada!

    Large agricultural field with a small wooden shack at sunrise.
    In Canada, prevailing winds blow from the west. As a result, this Saskatchewan cabin leans towards the sunrise.

    Chance Encounters

    “In the middle of nowhere, you can find anything,” Ann explained to me when I was in Saskatchewan. Her words bring back memories of inspiring encounters…

    In Newfoundland, in a village of only three souls, I met Stan Tobin, one of the island’s most respected environmentalists. The NY Times wrote an article about his fight to save seabirds from oil pollution. In Nova Scotia, I met Suzanne Melanson. Her ancestors founded the village of Grand-Pré in 1680: “Acadia is my identity, my roots,” she says. I’m very proud that it still exists, because my ancestors worked so hard…”. Today, Landscape of Grand Pré is on UNESCO’s prestigious list of World Heritage Sites. And while in Thunder Bay, Ontario, I also met filmmaker Kelly Saxberg and Dr. Ron Harpelle. As part of a documentary series entitled Citizens of the World, these two humanists travelled to Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their aim? Interview Canadian specialists, scientists and local research teams working in the field of sustainable development. From coast to coast, my journey is punctuated by these fortuitous, inspiring and touching encounters.

    These are just a few of the hundreds of encounters I’ve had. What a joy to enjoy the moment and grow together!

    A man and a woman holding a film clapper look at the photographer.
    In 2007, filmmaker Kelly Saxberg and history teacher Ron Harpelle were working on a documentary series entitled Citizens of the World.

    Winter Is Coming!

    November 22, 2007—Before leaving Calgary, I install snow tires on my bike. At this point, I can officially say that winter is here. It’s usually -15 degrees Celsius all day and the road remains white. Do I fear snowstorms and icy winds? Yes and no… Thanks to my previous Montreal winters by bike, I’ve learned two essential things. When riding on snow, don’t brake, and don’t change direction abruptly; otherwise you’ll lose control!

    In the days that followed, I received the same warning over and over again. “Do you know that there’s a lot of snow in the Rocky Mountains, and that it can be -40 degrees Celsius? With the right equipment, I feel ready to face these conditions. At least, I think so…

    In the end, between Calgary and Hope, I covered some 1,800 km and overcame more than 10,000 metres of positive and negative drop. Yes, there were difficult moments, exhausting climbs, vertiginous descents and freezing nights in my sleeping bag filled with frozen moisture. There were also broken things: the frame of my tent and my rear luggage rack. And even a gastro while camping at -20 degrees Celsius. In short, 34 intense days!

    I also received some wonderful life gifts: in Calgary with Angela Lovegrove and her family, then in Jasper at Sherrill Meropoulis’ B

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