Cycling Across Canada

Kicking Horse Pass.

A whole day’s rest in Golden served a much-needed reinvigoration, nourished by restaurant meals, mindless channel-surfing, and pages of notes from my travels so far. My system felt restored, if not renewed. Funny how quickly I felt refuelled from such frivolities. Lifelong roots lingering strong, I suppose.

Only Kicking Horse Pass separated Sonja and me from the border. The summit would mark the highest elevation point of my entire cross-country trip: 1627 meters above sea-level. A distant trek from the Pacific Ocean shores.

The highway after Golden was mostly quiet. The scene still wintry. Grey skies and a calm breeze. Not ideal. Far from indecent. East of Golden, the Trans-Canada rises alongside the Kicking Horse River for a horizon or two. The highway then crosses the river along Ten Mile Hill, a picturesque and daunting ascent.

Ten Mile Hill is the type of intimidating climb that offers a faraway view of its lofty top from the ground below. Fair enough. I didn’t feel so fazed anymore. Head down, I pedalled the duration of the climb in a single set of excruciating pushes. Minutes that took a lifetime to harness. This marked the first climb I felt I’d conquered. I was opening to a growing familiarity. A blossoming control.

I paused before I turned the last bend before Ten Mile Hill disappeared from my view. Breathtaking. The sheer cuts of the mountainside lining the river’s edges. Snow blanketing the mountainscape. Countless trees. Truly awe-inspiring.

I moved further along the Trans-Canada into Yoho National Park. My physical strength felt unsurpassed. At the same time, I was a speck in the vastness. I ceded to the immense wilderness nestled between mountain peaks. More frequently, I stopped to snap pictures. No selfies, I swear; only the surrounding beauty.

About halfway through Yoho, before the final ascent to the summit of Kicking Horse Pass, the town of Field quietly occupies a small part of the land. The town can be spotted from the Trans-Canada, beyond a Park Visitor’s Centre and train tracks closer to the highway. Field serves as merely another passing scene for most, on the way to a known destination. Lake Louise or Banff, for those seeking the most familiar signs.

Traveling at a far slower speed offers a deeper and wider perspective of the landscapes. On a bike, every scene can become a destination.

And, so, at this particular time on this particular day, Field felt the place to be. With a roaring stomach, along with a phone-charge and water fill-up both needed and overdue, circumstances might have called Field the only place to be.

I rolled over the train tracks and wandered through town till I found a restaurant. For a long and easygoing moment, I savored a plate of fish and chips, a pint, and a forgettably care-free conversation with a couple of barstool strangers. The type of encounter for which the words and stories shared didn’t ultimately matter; only the connections made would resonate into remembrance, offering the uplifting reminder that, indeed, any scene can become a place to be.

Filled and satisfied, I pushed through the final stretches of BC highway. By dusk, I had crossed the border.


As I pedalled past the welcome sign, I relished the inner sense of accomplishment. A lungful of satisfaction. The first and most difficult province in my rearview. A rigorous physical stretch, spanning from the Pacific shores to the Rockies’ eastern edges. My world had been a series of exhausting exertions through peaks, valleys, and passes. I’d mostly centered my being on the daily physical grind. Only a few spells of mindful wanderings and unexpected pulls.

I continued closer to the famed Lake Louise, feeling my first real dose of downhill momentum toward the Atlantic Ocean.

One province down.

In a significant way, I’d already explored my intended meaning for this trip. These roads felt unfamiliar. These experiences had been refreshingly unexpected. Scenes weren’t passing into and out of view. I was in the scene, constantly. Immersed and alone. Self-propelled along a long road. A new one. This had been my modest goal.

My body had adapted to the physical challenge. From a humbled slogger to a hardening cyclist, my body felt transformed. Only nine less-mountainous provinces awaited. I was going to reach St. John’s on two wheels, no doubt. More than before, I could sense the thread connecting every horizon to the Atlantic. A tangible finish-line.

For a substantial portion of these roads, though, I felt far from triumphant. Often, I felt tired, heavy, broken, or sore. My naïveté and inexperience reigned in many moments. More than once, I had run out of water on my way through an isolated mountain pass. With the weather still holding true to the fading winter, I slept on snow-covered mountains and struggled through numbingly cold stretches of riding. In those moments of depletion and frustration, I could feel an acute loss of control, grasping desperately for my own as I screamed obscenities at the air in front of me or angrily tossed Sonja across the highway’s shoulder.

The challenges within I’d encountered felt even more daunting, a consequence I hadn’t foreseen.

Fear. Control. Trees. Roots. Progress.

Thoughts fill our every moment; a truth I was still learning to embrace while riding atop Sonja for many hours in a single day. Often, in the middle, alone. And, far too frequently, I wasn’t ready for the task.

I hadn’t the faintest idea how to explore each thread, let alone how they might connect. These threads were woven into circles and webs far more complex, none of which I could yet sense or feel. Instead, I kept returning to my first questions, still unable to form a deep, conclusive answer at my very roots.

What am I doing? Why am I here?

This journey demanded incremental steps, and I struggled even with them. I remained too focused on the lines straight ahead. On to the next one, in nearly every moment. One pedal-stroke at a time. At some point, I had to venture further within, signless and directionless, as I pushed my life eastward. With the mountains nearly finished, I’d soon have my chance.

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