Biking solo from Vancouver to Halifax, Toronto’s Jesse Micak embarked on a 6,300-kilometre ride to remember

I’ve wanted to bike across Canada since I was in my 20s. I’ve lived in the GTA nearly my entire life, and apart from a trip to Vancouver, I’d never been out west before.

But your 20s go by pretty quick. I’m 36 now, and it wasn’t until this year that everything lined up. I had some time off before starting a new job, and after being home for the past 18 months, my cup felt full of family time.

My wife, Sarah, was fully supportive. We’re both big believers that just because someone’s a certain age or at a certain stage of life, it doesn’t mean their personal goals should stop. It’s something we want to demonstrate to our girls, who are 3 and 6.

Biking across Canada would mean missing moments like my daughter’s first soccer practice, but I knew that if I didn’t take the chance this summer, it could easily be 15 years before I’d have another one. As it was, I only had a small window of time — 45 days — to complete the approximately 6,300-kilometre ride from Vancouver to Halifax.

Although I’ve finished two full Ironman triathlons, I’d never cycle toured before — and training in my basement is very different than riding in B.C.’s mountainous terrain. By the time I got onto flatter roads east of Calgary, I’d dropped a lot of weight, from both my body and my pack.

Each day, I’d start before 6 a.m. to get a big chunk of distance covered before lunch. There were days when I spent 12 hours on a bike. It’s a lot of time to think, but you spend most of it in a state of flow. It goes by quickly, even in the Prairies, which I’d heard other cyclists say were mind-numbing.

To me, they were beautiful: Saskatchewan really is “the land of the living skies.” I’d look for grain elevators on the horizon, which usually indicated there’d be a gas station and a chance to get water nearby.

On my breaks, I’d be sitting on a curb and people would come talk to me. Sometimes, they’d buy me lunch or give me a Gatorade — things people didn’t have to do, but I think it reflects the kindness and values of our country.

My biggest challenge, though, was being isolated. News about the residential schools was coming out, and I could feel the pain of people as I travelled past memorials and some of the residential schools.

By the time I reached northern Ontario — a difficult stretch with never-ending hills — I was starting to get homesick. Near Montréal River, I had a meltdown. I tossed my bike in the ditch out of exhaustion and frustration. There weren’t any signs of human life for hours in either direction. Outside of Marathon, I had to roll the dice and cycle directly past a bear. Cellphone service could be limited, and I missed my family. Every day, I wrote them letters.

It took me 42 days to reach Halifax. On the last day, I expected to see three or four of my relatives at the finish line. But in true Maritime fashion, they all came out and made it a party with signs and noisemakers. I walked my bike tire into the Atlantic, and when I turned around, there was Sarah. She’d come to surprise me. It felt great to be able to share that moment with her.

Now, I have the bug for bike touring. Everything you need to survive is on your bike, which is a freeing feeling. I’m trying to convince Sarah to take a trip to Quebec, where you can cycle alongside the St. Lawrence at a slower pace and visit beautiful small towns along the way.

Being on a bike allows you to take a break from technology and enjoy nature in a different way. One night, I watched a sunset over the St. Lawrence. It would have been beautiful from a car, but on my bike, I could hear the birds chirping and feel the calming energy of nature.

I’m still going through the process of figuring out what the trip meant to me. But it gave me a tremendous perspective on how lucky I am to live in Canada and see how beautiful this country is.

As told to Jessica Wynne Lockhart. Travellers are reminded to check on public health restrictions that could affect their plans.

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