A doctor from Yellowknife has made a special solo bicycle ride to Hay River.
Dr. Bev Wilson retired on June 12 and peddled to the Hub to mark the life event with a retirement ride.
“I’m going to call it that,” she said with a laugh. “That’s what people are telling me it is. So I’ll say yeah, it’s my retirement ride.”
Wilson left Yellowknife on June 13, camped along the way, and arrived in Hay River on June 16 after a journey of almost 500 km. She then flew home a couple of days later.
“A cycling friend in Yellowknife had suggested that we do a bike trip just to mark my retirement and as a start to summer,” said the new retiree. “And she thought maybe going from Yellowknife to Fort Smith would be a good ride, and I said sure. So we started planning for that and getting prepared, and she was unable to cycle in the end. But by then I was kind of pumped for a ride.”
It is the first time Wilson made the ride solo, but she has made the trip before with a group in the annual Yellowknife-to-Hay-River bike ride.
“I’ve done that a few times,” she said. “So I know the road. And I just thought, ‘Well, why don’t I just go from Yellowknife to Hay River.’ And that’s what I did.”
Long-distance bike rides are nothing new for Wilson.
“I did a fair bit of touring before,” she said, noting she has ridden in different parts of Canada and the United States, along with Ireland, Italy, France, Austria, Slovenia, New Zealand, Mexico and Belize.
“Not all solo,” she noted. “Some are with other people. Many are solo.”
The recent ride from Yellowknife to Hay River was not without its memorable moments.
She was stopped for about 45 minutes after encountering a herd of bison on the highway.
“And they weren’t moving from that road,” she said.
Wilson managed to get through when a person in a truck stopped and advised her that she could follow that vehicle.
“And so I did, and that was fine,” she said.
Wilson also ran into trouble about 40 km from Yellowknife.
“There were thumbtacks on the road,” she said, noting one became embedded in her front tire and two in the back.
Luckily, she had a satellite phone and called a friend in Yellowknife for a special delivery of more inner tubes.
“So that’s the only time I had to use the sat phone, but it sure was handy,” she said.
Wilson doesn’t speculate how the thumbtacks got on the highway or who may have put them there.
“I can’t dwell on that. It does seem a little suspicious,” she said. “Anyhow, if they were out to get a biker, they got her.”
Wilson has never lived in Hay River, but has regularly travelled to the community for her work as an anaesthesiologist.
“For the last at least seven or eight years, I’ve been coming intermittently to work at the hospital, maybe three or four times a year,” she noted.
The 62-year-old Wilson said bicycling is a way of life for her.
“I just like it,” she said. “It’s something I’ve done for probably 50 years. It’s just part of my life. Wherever I’m living, I usually bike to get groceries or bike to work.”
And now that she is retired, Wilson said she may very well do more biking.