Lisa Monforton is part of a group of Canadians who call themselves ConnecTour. Starting on May 28 in Kelowna, B.C. (B.C. travel restrictions derailed a planned start in Victoria), they hope to make an 8,000-km journey across the country, discovering how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives and our sense of community. More information on the tour is available at ConnecTour.ca.
Rolling into the Grist Mill Campground on a blistering 30C-plus day after a 76-km day on our bikes, we were ready to find a place to cool down, camp for the night and rest with a light dinner and a few cold ones.
As we have quickly learned on this trip, the serendipity soon begins.
The campground just on the edge of Keremeos, B.C., is adorable as campgrounds go, set alongside a fast-moving river amid the trees, a beautiful perennial garden and an historic grist mill onsite.
Chris Mathieson, the facility manager, greeted us and chatted us up, wanting to know what we were doing loaded down with all that gear. We told him about ConnecTour and what we’re all about – riding at the speed of life and meeting everyday Canadians along the way.
Across from our campsite sat a tall, gangly young man named Scott. It turned out Scott had been homeless for 10 years and was trying to find some sense of normalcy after the hardship, drug addiction and other obstacles life had thrown at him.
He wore his heart on the sleeve of what he called his “wizard” jacket. He was working for the campground to pay for his site. He and Chris had worked out a deal.
Scott ambled over to say hi and talk with us. His “war” stories from being homeless and addicted on the streets of East Vancouver came up.
Fellow rider Andrew Hawse – who signed on to do the whole distance with us across Canada – identified and bonded with Scott instantly. They had a lot in common but were also worlds apart in terms of where they were in life at the moment.
It seemed Scott had few belongings to his name, save his meagre camping gear and his “rock fridge” on the bank of the river to keep his food cold.
Andrew, embarking on his first-ever bike-packing tour, met us with a kitted out bike weighing above 250 pounds. We marvelled at how he made it through even his first day under a searing sun.
It quickly became apparent Andrew would need to unload a hefty amount of gear if he wanted to enjoy (and survive) the first of many hilly terrains to come on our 110-day journey. We were to begin our next multi-climb leg into Osoyoos – never mind the prediction of a scorching 38C day.
Over a beverage at the picnic table, it was decided that Andrew could hand off his multiple T-shirts, heavy hiking boots, a massive tarp, a super-long and heavy laundry line, a headlamp and a classic Stanley mug – among the ultimately 30-pounds-plus of gear – to our campsite neighbour Scott.
The handoff began, as Andrew began making the hard decisions of what to give up so he could ride joyfully.
“It reminded me that it’s better to give than to receive. It felt good. His life on the streets taught him how to use all these things.”
“Scott was like ‘Wow,’” says Andrew. In particular, he appreciated the tarp for sun protection and it went up immediately.
As we packed up early the next morning, Scott sat and watched us go and we said our goodbyes. We have no idea what he was thinking about this serendipitous moment and coming away with a stash of newfound necessities.
What I was thinking is something about the delightful lightness of being. Travelling on a bike – effectively our mobile home for the summer – and giving and receiving serendipitous gifts.
Travel Like This editor Lisa Monforton is an award-winning Calgary-based travel writer.
- This is the third installment of the ConnecTour chronicles - don't miss Part Two, as Doug Firby describes seeking shelter from searing heat in the Similkameen - and finding it in the kindness of strangers.
- The tour had planned on starting in Victoria, but well, you know...COVID.
- Back in 2019, Bob Price looked at why horse racing failed to win, place or show in the B.C. Interior.