Ninety-seven days, 9,306-kilometres and memories to last a lifetime.
As McMaster University graduate Kyle Chevalier settles back into life in Ancaster after a marathon bike ride across Canada this summer, there are some special moments he will hold dear for a very long time.
At the Kenora, Ont., city limits, Chevalier was met by youth, their parents and an OPP escort. He hopes he left a lasting impression on the young people who boisterously greeted him.
“I believe that this was a positive, influential experience for these children,” said Chevalier. “When I was younger, I always admired others doing something ambitious and positive. My hope is that these kids see the possibilities in their futures.”
And then there was the ride toward Mile Zero. Chevalier was travelling through Victoria to reach the Pacific Ocean when he stopped at a red light and noticed a man checking out his cycling jersey.
“I turned to him and said ‘Hey, I just rode across Canada for breast cancer.’ The man was surprised and congratulated me, saying that he would be sure to check out the website and donate,” said Chevalier.
In Berwick, N.S., Chevalier stayed at the home of a family acquaintance who had two young daughters, five and eight years old.
“I arrived at their house in the rain after a day of biking from Chester, N.S.,” said Chevalier. “The next morning, before I headed out, the two girls ran up to their piggy banks and donated the money they had collected from their allowance.”
Chevalier climbed on his bicycle May 16 in Newfoundland to embark on a cross-country ride he called Biking4Boobies to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. He arrived on Canada’s west coast on Aug. 23.
Arriving at his destination, said Chevalier, was a surreal feeling.
“I was overwhelmed with the thought of the monstrosity which is Canada and all of the experiences I was blessed to have over the last 97 days.
“That morning I made it a point to wake up early and soak up the experience…”
Chevalier, who was accompanied by a support vehicle driven by Tessa Leigh Gonzales, said he ran into a number of challenges during his long trek; the most significant were changes in weather conditions that Canadians know too well. Chevalier faced sub-zero temperatures, heavy headwinds and a raging blizzard that put his stamina to the test.
“The pain in my joints was what I imagined a severe case of arthritis to feel like,” said Chevalier. “From a mental standpoint, you cannot overlook being in the middle of nowhere, when many days pass and there is no recognition and nothing seems to be happening. It is then that faith is vital.”
Chevalier said the greatest reward was the feedback from others, which fuelled his drive and determination to travel from Canada’s east to west coasts.
“The power of positivity from others kept me going on the road and kept the morale high for Tessa and me,” he said.
During his first few days back home, Chevalier spent time with family, friends and his Little Brother Jesse and just enjoyed the “calmness” of being in one place for more than a day or two.
However, he also has an idea for the future that will involve a lot more people and raise even more money.
Chevalier said he hopes to reach out to the cycling, running and long-distance wheelchair communities to create a relay across Canada. Participants would pass a pink ribbon from group to group across the country.
In the meantime, Chevalier will soon start a job with Losani Homes and along with the memories, he will be forever grateful to those who assisted in making his dream become a reality.
“My entire family, circle of friends, Losani Homes, Imagine PR, the McMaster basketball team and entire McMaster community were there since day one,” said Chevalier.
“With anything in life, you can get far by yourself, but when people come together, things can only move further, faster. This was never more evident to me in my life than on Aug, 23. I realized how truly blessed I am to be in a position to bring this vision to reality.”