Bik­ers from Seattle travel across Canada

Two started in Vic­to­ria, B.C., vis­ited Fort Beause­jour last Satur­day be­fore head­ing to P.E.I.

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - By Chelsey Gould

Jes­sica Levine and Irena Netik are two cy­clists from Seattle who have been bik­ing across Canada this sum­mer.

Netik, who grew up in Canada, was in­spired to do the jour­ney by a co­worker’s ex­pe­ri­ence many years ago. She booked time off a year in ad­vance and in­vited Levine, who she had biked with be­fore, to join her.

Car­ry­ing min­i­mal camp­ing gear and ap­parel, they typ­i­cally sleep ei­ther in camp­grounds or are hosted in homes. Al­though they do have a sin­gle burner, they usu­ally eat out at lo­cal restau­rants, stop at gas sta­tions, Tim Hor­tons and the oc­ca­sional gro­cery store in be­tween. They en­joy the cul­tural ex­change at restau­rants and chitchat­ting with what they call the “re­tired group of men” at Tim Hor­tons, as well as the Cana­dian pride that they’ve seen.

“I’ve driven across the coun­try be­fore, and I’ve known that it’s so di­verse, but I don’t think I ap­pre­ci­ated it like I have on this trip,” said Netik. “That’s just been so cool to ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Levine is a mid­dle school sci­ence teacher and Netik works for util­ity in the hy­dro and wind sec­tor. Levine is a bi­cy­cle com­muter and Netik used to be a Cat. 3 bi­cy­cle racer.

They trained by work­ing on three 100-kilo­me­tre con­sec­u­tive rides and cy­cling for a week­end with all of their gear.

Since the start of their jour­ney on June 24 they have biked over 6,000 kilo­me­tres across Canada. At points they have driven across 100 km stretches where there were no peo­ple, no cell ser­vice-just the road and na­ture.

Levine has done a high­way sum­mer cleanup pro­gram be­fore in the U.S. and is im­pressed at how Cana­dian high­ways com­pare.

“I’ve been amazed at how clean things are,” she said. “There’s tons of stuff on Amer­i­can high­ways, I know be­cause I walked in them for a whole sum­mer, and now I’m rid­ing here in Canada and there’s lit­tle trash.”

All across Canada they have made many con­nec­tions, meet­ing up with old friends and fam­ily, while also mak­ing new friends. Amongst bik­ers they find that there is a “kin­dred spirit,” for as soon as they spot each other in bik­ing ap­parel they start talk­ing. Some­times they will ride to­gether for a while and later end up check­ing on their jour­neys through so­cial me­dia.

“For me, I’ve never taken this much time off, ba­si­cally in my life,” said Netik. “This is very sim­ple and easy, you just get on your bike and don’t have to worry about a thing. The big­gest thing is where are we stay­ing, what are we eat­ing, what’s around us. It is such a lux­ury to be able to do that for two months straight.”

Levine says that she’s amazed at what the body can do.

“Once you get go­ing, it def­i­nitely be­comes a lot eas­ier,” she said. “I am amazed at how much the body can do and can en­dure.”

Start­ing at Thun­der Bay, ON, Levine had to de­part from Netik for a cou­ple weeks when rec­og­niz­ing that her body needed a break and would not be able to keep pace in the dif­fi­cult area around Lake Su­pe­rior.

She flew to Ot­tawa, spent some time bik­ing the city and then met Netik in Mon­treal. She says that know­ing when to rest was the right de­ci­sion for a sus­tain­able jour­ney.

From Aulac they trav­elled to the Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge and toured P.E.I. be­fore en­ter­ing N.S. via the Cari­bou ferry on Wed­nes­day and are trav­el­ling to Halifax where Levine will fin­ish her ride. Netik will con­tinue to Cape Bre­ton and then to Port Aux Basques, N.L. via ferry, bik­ing to St. John’s and com­plet­ing her jour­ney. Their bi­cy­cles will be boxed up for the plane ride home.

Levine will re­turn on Labour Day, only hav­ing Tues­day to pre­pare be­fore school starts again on Wed­nes­day.

“I have an in­ter­nal body­clock, that at the end of Au­gust starts plan­ning and mak­ing lists for the school year,” she said. “I’m find­ing that’s hap­pen­ing. This is the first time in my ca­reer I’m ever not at­tend­ing the teacher work days.”

One thing about trav­el­ling light is that they have to re­sist the urge to buy sou­venirs. Levine did end up buy­ing a pair of cow­boy boots in Regina, how­ever, and had them shipped home. Netik says she plans to buy some­thing at the end of her jour­ney.

Levine and Netik met eight years ago through mu­tual friends and Levine pho­tographed Netik’s wed­ding.

Their jour­ney can be fol­lowed on spoke­and­sto­ries.word­

amherst news photo

Jes­sica Levine (left) and Irena Netik (right) at Fort Beause­jour. Levine’s bi­cy­cle is named Olive and Netik’s is named Glory.

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