BikeforMike: A Look Back

The BikeforMike Blog Archive:
To read blogs from days not shown on here, use the links below which correspond to blogs from May, June and July.

Having returned from St. John's a few weeks ago and finished most of my immediate post-trip duties, I'm now in a position to finally sit down, collect my thoughts, and write this final retrospective blog. There's no doubt that I have lots to say about the past 8 months, from creating and managing a charity to planning and completing a solo bike ride across Canada, so please accept this last journal entry as an earnest attempt to share at least some of my thoughts on what has been an incredible experience.

So there I was, sitting in the men's change room at the campus gym of The University of Western Ontario talking to my most recent opponent from the Western squash ladder, when BikeforMike was born. My opponent was a student named Brandon, and I knew that he built websites. I knew this because I saw that he built and ran the Western squash ladder website and so I went into the game with the intention of asking him for help with something I was planning for the upcoming summer. With the following exchange, BikeforMike hit the ground running:

Me: "So, Brandon, you build websites, right?"
Brandon: "Yeah."
Me: "Oh right, you see I have this idea for the summer, I'm going to bike across Canada and raise money for cancer in memory of a friend. I'd like to have a website for this. Could you build one for me?"
Brandon: "Yeah, I can do that."
Me: "Oh great, so then...ah, you'll do it for free, right?"
Brandon: "Yeah, sure."

And that, as they say, is how it all started. Within an hour after that conversation I received an email from Brandon confirming me of my suspicion that the domain name was available and so I gave him the green light to buy its rights. A few weeks later we had the first version of up and running.

The point of sharing this story is that it perfectly illustrates all the important points that made BikeforMike such a success. Firstly, that I did not do this alone. Secondly, that I surrounded myself with talented people and sought their help and advice regularly. And thirdly, often luck was on my side (though not when it came to the winds in the Prairies). I certainly did not singlehandedly do all the fundraising nor teach myself all I now know about cycling. Instead, I asked for help- and was given a great deal of it- and when I wasn't sure who to turn to next, somehow help would still find me. What I will remember most about this experience are the people who lent their time and effort to helping me succeed- to helping BikeforMike succeed. BikeforMike brought out the best in a lot of people and I'm proud to have initiated that.

Like most of the pre-trip fundraising and planning, I consider the trip itself to also be a huge success. Even though my first day of legitimate tailwind didn't come until day 20 and the week of rain in Ontario and Quebec was no doubt unlucky, I must not be so quick to overlook the good fortune I received too. For one, my health was terrific. I'm thankful to say that the first week of the trip was physically the toughest and most painful, as an injury to my left knee which surfaced well before the trip started, was finally healing. This meant that from Calgary onward I rode with next to no pain and that my health didn't dictate my progress whatsoever- a comforting feeling to have on any bike tour, especially a solo and unsupported one. Secondly, I was blessed with the good fortune of not experiencing any major technical problems that could have arisen from all the gear that I carried across the country. It would appear that the hundreds of hours I put into figuring out a safe and efficient way to bike solo across Canada had no doubt paid off.

Overall, I'm happy with the 46 day result. To sit on a bicycle for 6 to 12 hours a day for 46 days straight while maintaining a blog (the blog being far more arduous than you may realize) requires a lot of hard work. No matter what your reason for riding is, biking solo and unsupported across Canada will test your patience and will power. I learned firsthand that a trip like this, to be trite for a moment, is an emotional roller coaster ride; that you have to take each day in light of the bigger picture, in other words, that you will have good days and bad days. I had my fair share of both. To anyone who is considering a trip like this though, take my word for it, the joy and pride you will have from finishing makes all the hardships and sacrifices worth it. I can now look back at those demoralizing headwinds in the prairies with a smile and a shake of my head, because I did it; I biked across Canada.

Would I ever do something like this again? Definitely. It only took a few days of being home for me to become sentimental about the trip and dearly miss the strange but exhilarating lifestyle that had been mine for those incredible 46 days. This summer presented a unique opportunity for me to undertake something like this, and I'm glad I was able to take advantage of it the way that I did.

I'd like to say thank you one last time to everyone who was a part of this journey in one way or another. Knowing that I had all of you following and supporting me provided an extra level of motivation and kept me focused on conducting the charity and ride as professionally as I could. I hope you will share with me the success that BikeforMike has received and the pride in raising what we did for such a worthy cause- both for the Websters and the hospital.

