Five years ago, Queen’s University students Andrew DuQuesnay and Vanessa Bourne became members of the Fort Henry Guard, a summer job commonly taken on by students in Kingston.
Today, Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2018, the pair returned to the Fort, the place the two first met before becoming a couple during their final year at Queen’s – but their trip back was more than just one down memory lane.
DuQuesnay and Bourne actually began the journey that would bring them back to the Fort on Monday, May 21 of this year, setting out on bicycle from Victoria, BC for their destination: St. John’s, NL. Their 5,000+ kilometer cross-Canada cycle began as an idea for the couple – one that would let them see the country like they never had before, DuQuesnay explained.
“The original idea was for just seeing Canada, the country we’ve been in our whole lives, in an amazing way. When you’re cycling and when you’re cycle-touring, you really see things in a different way, in a different light. You see a lot more… you pass things a lot slower than if you’re in a car,” he said while stopping in Kingston – and, more importantly, Fort Henry – during their three-month trek.
“It’s also just a great way to see things and also meet people. You know, so much of the great parts of this country are the people who inhabit it,” he continued, noting that when people normally travel, they meet a few people here and there, but when you travel across the country on a bicycle, you meet people and see places you otherwise wouldn’t.
“Just having these bikes with all the stuff on them, it’s just a great talking point. Anyone and everyone will come up to you – same questions each time, but we don’t really get tired of answering them.”
The pair laughed as the recited the usual interaction the encounter, which always begins with ‘Well, where did you come from?’ The farther they’ve travelled, the more extreme the response they get to their response. When travelling in western Canada, people weren’t all that impressed with their accomplishments, DuQuesnay admitted.
“But then you get to northern Ontario, southern Ontario, and everyone starts to be like ‘Whoa! Man!’” he said, both of them laughing.
But before the couple set out on the journey, they decided it would be best to raise funds for a worthy cause. And what better cause than one closely linked to their own passions… and the cross-Canada cycle, as well.
The pair are using their journey from sea to sea to raise funds for World BicycleRelief, a registered charity that provides bicycles for nurses, midwives, public health workers, students and farmers in developing countries who would otherwise be forced to walk many kilometers daily to their destinations. The bicycles, known as ‘Buffalo Bikes,’ are distributed free by World Bicycle Relief, and only cost $147 in funds raised. The bikes can make a life-changing – and sometimes lifesaving – difference to those in third world countries, Bourne, explained.
“For somebody that has to walk three to four hours to get to work or school, it’s now an hour bike ride,” she said.
“So, if it’s a health care worker, they can see many more health care patients.”
It’s a worthy cause, and one that can certainly cause those of us in North America to value the infrastructure, services, and other assets we use on a day to day basis. And with each kilometer they travel, DuQuesnay and Bourne are not only raising funds, but also awareness for the charity.
Despite the bodily pain and exhaustion associated with travelling across the county on a bike (“You just get over it,” Bourne said), the couple have found their trip exciting, fun, and full of incredible moments along the way, they said. But stopping at Fort Henry here in Kingston was a special moment all on its own.
“I’m from Kingston, I lived here my whole life until about four years ago, and Vanessa has been here since 2010 when she started at Queen’s University, and in the summer of 2013, we were both working here, and it’s where we met,” DuQuesnay said, gesturing around the grounds of the Fort.
“That’s why this place is special to us as a couple… And my sister is working here now, we’ve been around the Fort our whole lives. It’s about 5,000km Victoria to here, and this is definitely a big milestone for us, I think.”
The couple have another 2,500 to 3,000 kilometers ahead of them to reach St. John’s, but they show no signs of losing steam… and they haven’t seen the last of the limestone Fort where they met.
“We’re going to move back to Kingston!” Bourne exclaimed with a smile.
Until then, you can follow DuQuesnay and Bourne’s cross-Canada cycle for World Bike Relief on their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/crosscanada2018/, or on Instagram at @duke_x_canada and @bournevanessa.
To find out more about World Bicycle Relief or donate to the couple’s cross-Canada fundraiser, go to http://fundraisecanada.worldbicyclerelief.org/crosscanada2018.
Bourne studied environmental sciences at Queen’s, and then completed her master’s degree in biology at Laurentian University, specializing in the environmental monitoring of aquatic ecosystems. DuQuesnay studied kinesiology and health studies and Queen’s, graduated from the registered nursing program at Western University. After their journey, DuQuesnay will be returning to Queen’s to enter the physiotherapy program and Bourne will be resuming her career in environmental science.