CHESTERVILLE — This year’s tardy spring was nowhere near sprung when Colin Bankes-Jones arrived in Toronto from the UK’s Isle of Man to cycle across Canada and down to Argentina.
Recently graduated with a degree in physics, Bankes-Jones disembarked from Hogtown March 23 and made his way through downright — and shockingly — wintery conditions to dip his front wheel in the salty tidewater of Quebec’s Berthier-sur-Mer on April 17. Then he doubled back to Ontario, launching the westbound leg of his trip. In both directions on this 1,600-km “warm-up” ride — through conditions decidedly less than warm in March and April — Bankes-Jones found himself resting a day or two at the Chesterville home of Tony Glenn and Gabriele Thomas. The couple belong to an online cycling community, warmshowers.org, where two-wheeled travellers can stay as a way of “paying it forward.”
The locals’ hospitality was much appreciated by Bankes-Jones. His planned six month journey — traversing the country from the saltwater of Quebec to that of the west coast B.C., and then down through the U.S., Mexico and ultimately Argentina — is a shoestring affair. A guitarist, he does some busking in urban environments to raise a little cash and camps in a covered, suspended hammock by night.
“I’ve been busking now for the last six years,” he tells Nation Valley News.
On his recent trip through Quebec, he concedes, the sleeping arrangement got very cold when the “spring” temperatures dipped into the minus double digits — enough to make anyone crave a hot shower back in Chesterville. “It’s the one thing you really miss when you’re out touring,” he says.
Resident of a small mining village named Foxdale on the Isle of Man, located in the northern Irish Sea, it’s his first time in North America. What he’s seen so far of Ontario and Quebec is “absolutely lovely,” he says, adding he would settle here immediately, “if I weren’t on this trip.”
All of his possessions for the trip are attached to his large-frame bicycle, including a toolkit. Working in a bike shop at home on the Isle of Man, he’s already put his skills to use fixing a punctured tire, he says during his last Chesterville stay on May 4.
He spoke French while in Quebec, he says, and looks forward to trying out his Spanish while cycling through Mexico and central America later this year.
Eager for an authentic experience during this adventure, a sign displayed on his bicycle encourages people to talk with him about his trip.