A Cowichan Lake family is preparing for the trip of a lifetime.
Tod and Carla Spooner and their three kids, aged 11, 13, and 15 — and their one-year-old terrier too — are getting ready to ride their bicycles across Canada.
What’s more, “everyone will be pedaling under their own power,” Carla noted.
It began two years ago at the beginning of the pandemic when the family cycled the Trans-Canada Trail through B.C. and loved it, even though the trail was really challenging.
“Since my husband Tod turned 60 this year, we thought we might as well try for an even bigger adventure while we are all healthy and the kids are young enough to come along,” Carla said. “I am up to my eyeballs in planning and list-making. April [was] food prep month, getting as much dehydrated food ready as possible for the start of the trip. It tastes good and keeps the costs down! Bike gear is ready, rain gear is acquired, now it’s nailing down the fine details, and lots of them!”
The plan is to embark on their epic journey from Mile Zero in Victoria on the morning of May 24. They’ll give themselves a full week to get to the north end of Vancouver Island and hope to travel anywhere between 60 to 100 kilometres a day for three or four months. Their goal is to end up on the east coast of the country somewhere in the second week of September.
“It’s a big endeavour if you look at the whole picture,” admitted Tod. “You do it one day at a time, and if at some point it gets a little overwhelming you take a break.”
It’ll be the end of reasonable riding season by the time they get to the other side of the country, he explained.
“We’ve got half of spring, all of summer, and half of fall to do this. We’re not trying to cross Canada in record time. We’re not interested in abusing our bodies with marathon days.”
They want to not just see but explore and learn all about Canada.
While they ride, they’ll also be participating in the Great Canadian Cycling Challenge fundraiser for kids with cancer.
“Ultimately it’s about us riding across Canada,” Tod explained. “If we’re going to take the time to ride across Canada we might as well take some time to do something outside of our own enrichment.”
Tod’s been a cyclist since he was the age his children are now. He knows from experience they can handle the trek.
“I’ve always liked the freedom of cycling. You’re not attached to an itinerary; you are free to stop and talk to people. You’re really accessible to people so it’s a good education,” he said. “Just because they’re kids doesn’t mean they’re not capable of riding across Canada.”
They’ve packed light and have opted to make use of hotels and laundromats along the way.
As for set stops, they have a few.
“I’d like to bring my kids to Ottawa, the capital of Canada,” Tod said. “I want to take them to Montreal. I want to take them through Quebec City.” As a young man, Tod’s French-Canadian Army regiment was stationed in Quebec.
“The rest is fairly flexible,” he said. “We want to visit people we know across the country, and meet people on the way.”
Riding bikes, he said, allows you to “really get to understand who people are outside of all the politicking and rhetoric. It gives you a little more faith in humanity than most people have.”
While his two younger children are looking forward to it, he admits his 15-year-old is a little more ambivalent.
Tod is sure he’ll be more keen once they are underway, if their cross-B.C. trip is any indication of how things will go.
“He changed into a different person that trip. I think we all did.”
Cycling long distances, he said, “separates you from the worries of day to day life and some of the silliness that we think is important.”
While it seems like a massive endeavour, and it is, “riding your bicycle across Canada is not an impossible task,” Tod said. “It’s not like we’re crossing the Sahara. If you take it one day at a time, time goes on, and you take it day by day, you find you’re where you want to be. And it changes you as a person, and for the better.”
The family won’t be riding home once they get to the other side, however.
“At first we talked about flying back, but the family needs a new vehicle. I think maybe what we’ll do is probably buy a minivan somewhere in the Maritimes and drive home in that vehicle,” Tod said.