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To Thunder Bay and back--on two wheels

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Ed Katona used to drive by cyclists on the highway and wonder what they were thinking about as they pedalled across the miles. Now he doesn’t have to.

After tossing around the idea of taking a long cycling trip for “quite a while,” Katona figured it was now or never. So the 55-year-old Fort Frances man embarked on the 440-mile round trip to Thunder Bay and back over four days late last month.

“If you don’t do it, sometimes you never get around to doing it,” he reasoned, explaining he did it just to see if he could.

He hit the pedals at 5:15 a.m. on Sunday, June 22—Father’s Day. For Katona, it seemed like a reasonable trip, figuring he could break it up by heading to Gilbert Lake, where his sister-in-law lives, the first day, then on to his sister’s house in Thunder Bay on the next.

“That first leg was tough, simply due to the fact that I wasn’t feeling well,” he noted.

In fact, at one point he was feeling so bad he had to stop and take a nap alongside the road. But 10 hours later, he arrived at Gilbert Lake (near Nym Lake) and got some rest.

The next morning, he was feeling better and was on the road again by 6:30 a.m. And within nine hours, he arrived in the Lakehead.

The trip home was even smoother, managing to knock two hours off his time from Gilbert Lake to Fort Frances.

“It was great. I really felt good,” Katona said.

Although he was prepared in case a tire blew or chain broke, Katona didn’t have any problems with his mountain bike. He also carried ice water, trail mix, and raw vegetables to sustain him on the road.

Another thing that worked in his favour was the weather. The nemesis of bikers is heat and wind but for his four-day venture, it was cloudy with a bit of rain, which kept him cool.

And coincidentally, the wind was at his back both ways.

“I looked skyward a few times, I tell you,” he laughed at his good fortune. “Physically, everything was perfect. Everything was conducive to a good trip.”

To keep his mind occupied during his solo journey, Katona would keep tabs on the signs that showed how much further it was to go, convert the distance to miles, and then estimate how long it would take him to get there.

The traffic also kept him busy. But Katona found if he gave motorists consideration, they gave him consideration. And about 80 percent of the truckers going by would give a honk of encouragement, as would those vehicles that had bikes strapped onto the back.

On the home front, though, Marg Katona admitted she was concerned something might happen to her husband while he was travelling by himself.

“I never doubted it for a minute [that he could do it],” she said, but stressed it was difficult for her to concentrate while her husband was on the road. She cleaned to keep herself busy, and waited for him to phone each day.

“I did meet up with a moose,” Katona recalled, noting they did sort of a “Mexican standoff,” watching each other closely to see what the other did.

“Then he changed lanes and so did I,” he added.

Pulling into his driveway with some champagne-bearing neighbours on hand to welcome him home, Katona felt a real sense of accomplishment. He had set a goal for himself, and proved he could do it.

As a plus, he also raised about $250 for the Canadian Cancer Society. He said a Civic Centre colleague felt since he was making the trip, he should collect pledges. So six people each sponsored him at 10 cents a mile.

“I really did enjoy it,” Katona enthused.

Next time, he’s plans to see how fast he can make the trip.

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