Many people have told me that what I did was amazing or that I myself am amazing- that is the most common word that gets used- amazing. Though it makes me proud to hear this, I see things differently. Initiating and accomplishing what I did has made me think a lot about what it takes to do 'great things' and BikeforMike had lead me to the answer that it's not 'amazing' people with 'amazing' talents, but instead- if forced to use that dramatic word again- it's people willing to make 'amazing' choices from 'amazing' ideas. This is the most important notion I have come to understand from creating BikeforMike.

I am not the first person to do something in memory of Michael Webster and I know I will not be the last. I simply saw an opportunity to do something for a friend and his family and seized it. I hope my efforts have made a difference. This experience has been the most fullfilling of my life and I will dearly hold on to all I have learned from it.


Day 46: Clarenville to St. John's

Where I'm writing this from: at home! I'm in Mississauga writing this second to last blog and already missing not being out on the road with just my bike and gear.

Today's Numbers:
Total Time Travelling: 6:30 to 5
Total Time Riding: 8 hrs 40 min
Distance: 189.9 km
Ascent: 6083 ft (very hilly for my last day!)
Descent: 6663 ft

Trip's Numbers:
Distance travelled on my trusty Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30: 7486 kms or 4651.58 miles
Provinces visited: 10!
Memorable moments: lots!
Kind people I met: too many to count- several per day.
Honks, waves and thumbs up I received from motorists: at least 10 a day!

Today, by way of the bicycle touring gods giving me a memorable final day, had a little bit of everything. I had cold weather requiring a toque, wind jacket and leg warmers. I had warm weather where I peeled everything off and was down to the bare minimum. I had a strong headwind and a strong tail wind. I had 6 Tim Hortons chocolate chip muffins and an extra large coffee. I had help and support from complete strangers. About the only trip staple I didn't have was a Subway sandwich. But what I had most of all was fun. What a final day this was.

The day started early, with me waking up around 4:30. This would be the last morning routine I would complete. The rountine ended with me in a Tim Hortons, sipping on a coffee, eating some muffins, and reflecting on what has been an experience of a lifetime. Then time came for me to hit the road and reach my last destination of the trip: St. John's.

The hills began almost immediately as did a change in the weather for the worse. The clouds thickened and blackened and it got very cold. Next to the coldness I experienced in the Rockies and especially coming into Calgary, this was the coldest temperature. I was forced to put on my cycling tuke, wear 3 layers of upper body clothes, including my rain jacket to fight the wind and put on my booties (covers for my shoes) and leg warmers. What I feared most was rain! What a problem that would have been. I was a little stunned at thinking this would be how my final day would end. Would I have this weather all day? Would I arrive and be forced to take my final pictures with all this clothing on? I hoped not. My hopes came true soon enough.

After riding through this cold and omnious weather, which also included a headwind coming from the south, the skies began to clear up and soon my cold weather clothing came off. This change in weather- the ending of a dark and scary sky to a beautiful bright blue one- was something I have grown used to. Unfortunately I don't have the virtue of knowing when skies like this will clear, or if they will clear up at all, but looking back on my trip I can say how surprised I was to have seen so many sudden changes in weather. That is one thing bicycle touring does to you: makes you completely aware of the weather and its many changes throughout the day.

So with a promising sky and a headwind I continued on to St. John's with growing excitement. I used the washroom in a gas station for the last time- another regular act on my trip- and waited for the road to turn northeastward where the tailwind would turn to a headwind. This is another common thing for me to be thinking about in advance- the direction the road ahead will take and how the wind will play out when going in that direction.

When I made the final change in direction, from southeast to northeast, some 40kms away from St. John's, I reflected on how lucky I was to receive such a strong tailwind during the final leg of my ride. This tailwind amplified my excitement to make it to St. John's around 5pm, which was what I had told all of you BikeforMike followers yesterday was my final ETA. What a feeling it was to maintain a 35km/h speed as I rode into St. John's. The scenery had also changed as a result from the area being more populated. For one thing there were farms, which meant less trees and more open views of the beautiful island.

I was more or less on time to make it my final destination- somewhere along the coast for pictures (I didn't yet know exactly where). I contemplated biking to the The Telegram offices- the St. John's paper- but decided against it because it was now just past 5, the offices put me out of the way by about 5 km (and they were up a hill, the offices being fairly far from the coast) and I had all day tomorrow to contact them. So now my plans were clear: find a spot for pictures and call it a trip.

About 5 minutes away from the eventual location of the final pictures, I was met with my first act of kindness in St. John's by a lady who let me use her bathroom. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible for these final photos- the most important photos of the trip- and being past most of the stores from the downtown, I asked a lady reading a book on her porch. Not to dwell on this too much but it is just another example of the many kind people I met each and everyday.

