My 55th birthday gift to myself in 2019 was a decision to leave my job with IBM. I was a bit of a workaholic and had decided that the only way to change the way that I lived was by drastically changing everything. The only goal that I set for myself was to do a solo ride across Canada on my CanAm Spyder – a visit to all 10 provinces. This ride was part mid-life crisis and part love letter to Canada. It was also the best gift that I had ever given myself.
The two weeks spent on the east coast were amazing. I had grown up in Nova Scotia but had been living in Montreal since 1990. I love the Maritimes and the slower pace. Driving along the Saint Lawrence River en-route to New Brunswick, I slowly began to unwind. There is something incredibly liberating about travelling alone. No one needs to be consulted about meals, bathroom breaks, or photo opportunities. It means living in the moment in the best possible way. Don’t get me wrong, travelling with other people is wonderful but every now and then, it is incredible to live your own adventure.
There was a submarine sighting, close encounters with two moose, and visits with friends and family in 3 of those provinces. I headed across the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island and spent my first night in a tent in over twenty years. This was followed up with a yoga class on the beach before heading to catch a ferry to Nova Scotia. After docking in Caribou, I travelled to Halifax to spend a night with some good friends from my university days.
Then, after breakfast with one cousin and lunch with another, I was off to North Sydney to pick up the Newfoundland ferry to Argentia. The sailing was over 16 hours in duration and I chose to book a berth – which I highly recommend. In Newfoundland, I saw an iceberg float by Petty Harbour and took an early morning ride to catch the sunrise at Cape Spear – the most easterly point in North America. Another unique experience was to get “screeched-in” in St John’s. For the uninitiated, that is a very unconventional ceremony (that includes kissing a fish and drinking rum) which makes the participant an honorary Newfoundlander – just do it! I took two days to ride across the province for a quick peek at the stunning Gros Morne National Park and then headed to Stephenville for 2 days to visit with a cousin. Oh, and I encountered two more moose – one while crossing the road about 20 feet in front of me! I left Newfoundland via ferry from Port aux Basques vowing to return. Six days were simply not enough time to cover everything.
Upon returning to Cape Breton, I zipped up the Cabot Trail to visit my mom for 3 days. After that visit, I took another three days to return to Montreal. In a car, I normally accomplish the distance in two days but that’s a little too aggressive on a motorcycle. My last night on the road was spent being pampered in an adorable little auberge called La Dolce Vita in Temiscouata-sur-la-lac, Québec. By the time I returned home on Day 16 I covered 5222.2 km. And, I was quite confident that I was prepared for the trip to western Canada.
The trip west was exceptional in that I had anticipated a six-week duration and made absolutely no reservations. I lived minute to minute, making up my itinerary as I rode. It was complete and utter freedom. I camped when possible and headed indoors when the weather turned soggy or cold. For that second portion of my dream trip, I acquired some extra camping gear and packed extra warm clothing as I had no idea what the weather would bring in October. It was over 5000 kilometres to get to the west coast of Canada and I would be covering the prairies and the Rockies to get there. Protection against the elements was key. And I had to return to Montreal!
The ride took me north through Mont Laurier and Rouyn-Noranda with two nights of camping before leaving Québec. The temperatures went down to 4C during the first night and the second night, while warmer at 13C was a rain-soaked night. No worries – my gear held up and I was happy to be using the tent. It was pretty amazing to just take each day minute by minute and adjust as required. It was living in the moment like never before and allowed me to completely retune my mindset.
As I rode into northern Ontario, I was witness to the rich natural resources that Canada is built upon. Mining and forestry were front and centre and clearly the lives of the citizens in those communities revolved around the land and what it yields. I even toured a Goldmine. It was fascinating – I love the forest, rocks, and trees and there are a lot of them!! As isolated as the ride seemed at times, I was never nervous – it was an exciting adventure and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face during the entire trip. One of the most memorable stops in Ontario was at the Terry Fox Monument just outside Thunder Bay. It’s a tribute to a heroic Canadian who lost his batter with cancer in June 1981 after he attempted to run coast to coast to raise money for cancer research. To date, over $750,000,000 has been raised in his name.
