Since he was a child growing up in the tiny community of Lord’s Cove, Mark Lundrigan has wanted to hop on a bike and ride across this vast nation of ours.
Several decades later, he’s finally doing it.
Lundrigan began his journey June 3 in British Columbia. He originally gave himself three months to arrive in Newfoundland but got here a lot sooner, arriving in Port Aux Basques on July 25 – giving him more time to enjoy his first visit to his home province in 14 years.
Now a resident of Japan where he works as an English teacher, Lundrigan said his dream was renewed when his mother-in-law gave him a road bike for his 51st birthday. After a few months, he said, “I was riding it every day to the tune of 60 kilometres a day. Health-wise, I’m very much in shape and thought it was a good time to follow through on this dream of mine.”
So, with his family’s support, Lundrigan embarked on his adventure. He was departing Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and on his way to Sudbury the day he spoke to the Southern Gazette.
Lundrigan isn’t riding for any type of charity or cause, he simply loves cycling. The only condition he set for himself was to ride at least 100 kilometres a day – although he pushes himself to do more.
“A marathon is 26 miles, and the biking equivalent is 100 miles (about 161 kms) I try to do a marathon a day.”
Close calls, challenges
Canada has diverse terrain and various climatic conditions, so Lundrigan has conquered several challenges. On his way to Sault Ste. Marie, he faced a strong headwind, as well as approximately 1,700 metres of uphill climb daily – all this while hauling supplies such as a tent, sleeping bag, and food.
“Headwind, combined with a lot of climbing, equals a pain in the butt,” he said.
Lundrigan camps every night, but not at the usual places. He knew staying in campgrounds nightly would become expensive, so he’s pitched his tent anywhere and everywhere, including forests, a spot beside a Winnie-the-Pooh statue in White River, Ont., and even in “the middle of town” in locations such as Jasper and Lake Louise.
He’s had some close encounters with wildlife as a result. Lundrigan recalled one morning when, after packing up his gear, he saw a bear nearby.
“We would have camped within a kilometre from each other,” he said.
But Lundrigan takes such encounters in stride. He carries bear spray for protection and notes he’s never had to deal with any animal intruders while camping out for the night.
“The tent is my haven,” he said. “You still feel kind of safe; it’s your space.”
Lundrigan has had other hair-raising experiences on the road, including his very first day, when he had to cross the Alex Fraser Bridge to get to the city of Delta, B.C. It turned out the bridge didn’t have any shoulders, so he had to compete with seven lanes of traffic.
“Once I got on it, I couldn’t go back. It was very frightening. I did it, but I would never do it again.”
Once he completes his trip, he’ll head back to Japan. He said this adventure could be seen as a sort of training for any potential challenges in the future, although that may be unlikely.
“If I had the opportunity, I would like to circumnavigate the globe, but that would require sponsorship.”
Lundrigan said he’s amazed at the support he’s received for his journey, both from people he’s met on the road and in coffee shops across the country, and from family, friends and old acquaintances back home following his adventure on social media.
“It’s quite touching,” he said. “You haven’t seen them for 35 years … and they’re giving you support for something.”