A Mike Shaver and Steph Webster rolled into St. John’s, Nfld. last week, they ended a successful 8,000-kilometre cross-Canada concert tour fuelled entirely by pedal power.
Speaking from Cow Bay, N.S. last Friday, the couple, who perform as a Million Dollars in Pennies, described their delight in the four-month bicycle tour that began in July, when the couple dipped their tires in the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s the best thing I’ve done in my life,” raved Webster.
Any preconceived fears about the long journey were laid to rest, added an equally enthusiastic Shaver.
“The only downside is I found it to be addictive,” he says. “If that looked daunting and wasn’t, what more could be possible?”
Webster says that once they cleared Rogers Pass, she thought she could do anything.
That, in part, could also be a response to the couple’s close-up experience with a bear that had them penned in an outhouse for 20 minutes.
“He was just so curious, he came up around the outhouses and no amount of banging, yelling or honking would move him,” says Webster. “We finally got to our bikes and just bolted.”
The reception the two received on the rest of the tour was far more heartening.
“All the way across the country we experienced so much kindness, welcome and warmth,” Webster says. “It definitely restored our faith in humanity. It’s amazing the generosity we experienced, it was so overwhelming.”
Shaver describes the experience as absolutely mind-blowing and attributes it to the emails announcing their next destination and asking if anyone knew anybody who would put them up, give them a place to set up their tent, or feed them, in exchange for a concert.
“People would pass on messages to their friends,” he says. “We met people who were friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends.”
Shaver says he was overwhelmed by the willingness of people to become part of their experience.
“I think the notion of a bike is instantly disarming and we were travelling as a male-female duo,” he says of people’s willingness to accept them and their “biker” gear. “And it’s kind of hard to look tough and menacing when you’re wearing tights.”
While many people seemed to expect negative feedback about their time in Quebec, Shaver says the couple’s welcome was incredible.
“I would say we had some of our best biking on some of the 4,000 to 5,000 kilometres of bike trails,” he says, noting Quebecers welcomed their efforts to communicate in French. “People were so excited. We told just about everyone to go and bike in Quebec… we didn’t have a single bad experience.”
The couple played music, tidied up after themselves as much as possible at each place they stayed and left a CD with a thank you note.
“We felt like we were getting the better end of the deal, and most of the people felt they were getting the better end of the deal.”
The couple’s on-road experience was also given a stellar 95 per cent positive review.
“The big transport trucks were the most courteous by far; we have nothing but good things to say about them,” says Webster, noting the weather co-operated for most of the four-month journey, deteriorating badly as they rode into St. John’s last week. “It was most intense riding out to Cape Fear. The side wind gusts were insane and I discovered I have a fear of strong winds.”
Threaded through their musical trek was an emotional current that they were following in the footsteps of Terry Fox. Their journey began and ended near monuments to his courageous journey.
A couple in everyday life as well as in the musical world, Webster and Shaver say their trip has bonded them even more.
While they discussed a few ideas for new songs on the road Shaver says he needs a quiet, introverted time at home in order to write the music.
As of last Friday a Million Dollars in Pennies had played 24 shows, with three more on the slate.
The couple will board a train in Halifax on Friday for a more relaxed journey home.
Accepted to VIA Rail’s onboard entertainment program in lieu of tickets, Webster and Shaver will play two 45-minute sets daily all the way back to Vancouver.
They arrive in the Shuswap Saturday, Nov. 17 and, as promised, perform in concert that night at Sunnybrae Hall.
Vancouver singer and guitarist Missy Donaldson will open for a Million Dollars in Pennies at 8.
Tickets at $15 are available at Synergy and Acorn Music.