Across Canada by bike-the trip of a lifetime

  • Sep. 8, 2004 2:00 p.m.

By Mariah McCooey–Port Clements resident Nancy O’Higgins just completed a feat most of us put into the ‘impossible!’ or ‘insane!’ category – 7,800 kilometres across Canada under human power – by bicycle.
“It was the trip of a lifetime!” she told the Observer on Monday, from a payphone on Lasqueti Island, where she and her husband also have a home. She will be back on the islands in a few weeks, she said.
The group of fourteen people (with an average age of 63) took 81 days to get from the west coast to St. John’s, Newfoundland, camping and staying at university residences along the way. They finished the trip just last week, after starting in June. A van accompanied them with supplies and food. She said that she didn’t mind the camping at all – and joked she now prefers to sleep on her Therm-a-rest on the floor. “My husband says that it’ll take a while to re-civilize me,” she said.
Ms O’Higgins said that the bonding experience was especially memorable, starting out as total strangers, and ending up with stronger bonds than family. The oldest person in the group celebrated his 77th birthday while on the trip, and apparently had no trouble keeping up.
Ms O’Higgins didn’t get a single flat tire until they arrived in St. John’s, but said that she ran into several other mechanical problems. The biggest day, she said, was 157 kilometres, but the group tried to take one day off per week – which didn’t always work out, depending on the distance to their next destination.
As part of the training for the trip, she said she biked over 2,000 kilometres on the islands, from Port Clements to Tow Hill and back, and from Port to Charlotte and back, over and over. She said it was good training, except that it’s ‘pretty flat’ here.
“The Rockies didn’t matter,” she said, in terms of difficulty, what really slowed them down was not the hills but the headwinds, which were a real challenge. “The prevailing winds are from west to east,” she said, but it turned out that they were head-on into the wind for much of the journey.
Is she ready to hunker down and relax for awhile? Not likely. “I want to do a trip from the top to the bottom of Britain,” she said, “or maybe from here to Mexico!” She also plans to cycle from Lasqueti to Port Hardy, then take the ferry to the islands, arriving back in Port Clements in a couple of weeks.

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