Cycling from Victoria to Thunder Bay


By Connie Adair

In 2008, real estate veteran Don Patterson started a youth triathlon program at the Mississauga, Ont. YMCA that encourages kids to bike, swim and run. It’s the only program of its kind in Canada, but it won’t be for long if Patterson has his way.

Don Patterson's ride began at the Pacific Ocean
Don Patterson's ride began at the Pacific Ocean

To that end, on June 26, Patterson got on his bike and set off for a 3,500-km solo ride to raise funds for the Y’s Strong Kids Campaign and to spread the word about his triathlon program. The program gets kids to participate in a non-competitive environment. He also wanted to increase awareness about the importance of getting kids healthy and active, he says.

During the ride, which took him from Victoria to Thunder Bay, “I took it upon myself to stop at four Ys to chat about the program. I (applaud) the dedication of the Y staff and volunteers I met along the way. They are excited to implement a similar program,” he says.

Word has even spread to Australia. Patterson’s cousin in Sydney read about his ride at and contacted her local organization, he says. “She is encouraging them to develop a triathlon for inner city children.”

Patterson’s ride raised $11,000, all of which will go to the cause. He funded the ride out of his own pocket.

Patterson is managing director, commercial at Royal LePage Kingsbury. He’s been in the business for 30 years, and is a lawyer by profession.

Although the ride was for a serious cause, Patterson had a blast along the way. The first day had him climbing mountains and the next day riding in the rain, but Patterson said the scenery is a big part of what kept him going. “The sheer beauty of the country, from the Pacific Ocean to Thunder Bay…. I looked around at mountains, or prairies or the scenery in Ontario’s north, and kept on going.”

Patterson’s wife, Debi, accompanied him on the first half of the trip, driving a car and meeting him for coffee and lunch along the way. At the half-way point, Edmonton, they stopped to attend a family wedding. “From there on I was strictly on my own. I rode continuously. It was up before the sun came up. It was the best time to ride. I missed the (hotels’) continental breakfasts but got on the road and stopped for pancakes and syrup at 8,” he says.

Riding across the Prairies
Riding across the Prairies

He says he and Debi weren’t sure what to expect, but they enjoyed the trip together. He enjoyed being able to share his experiences and that they could meet the same people. “We stopped at four YMCAs along the way – Victoria, Kelowna, Calgary and Edmonton. We met people, she heard me speak and we experienced things together. It was a great experience.”

The couple has been married for 32 years, celebrating their anniversary on the road on July 1. It wasn’t a long romantic dinner – Don says he was asleep by 8 pm.

Although he says at times his body was tired, he had only enthusiasm each morning. “It was an exhilarating experience. I didn’t feel tired. I couldn’t wait to get back on the road.”

Patterson had a relaxed schedule, stopping to take photos of a waterfall, a deer and other interesting sites along the way. “Of 22 destinations, I hit only five or six on schedule. I didn’t want to be tied down by a time frame. I rode longer on some days, shorter others.”

He booked 22 days off for the trip but finished it in 18, doing just less than 200 km per day.

Luckily the ride went smoothly. “I rode by a guy in Winnipeg who had had seven flat tires. I didn’t have one.”

“I’m not a racer but can go a long way at a steady pace. I ate and drank to keep my body fuelled but wasn’t overly stressed about what I ate. And I rode with the weather. I have to be more disciplined in my real estate career, but the ride was part holiday experience,” he says.

At work, his office was supportive, letting him take the time off. “I got lots of encouragement when I was training” and people sent messages as he biked across the country.

The last day of the ride was tough, he says. “I was a bit sad it was all over and had a tear in my eye when I reached the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay. It was a fabulous experience, and who knows if I’ll get to do something like this again?”

That said, he says he’s “itching to do the other part of the country, from Thunder Bay to St. John’s, but I don’t know when that will be.”

Since the ride ended, Patterson is letting his body recover and enjoying some dessert. “I’m taking a few easy rides and getting back into the routine. I lost a bit of weight so I’m enjoying pie at dinner.”

“We can all play a role in helping our kids to become active and healthy, whether it is by  increasing public awareness, lobbying governments and business, volunteering, providing financial support, getting our own families involved or being role models to youth,” he says. “Everyone can do something to make a difference. Set a goal and work toward it, but have fun along the way.

“We should try to be passionate about everything we do in life.”

It’s not too late to donate: go online to or send a cheque to the Mississauga YMCA, 325 Burnhamthorpe Rd. W., Mississauga, ON, L5B 3R2.


  1. Great work! congratulations to all involved. my two favorite topics cycling and Real Estate.


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