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Due North

My name’s Mikey. I’m 23 years old and this summer I rode my bicycle from the bottom to the top of Canada. I started on the 49th parallel – at the border of Washington State and British Columbia. And even with the bears, mosquitoes, muddy roads, and freezing rain, I somehow made it to the end of the road - the Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, nestled against the Arctic Ocean.

It was 11 weeks of absolutely amazing adventure. I met the nicest people. I slept in all kinds of places - from friends' homes, to strangers' cabins, to random pullouts along Highways 5, 16, 37, 1, 2, 5, and 8. I saw five moose, seventeen bears, two porcupine, and a beaver. I went a week without showering. I went right up to the border with Alaska. I hiked in Kluane National Park and got a glimpse of Mount Logan. I cycled the Dempster Highway. I crossed the mighty Mackenzie River. And I swam in the Arctic Ocean. I stayed with the Watsons in Smithers for five days and the O'briens in Whitehorse for a week and a half. Strangers fed me more times than I can count. I had profound and meaningful interactions with Indigenous people all along my route. We talked about the legacies of colonialism and residential schools, and how inter-generational trauma affects mental health and addiction in their communities. But together we also ate amazing food, laughed a lot, and forged real friendships. I was invited to the community fish camp by Diane in Fort McPherson, who gave me a Ziploc full of dry-fish before I left. I spent the night with Frankie and Cheryl in between Tsiigehtchic and Inuvik - and we stayed up until 2 am sharing stories and eating Caribou brisket! And I stayed with John and Joanne's family for two nights at land's end in Tuktoyaktuk. They even had me try Muktuk (Beluga Whale Blubber) - it was chewy, but delicious!

Okay... but why? Why'd I do this? Why bike over 4000 kilometres? Well to be completely honest I wasn't in the best place this spring. I was worn down and confused by my personal lack of direction and I was tired by the sense of stagnation that so many of us have felt during the last year and a half. Perhaps it was a spot of seasonal depression, but, either way, I felt I needed to do something. Something big.

I have always wanted to explore this country. Meet the people. Hear their stories. When one of my friends in Revelstoke - where I've been living for the last year while taking a year away from university - sold me his touring bike (thank you Robbie!) I knew that it was on. 

This trip has gave me the chance to go WAY out of my comfort zone. It gave me the chance to get more comfortable with being alone. And to work on my mental well-being. And through Ride Don't Hide, it also provided me with the opportunity to help other people.

This year, one in five Canadians will have a mental health crisis. But five out of five Canadians have mental health. Mental health is something to protect, something we can strengthen. It’s not just something we can lose. When people receive the right services and support, mental illness doesn’t take hold. But every year 1.6 million Canadians don’t get the mental healthcare they need.

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s mission is to make sure every Canadian has access to mental healthcare. This year, their mission is more important than ever - especially in remote, indigenous, and northern communities. The CMHA focusses on the social determinants of health - things like income, housing, employment, and education. In doing so, the CMHA is not only prioritizing mental health, but also trying to eliminate the inequality that can lead to disparate health outcomes.

I have a big safety net. But many Canadian's don't. My safety net has allowed me to prioritize my mental health without having to worry about the social or economic consequences of doing so. Many Canadians don't have that luxury.

Every June the CMHA runs a program called Ride Don’t Hide. It’s a month-long campaign to promote mental health, eliminate stigma, and fundraise for the CMHA's initiatives. Normally Ride Don’t Hide participants fundraise for one branch of the CMHA. Since my ride spans multiple communities, I felt it was best to fundraise for three local branches along my route. So, all of the funds we raise will be split between the CMHA branches of Shuswap/Revelstoke, Northern BC (based out of Prince George), and The Yukon (based out of Whitehorse). This local approach allows the funds to be allocated to the programs that are most important in each community.

With $330, the CMHA can provide mental healthcare to one Canadian who would otherwise not have had access to it. If you can afford to make a donation (of any amount), your money will go a long way towards healing people and communities. Just click on the DONATE NOW button at the top!

I have posted the first two installments of my journey on YouTube. I have poured my heart and soul into documenting the journey - and I think you will really enjoy watching it. My channel name is 'Mikey Friedland'. And here's the link: https://youtu.be/1q5FCm2gGzE. Part 3 is coming soon.

Thank you once again. Nearly $30,000. It is hard to believe. You are all very special.

-Mikey


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