A few days ago, Alexis Barbot went for a bike ride.
His 10 km ride was fairly standard for an avid cyclist. However, that 10 km jaunt was the end of a 7,003 km journey across the country.
“I hadn’t added everything up until the very end,” Barbot said. “The 10 km ride to go dip my tire in the ocean gave me just enough to pass 7,000 without knowing it.”
Earlier this year, Barbot was back sitting at home in Campbell River dreaming of an adventure. He had originally planned on backpacking through Europe, but COVID-19 forced him to look a little closer to home. After entertaining thoughts on driving across the country, he decided a more authentic way to experience Canada would be to bike across. He bought a new bike and got training.
“I left on June 5, and split the trip into two parts. The first part was from Vancouver to Toronto, and I was going at it every single day, trying to get as much distance as possible. It took 44 days to get to Toronto,” he said.
From there he slowed things down a bit. After spending a few weeks in Toronto visiting family and friends, he got back on the bike and continued east. However, this time he had to stop and work during the weekdays. Since he was able to work remotely, Barbot managed to keep his job and explore the country at the same time. Barbot also kept up a blog of his adventure. However, getting out of the habit of doing 100-120 km per day made things a bit harder on the second leg.
“I was just (riding) over the weekends, and since I was trying to crank out as much distance of possible, I would do 400 or 500 km… It was almost easier to do it going more steady at 100 or 120 km per day, because your body is still used to it,” he said.
Cross-country cyclists know that in covering those distances, you expect something to go wrong. Whether it’s a mechanical issue, or inclement weather, there’s always something to keep you on your toes. For Barbot, the daily hunt for a proper sleeping spot proved to be one of the most interesting parts of the ride.
“You never see the same places twice, and you have to get creative with where you’re going to sleep. You figure it out last minute, just kind of going with the flow,” he said.
In fact, the sleeping arrangements proved to be one of the most memorable parts of the ride.
“For some reason on a trip like this you’re just drawn to really great and special people. I don’t know how it happens, but I guess paths are just meant to cross… (I) was in Saskatchewan, and I was trying to figure out where I was going to sleep… I found a little town, went around the neighbourhood scoping it out. I was ideally trying to find somebody working in their front yard… I was going to start a conversation and see if I could set up a tent,” he said.
“I met this one man named Cliff who was working on his RV. He saw me and I told him about what I was doing and asked if I could sleep in his yard… he actually invited me into the house to their spare bedroom. They made me food, and were really really wonderful people,” he said. “They really made me feel at home, which I really needed at that point in the trip.”
Barbot is now in Newfoundland, exploring a bit before he comes back home. While he doesn’t have plans to repeat his trip any time soon, the adventure bug has not left him.
“The next time I do it I’d love to do it with somebody else. Doing it solo was a different experience, and I would not change that at all,” he said. “You’re more approachable and vulnerable. People go out of their way to help you out. If you’re doing it with a friend, obviously you get to share that experience with someone, and that’s also fun.”
In all, he covered over 7,000 km, 10 provinces and six time zones.
“It was amazing, such a memorable trip, and I’ll always look back on it,” he said.
Barbot’s blog is available at https://alexisbarbot.com/.