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Flin Flon man cycling 6,000-plus km on journey of self-discovery

Grant Hatherley isn’t cycling across Canada to raise money for charity, gain national acclaim or impress other people. The free-spirited Flin Flonner just wants to see what he’s made of.

Grant Hatherley isn’t cycling across Canada to raise money for charity, gain national acclaim or impress other people.

The free-spirited Flin Flonner just wants to see what he’s made of.

“I want to really find myself and push myself and see how far I can be pushed,” said Hatherley, 19. “I want to experience something that hardly anybody gets to experience at such a young age. I’m doing this trip solo. I have no sponsors, no nothing... it’s just me and my bike.”

And it’s been just Hatherley and his bike since Aug. 3, when he dipped his tire in the ocean in Victoria, BC, before embarking on his odyssey.

The 6,000-km-plus trek will take him to Pugwash, Nova Scotia, on or around Oct. 1, but rather than the destination, he’s focused on the journey – and his own reflections.

“You think a lot when you’re constantly by yourself and you’re biking and you’re exercising and you’re doing all that good stuff,” said Hatherley. “You’re constantly thinking and you’re trying to think your life out, wonder about what you want to do when you’re older and stuff like that, so it’s a good thing.”

Speaking last week from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario – a little past the halfway point of his trip – Hatherley shared the exploits of his adventure with an insight that belies his age.

Behind his bike, he tows a small trailer packed with the bare necessities. There’s a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat, a propane cooking stove and a one-person tent that isn’t quite waterproof.

Hatherley also carries a pack that holds three litres of water along with a tool kit in case his touring bicycle breaks down. The bike is holding up well so far, though he has had to conduct repair jobs involving tape and wire.

“It’s taught me, when you’re in a situation, to not stress and cry over something,” he explained. “You’ve got to really focus and get down and fix it. You can’t rely on anybody when you’re by yourself. You have to do everything within yourself.”

That attitude has also helped Hatherley prevail over obstacles Mother Nature has thrown his way.

“I’ve encountered hail, sleet, rain, wildlife,” he said.

“It was really dry sometimes. Going through BC, the Fraser Valley is like a desert pretty much. It was like plus-40 some days and it gets really, really, really hot, and when you’re in your tent, it’s hard to sleep because you’re sweating so much.”

To stay fueled as he burns thousands of calories a week, Hatherley chows down on plenty of canned fish, beans, pasta and beef jerky.

“You really have to learn to ration your food wisely,” he said.

Sometimes people hear Hatherley’s story and donate food to his cause, as happened when he stopped at a fast-food place in Moose Jaw late one night.

The manager not only gave him a burger and a pop at night and breakfast in the morning, but also allowed him to sleep in the restaurant’s kiddie playpen. By 7 am, he was on his way.

Hatherley is cycling an average of 120 to 200 km a day, depending on road and weather conditions. On one stretch of the trip, he was on the road for 27 straight hours (with breaks) before finally catching some shuteye.

Sometimes he’ll stay with friends along the route, but he often finds himself pitching his tent on the side of the road, in farmer’s fields or in assorted patches of bush.

“I don’t spend the night in the cities,” Hatherley explained. “I try and get out of the city as fast as I can to set up a proper [campsite].”

Growing up in rural Ontario and later Flin Flon, Hatherley is habituated to the outdoors – he’s just not accustomed to the solitude of the open road.

“I’m not used to being by myself,” he said, adding, however, “I like being independent because there’s no one that can alter your decisions.”

That’s not to say Hatherley has been completely solitary. When some people see his bike, its trailer and Canadian flag in tow, they want to learn more about who he is and where he’s going.

“When they come talk to me and they hear my story, they find it pretty inspiring,” he said.

If not for his fitness level, Hatherley would be unable to take on this ambitious excursion. Fortunately he’s an athlete from way back, having played minor hockey and on school sports teams. (This past June, he was the recipient of the Free Spirit Award as a member of Hapnot Collegiate’s volleyball squad).

But physical endurance only gets one so far on a coast-to-coast cycle.

“It’s more [about being] mentally [strong], I would say, especially going by yourself,” Hatherley said.

As mentally strong as he is, few would blame Hatherley for wanting to quit. He admits he thought about ending the ride during a particularly hilly portion of BC. The cars whooshing by made him wonder what on earth he was doing.

Yet Hatherley knew inside that he would never go back on his commitment. It was Pugwash or bust.

“I told people that I was going to do this trip and nobody really believed me,” he said. “Once I started, people were really intrigued by what I was doing, so I felt if I quit then I would be letting myself down.

“I always knew I was going to be capable of doing it. It was just a matter of finishing.”

As his journey of self-discovery winds to a close, Hatherley admits he isn’t completely settled on the future direction of his life – and he’s okay with that.

“I’ve still got half the trip to figure that out,” he said with a laugh.

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