Year in Review: City man, 71, completes cross-Canada trek one province at a time

Dave McIntosh holds his bike aloft in celebration after the 71-year-old Sarnia man arrived in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the easternmost point in North America, on Aug. 1. Submitted Photo

This week we’re running our favourite people features of 2021, a reminder that even in difficult years good things happen. This one first appeared September 9.

Tara Jeffrey

Dave McIntosh believes age is just a number.

“My age says I should be retired but I still work as much as a 30-year-old,” said the 71-year-old Sarnia man, who owns his own renovation and carpentry business.

“And I’ve always liked to stay fit.”

Bad knees forced McIntosh to quit jogging years ago, so he took a couple of spin classes and fell in love with cycling at the age of 60.

“I was hooked,” he said, adding that’s when he decided to bike across Canada.

“I came up with the idea of using my summer vacation to do it. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years.

“I like to set big goals.”

Even a prostate cancer diagnosis didn’t stop him. McIntosh says he underwent treatment shortly before starting his cross-country trek, and has remained in good health ever since.

In 2011, he set out to tackle one province each year, beginning in British Columbia — which took about 11 days.

In the fifth year, when it was time to take on Ontario, he and wife Trudy bought a camper van so she could follow along.

“Ontario is huge. I rode from the Manitoba border down to the U.S. border, to Sarnia and then up to the Quebec border,” he recalled. “It took 20 days, riding 140 kilometres a day.”

Two years ago, he conquered Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in a single summer, but was forced by the pandemic to stay home in 2020.

That left Newfoundland — the home stretch — this summer.

“It was a tough ride this year because I’m not getting any younger,” said McIntosh. “And four weeks before I started the ride, I had an accident, went over the handlebars, cracked some ribs and really messed up my shoulder — so I was riding with a considerable amount of pain.

“It was 950 kilometres and I did it in eight-and-a-half days,” said McIntosh, who returned home Aug. 2.

“I averaged about 120 kilometres a day, which is pretty good for the mountains and hills that were there.”

“It took me 10 years to get from coast to coast. I can’t believe I did it.”

McIntosh says he was inspired by his faith and commitment to his local church — Lighthouse Community Church in Sarnia. Along the way he stopped to visit every church from his denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada.

“One of the purposes of my ride was to raise funds to help new churches get started in Canada,” he said. “So over the last 10 years I have raised around $30,00 for church-planting and we have helped at least ten new churches get started.

And he’s not stopping now.

“I have a new goal — I want to cycle 100,000 kilometres before I turn 80,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m not quite at the 80,000 mark now, so I’ve got around 23,000 kilometres to do in the next eight years.”