I’m writing this post on my train home to Toronto after a week of recovery time in Halifax. I wanted to post some closing thoughts and thank you, dear readers, for all of your encouragement and friendship along the way, which always cheered me up and kept me going.
Having tracked major rail corridors for most of my journey, the train seemed like the right ticket home. VIA will also check four panniers and a bike at no extra cost, and the pace feels more manageable than flying after months of 100-200km days. Even the train is moving West so fast I can barely stand it. I worked so hard to get to the Atlantic, and now I’m zipping backwards!
It seems like an appropriate moment to reflect on how this adventure compared with my goals and expectations, which were fuzzy when I set off. I did think I would find something on the way, but I didn’t know what it would be. Eric Glass of This American Life helped along the way by describing the road trip cliché:
Any road trip is going to feel longer than you think it will. And you’ll be tired, and you won’t get a meal exactly when you’re hungry. You never find a bed exactly when you want to go to sleep. And you’re probably not going to find out what it is you got on the road to find out in the first place. And you know all that, you know all that going into it. And you still – we all, still – buy into the cliche about road trips: that what a road trip stands for is hope that somewhere, anywhere, is better than here. That somewhere on the road, I will turn into the person I want to be. I’ll turn into the person that I believe that I could be, that I am.
It’s true that food, sleep and revelation are rarely where you would like them to be, but I don’t think I hoped to become a new person, to get away from where I was, or to uncover any specific insight. As it turned out, the trip gave me new perspective, new confidence, a richer relationship with my country and its geography, lasting memories of a grand adventure, and a sense of having tested my limits and risen to the challenge. I’m in better shape than I’ve been in ages, I’ve contributed something small, at least, to awareness about why steady-state economics is an important environmental concept, and I’ve identified a cause to put my weight behind moving forward. All told, I’m bringing home more than I could have hoped for, and I’m sure any others now contemplating a similar trip will find themselves doing the same.
An aside about fuel economy: I’ve seen claims that, calorie for calorie, crossing the country on a bike is thousands of times more efficient than a car. That’s quite an exaggeration, and it equates gasoline calories with food calories. With both meat and veggies in my diet, I probably get about two to three times the miles per gallon and carbon efficiency of a solo driver, and do slightly worse than a bus or a full car. Of course, these calculations overlook the fact that the cycling trip takes months rather than days, and is as much about the voyage as the destination. Besides, it’s much more fun eating food than burning gasoline, and many of those calories came off of my gut!
Returning to the final days of my time in Halifax: I arrived with little energy remaining. For the first few days in town, I did little more than catch up on the final entries of this journal and enjoy the company of Hanah’s mom, Jan, at her home. After Hanah arrived a few days later, we had to size each other up for awhile to make sure we were the right people, but were convinced soon enough. I’ve now enjoyed a week of recovery time, and I’m looking forward to seeing my folks at home. I’m ready to tackle packing, goodbyes and other final tasks in Toronto before setting off on my move to the US.
Thank you again, readers, for helping me complete this great adventure!
Ceremonial Atlantic Ocean wheel-dip.
Hanah, mom and family.
“The Ocean” takes me home.