Day 185-188 – 142.8 km (total – 4313.2 km)
Everyone has a story. I have learned that in abundance over the last 6 months and it has particularly hit home in the last few days. A few nights ago in White River, I was grabbing a bite of food when I overheard some cyclists telling stories about their trips across Canada so far. I asked if I could join the conversation and it was nice to interact with some people for the next couple of hours. Erik, Annik and Corrine are biking from Winnipeg to Newfoundland raising funds for cancer. Sam is from Kamloops and is cycling for women’s freedom in Nepal through an organization called IWEN. Nikki came into the restaurant later and is from Cambridge. She is cycling east to west (which not many cyclists do!) raising money for Free the Children, in honour of her niece who passed away last fall. The next day, two cyclists stopped me after Nikki had shared my story and in return I heard theirs – a young couple from BC riding for Doctors for Doctors. In the last few weeks, I have likely crossed paths with over 70 cyclists going across the country.
One of my favourite moments though came yesterday afternoon. Just before I finished the day’s run, I saw someone walking eastward (technically south… semantics!). As I approached I saw his name on his buggy – it was Jean Beliveau. Jean Beliveau has been walking around the world for the last 11 years. He started in Montreal in 2000 and has walked over 75,000 km promoting peace for children (www.wwwalk.org). He is on his last stretch of this epic journey, back in his home country after a decade of walking various countries on different continents. I’ll admit it felt a little surreal to be standing next to this man on the TCH near White Lake in Northern Ontario. His humility and humour made him seem like just another person on the road. And in many ways, he is. He has garnered world wide attention for his efforts and has done well with media attention. But out in the vast remoteness of Northern Ontario, he was just another guy trying to do something he believes in. In fact, the majority of us who are making our way across the country in some form are doing it because of convictions we have.
At the end of a 20 minute conversation with Jean on the TCH, I extended my arm to shake hands. He obliged, but then asked if he could give me a hug. Here was a man who has walked the world for 11 years and has met thousands of individuals. He walks between 30 and 40 km a day, which is grueling and from my own experience, I can attest that it can sometimes make you grumpy! But the warmth and compassion of Jean told me a story that I won’t forget for a long, long time.
Today I made it to Marathon. I found free wireless in the parking lot of the Travelodge, so taking advantage to get caught up with some emails. Thunder Bay can’t come quickly enough!