Mateo Everitt (left) and Liam Zahara left Little Fort Sunday evening and were on their way to Bridge Lake up Highway 24, where they were camping for the night. (Stephanie Hagenaars photo)

Childhood friends cycle for charity

Riders will cycle 1,400 kms by the end of their journey

After nine days, about 800 kilometres and passing through numerous towns, two B.C. boys are only halfway through their journey, and took a break just before the turn-off to Bridge Lake and Highway 24.

“One hundred and 50 kilometres in a day — that in itself is really hard,” said Mateo Everitt, a real estate broker from Victoria. “But we’re doing 150 kms, nine days in a row, so, by the third day, your body starts to wear down pretty quick.”

He and Liam Zahara, a realtor from Vancouver, are cycling from Northern Alberta to the B.C. Coast to fundraise for Power to Be, a non-profit organization that “helps people living with a disability or barrier access to nature.”

Zahara ran an ultramarathon (100 miles) last year for the group, and said while he was training for the race, he thought it would be cool to team up with the charity and do something each year.

“We’ve volunteered for the charity before,” he said. “They have really fun events and essentially, the basis of what the organization does is help enable people with different barriers…to get outside in nature and just enjoy the outdoors.”

Power to Be holds events each year, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all large gatherings and events were shut down.

The two had coincidentally purchased a couple of bikes at the beginning of spring and thought a cycle through nature would be a great way to fundraise. They just needed a route.

The two grew up on Bowen Island, and are friends since Kindergarten. They also live nearby, so it became their final destination. Their starting point, however, came from Zahara’s childhood.

“I’ve driven through here many times,” he said about Highway 5. “My grandparents live in Northern Alberta, so it was like, ‘It’d be really cool to cycle that.’”

So, the two flew from Vancouver to Edmonton and drove up to Culp, Alta., about five hours north, to begin their trip. The connection to their own lives gave them the idea to call their adventure, “Riding Our Roots.”

“It’s kind of a weird thing doing the fundraising and putting out a lot of photos and posts,” said Zahara. “It’s fun to do these things and go do them, but now when we’re putting it out there to the world, it’s a little uncomfortable at the beginning but it’s been really cool because we get a lot of support.”

One of their friends put their jerseys together, another helped with their flights through WestJet and they each got a bike fit through BC Bike Fit.

“All of these things just came together really well,” he added. “It makes the whole thing that much better when you have the crappy moments.”

One of those “crappy moments” was a day prior, when they had cycled their entire day through the rain. They had originally planned to camp at each of their destinations throughout the trip, packing camping gear, dehydrated foods and sleeping bags on their bikes.

But the rain soaked their sleeping bags, causing them to find a motel for the night.

“We were trying to do start to finish, camping the entire way but the hot shower was maybe the best shower I ever had,” Everitt laughed.

The financial goal for the ride was originally set for $5,000, but they passed that goal rather quickly. Their new goal is now set at $7,500. As of publication, they’re sitting at $6,590 with one week and two days left to go.

“I think a lot of people thought it was a really cool idea and could feel really connected to what we were doing” said Everitt. “It touched on a lot of bases on a personal level.”

Anyone who would like to donate can go to powertobe.ca/riding-our-roots.

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