Epic Canadian trek passes halfway mark

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/07/2021 (510 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For most people, if they want to see the sights and sounds of this beautiful country, they will pack up the car or camper, and head east or west, whatever the case maybe.

But for Alexis Barbot of Vancouver, that’s not how he rolls. What better way to see this glorious country than on a bike, that is a bicycle, not a motorcycle.

Those of us that live near the Trans Canada Highway have seen countless people traverse the highway over the years, whether it be on foot, bicycle, wheelchair or whatever, passing through these parts in the summer.

TERRY FREY/ THE CARILLON Cyclist Alexis Barbot from Vancouver, pictured here near Richer last week, as he goes coast to coast in Canada.

One of those, Alexis Barbot, 25, as is the tradition, dipped his back wheel of his bike into the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver on June 5, setting off on his journey that will end in September in Newfoundland and the Atlantic Ocean, more than 7,000 kilometres in total.

The Carillon caught up with Barbot last week (June 30) about 10 km east of Richer as he was beginning a long day of cycling that would take him through Kenora up to Longbow Lake, where he planned to spend the night into Canada Day.

The previous night he had set up camp at Rock Garden Campground near Richer. And of course after earlier spending the night in Winnipeg, heading east again he stopped at the Longitudinal Centre of Canada, at the Centre of Canada Park, to mark a tremendous milestone in his journey, the halfway mark across Canada.

With the lake traffic whizzing by, and the constant drone of semis also roaring by, Barbot paused to reflect on his journey so far.

A web designer by trade, he used up all his available holidays plus some unpaid time off, to embark on this crazy journey.

He has been averaging about 100 km a day, although his longest leg so far had been the Brandon to Winnipeg jaunt, more than 200 km in distance, arriving in Winnipeg late at night, where he crashed at some relatives he hadn’t seen in years.

Coming along for the ride is his carefully precision-packed, and re-packed 100 lbs. of gear, which is affixed to his bike, a Fuji Touring Disk bike, equipped with puncture resistant tires, which he purchased new for about $1,300 before he left. He says the bike has stood up pretty well, stopping for repairs at a couple of bike shops along the way, including a much-needed tune-up at a Fuji bike shop in Winnipeg.

As for the terrain he has faced along the way, the famed Coquihalla Highway in B.C. has been the most challenging, perhaps even more so than the Rockies. There were also lots of bears, including unnerving sightings of Grizzlies, yes Grizzlies.

“And whoever said Saskatchewan was flat,” alluding to the fact that the western half of the province is packed with rolling hills. “Everyone assured me though that Manitoba was flat, which it is.”

But he says the flat terrain in this province presents other challenges. “As I approached Winnipeg, in some of the flattest stretches in Canada, you can be staring at the exact same scenery in the distance for hours on end.”

Although he camps most of the nights in his tent, he has also spent nights at relatives and friends at various locations as well as with complete strangers who have invited him in. “The hospitality that I have encountered from people, it has just been above and beyond from what I could have imagined.” And that includes many meals provided by people he has met on the trip, including at restaurants.

TERRY FREY/ THE CARILLON Packed with 100 lbs. of gear, Alex Barbot is cycling across Canada.

He prefers to spend the nights in smaller communities where he can easier connect with people as he travels from province to province seeing the country.

His plans are to be in Toronto by mid-July, where he has friends and plans to spend a week there. That’s where he hopes to get his second vaccine after his initial shot in Vancouver.

It is also where he will return to work remotely, and then continue his journey on the weekends. He then plans to stay at Airbnb’s in the major cities of Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax during the week as he continues to work during that time.

Meanwhile, Alexis Barbot presses on at this writing, one week after this interview on the highway near Richer, pedalling on towards Toronto through northern Ontario and the next stage of this epic cross-Canada journey.

 

 

 

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