An honest memoir that deconstructs an evolving father–son relationship, uncovers the struggles in becoming one of Canada’s most respected adventure cyclists and the dramatic impact of a recent cancer diagnosis.
In the summer of 1996, a father and his 13-year-old son embarked on a 3400 km bicycle tour across Canada. Affectionately known as “Manhood Training,” this unique bonding experience became the inspiration for Ryan Correy to break away from convention and turn a passion for cycling into his purpose in life.
The world’s most extreme cycling challenges serve as an evolving proving ground for the young rider – including self-doubt on a solo tour to Arizona after high school, falling asleep and crashing into a cemetery gate on the gruelling Race Across America (“The toughest sporting event in the world”), murder and robbery along the Pan American Highway (“The longest road in the world”), a near mountaintop helicopter rescue while traversing the infamous Tour Divide (“The longest mountain bike race in the world”), cashing in after being hit by a car in California, hallucinations and foot-crippling pain on a six-day, 20-hour stationary-cycling world record attempt, and plenty more.
With a new afterword by the author detailing his move to Western Canada, eventual marriage and more recent colon cancer diagnosis, A Purpose Ridden is a riveting and emotional memoir that will appeal to cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
|Publisher:||Heritage Group Distribution|
|Edition description:||revised and updated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Ryan Correy is one of Canada’s most accomplished adventure cyclists. In addition to writing about these adventures in two books, A Purpose Ridden (RMB, 2018) and Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies (RMB, 2018), Ryan regularly speaks to groups on turning passion into purpose and is also the founder of Bikepack Canada (bikepack.ca). Ryan lives in Canmore, Alberta, with his equally ambitious wife, Sarah.
Read an Excerpt
A Purpose Ridden
By Ryan Correy
Rocky Mountain BooksCopyright © 2015 Ryan Correy
All rights reserved.
CLOSE ENOUGH TO HOME
JUNE, 1996, I'M 13 YEARS OLD
Spread out around me on my carpeted bedroom floor is a riotous collage of comic books. I'm dazzled by the colour, the action, the stories and the escape. But more importantly, I'm drawn in by the superhero mythology. In particular, I enjoy the story of Bruce Wayne, the flawed (yet uniquely human) caped crusader.
The really great Batman adventures affirm all we absorb when we learn about moral codes: refusing to kill another; choosing not to grandstand through the use of one's powers; opting for personal fulfillment through selfless acts. These storied lessons have made me keenly aware of right and wrong.
Pushing character development even further, the most compelling comics also highlight the protagonist's struggle with responsibility. Extreme crisis often brings about a decision to follow a more conventional path, to hang up the cape and cowl, throw on a pair of jeans and walk among us everyday folk. But something always brings them back. That is, a sense of purpose.
The thought that the path we choose for ourselves can be both a burden and the light from which all meaning is derived intrigues me.
A heavy dream calls out for understanding. From my bedroom window, grandiose thoughts of becoming a pro hockey player drift over the prairie farmland. My daydreams rise like a storming cloud, ascending over the foothills, building in stature alongside the Rocky Mountains to the west.
Moments from last night's game play through my head. Images of gliding down the ice surface easily lend themselves to a moody orchestral soundtrack, such as Batman Returns or Apollo 13. My Walkman is warm from repeat listens.
Though my thoughts wander from end to end (and through space), in reality I rarely play any position other than defence. No matter, there is a sense of glory in responding to the more touted moves of the forward opposition. Great skill is needed for anticipating action while skating backward. Spatial awareness is key.
Other skills are apparent too. I take pride in being the fastest skater on the team. I'm also able to sustain harder efforts than most. Unfortunately, my puck handling skills have fallen behind. Hence being relegated to a defensive position. There is plenty of time to improve, I assure myself. All the greats had to hone their craft.
My attention turns to the posters of National Hockey League players taped to my wall. As I scan past "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, I think of the Canadian hockey dream I share with a million other kids, and possibly more – a vague notion of fame, money and conquest on cold steel blades.
The operatic daydream is disrupted by a muffled call coming from downstairs. I remove my headphones and quickly realize it is my taskmaster of a father yelling out, "Get off your butt and come down!" Argh, what does he want?
Grudgingly, I shuffle his way.
