As Shannon Hutchison and Caley Fox have found, offering strangers rides on your tandem bikes is a sure way to make friends.
The two friends, who arrived in Winnipeg on Monday afternoon, are using tandem bikes to cycle across the country. The purpose of the project is to learn about Canadian culture and what Canadian citizens are known for: their kindness.
"We wanted to pick up Canadians along the way," said Hutchison, a resident of Alberta.
They've been overwhelmed by the kind generosity of Canadians.
"We have received a ton of help from strangers. We had six jars of homemade jam given to us by grandmas," said Hutchison. "They’re all used up so now we have to find new grandmas."
The journey across Canada began in April, where they started out in Newfoundland. Travelling six to nine hours per day, the pair hopes to arrive in B.C. by September. The friends have been camping and staying at stranger’s homes and front yards along the way.
"We met a man for 20 seconds in Newfoundland and he was leaving his house for the weekend, so he let us stay at his place. He had a hot tub and fire place," said Hutchison. "He said he was sorry that he wouldn’t be able to get to know us better."
Once the two have completed the trip, they plan to turn their experiences into a documentary focused on how citizens identify with being Canadian, and what drives acts of kindness. They are also taking photos that will later be published in a book.
More than hockey and beer
Hutchison came up with the idea to cycle across Canada last August when she was studying photography in Montana.
"I was surprised at how little Americans knew about Canada," she said. "They didn’t know about all the things you could do here, and said they didn’t have any reason to travel here."
Fox, a photographer from Missouri, hopped onto the idea and wanted to see if Canadian stereotypes were true.
"People said it was always cold in Canada, and that all they do is play hockey and drink beer," he said. "I find people are a lot more friendly here. People often come up to you rather than you going up to them."
The cyclists will be spending the next four days exploring the city of Winnipeg, while they stay at a friend’s house. They will also be venturing off to Grandview, west of Dauphin. If the bikes permit it, the cycling duo will be spending a total of ten days in Manitoba.
"The little bikes have held up pretty good, they’re from the 80’s and 90’s so they’re pretty old," said Hutchison. "We get flat tires and the gears get pretty wonky."