I write from the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula, Montana. It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote.
I left Japan with a sense of urgency, a bit fed up, a bit bored, tired and with a cracked bicycle frame. Waiting for me at the airport in Vancouver was my uncle, I have family all over the world and this was an opportunity to meet some members that I’d never met before. The lack of formality when I arrived was great, it appears that family, regardless of how distant is still family and I was treated like a son; home cooked food and home comforts revitalised me and brought me back to life.
Canada is spectacularly beautiful, perhaps even the most beautiful place country I’ve ever been to and a great place to ride a bicycle. The road from Vancouver to Whistler and on through Jasper and Banff national parks is filled with spectacular views and more wildlife than I’ve ever seen outside of Africa; moose, bears, elk, deers, eagles, foxes, and squirrels are potentially lurking behind every corner.
Almost everybody I meet asks me the same question, ‘Why did you decide to ride your bicycle all this way?’, I always answer with something like, ‘I’m young and have no responsibilities so thought that it was a good time to see the world’. This suggests that adventure is only for people in my situation, but as I cycled away from Vancouver I met lots of cyclists who did not fit my stereotypical cycle touring mold.
Father and daughter team Mike and Elaine, in the last picture inspired the title of this blog post. As we cycled together on a short section from somewhere to somewhere else on a hilly, gravelly, muddy track, with the rain coming down, Elaine called to her father, ‘do you feel alive?’. This was a her quoting a documentary on the famous ‘Barkley Marathons’: a brutal ultramarathon that pushes runners to the absolute limits of their own ability. This quote resonated with me and my journey and made me realise that the times that I have felt the most present, the most awake and the most ‘alive’ were the times when I was pushing myself; when I was climbing a huge hill, cycling at high altitudes, extreme temperatures or doing long days in the saddle. So it is from this thought that I have decided that I will attempt to cycle all the way to New York city from Vancouver; my flight is on August 19th, I am going to go to Yellowstone first. I will have to average higher mileage, push harder, but the end is near, the thoughts of work and home plague my thoughts and to remain present is vital.
I’ll sign off once more with a request for a donation for AgeUK. This is the charity I have attached to my ride, 15,000 miles of cycling across 25 countries is hopefully enough to convince you to donate what you can to this amazing cause that helps the elderly in the UK to have a full and happy life.