It is not uncommon to have my summer fun be cut short by chores on our acreage. Maintaining the lawn eats up at least four hours of useful time, once or twice a week. As for weeding, the prickly follow-up, my sister and I have developed a con for filling half the garbage bags with air as we tie them off. Of course, this deception only works as long as the chore sheet lists a bag requirement and not total hours.
Downstairs I find my father standing, hunched, his elbows bent on the dinner table, with a series of unfolded maps before him. I notice the sun shining on the members-only golf and country club in the Elbow River Valley, behind. Despite its proximity, there has never been a temptation to join. "A waste of a good walk," I remember my father once saying.
My approach doesn't cause him to take his gaze away from the maps. As I shuffle closer, I see him draw a line across the overlapping maps with a pink highlighter. Peering closer, I notice that the line connects the prairies, from our home on the outskirts of Calgary, across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and around the Great Lakes to Ontario.
It's finally happening.
For the last couple of years, my father has hinted at a bicycle tour across Canada. "An opportunity to toughen you up," he would say. "It's time for manhood training," he now proudly smiles, looking back over his shoulder.
I stand in shock.
He continues with a breakdown of the journey ahead and its true purpose. "I'm not going to watch you waste another summer bumming around with your friends, playing those idiot boxes [his crude description of Nintendo]. You are going to experience the country and see what it is like to do man's work." And he shall lead this grand adventure.
My father estimates the total distance from Calgary to my aunt and uncle's cottage in Oliphant, Ontario, to be 3400 kilometres. The plan is to ride 160 kilometres each day.
Given the fact that I have never ridden farther than my friend's house down the street, I really have no frame of reference for what it takes to ride a bicycle more than halfway across the country. Naively I tell myself it will be fun. A tough reality sets in soon after.
My hands go clammy, my skin pale.
My father is a bit of a hard-ass. Twenty-two days on the road, just he and I, away from my mother (the "feudal" referee), and detached from our comfortable surroundings, now this is an intimidating thought.
We live in a large estate community on the outskirts of Calgary. Mansions are owned by movers and shakers in the oil industry, pro hockey players, suspected drug dealers and other established entrepreneurs. Their kids, my friends, are among a privileged new generation. "And you don't know how to get dirty," states my father.
Lexus and BMW luxury cars are common sights around the school parking lot, and it seems like every other family has season tickets to the Calgary Flames hockey team. Not surprisingly, a couple of their retired players have taken turns coaching my team. Hall of Fame captain Lanny McDonald is currently at the helm.
My parents own a used Lexus and an unimposing blue minivan with fake wood panelling. They started from the ground up, so they tell me, originally from a one-bedroom apartment in Edmonton.
With the help of their compassionate elderly neighbours (to help babysit my sister and me), and a lot of knocking on doors, they built up a successful investment advising group, the Correy Team, and a client base of a couple hundred across western Canada.
"Manhood Training" exposes what I suspect is a slight chip on my father's shoulder. He has never played the part of the millionaire, nor had the privilege of inheriting success. Seeing past the hard-ass exterior, I respect him for showing some vulnerability and for being real. "How many other fathers do you know who would do this sort of thing with their kids?" he asks.
"None," I reply.
JULY 2, 1996
We have stopped in the small agricultural town of Bassano, Alberta, just as planned. The sun now sets on day one of our cross-country bonding experience.
Moulded into a cheap plastic chair on our motel porch, I pause in deep thought. The weathered exterior of a lone grain elevator holds my attention. It is a stark contrast to the skyscraper skyline of the Stampede City no longer in sight.
Semi-trailer trucks quietly buzz by on the Trans-Canada Highway. Their windshields reflect a warm hue.
I run my fingers over my filthy skin. Exposed areas are caked with a fine layer of perspiration and sunscreen.
My soul weeps with exhaustion.
Through the open door behind me, my father towels off after a hot shower. I barely notice him pace around the musty room, unpacking. His red pannier bike bags hold maps, PowerBars, his wallet, running shoes and a set of casual clothes to walk around in. Why he would want to walk around after twelve hours of riding is beyond me. And in this one-road, nothing town?
I hunch forward into my hands, feeling frustrated. A solitary tear finds its way in between my fingers.
Closing my eyes, I pray that my father will come outside and suggest we turn around, that maybe we bit off more than we can chew. Instead, I hear him unfold the maps again.
