The Zen Traveller’s Great Cycle Challenge

Travel is at times, challenging, but it is important to remember that challenges also bring opportunities. Whether opportunities for learning, to push outside of one’s comfort zone, or for personal growth, challenges force you to look inside yourself for strength and resourcefulness that you never knew you had. Challenges can also be really fun if you approach them with the right mindset.

Jump right in to travel challenges!
When it comes to challenges, the key is to jump right in!

Taking Part in the Great Cycle Challenge

For example, during the month of June, Philip and I undertook the Great Cycle Challenge where we each set a goal to cycle 500km throughout the month and raise $500 for the SickKids Foundation, a charity that aims to improve the lives of children and their families around the world. Once the goals were set, it was up to us to meet them.

I met my fundraising goal pretty quickly and even surpassed it, while Philip charged ahead in distance (thanks to his 44km roundtrip commute). My short, 11km roundtrip commute was just not enough so I had to get creative in order to rack up kms to meet my goal. I started by adding a few kms through my local neighbourhood park to my commute home, but I didn’t cycle to work every day as planned and the tracker on my fundraising page just wasn’t adding up fast enough. Even adding some 35km trips around the city on the weekends only got me to just over 250km with the end of the month fast approaching.

Wood Ducks at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
Sunday ride to the bird sanctuary to see some wood ducks.

It was clear that I was going to have to seek out new cycling adventures if I was to make my distance goal. This led to all kinds of wonderful experiences like a birthday ride with my best friend, arriving at a new restaurant in an unfamiliar area via bike, and checking out new portions of Calgary’s beautiful river pathway system. These adventures required simply looking at the pathway map and occasionally thinking fast when the route lead me to somewhere I was less than comfortable, like cycling on 17th Avenue SW during rush hour!

Cycling the Highwood Pass

Philip helped our mutual causes by planning us a surprise birthday trip to the beautiful Mount Engadine Lodge (you may want to call to book and avoid  booking online unless you want to sleep in a twin bed!) and a tough but fun ride up Highwood Pass, Canada’s highest paved road. It’s closed to vehicles until June each year so cyclists flock to it to enjoy amazing views, a car-free ride, and a swift downhill cruise.  While it may not be the easiest, this is a popular and worthy bike ride near Calgary.

Cyclist at the top of Highwood Pass
Over 600m elevation gain is challenging  but worth it!

Cycling the Okanagan Valley

Despite all these efforts, within a week and half from the end of the month, I still had 170km to cycle to meet my distance goal. Fortunately for us, Philip and I had planned to visit the beautiful Okanagan valley in British Columbia a week before a friend’s wedding in Summerland.

Okanagan valley vineyards, a great place to cycle
A truly beautiful place to cycle and get married!

The Okanagan as it turns out is a wonderful cycling destination. The Kettle Valley Railway trail which is an old railway corridor that has been rehabilitated to be used for cycling and hiking provides the perfect link between Penticton and Naramata with opportunities to get off the trail for wine tastings along the way. Naramata Road and Eastside Road are excellent for people who are a bit nervous about riding on roads since they have big shoulders for the most part and the speed limit is 60 KPH. Between the KVR and roads around Naramata, Okanagan Falls and Penticton, and the fast downhill from the Lost Moose Cabins we were able to get the kms we needed to meet our goal. Along the way we were able to taste delicious wines, cool off in Lake Okanagan and enjoy lunches and picnics on beautiful patios. The hardest part of the challenge was to keep cool, stay hydrated and avoid sunburns while riding in the Okanagan’s scorching heat. If you decide to try riding the KVR, it’s especially important to pack lots of water since it’s hard to find along the trail.

Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway
Riding the Kettle Valley Railway is a wonderful and unique experience.

Looking back, I can’t help but feel like if we had not signed up for the challenge, we may not have pushed ourselves to bike as much and as far as we did. In doing so, we learned that cycle travel is one of our absolute favorite ways to get around. Now after a few days off my bike, I just have to get back on and go riding. I also expanded out of my usual biking haunts around Calgary and discovered new and fun places to hang out.

Okanagan Wine Tasting on Bike
A toast to new favorites!

So challenges can be both difficult and rewarding as long as they are approached with the right mindset. When going into a challenging situation, especially when travelling, remember that there is always a lesson and quite possibly an exciting discovery at the end of it all.

If you’re inspired at all by the Great Cycle Challenge and SickKids Foundation’s good work, please consider donating by following the link to my fundraising page. Donations are collected until the end of July.

Now we are on to a new challenge, where we are aiming to implement a 90 day shopping ban so we can save money for many more exciting adventures. Wish us luck!

Cyclist celebrates at Skaha Lake
Feeling triumphant in front of Skaha Lake!
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