Victoria author John Crouch has written his latest book: Six Highways to Home.

A bicycle, a bear – and a dream

Victoria author John Crouch saw it all in his latest adventure across British Columbia

John Crouch had a vision about the bear. Oftentimes, it would prevent him from falling asleep at night. He even had lurid dreams of being mauled in his tent by a manic bear.

It wasn’t until he convinced himself of the irrationality of such thoughts that he was able not to worry. But it was also when his dream became reality.

On a drizzly day in the summer of 2011, Crouch met up with a black bear on the Alaska Highway, just north of Nuggett City, while cycling from Whitehorse to Victoria as part of a 2,500-kilometre bicycle trek to raise funds for Parkinson’s disease.

The large black bear was no more than 15 metres off the side of the road when Crouch came across him. The mighty bruin quickly reared up on his hind legs, staring the Victoria author down.

“It frightened the hell out of me,” Crouch, 73, said.

Crouch fumbled for his whistle – useless since the bear had already seen him. He then hoped some traffic would pass by. No such luck. The bear refused to move. Crouch then decided to slowly pedal six metres to the other side of the road, since it was easy to tell the bear wasn’t going to move.

The bear then dropped back on all fours and resumed munching away on the slender grass. And Crouch was able to go on his merry way.

•••

This lone bear was just one of 15 Crouch passed paths with in his trek that took him just over three weeks to complete along six major highways: the Alaska, Stewart-Cassiar, Yellowhead, Cariboo, Sea-to-Sky and Trans-Canada.

Crouch, an endurance athlete in his younger days, writes about his journey in his latest book Six Highways to Home.

The journey started in the Yukon and then descended the province where he rode through mountain ranges, atop wide plateaux and beside rushing rivers.

The adventure started as something he wanted to do to commemorate his 70th birthday, but he soon added purpose to the trip when he decided to raise funds for his nephew in England who suffers from early onset Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disease of the nervous system.

“I was absolutely terrified about raising money because I didn’t think I’d raise a penny,” Crouch recalled. “In less than four months, I raised close to $13,000. People were incredibly generous.”

Crouch rode an average of 117 kilometres a day, sometimes by himself and other times with groups of other cyclists. He would set up his tent in campground, stay in hotels or with sponsor families.

“Everyday was a surprise in the sense that I was seeing wonderful, extraordinary countryside. It was quite unbelievable,” he said.

And despite the early encounter with the bear, he said the trip was remarkably unspectacular except for the scenery, the people he met along the way and the generosity of others. “I had no mechanical problems whatsoever – not even a flat tire,” he said.

•••

The idea of writing a book on his expedition was the furthest thing from Crouch’s mind when he began the journey.

The trip was just something he wanted to do for a long time, and now seemed the right time to do it.

It wasn’t until he got home that friends and colleagues urged him to write a book.

“(The trip) wasn’t a big deal – only 2,500 kilometers, but people said it was a big deal … particularly for an old guy.”

Crouch kept a very detailed journal of his adventures, so when he decided to start writing everything came together quite quickly. He began writing the book last winter. It hits store  shelves this spring.

And his next adventure? This summer he plans to cycle 1,500 kilometres to San Francisco.

“I never feel the road is too immense or difficult,” he said. “It’s the attitude one has to take, really.”

As long as there’s no manic bears, of course.

Six Highways to Home is available at Munro’s Books, Russell Books and Bolen Books.

Just Posted

UPDATED: Oak Bay father takes stand, denies killing young daughters

Andrew Berry has plead not guilty to the December 2017 deaths of his two daughters

Relative of man found dead in Saanich says he was missing for years

RCMP and a private detective had been searching for him since 2012

Man who killed Langford teen attended her memorial service, demonstrates little remorse

Parole Board of Canada documents reveal factors in parole decision

Saanich Police warn of counterfeit money being used

Several fake $100 bills have been reported in Greater Victoria

Victoria police seek help finding ‘high risk’ missing woman

Brown, 30, is described as an Indigenous woman standing five feet, six inches tall, weighing 170 pounds

VIDEO: Title of 25th Bond movie is ‘No Time to Die’

The film is set to be released in April 2020

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

New study suggests autism overdiagnosed: Canadian expert

Laurent Mottron: ‘Autistic people we test now are less and less different than typical people’

Trans Mountain gives contractors 30 days to get workers, supplies ready for pipeline

Crown corporation believes the expansion project could be in service by mid-2022

Rosemount cooked diced chicken linked to listeria case in B.C.

The symptoms of listeria include vomiting, nausea, fever, muscle aches

B.C. seniors allowed more choice to stay in assisted living

Province doesn’t need to wait for a complaint to investigate care, Adrian Dix says

Retired B.C. fisherman wins record $60M Lotto Max jackpot

Joseph Katalinic won the biggest Lotto Max prize ever awarded

Island manslaughter suspect found not guilty in Supreme Court

Court accepts accused’s argument of self-defence for 2017 incident in Courtenay

Most Read