He has no intention of turning around. In fact, he's calculating the distance for the next couple of days, trying to figure out where we should stay and what amenities exist along the way. He is oblivious.
And then he calls out.
I don't turn around for fear he will see my eyes welling up, all puffy and red. "You know, we are still close enough to home," he says in a calming tone. "It's not too late to call your mom ... this can all be over with right now. Just say the word."
In a short couple of hours, I could be back home, showered, pillaging a well-stocked fridge, about to settle on my own supremely comfortable bed. Only I would ever be accountable for this decision. And in a few weeks' time, the sting of failure would have subsided.
Covertly, I wipe the tear from my face, playing it off as a chance to clean the grime from around my eyes. I'm not sure if my father realizes how difficult this day has been for me. He seems preoccupied with the gravity of the question somewhat lost on me.
I look back over my shoulder and take a deep breath. I realize his calming tone masks the fact that he is testing my will. "So, what is it going to be?" he smiles.
Argh, come on.
I fire back with a rebellious, half-hearted smirk, "Let's keep going."
The taskmaster nods approvingly. "Good, because I wasn't going to let you quit." Of course you weren't.
JULY 4, 1996
We find ourselves in a Saskatchewan headwind, pedalling over rolling, golden prairies. Civilization has all but disappeared behind. It is just us and the road and my annoyance.
Every point of contact with the bike throbs. "What the hell is there to see?" I mutter under my breath. At 15 km/h, there is very little change in scenery.
Having none of it, my father takes over the lead.
He remains in a steady rhythm, still pedalling forward with his head down. I'm not sure if he is ignoring my exhaustion or just can't hear my cries for attention. I yell into the wind, pleading for him to stop, "FUUUUUCK!" I have never sworn out loud.
But still no change.
My tired gaze falls downward, watching my knees bob up and down like a metronome in slow procession. The sheer volume of miles weighs heavily on my mind. And at this pace it will take an eternity.
I imagine animals in a zoo, pacing back and forth. We share a similar sense of purgatory. On my right, a wheat field. On my left, a wheat field. And in front, the other, more succinctly taunting metronome. My father.
Finally, stopping without him for once, I yell, "Please! I'm tired. We have no more water!"
Together we scan the horizon for signs of civilization. In unspoken understanding, my father turns to face the north as I stare in southern opposition. The wind howls in only one direction, still against us both.
A taste of blood seeps from my chapped lips. I try to swallow but find that there is no saliva to suck down. My burnt cheeks also grimace, tugging on facial muscles worn tired from chewing on stale energy bars.
He relents. "Alright, the next farmhouse we come across, let's see if they can help."
We push off again, now in sync.
As luck would have it, we come across a quaint, white-walled settlement only a couple of kilometres down the road. My father optimistically leads up the dusty driveway, walking his bike. I follow in my best Sunday smile.
As we near the house, a lean elderly man shuffles from beneath a hefty green tractor. He walks toward us, straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, his hand extended in greeting. "Hey there! Run out of water?" he asks, seeing us holding our bottles.
My father leans in for a handshake, happy to make the acquaintance of a fellow hard worker. "Yes, do you mind if we fill up?" he asks, pointing to a dripping spigot on the front lawn.
"Nah, come on inside," the elderly farmer warmly gestures. "You're more than welcome to stay for dinner. There isn't much up the road." Of course, we accept.
Taking off our shoes at the front door, the farmer makes a point of also shaking my hand. Awkwardly, I notice that he is missing a couple of fingers. "Lost them in an accident with that tractor," he laughs.
I'm taken aback by how comfortable the elderly man appears, thrusting his mangled hand into mine. It makes me think about all the little quirks that kids tease each other over back at school, and how painfully boring they now appear.
We gather with the farmer and his kind wife at their dining table. The home smells of dirty boots and freshly baked pies. Handcrafted items and weathered black and white family pictures hang on the walls. There is a history here.
Over the course of a hearty homecooked meal, my father seizes the opportunity to ask about life on the farm. I quietly listen to the conversation, noting its sincerity, tone and approach. I'm not yet comfortable speaking to adults that I don't know.
The farmer's wife asks if we would like dessert. "It's apple pie," she says proudly. Apple just so happens to be my father's favourite. "And the crust is homemade," she further clarifies.
