Tuesday, May 31, 2011

HRM Bike Week 2011, Part 1: Take A Seat

From May 27, to June 5, the best event of the year will be taking place at various locations around the city. HRM Bike week was developed to celebrate cycling and encourage and nurture a cycling friendly environment in the Halifax area, as well as to encourage new riders to give it a try and riders who haven't tried it in a while to dust off their old two wheelers and experience the joy of peddling once again.

I specifically remember seeing advertisements for this ten day event in the Farmers' Market on my first day out exploring when I arrived here last May. However, I was disappointed to see that the week in question would be the week I would be on my train journey to Vancouver. Consequently, I've been waiting with anticipation for this year's event for a full 12 months, and I don't plan to miss any more of it than I have to.

The first event I attended took place on Monday, May 30, on the Dalhousie University campus. The Halifax Cycling Coalition organized a showing of a film entitled Take A Seat, and for $8 I received admission, free cake, free popcorn, free apple juice (or Daveoline, as it's been called in the past), and a 3 year membership to the Halifax Cycling Coalition.

Take A Seat is the story of an amazing young man from England, Dominic Gill, who rode a tandem bicycle from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, 29 519 km down the western coast of the Americas until he reached the most southerly city in South America, Ushuaia. The bicycle weighed far too much for him to peddle the whole journey on his own, and so along the way he met, and was able to convince over 270 people to jump on the back of his bicycle and travel anywhere from a few minutes, to a few days with him to help him out. The whole journey took him over two years.

To get an idea of how long this is, find Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on Google Maps. Zoom in until the scale reading reads about 10km (bottom left corner of the map), and then commence clicking and dragging the screen all the way down to Ushuaia, Chile. The whole operation took me about eight minutes of constant dragging. I got lost a couple of times around Mexico, and ended up in the Pacific Ocean before I widened the image to see where I was.

How long did it take you? How many times did you get lost? How many clicks did it take? Now, imagine each one of those drags being about 2-5 days worth of peddling on a 100 kg bicycle.

Watching the film I remember strongly the sense of isolation he related feeling as he spent a lot of the journey by himself. To Dominic, being alone was the hardest part. Additionally, I was struck by his determination to push through, even after suffering hundreds of tube punctures, and breaking his bicycle numerous times in different places, not to mention having intense diarrhoea at one point.

Mostly though, I smiled at the people he met along the journey who recognized someone doing something special, and who wanted to be involved in it themselves. Watching Take A Seat has renewed my love of cycling, my love of people, and my love for the sense of adventure that prompted me to embark on this grand mission of living in every province, and visiting every National Historic Site of Canada.

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