Travelling across Canada in less than 30 days may not be unusual, but a young Salmon Arm man’s version is one not many have accomplished.
Twenty one-year-old John Connor just cycled across the country solo, from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 29 days.
Also of note, he spent only $1,500 doing so. And he trained for just a week prior to going.
Connor is known in sports circles for his athleticism, having achieved many successes, particularly in cycling and nordic skiing.
A couple of summers ago he rode his bike from Salmon Arm to Toronto – and so the idea to “ride the whole thing properly, to do the whole trip” was born.
Busy working at freelance yard work in the Shuswap this summer, he realized about a week before he left that he’d better spend some time on his bike. So he decided to cycle to Victoria via the high-elevation Coquihalla Connector.
“It was really tough, really hilly, especially the connector,” he says. “It was a good wakeup – I hadn’t really done a lot of cycling until then.”
He points out that he has been cycling for years, so the lack of preparation wasn’t too hard on him.
“I’ve always been training for something and I guess your body and your mind adapt to it.”
Along with not much training, Connor’s source of nutrition on the ride was also a little unconventional. All his meals were fast food. Some Tim Hortons but mostly McDonald’s. About $50 a day at McDonald’s. He laughs when asked if he’s been approached for an endorsement.
“People hear McDonald’s and they say, ‘Ok, it’s super unhealthy, you can’t do it.’ I’d have to ride 250- or 300-k a day,” he explains. “So that’s like 10 hours of riding at 25-k an hour. There was a lot of days that were 300-k. You need a lot of calories to support that – 6000, 7000, 8000 calories. It’s pretty easy to get those kinds of numbers at McDonald’s.”
He’d also fill up his water bottles with pop at McDonald’s.
“I’d fill up all four of my bottles with Sprite… Pretty unhealthy, I wouldn’t recommend it to the kids, but that’s all right.”
And one other thing.
Although he took a tent, he didn’t take a sleeping bag or sleeping pad.
“I just had a sleeping bag liner, just a cotton sack.”
How uncomfortable was that?
“After riding all day, you’re pretty tired. If you’re sleeping on grass it’s not like a soft bed, but I don’t know, it feels all right. A few times I had to sleep on concrete. If it was wet I didn’t want to have to pitch my tent in the rain. So I’d find a spot under cover… It’s fine if you sleep right on your back – they say it’s good for your back.
Connor adds: “It’s good to be young.”
Every day he’d get up at 6:30 or 7 and pedal till dusk, his favourite time to ride.
“Just after the sunset, it would kind of cool off, no breeze, less traffic and you’d have the road to yourself. It’s the end of the day so you’re tired but you know you’re almost there.”
He’d camp at schools or city parks.
“I’d roll into a park or school after it was dark. Then I’d be out again right when the sun rose. I never had any problems, no one bugged me or anything.”
He thought with respect about Terry Fox along the way.
“I thought I had a tough time on a bike but to do it on foot, to attempt that, it’s crazy.”
Connor says his trip contained many highlights, including the beauty of the country, the kindness of strangers and one unexpected treat.
“Riding after dark in Ontario, I saw these flashing spots of light and I didn’t know what they were. Then I realized they were fireflies. That was kind of a magical moment… They’re something you hear about but you never see.”
People were very kind, including one man who offered to help him fix his bike when he had a serious problem with it – and afterwards left him a cooler of food.
Overall, he recommends the cycling trip – at any speed.
“I think it’s a beautiful way to explore. When you’re driving, you don’t really see a lot…
“Canada is huge and a lot of people have explored the world but they haven’t explored Canada yet. We have so much to offer, it’s just beautiful.”