Seven days after leaving Montreal, I arrived in Manitoba – the first time that I had even been in the province. I camped just outside Winnipeg and then spent a day wandering around the Forks region of the city soaking up the local history. Standing at the corner of Portage & Main (a famous intersection known as the crossroads of Canada) was a special moment. And, after visiting with cousins in Brandon, I had a chance to see buffalo on a horse ranch. That was on my list of things to see and I was not disappointed.
From there, I ventured into Saskatchewan, another first time. I have to say that I loved watching the rolling fields of wheat. Every corner of Canada has something spectacular to offer and each province is rich and unique in its’ own way. I spent a night in Moose Jaw before heading to North Battleford for another couple of rainy days. From North Battleford, I continued west and travelled into the province of Alberta through the city of Lloydminster. This town has the distinction of being shared by both Saskatchewan and Alberta and, during standard time, the two halves of the city are in different time zones! My next stop was Vegreville to see the world’s largest Easter Egg – I love roadside attractions!
Alberta, nicknamed Wildrose Country, is stunning. Driving through Jasper National Park was absolutely incredible with everything from teal coloured rivers and lakes, waterfalls, bears, icefields, and snow-capped mountain peaks. My second night in the province was spent in a room in a barn – the most unique accommodation of my trip.
Crossing over into British Columbia was incredibly satisfying. That province offered the most challenging ride of the entire trip (and my vertigo kicked in) on road #99 between Cache Creek and Whistler. Then I was off on the Sea to Sky Highway and the Sunshine Coast on the same day. Crossing over to Vancouver Island brought me to my target destination of Tofino. It had taken me twenty days to make it to the Pacific Ocean and record a sunset. Then, I had to turn tail and rush back to avoid the snow and cold, wet weather forecast for the prairies. It’s a good thing that I did as that forecast proved correct!
During the return trip, I visited Fort Langley, soaked in the Radium Hot Springs, and later enjoyed an Alberta steak while out to dinner with a friend in Calgary. Then on to Drumheller – the dinosaur capital of Canada and a peek at Horse Thief Canyon. As I continued east, I spent one last night in Alberta in the town of Medicine Hat and took time to learn more about our indigenous peoples at the Giant teepee.
I returned to Moose Jaw and stayed at an Airbnb for two nights. I visited Mac the Moose and took the Tunnels tour which brought to life two more chapters in Canadian history – the first was a look into what it was like for the Chinese immigrants who came to Canada to work on the railway and it was not a pretty picture. The second was a look at Al Capone’s connection to the city – the famous mobster had apparently spent time there during prohibition.
When I passed back through Manitoba on the way home, I made a point of visiting the Winnipeg Zoo for a look at the polar bears. The town of Churchill is a famous destination to see these creatures in the wild but my time and money budgets would not accommodate that side trip this time around. It was fascinating to see these playful mammals frolicking around.
I watched an eagle take flight beside my bike as I motored around Lake Superior and had coffee with a couple from Kenora who were returning home from a motorcycle tour in Europe – they shipped their motorcycle over on the same flight. I even stopped in Sudbury to visit the Giant Nickel (those roadside attractions get me every time!)
I arrived back in Montreal on October 4 after adding another 11,578.1 km for a grand total of 16,800 km that took seven weeks to complete. More importantly, I learned to live in the moment and enjoyed every single minute. I returned stronger and without the worry that plagued me for so long – free to design my next chapter and that is exactly what is happening.
I don’t necessarily recommend running away from your life – jobless and homeless are not an easy reality. However, I do encourage you to live your life on your terms. Find an adventure that makes you feel completely alive and goes live it with whoever makes you happy. And make time for solo adventures – you never know what you’ll learn about yourself.