With that, I kept following this one road, which looked to be the closest road to the water around the St. John's area that appeared to have an open view of the ocean. I should say it took a little time to decide on this road to follow down to the water. I must have forgot Newfoundland is called 'The Rock' for a reason. One consequence of this fact is that the coast is also rocky- in short, there are no beaches or anything of the sort which would make taking pictures at a no brainer. In fact much of the St. John's coast is very hilly: not only is the coast all rock, but it's rock 20, 50, 100 ft above sea level followed by a cliff like drop to the water. This was a bit of a problem, but I did have this one road on my GPS that looked from a distance like it would take me down to the water and not up a hill like I just described. Let me tell you right now: this road led me to the greatest and most pleasant surprise of all: the village of Quidi Vidi. This village had the most breathtaking view of the ocean you can imagine.

Being so lucky with finding this location, I feel I must describe exactly how I found it and who I met there. Here's how it went down:

I kept following this lone road, which like I said, on my GPS seemed to be a good idea for how close it got to the ocean. When the main road leading to the village ended, I made a few turns here and there and then saw it: an incredible spot for the final pictures. There was a small bay which the village of Quidi Vidi is built around and the bay opened up to the ocean with 2 incredible rocky slopes leading up to hills on either side- so the village is right down by the water and is surrounded by hills all around it. Quidi Vidi is a slice of paradise.

So after seeing the spot where I knew my pictures must be taken, the answer was: can I get there? I came to a house with three people chatting outside. Two of them, as it turned out, were about to leave, leaving the owner of the house, Ron, for me to talk to. I explained to Ron just how important this moment was to me; that 45 days ago I was in Vancouver and that by myself I pedalled across the country to raise money for cancer in memory of my friend. Ron, quickly understanding the significance of what I said, had no problem helping me for the next hour. With our agreement made, I pointed to the rock that stuck out from the bay and asked: "can we get there"? He smiled and said, "Oh yes, that is where we are going, follow me."

With that, Ron and I carried my gear through some rocky terrain and within 15 minutes we were ready to begin with the pictures. So there I was: I stumbled across the most breathtaking view I've ever seen completely by accident and had a gentleman there to take pictures for as long as I needed. Both are examples of the major theme of the ride: pleasant surprises.

Ron owned a house right on the bay, not 50 meters from where the photos were taken. He owned a water bottling company in Montreal that sends a ship up to Greenland, captures ice from icebergs and melts it into a fancy bottle and sells it to fancy hotels, as he told me. I told him he has the most amazing location for a house I have ever seen, and he, rightfully agreeing and proud of his incredible house, just smiled. He also claimed his house was the most easterly house in all of Canada.

So my incredible trip ends with incredible fashion. I gave my thanks to Ron and holding the camera with the most important and beautiful pictures I've taken in my life, made for the final hotel of my trip. There I was met by a kind lady who gave me my final discount, a generous one, on my room for two nights. Another act of kindness in a trip filled with so many.

But there is one more event that took place before my final day was over, and I must describe it here, for it was quite something too.

I was sitting at dinner by myself in a small restuarant overlooking the St. John's narrows when I heard two ladies at the table next to me mention how a rower, attempting to break the world record for a solo west to east crossing of the Atlantic, left Newfoundland within the last week. I, having heard about this from Ron when he was describing some of the interesting people he meets from having a house in such a location, turned around to the ladies and said I heard about him too. After telling them what I had just accomplished, they invited me over to their table to eat with them. It didn't take long for the incredible coincidence, if you want to call it that, to be established. These two ladies, Gerri Allen and Claire Devlin, were both elementary school principals in Mississauga. That was only the beginning. Being principals, they were interested in knowing the last name of Mike, who I had told them about. I told them it was Webster. It appeared they didn't know him until one of the ladies asked me who his parents were. I said Tom and Marnie and immediately they put both of their arms in the air and said "Marnie Webster!". They quickly explained to me, that one of their close close friends knew Marnie Webster very well and that Marnie would often talk with this lady, Roxana, about Michael's illness. This was a very touching moment for us all- how fate brought 3 people from Mississauga together in St. John's, whose common bond was Michael. In the few moments of silence that followed this, as we all tried to understand how an incredible coincidence like this could happen, one lady's emotions were so strong she had to dry the tears coming down her face. It was quite something, I must say.

And so my trip ends not with Ron and the most beautiful ocean view I've ever seen but in a restuarant with two principals from Mississauga, who payed for my dinner and told me how special I was all dinner long.

Who knew my trip would end like this.


An incredible moment...

I did it. 7486 kms in 46 days. $26,000 for SickKids. All for Mike, Tom, Marnie and Nicole.

Proof that with the right motivation, anything is possible.


