It all feels like a dream. I've re-read my blog posts, scrolled through my photos and put away all my gear. It really happened and I'm still in awe of it all. This is what I learned:
1 - Set the Goal. Make the Plan. Do the Steps.
This whole bike tour trip idea started last spring as a way to reconnect with my roots after I learned of a memorial being held for my Dad at the Atlantic Police Academy on September 1st. The day was going to be a very emotional; bringing together lots of family, friends and former colleagues of my dad to the unveiling of a memorial wall at the Academy. So how was I going to process this event and connect with as many family members as I could? I had wanted to do a bike tour so the idea of cycling across the Island seemed like the best way to combine a lot of good things together. The goal was set and a plan came together as I took the steps to get there. Simple when it's broken down but really daunting when I first set out on this idea.
2 - Self Doubt is Insignificant when You are Supported
I cannot accurately express just how much I self-doubted myself throughout this whole process. As I neared the departure date I was struck by ridiculous fears of complete failure and a lot of "what's the point" downward spiral depressive thoughts. Until the moment when my aunt was driving away, after sharing a heart-felt prayer for me at the North Cape lighthouse, and I started pedaling on my own it all seemed like it would never all come together and that I was actually going to bike across a whole province. Luckily I have an amazing support network of friends and family that were cheering me on throughout the this journey in a variety of ways. From texts and family group messages sent full of support and encouragement, phone calls and social media comments from near and far asking how I was doing while planning and on trail, to words of wisdom and insight from bike shop staffers and fellow bike tourers. It was more than I could have ever expected and my self-doubt died peacefully on that trail. It didn't matter how far I went each day or even if I finished... the fact that I did the work to get there, started when I said I would and ultimately completed a goal that I set myself out to do is what ended up mattering the most to me. This bike tour was, by far, the biggest goal (adventure, personal or professional) I've accomplished and I think that's pretty fucking awesome!!
3 - Prepare for the Worst - Hope for the Best
I brought along a lot of gear that I ended up not even using once throughout the whole trip. However, had I needed any of it when needed I would've been extremely pissed off knowing that I wasn't prepared. Rain gear for inclement weather that didn't happen. CO2 cartridges for flat tires that I didn't have to deal with. Random pieces of camping gear that I didn't have to use because every night I either had a roof over my head or access to a cottage/home's facilities. Although I carried all the extra weight of the self-supporting gear when I didn't need it most of the time, I now like to think that it was preparing me for my next adventure. I learned about balancing weight on my bike, how to pack pannier most efficiently throughout this trip, and how I'd organize myself better for the next adventure. All very valuable knowledge! I started with this list and crossed out a lot of it as it didn't pertain to this particular trip. Then trimmed that list further. Afterwards, I figured out what I already had vs. what I would need to buy or borrow. Nearly everything fit in two Ortlieb pannier bags but I still needed to carry a backpack for some lighter items that I wanted to have easy-access to (cell phone, sunscreen, sunglass/glasses case, etc.). Carrying a backpack for the trip was not optimal but trying to find a bar bag that would fit around my handlebars' special configuration (it has two sets of brake levers) turned out to be a far greater challenge than I expected. Of course, I left this key decision to the last minute, as time and money were running short. So I used what I had and it worked.
4 - Have a Plan but Go With the Flow
There was a very short list of what I had planned for this trip:
- Start pedaling on September 2 from the west end/North Cape
- Bike until I reached the East Point.
Seriously. I gave myself an 8-day window to complete the journey and there was one big family event and an invitation to attend a wedding that I was going to try to attend but neither were a priority. I hadn't pre-booked cottage stays (with family or otherwise) or pre-planned any camping locations. I had an idea of how far I could bike in a day but had never ridden this bike with as much weight as all my gear added up to for any distance on a gravel trail. I had no idea what was going to happen. I went with the flow, accepted invitations to dinners and night's stays as they were offered, ate trail-side lunches on my own or with other travelers at restaurants and altered my route when it felt right. Going with the flow with whatever came my way turned out perfectly. These things cannot be planned but being open to opportunities sure can.
5 - You're Stronger Than You Think
I've been a proponent of mind-over-matter thinking for a while as it has worked well for me (for the most part) in the past for other physical challenges. Training for a multi-day bike tour is possible but nothing could have really prepared me for what I experienced. Currently living and cycling in Calgary and area certainly helped my legs and lungs be ready for the flat trail and hilly roads at Island's sea-level altitude. However, the humidity and heat was not expected midway through the trip. Had I consistently checked the weather forecast I certainly would've succumbed to defeat under the sweltering humidex temperatures. Lots of water with added electrolytes, sugary food fuel and plenty of breaks under shade was the magic combination for me and it worked. Forecasts be damned!
Throughout this amazing journey I strived to stay present and enjoy every moment because I really had no other place to be! It was wonderful and the next adventure is still in the idea stage but it's a growing goal :)