“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving” is a quote from Albert Einstein that Caroline Labrunye and Maëva Barbaud are using as they trek across Canada and parts of the United States.
Posted on 6/6/15
By Melissa Anderson
Labrunye, 22, and Barbaud, 21, sought to challenge themselves and grow as individuals, and biking across a continent seemed like the perfect way to do that.
“The main goal is to enjoy life, improve our English, meet new people, become more confidant in what we are doing, and learn to have a positive mindset no matter the situation,” Labrunye said.
Labrunye, who is from the French province of Normandy in northern France, has completed a similar journey, albeit not on a bike, across Australia and parts of Europe.
Barbaud, who grew up in the French province of Brittany on the northwest coast of France, had never ridden a bicycle more than 18 miles prior to the adventure that she and Labrunye embarked upon beginning in Montreal this past April 15.
“This is the best time to do this before we start our careers and other obligations,” Barbaud said.
The two women recently graduated from a business school in Paris, where they had both studied communications and public relations and been roommates for the past three years. When they graduated they decided to go on an adventure.
“We just wanted to change our lives for a few months since we finished our degrees and a six month break was needed to have some adventure,” Barbaud stated.
The two chose Canada for a few reasons, one of them being that the main language is English and the other being the diversity of the landscapes and cultures. So far Labrunye and Barbaud have traveled 1,565 miles from Montreal to Langdon. The two have another 1400 miles to go before they reach their final destination.
The route they chose brought them from their starting point at Montreal west to the U.S. and Canadian border crossing at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. From there Labrunye and Barbaud traveled along Lake Superior until reaching the halfway point of Langdon with their final destination being Vancouver, British Colombia.
The hardest part of their trip has consistently been the weather. The two agreed that it can be very hard to keep on pedaling their heavily laden bikes when there is a strong wind in their faces and a hill that must be climbed. It was because of the weather that Labrunye and Barbaud had to stop in Langdon as heavy rains drove them to seek shelter in the local coffee shop, The Perfect Blend.
“Usually we do 50 to 60 miles a day but weather has a huge impact on how far we can get,” Barbaud said.
Coming to Langdon, the two finished a 60 mile ride, which they said seemed a common distance between towns in North Dakota. With no end in sight of the rain and being already drenched from the ride in, Labrunye and Barbaud were not looking forward to a night of camping when an attendant at Super Pumper made a call to the Cavalier County Sheriff’s Department and was able to get the two cyclists a voucher for a hotel room.
“When it’s sunny we can just camp on the side of the road, but when the weather is bad, it’s hard,” Labrunye said.
While cycling across Canada and parts of the United States may seem like a daunting task to most, especially if the most common language is not your first, the two cyclists said that they have experienced nothing but kind and helpful people. Many times during their traveling people have approached Labrunye and Barbaud about their traveling and if they were in any need of assistance, whether it be food, directions, or a place to stay.
“People have been treating us very well,” Labrunye said.
“Of course we try to be careful but most people have been very kind and friendly,” Barbaud added.
It has only been two months since Labrunye and Barbaud set off from Montreal, but to them it feels like six months. The number of people the two have met and how far they have come, each day is changing and brings something new for Labrunye and Barbaud to experience.
“The days seem much longer cause of how much we enjoy every moment,” Labrunye said.
The experience so far of traveling by bike across a continent has been great for the two women from France. They could not imagine traveling by car as they are able to take their time and take in their surroundings by bicycle.
“We don’t depend on anybody else except each other. It is simple because we stop where and when we want,” Barbaud said.
“Life is easier on a bike. It’s a great feeling,” Labrunye added.
The two carry all their necessities with them on their bikes. Labrunye explained that they have not weighed their packs to see how much they actually weigh but estimated that the packs are somewhere between 80 to 100 pounds.
The two also carry enough food to get them through a few days. Healthy food items that travel well such as dried fruit, nuts, rice and oats are mainstays with fresh fruit and vegetables added every so often. The two cook their meals on a small camp stove with enough leftover to snack on over the course of the day until they set up camp again. Burning as many calories as they do with their mode of transportation, the two need to keep their energy up.
“We always want something sweet,” Barbaud said with a smile.
Labrunye and Barbaud don’t consider their endeavor to be anything special as they feel anyone can to what they are doing. The experience of traveling by bike can be difficult, but for them, there is nothing better.
“The feeling on being on your bike and going whereever you want with your own feet is,” Labrunye said.
The two have set a time frame of five months to complete their trek across the North American continent. Every morning before beginning their day’s ride, the two decide how far they would like to travel before stopping for the night.
“It’s good to have a goal at the beginning of the day cause if we just go for a ride without any point it’s hard mentally,” Barbaud said.
“Sometimes we make it, and sometimes if the weather is bad we don’t make it, and sometimes we go further than we planned,” Labrunye added.
Once the two reach Calgary the plan is to take a two week break and explore the area. A friend of Labrunye from Paris will be joining them at that point, and the trio will take in the sites through hiking, canoe, and just general exploring.
From Calgary, the final leg of the trip will take them over the Canadian portion of the Rocky Mountains. Once they reach Vancouver in September, the two women, who have been together almost every day since they first met, may say good bye to each other as Labrunye hopes to stay on in Vancouver for two years if her visa is approved.
“We don’t think about it right now, but it will be strange cause we have been together just about everyday for the past three years,” Labrunye said.
Barbaud plans on returning to France where she hopes to do something similar to this trip and raise money for humanitarian efforts in underprivileged countries and help children living there.
Leaving their families behind wasn’t easy, but Labrunye and Barbaud’s parents are supportive of their daughters’ decisions to travel across North America by bicycle.
“They are very happy and proud of us. Sometimes they are scared cause they don’t know where we are, but every few days we send a message telling them. They know we are doing what we want to do,” Barbaud stated.
For now, Labrunye and Barbaud plan on keeping things in perspective and finishing their trek to Vancouver.
“We take life easy and enjoy every moment,”Labrunye said.
To follow Labrunye’s and Barbaud’s journey find them on Facebook at: “La vie c’est comme une bicyclette”.