BY MICHELE JARVIE/Calgary Herald – After a year of social isolation, a group of adventurers is planning an epic trip in 2021 to help reconnect and rebuild communities.
ConnecTour has an ambitious cross-Canada cycle trip planned for next year and is looking for like-minded individuals to join all or part of the journey, whether for a day, a week or one of the five stages. The trip will cover nearly 8,000 kilometres over four months, starting in Victoria in mid-May and ending in St. John’s, Nfld. by mid-September.
But the trip is more than just a cycling adventure. Calling it nation-building, the organizers want to find and tell the stories of inspiring Canadians along the route.
“More than ever, this is about the journey. We will meet with Canadians in small communities across the country, get to know them a little better, and tell their stories,” said group leader Rick McFerrin. “Beyond the exceptional memories, we aim to fuel a movement – a national conversation on who we are and to celebrate the ordinary heroes who make us unique.”
For safety, the group will avoid major highways when possible, and head to secondary roads to learn more about people in towns and villages, farms and factories along the way. Communities on the route will choose remarkable local people to be highlighted in a blog and/or video. They may be people who have overcome illness or adversity, benefactors, or health care or public safety employees.
“We’re looking for local heroes. It might be someone who’s done something really helpful for their community during COVID. Or it could be a mother who’s a breast cancer survivor who comes out and rides for a day,” said Lisa Monforton, ConnecTour’s media liaison, and one of two journalists who will be documenting the trip.
Crowsnest ride“We believe this experience will be transformational, not just for participants, but for the people we encounter along the way.”
Monforton has firsthand knowledge of how a bicycle tour can change a person and how they look at life. With her partner Doug Firby, the other journalist on the tour, the couple became interested in long-distance touring after a recent trip across northwest Argentina with McFerrin’s bike touring company, Onavelo.
Rick and Tanya McFerrin have been cycle-touring for more than 20 years, including several epic trips that have taken them around the world, including with young children. They also started an organization in 2000 called Two Wheel View, which uses bicycle trips and community programming to build resiliency in youth.
A little bit of resiliency will also be needed here as the tour aims to average 80 km, or six hours, a day in the saddle. That will change depending on whether the group is climbing summits in B.C. or going flat out in the Prairies.
“But the point we want to drive home is this is not a race,” notes Monforton. “It’s really a leisurely ride and about connecting with people along the way.”
Individual stages are priced from $950 to $1,600 with the entire 135-day trip costing $4,800. They aim to keep the group to 30 participants although day riders can be accommodated. The group will mostly camp along the route. More information about the tour, and registration options, are on the ConnecTour website.