I nod, keen to devour a thick slice.
As I'm wiping the last tender crumbs away, up walks the couple's 30-yearold son from the basement – a late surprise. He has apparently been working on the computer for the last couple of hours, and "is really good with those things," his mom states.
Standing next to his elderly parents, my father and I regard the son and his parents. For me, a stark contrast takes shape. Yet, while I'm struck by the generation gap, my father picks up on something entirely different. He is intrigued by the son's intellect, honest personality and by the fact that humble and hard-working roots must run deep.
Leaving the home, my father hands the son his business card and invites him to call when we get back to Calgary (in about a month's time). "Let me know if you're looking for a job then," he offers.
THE FOLLOWING TWO WEEKS
We opt for a southern passage through the United States. The lack of services and the Saskatchewan headwinds have taken their toll.
The alternative route does not come easy, however. Soon after leaving the Trans-Canada Highway, we are faced with an unsigned network of bumpy gravel roads, flat tires, mosquitoes and accommodations atop rickety saloons.
Stopped at tiny tumbleweed cafés, I grunt responses to my father's questions over greasy meals and map reading. My mind has numbed to the routine of eat, sleep, ride. But perhaps I'm growing stronger.
My mood begins to improve as we ride through more populated regions in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The increase in traffic and potential gas station breaks help take the edge off.
My go-to indulgence is Crush orange soda and Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme chocolate bars. My father prefers the more traditional treats of Coca-Cola and chewy Fig Newtons cookies.
These sugary stops provide a sense of levity and new perspective. I had been keeping a running tally of the wooden utility poles as they ticked by, seeing only what was directly in front of me. Now I'm looking ahead, estimating that my vision extends ten kilometres toward the next gas station on the horizon.
One of those blurred shapes slowly materializes into the return customs entry for Canada. Back in the homeland, we pass through Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and get our first chance to visit with relatives from eastern Canada over lunch. My great-Aunt Vi and Uncle Jack are overjoyed to see us but emphasize caution on the roads head. Timely, this advice.
That afternoon my father and I are nearly side-swiped by a logging truck. The sheer force of the wind alongside the hulking vehicle blows us both into the ditch. "ASSHOLE!" my father yells out.
Shaken from the incident, I pull farther off into the ditch and collapse on the grass. My father continues staring at the semi-trailer truck with a fierce gaze, arms outstretched and in a questioning pose. Stupid asshole. The vehicle thunders on without a care.
Still shaking his head, he walks over with his bike and hunkers down beside me. "Complete stupidity. From now on, I'll ride behind you. That way I can protect your ass."
Though I'm not entirely sure how he'll deflect the next logging truck that encroaches onto the shoulder, there is comfort in knowing that he may be able to deliver an advance warning.
My father then starts in on a story from when he last passed through the area:
"The year was 1980. I had just finished my second degree at McMaster University in Hamilton. I had a job offer to enter the management training program at Stelco, where I had worked the past few years during the summer and winter months to put myself through school. It was a good offer and I knew a number of the management team well. However, I had doubts about spending my life in a steel company in southern Ontario, from both a health perspective and in terms of general quality of life.
Excerpted from A Purpose Ridden by Ryan Correy. Copyright © 2015 Ryan Correy. Excerpted by permission of Rocky Mountain Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Author's Introduction xiii
Part 1 Manhood Training 7
Close Enough to Home 9
Nathan James 41
Valley Overlook 69
Drastic Times 81
Marathon of Hope 91
Leaving Hollywood 111
Just the Beginning 123
Part II Longest Road 141
Midnight Sun 143
Lightning Strikes 175
Border Patrol 187
The End of the World 201
Bigger than Self 217
Turning 24 229
Stay on the Bike 261
Jure Gives Me the Look 275
I Quit 287
Missing Person 301
Part III This Mountain of Mine 313
Get a Real Job, Pay Taxes 315
Distance Defier 325
Attempt to Kill Myself 345
Finding Balance 359
The Great Divide 401
The Great Basin 411
That Ain't Chocolate Milk 431
Humble Pie 447
Coming Home 469
A Special Acknowledgement 479
This book is amazing for anyone that is a competitor or loves adventure. It is the story of someone trying to find a way to do what they want for a living. It is about winning in life and not always the race