Imagine that you're 70 years old and you have completed an organized bicycle century ride in all 50 states between 2002 and 2009. What's next?
If you're Al Emma of Exton, Pennsylvania, you keep rolling down the road on your bicycle.
Just about the time he was wrapping up his 50 100-milers in July 2009, Emma had started on his next endeavor — riding a 100-mile century in each of the 10 Canadian provinces.
No metric centuries
He started with the Southern Ontario Century Ride in Alliston on May 23, 2009 and completed the cycle with The Fredericton Freewheelers Century Ride in New Brunswick just a couple of weeks ago on Aug. 22.
Yes, Canada is on the metric system, so Al always made sure that the organized bicycle rides he was heading out to had at least a 100-mile component. That was often a challenge.
“Finding a ride in many of the Provinces proved difficult but the most difficult was New Foundland and Labrador (2 islands, 1 Province). There are no organized century rides there but Freewheeling Adventures has a week long Bike and Hike, The Viking Trail Tour. On Day 5 there is a 163-mile day but the bicyclists can do as many miles as they choose.”
Although that ride required lots of driving, a ferry crossing and late-night rendezvous with the other bike tour, Al said that was one of his favorites.
“The Viking Trail Century ride was probably the most scenic ride of all. On at least 80% of the ride the Gulf of Saint Lawerence was visible on the left side while on the right there were always mountains or thick woods. Tail wind, no extreme heat, humidity, or hills. PERFECT. … The route was along the main highway but had less traffic the minor local roads in Pennsylvania.”
Because standard century bicycle rides were hard to come by in Canada, Al used his resourcefulness to find organized centuries. He rode two brevets, two charity rides, two tours, and four club rides.
There's not much difference between century rides in Canada and the US, except the US centuries have more riders, he said. His last ride in New Brunswick, for instance, had only five cyclists who completed the 100-miler; 10 did a metric century.
Cold weather shortens the bicycling season in Canada, so Al had kind of a narrow window for cycling. He rode six of the centuries between May and September 2009 and the remaining four between July and August 2010. He and his companions traveled by car to all the rides, logging 26,256 miles on his car, even though doubled up some centuries into the same trip.
In addition to its 10 provinces, Canada has three territories, Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories. Any thoughts of including the territories into his provincial circuit ended after he registered as one of the few solo riders for the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay.
The bicycle ride went from Haines Point, Yukon, to Haines, Alaska. Al's map showed the first 106 miles in the Yukon Territory. After reading that even the organizer wouldn't attempt the ride solo, Al drove out the course about 10 miles and judged the course was too mountainous for him. Just as well he didn't ride it:
“The course is beautiful and very scenic so we decided to drive into Alaska and then turn around. Sixty miles into the course there was a sign: “Welcome to British Columbia.” So, even if I did the ride, I wouldn't have completed an organized 100-mile ride in Yukon Territory.”
With the Canadian province circuit behind him, Al's next challenge is to ride the “most outstanding” century rides in the U.S. He also plans to join a club and tackle a marathon run in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
He's taking on those challenges because it forces him to stay in shape. He says that he's 5-9 and 193 pounds, but expects to drop to about 180.
I can't wait to hear from the always active Al Emma next summer to hear how this new set of pursuits is progressing.
Last year, Al told me about his US bicycling rides: “Bicyclist needs one more ride to complete US circuit,” April 6, 2009. He completed the US rides in August 2009: “One bicycle ends, another begins.”