Day 45: Gander to Clarenville

Where I'm writing this from: the second last motel of the trip

Today's Numbers:
Total time travelling: 9:15 to 5
Total time riding: 6 hrs 27 min
Distance: 143.5 kms
Ascent: 4319 ft
Descent: 4606 ft

Trip's Numbers:
Distance covered: 7296.2 kms
Distance remaining: 200 km

Well I'm glad I didn't attempt the Grand Falls to Clarenville trip in one day because today was very hilly. The 80 kms I spent in Terra Nova national park was marked by a constant up and down road. Having ridden over 7000 kms now, hills, like the long ones today, are not as taxing and frustrating on me as they once were. That's not to say I'm rocketing up them (though I definitely am hitting them a little harder) but just that I am handling them a lot better than before. I almost enjoy them quite frankly- they keep your mind focused on getting to the top- and you feel good when you get there.

Anyway, other than that, today was much more of the barren Newfoundland I have come to know. Sure I was in a national park for half the day, but the other half was pretty bare too, yet again. I haven't looked into tomorrow's ride yet, but I imagine the first 100 kms will be the same story.

To comment on almost being done, here goes. My mood the last few days has been a sombre one. Of course I am excited too, to reach St. John's and complete my journey across Canada will be a great moment of joy, but I am reluctant to have it end. This fantasy of a life I have been living the last 45 days, and even going back to the incredible fundraiser held in May- to think that the conclusion to all of it will happen tomorrow, well it's a little hard to accept. Maybe a horrible headwind all day tomorrow will help me want it to end!

But it all seriousness, what an incredible trip this has been. Because BikeforMike is not about me but about a group of people coming together for the Websters, if you would like to share the final moment of the trip with me, the moment I reach the shores of St. John's and hoist my bike above my head, I will send out a short message to this blog at that time. Together we can share the pride in raising over $25,000 for SickKids in memory of Michael. I should be there around 5.

Until then,


Day 44: Grand Falls to Gander

Where I'm writing this from: motel in Gander

Today's Numbers:
Total time travelling: 9 to 6
Total time riding: 7 hrs
Distance: 98 + 74.1
Ascent: 3925 ft
Descent: 4041 ft

Trip's Numbers:
Distance: 7152.7 ft
Distance to St. John's: 340km

Today was unique. I didn't come through on my 4 am wake up call and so was put in a position to reconsider the schedule for the remaining days. I was slated for a tough 240 km to Clarenville today, and the lack of accomodations prior to Clarenville meant that that was really my only option if I wanted to do a long day. The consequence of this was that I would have been out late (given the wind conditions I knew about) and I wouldn't do that, not this time. So I eventually decided on these plans. I would bike the 98 kms to Gander and end my day there. That would add another day to the trip. I would also bike 70 kms on a highway that runs north out of Gander to the coast, to make up (as best as I could at this point) for the distance I did not bike from both rides I got here in Newfoundland. This would also give me something to do for the afternoon and help correct my overall coast to coast mileage to what it should be without any rides. So that's what I decided to do and that's what I did.

This morning threatened rain again, so much so that I started the day with my plastic bags and booties already on my feet. I put these on outside and made my final adjustments to my bike and clothing outside the Tim Horton's where I had just ate and two tables of men having coffee seemed to take quite and interest in me as they eyed my every move. After 44 days of being the main attraction for wandering eyes in just about every place I go, I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. It was just the start of another morning of getting ready. How I will soon miss these days.

The rain that I feared, didn't happen and about half way through my 100km the skies opened up. It was very humid again today, but I'll take hot and humid over rain, generally speaking. (Ask me if I would take an all out downpour with a tailwind or sunny and 20 degrees with a headwind, and you will find out how much I hate headwinds.)

The Trans Canada was again perfect today, as it has been since setting foot on this giant rock. Once again I say, this is best maintained highway I've encountered, by far (I don't think I've had to avoid a pothole in 3 days). If only a few more people lived here, NFLD would be great ride.

So once again I say 2 more days to go. Thanks again to everyone who has sent me an email of support during the trip.

A reminder to everyone that I will write one final Blog to be posted within a few days of my finish and will upload the hundreds of pictures (with captions) I have.

Cheers from Newfoundland,

Day 43: Deer Lake to Grand Falls-Windsor

Where I'm writing this: motel in Grand Falls

Today's Numbers:
Total time travelling: 6 to 4:30
Total time riding: 7 hrs 52 min
Distance: 165.3 km
Ascent: 2396 ft
Descent: 2207 ft

Trip's Numbers:
Distance: 6980.6 km
Distance remaining: 430 km

Two more days to go!!

