Ottawa’s Anne Thomas is biking across Canada, raising funds for indigenous children through the ME to WE charity in commemoration of Canada’s 150th birthday. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Back tire in the Pacific, front tire in the Atlantic

21-year-old bikes across Canada

Anne Thomas is 31 days through her journey across Canada.

Inspired by Canada’s 150th birthday, the 21-year-old decided to bike across Canada, raising funds for indigenous children in need through the ME to WE charity. Money raised will sponsor at-risk children to go to camp and receive lessons in fundamental life skills.

ME to WE is an international charity that takes, “A holistic approach to sustainable international development,” and “Empowers communities with the means to lift themselves from poverty.”

Starting at mile zero in Victoria, B.C., Thomas set out east, averaging 70 to 120 kilometres a day. She took a photo on this day, with her back tire on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. She looks forward to the day when she can stitch it together with the photo of her front tire at the edge of the Atlantic.

“It’s been really cool to explore my own country on Canada’s 150th,” said Thomas, who had never been to the west coast of Canada before starting this trip.

Six months prior to starting this journey, Thomas lived in Whistler, however, she felt adventurous and decided to leave.

“Most people think I’m a little insane,” she said, “But in a good way. I’m 21 and on my own. I have this very big sense of adventure… I can’t say it’s been easy, there’s been a few tears.”

The Ottawa-born youth worked as a teacher in Fiji for a few years, and it was through this that Thomas discovered her adventurous nature. She worked nearly 2000 hours in the area of community development, in a small rural area belonging to the Polynesian Islands.

Thomas anticipated she would take up to a month to travel across the first province, considering the difficult terrain. However, she completed it in just over two weeks.

So far on her trip, the people have been more kind than the weather. On some summits through the mountains, Thomas hit severe hail and thunderstorms, with lightning and wild animals close by. During a thunderstorm, Thomas looked to her left to see a grizzly not 15 feet off the road.

“That definitely pushed my limits,” she said. “I’ve never pedalled so fast in my life.”

Finishing her crossing through British Columbia, Thomas had raised one-fifth of her goal of $2500. To send a child to camp with a full scholarship is $500, and she hopes to send four or five.

“People stop on the side of the road and donate to me, because I have the sign on the back of my bike,” she said. “Everyone’s been so generous on the road.”

People have offered their yards for her to pitch her tent, which Thomas has gratefully accepted. So far the strangest gift she has received from a passerby was a bunch of asparagus.

Asked what she carries the most of, Thomas said, “Peanut butter is life.”

Thomas did not train for this trip, and bought the bike in Victoria, just before leaving. She has since named it, Caribou. Thomas did ski 120 days this past winter, so her endurance was still at peak performance. However, she has since discovered that biking uses many different muscles than skiing.

“I’m not a biker,” she said. “I kind of just went for it.”

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