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Use It Or Lose It – A Personal Journey Of Discovery

Use It Or Lose It – A Personal Journey Of Discovery

By George Rayner

As the baby boomer generation slowly retires, those of us still upright have a conscious health choice to make, we can either use it, or lose it.

The easy path is to lose it.

Kick back, eat, drink, be merry put on some weight, grab a few prescription medicines and slowly watch our health deteriorate. The harder but more rewarding path is to exercise on a regular basis and watch our diet. As I reached sixty I found myself taking the easy path, gaining weight buying a new wardrobe and having to take a prescription to lower my cholesterol.

Most individuals my age would either continue on the easy path or slowly make a tweak or two to their lifestyle. However, not being of sane mind I decided that a drastic change was required rather than a minor tweak. How drastic? I decided to ride my bicycle from Vancouver to Calgary in the course of a week.

A rather ambitious and crazy endeavour to say the least.

One that did not sit well with family and friends. In addition, for some strange reason I was unable to find anyone to join me on this adventure. So a solo trip it would be.

On a warm spring day my adventure commenced in downtown Vancouver as I left a swank hotel wearing spandex riding gear a touring bicycle accessorised with panniers loaded with clothes, food and tools and a few daily provisions.

It was a beautiful time of year to traverse the province on a bike, with the tulips jutting from the soil and the forsythia trees in full bloom. In what seemed like no time I left the hustle and bustle of Vancouver behind and headed into the foothills.

It was only on the second day of my adventure did I realize the magnitude of my stupidity.

The second day consisted of a scant 123 kilometre ride between Hope and Merritt. However it also included a climb to the Coquihalla summit. (1244 metres above sea level). For four and a half hours that day my legs kept propelling my bike forward in low gear until I had finally reached the top. I spotted a couple not parked far away, I approached them and asked them to take my photo, thankful that I had finally reached the summit. I was told that they were happy to oblige but the summit was still some two kilometres of peddling away. Suffice it to say I put my head down and kept on peddling thankful upon reaching the sign that indicated I was finally at the summit.

At many points along the way I was actually glad that I had decided to make the trip without the aid of a support vehicle. I was tired, worn out and physically drained most days and would have done anything or paid anyone something in order to jump into a warm car and make the final push on towards the warmth of Banff.

Hydration was never an issue. When I ran out of water I simply filled up my water bottles from one of the many streams that flowed down the mountains. A touring Australian couple stopped to inquire as to what kind of purification tablets I was using with the stream water. It took several minutes of convincing them that I was drinking the water it in its rarest form, pure.

Thankfully, Merritt came and went as did Salmon Arm and Revelstoke. However, looming in the distance was the Rogers pass, the Kicking Horse pass and the continental divide. At some point along the way I decided to take my son’s advice who had lived in Vancouver for three years. He told me; “Dad it’s a beautiful part of the world, slow down and enjoy the scenery”.

So I did just that.

I stopped at every historical marker along the way or just slowed down to take in the amazing scenery. And along the way I learned a few facts about the country that I have called home for over sixty years.

I went to sleep every night exhausted and for the most part slept right through the night knowing that I would be up and on the road before most of the younger generation had had the thought of updating their social media status.

I approached the Rogers Pass with trepidation.

Despite my weekly winter workouts at a local health club nothing could prepare me for the thirty kilometre steep uphill climb. At times I am not sure what kept me going I was just not propelling myself and the bike uphill but also my 12 kilograms of clothes, tools, food and supplies.

I believe that it might have been the will and desire to prove to myself that I could actually pull this thing off. The slow deliberate uphill mountain climbs were followed by frenzied, tantalizingly fast downhill runs in which I rode the brakes most of the way down.

It was a lonely, isolating, challenging and yet extremely rewarding excursion, one that I would do again but only if I could convince someone to join me in the insanity. Then again, I managed my own schedule and did my own thing.

Turns out that I not only achieved my goal but also managed to inspire at least one of the younger generation. My eldest daughter told me the other day that when she doesn’t feel like hitting the gym she just thinks of cycling over the Rogers Pass.

About George Rayner: After a 35 year career designing and implementing wireless systems and the last half of his career selling data centre services through a company that he founded with a friend and business partner George retired. He has recently started another data center business in the Toronto area. Now 63, George has completed the Vancouver to Calgary ride a total of 4 times and when he turns 65 plans to ride from Vancouver to Toronto. If you are interested in joining George on this adventure, you can reach him at george.rayner@rogers.com.

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