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East meets west, northeast and southwest



Atsushi Kato crosses Canada, U.S. by bike

It was a long way to go, but in a way that was the whole point of the journey.

Averaging about 100 kilometres a day for 196 days, Japan’s Atsushi Kato pedalled from the West Coast of Vancouver Island to St. John’s Newfoundland, and from St. John’s to Los Angeles, California – a total of 17,488 km on the road. To put that into perspective, that’s almost halfway around the world.

Kato arrived in Whistler in April of 2002 and worked last winter at Samurai Sushi. His goal from the beginning was to pedal across Canada and the U.S., after being bitten by the bicycle touring bug several years earlier when he biked more than 13,500 kilometres around Japan.

He left Whistler on May 24, biking south from Whistler to the ferry at Horseshoe Bay. From Nanaimo he made his way to the last kilometre of the TransCanada Highway at Tofino, where he started to work his way back east.

He took a few scenic detours from the route, ferrying across a section of Lake Huron. He also followed another highway to Gaspé, Quebec before taking another ferry to New Brunswick to rejoin the TransCanada.

He also made a complete loop of Cape Breton Island between ferry trips to Newfoundland.

After a six-day wait for a visa in Halifax, Kato crossed the border at St. Stephen and made his way down the coast to New York City before heading West again to Chicago. From the Windy City he followed the historic Route 66 south and west until he reached L.A.

He stayed in California for just five days, having to return to Canada before his visa expired. Kato arrived back in Whistler on Dec. 12, and hopes to spend another winter here snowboarding.

"It was my dream," said Kato, 29, of his seven months on the road. "I look at a map and see the place I want to get to. It was my reason to be born."

Although he made it back to Whistler without any injuries, it wasn’t always easy.

While his English was good enough to get by, Kato says his inexperience with the language made it hard at times. Quebec was especially difficult, where nobody could even understand his English.

"I stop at a restaurant, and I can’t read the menu. I never knew what I ordered," he said.

While most of Canada went pretty smoothly, the distance between towns and cities – not to mention bike shops – was critical. In Newfoundland, he had to make an emergency call to a Japanese Manager at Spicy Sports in Whistler to find out how to fix a broken shifter.