By Andrea Arnold
Although a detour to explore the Robson Valley wasn’t on his planned route, Canadian cyclist Arie Hoogerbrugge (Safari Arie) spent a few days last week hosted by McBride resident Bruce OConner. OConner picked Hoogerbrugge and all of his gear up from Jasper on Tuesday August 18, 2020, and returned him to his planned route in Lake Louise on Friday. OConner had contacted the biker several months ago with an offer to take him to the Ancient Forest. Hoogerbrugge loves nature and is taking his time on his cross-Canada tour to appreciate the beauty of each area. They also took time to visit the halfway point on McBride Peak as well as Rainbow and Beaver Falls.
Nine years ago Hoogerbrugge started dreaming about cycling from the Arctic to Argentina after completing a 6,500km ride that covered most of Alberta and BC as well as touched into Alaska as he made his way from Calgary to Vancouver. In May of last year, his personal life took a hard hit when his engagement was suddenly called off. This sudden change in direction motivated him to start actively planning his trip. On November 12, 2019 he started the cross-Canada portion.
He planned to bike during the winter, accomplishing something not many others have. His original plan had included the Arctic early in his journey, but the trip truly began on the East Coast. During the first months in Atlantic Canada, he experienced more examples of Canadian hospitality than he could mention in a short interview. He was offered food, shelter and even money as he made his way through the provinces. His social media accounts provided a way for people to track his progress and help him along his way.
He has had so many offers for places to stay that he created an Excel document to keep track. OConner was host #45 on day 225 (10300 km) of being on the road. He has only spent 119 of those in his tent. “I truly believe that I have had the very best ride in the history of people biking across Canada,” he said. “I have met such a variety of people and experienced amazing generosity.” He said that even the issues he has had have led to amazing experiences. “I wouldn’t not have changed a single thing.”
In St, John’s Newfoundland, he visited the Terry Fox Memorial and felt that too was the true beginning of his journey. Again, in Thunder Bay he stopped to pay tribute at the memorial there. His goal is to close out the Canadian chapter of this adventure in Victoria, where a third memorial remembers Fox.
Hoogerbrugge has set aside three years to get himself to his property in Belize. His hope is that the surface border will open in time for him to bike across into the US, however, if that doesn’t occur, he will explore other methods to keep himself on track. The COVID-19 outbreak set him back approximately two months, but also, the closure of the Arctic to outsiders shortened his planned route. He arrived in Kingston Ontario on the eve of the lockdown and was fortunate to have an aunt in the city to spend 60 days with before venturing out again on May 19. Since then, some of the offers for accommodation have been retracted. “I understand completely,” he said. “People have to do what they are comfortable doing.” He appreciates those who do open their homes to him, and allow them to dictate his schedule to a point. For example, he intended on moving on from Winnipeg quickly, when his host listed off several points of interest that kept him there for a longer period of time. Bike repairs have also meant several days in a few instances. He does not let the delays get to him.
“Everywhere I go, I arrive at the perfect time,” he said.
Although McBride was not on his planned route, he is grateful for the opportunity to visit. “The valley is amazing and beautiful,” he said. “It definitely had that traditional BC feel to it that you just have to love about BC.”