Okay that is me being positive tonight, because today was anthing but enjoyable. I don't mean for you to read my belly-aching but this is a journal and I want to keep a truthful and accurate record of each day. So here goes.

I knew today would be extremely desolate, so with that in mind and knowing I had 240km scheduled for tomorrow, I was on the road at 6 am this morning with the goal of arriving early and getting lots of sleep. Boy was I right about today being barren. This was by far the worst day for it. I didn't see a building for 90 kms and when I finally did it was actually good news- it was a diner where I ate (by myself of course). It being so desolate wasn't much of an issue for the first half of the ride- the ride until the diner- because I was prepared for it and was okay for food and water.

The only good news of the day was something that was made obvious during the first half of today: it was flat. The mountains, though not entirely gone, didn't interfere with the road.

The crappy part of the first half was the on again off again rain. The humidity forced me to take off my rain gear during the dry periods, so I was caught in a on again off again rain gear limbo in the middle of nowhere. You can see this wasn't a great start. But it was flat and the wind was okay.

After lunch, I faced a down right nasty (30 km/h) dead on headwind as I headed directly south for about 70 km. The rain was continuing to come and go. These were definitely the stongest winds of the trip. I was in okay spirits at this point though because I had lots of time before it would be dark. Then it started pouring. This was a full 10/10 down pour. With the rain hitting me directly in the face and it also running down from my head, it felt like I was drowning everytime I accidentally inahled through my nose.

I lasted about a good hour under these conditions, before succumbing to the 'okay, enough is enough, I have two days left and will settle for a ride in a pickup' decision. If I had of been just about anywhere else on my trip, I could have just taken shelter and waited it out, but that was not option here. The first pickup that drove up stopped, and I was greeted by a kind couple from St. Anthony's. I leave it to you to google where St. Anthony's is in NFLD- it's in quite the spot. The ride was 45 km, by the way. Cheater you say! 6980 kms in 43 days I say!

Anyway, there is my day for you. I also had some serious butt issues today. The one pair of non bin shorts I have have been given me grief lately (the two bibs shorts are much better). Tomorrow the forecast is rain and wind from the south. This could be bad news for my hopes to do 240 km tomorrow to Clarenville.

Alarm is set for 4 am. Will try my best tomorrow. Could use Lino to draft behind!!

Chris the hitchhiker

Day 42: Robinsons to Deer Lake

Where I'm writing this from: a computer (not on a dial-up connection though) at a B&B in Deer Lake

Today's Numbers:
Total time travelling: 10-6:30 (slept in and enjoyed it!)
Total time riding: 6hrs 17min
Distance: 161.8 km (had to stop here because there isn't anything in the 20-60km range away from here)
Ascent: 4611 ft (quite hilly here on the west coast of NFLD)
Descent: 5040 ft

Trip Numbers:
Distance covered: 6815.3 km
Distance remaining: 640 km
Days remaining: 3 (should be okay with 210, 240,190)

Today was extremely pleasant. The tailwind I had ALL day helped me through the intense heat and moderate hills. Finally I think the headwind/tailwind difference is narrowing. Tomorrow morning I should have another tailwind and things are supposed to flatten out too. I came across two touring cyclists today and one of them shouted across the road to me, "enjoy the tailwind." Let me say, I had no problem doing that today.

The scenery today was spectacular. Wow, Newfoundland is quite beautiful. I'm glad I decided to do the 900km that came with taking the Port-Aux-Basques ferry as opposed to the 100km that comes with the Argentia ferry. The mountains are incredible, especially the ones (Marble Mountain) I went through as I left Corner Brook. That was probably the the nicest valley of mountains I've been through. Wait 'til you see the pictures...

Another pleasant surprise about NFLD has been the roads. They are THE BEST I've been on- a 12/10, an A+++. I was quick to ask the police officer who picked me up last night if it was like this until St. John's and she said yes. That is incredible news.

Tonight I'm staying at a B&B I phoned after I was told both motels here in town are full. This turned out to be a stroke of good luck because the motel would have been around $100 and I'm staying here, in someone's home more or less, for $45. I also get a computer to use, and got some chili and toast tonight too. The people of Newfoundland have been extremely kind so far.

To think I am so close to putting my feet and bike into the shores of St. John's seems to have hit me these past few mornings, when during breakfast a profound sense of pride, joy and gratitude has hit me. I am looking forward to tomorrow morning (which I plan to start very early) where I will start my day at the one Tim Hortons here in town and have some time to again reflect on how close I am and how far I have come and think about all the people I hope to have inspired and touched in some way.

I don't know what the final 10kms will feel like, but I am looking forward to them.