Nova Scotia

Cape Bretoner John Burt bicycles Canada in just 7 weeks

Cape Bretoner John Burt ticked off a big item from his bucket list this summer when he rode his bicycle across Canada in just seven weeks.

Great way to reconnect with home country, says Prof. John Burt, who lives in Abu Dhabi

Visiting the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay, Ont. was a priority for Burt on his cross-country tour. (John Burt)

Cape Bretoner John Burt ticked off a big item from his bucket list this summer when he rode his bicycle across Canada in just seven weeks.

"It normally takes around four to five months, but I only had so much time off work," said Burt.

Originally from Coxheath, N.S., the professor of marine biology spends his working life a half a world away at the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University, where he is head of the marine biology laboratory.

He began his cross-country odyssey in British Columbia in May and finished on Canada Day near St. John's.

True to his interest in marine science, Burt told Information Morning's Steve Sutherland, "It's really a fantastic way to see the various ecosystems that we have through our country and meet some incredible people."

Travelling on a racing bike, his day usually began at sunrise and ended around 5 p.m., he said.

"I was carrying everything that I needed: my tent, my pots and pans, all the clothes I would wear, including winter wear.  It did actually snow on me in Calgary."

Burt's regimen included non-stop cycling from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., then stop for "coffee and some carbohydrates in the form of Tim Hortons donuts," he said.

Then, except for a lunch break, he'd keep pedalling until it was time to settle down with a beer for the evening, with some "tourist stops" along the way, including a visit to the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay, Ont.

He recalls a couple he met in B.C. who had given up their home and spent their year moving from place to place towing a travel trailer. 

He remembers them particularly well because of a gesture the woman made one morning at sunrise as he was packing his things for the day. "She gave me a little token coin that had some sort of prayer message on it, and I still carry it with me today."

Burt said biking through home territory was "hard on the head" because journey's end, seemingly so close, was still far away.

Then a special treat: his cyclist mother, whom he describes as "getting up in years," decided to travel with him the rest of the way. His father followed them in his car.

Fittingly, his 6,767 kilometre trek ended on July 1, Canada Day, as they biked to the water's edge in Cape Spear, N.L.

"It was just a great end-off to the entire trip, the goal being to reconnect with the country, having been overseas for so long," he said.

With files from Information Morning

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