July 16, 2020

DAUPHIN, MB

By Doug Zywina/Dauphin Herald –

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been limited for many people worldwide in an effort to combat the disease.
As restrictions ease, life is beginning to return to normal, but some people used the opportunity to take on new adventures.
A group of cyclists stopped in Dauphin, July 7, to replenish their supply of groceries at No Frills. What makes them special is they are cycling across Canada, just for something to do.
The adventure began when Jacob Grover, a 22 year old from Montreal, and Sampson McFerrin, a 19 year old from Calgary left Victoria, June 3, with St. John’s Nfld., being their final destination.
The two have known each other for about a year, having met at university. Along the way, they picked up Sampson’s 17-year-old brother Markos, who Grover just met 2-1/2 weeks ago.
A week before their stop in Dauphin, they met another cyclist, Jesse Martin, 18, of Waterloo, Ont.
“We were heading the same direction, so we picked him up for the ride,” Grover said.
All four had summer plans go out the window due to the pandemic, Grover said, and they were trying to figure out what to do instead.
“We were always joking, ‘we want to do a bike trip together.’ And we figured this was the best time because we can stay distant in our tent, away from everybody and a way to kind of re-explore and adventure through Canada in a world that is stricken with COVID,” he added.
The response from people they have met along the way has been “super, super positive,” Grover said.
“Everyone we have spoken to or when we’ve been outside groceries has been very, very positive about everything. Very encouraging, wishing us the best of luck,” he said.
Monday night (July 6), the group set up their tents behind a Mennonite church.
“Usually a church or something like that is a good place to stop and camp, because everyone is welcoming,” Grover said, adding some of the community leaders invited the four to play softball and visited during the evening. The four cyclists were also invited to breakfast the next morning.
“They had set up this huge amazing pancake and egg breakfast for us, which was like, above and beyond anything we could have hoped. But it was so, so amazing and so perfect,” he said.
The group has been avoiding major highways as much as possible, sticking to quieter roads that are safer with less trucking.
“Once we get past Winnipeg, you don’t have much of a choice. We’re going to take the more southern route through Ontario, along the lakes. And then we’re going to through Ottawa, and Montreal and then work our way up the St. Lawrence towards the Maritimes,” Grover explained.
“So then we’re going to have to be on slightly busier roads, but for now we’ve stayed off the main highway, which is nice.”
The weather, Grover, said, has been on and off, but the week before arriving in Dauphin was beautiful and sunny.
“But we’ve had some days that are cold and wet and rainy. But it just makes you appreciate the good weather that much more,” he said.
The weather has been the biggest challenge for Grover, especially on those cold and rainy days.
“When it gets cold and rainy and you know you have to wake up. You already might be a little bit wet or a little bit tired and you have to get the five, six hours on the bike. That has been the biggest challenge for me,” he said.
“But honestly, the people that I’ve been surrounded with, the meals that we’ve been cooking have all been super positive and that really just keeps a smile on my face. And that helps us all stay more optimistic throughout.”
Among the gear the four are carrying with them, are two tents, two pots and a pan for cooking, four sets of dishes and a couple of extra bowls.
“We’re definitely not traveling light. You can definitely do it lighter than we are. But our bikes are rigged to be able to take this weight,” Grover said, adding they also have sleeping bags and sleeping pads, as well as some extra clothes and rain gear.
Because of the pandemic, the group has been trying to stop as little as possible, going two or three days before restocking their food supplies.
“When we were three, we were cooking for eight. Now that we’re four, we’re cooking for nine or 10 people, because we’re burning about 6,000 calories a day, hauling all this weight,” Grover said.
“But in terms of finances, we all have jobs back home and we’ve been saving up. We’ve been getting by on $15, $20 a day. Sometimes it goes up to $30 when we buy that extra case of beer or whatever. We need to treat ourselves, because we’re doing all this work.”
For Grover, he hopes to simply have an enjoyable experience with his friends, while facing his fears head on.
“Like not knowing where you’re going to sleep every night will wake me up. For me, a month ago, it was something that totally scares me,” he said.
“And truthfully, it still scares me, but just learning to be more comfortable with myself, more comfortable outside and understanding that things are really going to work out in the end, as long as you give them a chance and take things as they come and let it flow. Things will be good.
“And so far, in this past month, I’ve really gotten a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about my friends, living together and being on top of them and them on top of me all the time, which is really, really great. I just want to continue to learn and continue to face fears that I have throughout, especially with not knowing where I’m going to go. And I think it’s been great so far.”
Grover got a lot of support from his family, who have known of his desire to bike across the country for a few years.
“It was very, very positive from them and I’m really thankful that they’re there to support me, emotionally,” he said.
After replenishing their food supplies, the group left Dauphin for a campground, 20-km east of the city.
The group has been taking photographs along the way to chronicle their travels. They expect to arrive in St. John’s by the end of August.
“We start school in the beginning of September, so we need to be back for that. So the plan is roughly end of August, early September,” Grover said.
Grover and Sampson attend Concordia University in Montreal, while Martin will begin his post-secondary education at the University of Waterloo and Markos will begin his final year of high school.
For Grover, this is a trip a lifetime.
“And every day, I don’t know what is going to be coming that day. And it’s so amazing to think that anything can happen for better or for worse. It’s been really, really great.”

– story courtesy of The Daughin (MB) Herald

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