Highway 93. It may not have the same folk lore surrounding it as Route 66, one of the most famous roads in North America, but one dedicated cyclist is determined to change that.
Greg Van Tighem recently rode the entire length of Highway 93, from Wickenburg, Arizona to Jasper, B.C., as part of a new tourism marketing strategy promoting the road as a tourist travel destination route. He passed through the Columbia Valley on one of the final legs of his journey on Sunday, May 12th
“I had the idea to do some kind of adventure with myself so when the sister cities relationship was formed with Jasper and Wickenburg, I got the kooky idea of riding my bike the full route of Highway 93 because it’s never been done,” Van Tighem told The Valley Echo.
The Sister Cities Relationship between the Town of Wickenburg and the Municipality of Jasper was formalized in January to recognize both communities as the end points of Highway 93, or Route 93 as it’s known in the States.
Van Tighem, who is the director of protective service (fire chief) for Jasper National Park, took three weeks off work and flew with his bike to Phoenix before making his way to Wickenburg where he began his solo, unsupported ride on April 22nd.
“I’ve also been the top MS (multiple sclerosis) fundraiser in the province for the last six years so I thought I’ll make this into an MS fundraiser as well,” he said.
Biking by day on a donated KONA Sutra touring bike, Van Tighem spent his evenings updating his social media — Facebook, Twitter and a travel blog — with posts, videos and photographs detailing his stops along the 3,000-kilometre route. He said he had good fortune when it came to people offering him free places to stay, from campgrounds and fire hall to fifth-wheel trailers and couches. Otherwise, his accommodation was a mix of camping and motels.
Part of his marketing mission was to find the “Best Of” on Route 93, whether it be ice cream, cheeseburgers, or … beer.
“I stopped at all the breweries,” he laughed.
Arriving in Invermere on a Sunday, Van Tighem was disappointed to discover that Arrowhead Brewery, one of his planned stops, was closed.
“I had emailed with the brewmaster (Shawn Tegart) and told him I was looking for the best IPA (India Pale Ale) on Highway 93, and joked that Jasper Brewing Company says theirs is better,” he said. “I’m really disappointed I didn’t get to the brew pub in Invermere.”
Van Tighem had also planned to visit the Invermere Fire Hall, but the windstorm that day forced him to push on through to Radium, where he enjoyed a relaxing soak in the hot pools. He also stopped in Fairmont Hot Springs where one of his firefighters was camping with his family, who treated him to a lunch at their campsite in the Fairmont Hot Springs RV Resort, filled his water bottles and plied him with snacks before Van Tighem continued north to Invermere.
That day, he pedalled 180 kilometres in seven hours. His bike, loaded with four panniers, a handlebar bag, two water bottles, a pump, and a back rack for storing his tent, sleeping bag and tent, weighed about 130 lbs.
“I’m not a super athlete or anything, I’m just an average person,” said Van Tighem humbly. “It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.”
After three weeks of gripping handlebars in temperatures fluctuating between 34 degrees Celsius in Arizona to five below in northern Nevada, his hands no longer worked, but people with MS telling him he was giving them hope was all the motivation he needed to keep going.
“More than anything, I’m trying to raise $93,000,” he said. “The other thing is just awareness, paying attention to what MS is and how devastating it is to victims and their families.
“For some reason I picked MS and that’s the cause I’m going with.”
Van Tighem was greeted in Jasper on Wednesday, May 15th by a large group that rode in with him to the rock cairn in town that’s been designated at the end of Highway 93.
To find out more about Van Tighem’s amazing journey and to donate to his cause, visit his website at www.endms93.com, his Facebook page by the same name, or @_gvt on Twitter.