When Richard Elliott left his hometown of Southampton, England last month, he decided to go for a bike ride.
A long bike ride, that is.
Looking to experience “something different” before he heads off to his first year of university to study a four-year mechanical engineering course in Wales, the 19-year-old elected to bike across Canada and the United States.
But it won’t be just any bike ride, said Elliott, adding part of the idea is to raise funds for the World Wildlife Fund of Nature--a global organization that helps protect endangered species.
Elliott said he has raised the equivalent of about $1,500 (Cdn) so far for a cause he strongly believes in. But the real reason for the trek, he admitted, is his passion for cycling.
“I cycle quite a bit and I do some racing so I thought I would take a travel year before I go to university in the fall,” said Elliott, sporting a bronzed tan, as he took a break for lunch at Safeway here last Thursday.
Elliott said he chose Canada because of the friendliness of the people, and the fact we speak the same language. That has enabled him to make a relatively easy transition since beginning his trek in Vancouver on June 21.
“Getting to meet the people is the best part because everyone is so hospitable and friendly,” he remarked, adding several people have taken him into their homes at night.
“There are good people wherever you go.”
When he doesn’t find a place to stay, the amicable cyclist has no problem camping out with his one-man tent and miniature cook stove.
The trip will cost Elliott about $6,000 (Cdn) but he said the experience will be well worth its price tag (he said he also receives a $400 a month allowance from his father back home in England).
While boasting about the beauty of the ride through the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, and the fact he was able to take in the Mountain Bike World Cup in Canmore, Alta. (where he was able to meet some fellow Englishmen), Elliott only smiled when asked about his trip across the never-ending prairies of Saskatchewan.
“It got pretty bad through there because there weren’t many towns and there wasn’t much to keep me going,” he confessed.
So far, the trip has been a fairly smooth one, with just minor problems like tire punctures setting him back for brief periods--and the fact several trucks along the way have refused to acknowledge his presence on the side of the road.
Still, he’s come out of it unscathed so far, and even has been able to avoid all the storms that appear to have been hovering around him.
“They’ve all been a couple of miles around me,” said Elliott, adding he rides only during the day to avoid the onslaught of bugs that arrive at dusk.
From here, Elliott crossed the International Bridge and will head east through the States to Sault Ste. Marie, where he plans to re-enter Canada.
He expects to end up in Halifax by the end of next month, and then fly back home to England on Aug. 31.