Paul Everitt has been surrounded by 20 coyotes on the side of the highway near Kamloops, drenched by typhoon-like rain outside of Whistler and relieved of all of his savings through identity fraud, but in an effort to raise awareness for wounded British and Canadian war veterans, he vows to soldier on.
On April 29, Everitt, 28, originally from Grimsby, U.K., climbed aboard his homemade four-wheeled, two-seater 272-kilogram bikecar in Halifax. He had the vehicle shipped from his native England with the goal of riding to Victoria.
Exactly five months after his departure date, he arrived in Nanaimo shaking his head in wonder at the generosity of Canadians he encountered along the way.
He marvels at a complete stranger, Chris Hedges, who passed him on Duffy Lake Road outside of Pemberton, backing up to inquire about his strange vehicle, and why he was pedalling it in a wicked rainstorm.
Two hours later Hedges returned to Everitt, still struggling toward Whistler, advising him to stop at the luxurious Pan Pacific Hotel upon his arrival.
He did, and was blown away by what Hedges had done for him.
“I thought it was a joke, that it wasn’t serious,” said Everitt. “But sure enough, once I got to Whistler and went to the front desk, there was a room waiting for me.”
That wasn’t the end of it. Knowing Everitt was still drenched, Hedges went to a few shops and picked out a pair of shorts, a warm hoodie and two T-shirts.
The Pan Pacific let him stay for four nights.
Daryl West, a Pan Pacific employee, took it a step further. He hopped into the bikecar’s passenger seat and helped Everitt pedal to Squamish.
On Everitt’s blog and website at www.going-solo.co.uk, there are dozens of such encounters desscribed from across the country. Strangers providing him with a bottle of water or a meal, to parts and supplies for his bike or an overnight accommodation.
In Nanaimo, the Coast Bastion Inn provided two nights to rest and sort out his identity-theft issue, while Gina’s Mexican Café helped him celebrate the five-month anniversary of his cross-country tour with a dinner and celebratory beer.
In Miramichi, New Brunswick, tired and hungry and dreaming of chicken wings, a car pulled up out of nowhere and delivered a box, of all things, chicken wings.
“All I did was show up and people started talking to me, helping me out. It’s amazing, it’s been an amazing adventure and it’s all about the people,” he said.
A plumber by trade, Everitt said he was inspired by his lifelong friend, Lee, a soldier in the British military who has served in Afghanistan and is currently in Iraq.
Coupled with the travel bug, Everitt first set out to raise money and awareness for Help For Heroes, a United Kingdom charity to support fallen soldiers, by cycling his bikecar 1,500 kilometres through Europe.
Still thirsty for adventure, he decided to extend his effort to Canada, cycling 7,000 kilometers for Wounded Warriors.
His original destination was Victoria, but stoked by Canada’s contributions, he now wants to carry on through the United States to continue his quest, riding in the U.S. for Wounded Warriors Project, before reaching his new goal, Mexico.
So far, he estimates he’s raised about $6,500, but some of the relationships he’s forged along the way are equally rewarding.
He rode with Nicki, a cyclist who was also doing a multi-province trek on her bike near Winnipeg. With her riding behind the bikecar, they crossed the Prairies in six weeks together, finally saying good bye in Banff.
In Brockville, Ont., Everitt was invited to hang out with some army reservists who, during a night of revelry, shaved his head into a mullet-mohawk.
“Thank god for Buff headwear,” he said. “What do you do with a mullet-mohawk? I haven’t been able to do anything with it since, but it’s sort of part of the journey, you know?”
It’s not lost on Everitt that the freedoms he enjoys on his trip, the ones that allow him to pedal wherever he desires, meet whoever he wants and slip from community to community, are possible because of the work and sacrifice our soldiers perform overseas, protecting peace and freedom.
“I’m not a hippie, not even close, but I don’t really agree with war,” he said Thursday, standing beside the bike he fondly refers to as Priscilla. “But I have a deep respect for the soldiers we send to places like Afghanistan and Iraq and the work they do and the dangers they face.”
Wounded Warriors and Help For Heroes both provide physical and mental rehabilitation for soldiers who have returned home to re-establish themselves in a combat-free society.
Donations can be made directly to those organizations at Everitt’s website at www.going-solo.co.uk.