Jessica Levine (left) and Irena Netik (right) at Fort Beausejour. Levine’s bicycle is named Olive and Netik’s is named Glory.
AULAC, N.B. - 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 six thousand kilometers 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.wordpress.com.