By Darren Lum
Riding up County Road 121 a few kilometres from Kinmount 47-year-old ArieHoogerbrugge pedals his bicycle smiling free from the constraints ofan ordinary life pushing his physical and mental limits during his epic 55000 kilometre dream ride that started in St. John’s Newfoundland on Nov. 12.
It was a wobbly start as he couldn’t even get on theweighed down bike to ride it onto the ferry destined for Newfoundlandas he was saying goodbye to his parents. By the time he went throughKinmount he had ridden more than 5000 kilometres. His result is proofof his determination. However he is still a long way from his ride’scompletion which will see him travel for three years through 24countries including Northern Canada the U.S. and South America.
The former long-haul driver is used to challenges and large loadsrequiring skill and finesse under difficult conditions all year round.His touring bike is like a three-wheeled push pedal version of atransport truck. It is barely visible for the panniers on the front andthe back of the bike except for the tires it rolls on. The bike pulls atrailer with his sleeping bag and tent. The entire haul includeseverything he needs to document the journey with GoPro cameras and hislaptop; and for living on the road whether its food and water clothes or tools for maintenance and emergencies.
Hoogerbrugge is a guy that follows the beat of his own drum. This trip is indicative of that wayof life. It’s a test of his mettle and will serve as documentation ofhis courage and the good in people.
“In my world this is perhaps the greatest challenge that I can come up with that would possibly push meto the point of failure. I have to believe that at my age that some ofmy best years are still ahead of me. And this seems like the way toprove this to myself” he said as he posted online before starting histrip.
Hoogerbrugge recognizes the challenges to his plan imposed bymeasures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 which includes limitations to access public bathrooms and restaurants. It prompted him to bypass theGreater Toronto Area in favour of smaller towns like Kinmount and Minden Hills and has made him consider altering his journey to get to the USsooner in his trip as they have less restrictions.
“My goal is exhaust all options. Pivot accordingly and exhaust all options” he said.
Born on May 18 1973 to Arie Sr. And Gerty Hoogerbrugge is the eldest ofthree boys who were raised in Grimsby Ontario. He is accustomed tohard work and risk.
Hoogerbrugge’s work life started at 10 with apaper route which grew to two routes. He saved his money and spent iton his hobby of buying and keeping reptiles and amphibians. During highschool he owned 50 types of reptiles and kept them in his parents’basement. This hobby was parlayed into a business as he became areptile wholesaler in 1995 which then evolved into opening the retailstore The Reptile Store in Hamilton. He also opened a fish store. Atthe height of his business operations he had 13 full and part timeemployees. In 1997 he took his first ever trip out of North America toBelize where he picked rice and found his love for the jungle. It ledhim to sell his house he bought before he was 20 and use the money tobuy a house in the Belize jungle. Now he has 40 acres and a place hecalls home and his future.
Then by 2011 he shifted gears moved toAlberta and worked in the oil and natural gas industry. Later that year he completed his first expedition bike ride that took him 6500kilometres across Western and Northern Canada completed over 14 weeksless a day. That ride planted the seed that drove him to plan this epicride which will include the Dempster Highway – which connects theKlondike Highway in Yukon to Inuvik Northwest Territories – where itwill take him to the village of Tuktoyaktuk Northwest Territories.
A couple of years later he became a long-haul truck driver for Voortman’s Cookies.
In six-and-a-half years of driving he drove close to 1.2 millionkilometres. From his website he said it was the “craziest mostdifficult and most challenging accomplishment of my life.” He’s usinghis savings from that work to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime ride.
The lonely road biking is actually full of hope and people willing to opentheir hearts Hoogerbrugge has discovered. There were numerous people he encountered who gave him support in the form of money gift cardsmeals and places to stay particularly in Nova Scotia and PEI. He saidhe went wherever people took him. His notoriety grew through his onlinepresence which included a CBC report about him. He added 1300 morekilometres to his trip as a result of the welcome.
He told them to expect more people to follow in his tire tracks as others will be inspired.
“When you see someone else do it all of a sudden you have permission” he said.
That’s how he was inspired to hit the road.
“Years and years ago I watched a YouTube video of a kid half my age bikingon the Dempster Highway during the winter. It was like ‘You can dothat?’ Basically the video was saying ‘Of course you can do that.’ And that’s where all of a sudden well I can bike across Canada during the winter” he said.
Russ Duhaime of Minden invited Hoogerbrugge tospend the night saying this was about giving back after he and his son Owen had experienced a similar generosity while they were on a 30-daybike tour a few years ago.
“We were overwhelmed by the kindness ofpeople all along the way So when I heard Arie was changing his routeand would be travelling through the area I sent him a message. It’ssort of an extension of the generosity we received” he said in a text.
Duhaime who has a passion for cycling said he only knew of Hoogerbrugge through a cycling forum.
Hoogerbrugge is thankful to all his supporters in particular his aunt. She allowedhim to stay for two months when COVID-19 restrictions were implementedin Ontario.
Any fears he has on the road pale in comparison to the fear of an unfulfilling life.
From his website Hoogerbrugge said “Boredom resignation and a life ofpredictability are my biggest fears. And I will endeavour to do my bestto keep these fears at bay and that my story may have many more chapters ahead of it.”
Hoogerbrugge hopes his documentation of his journey will be made into a documentary or short film.
He believes the completion of this ride will enable to help him in hislegacy goal of planting a million trees or be part of an effort toplant a billion trees and help with a greener earth. Go with him on his journey through his website safariarie.ca YouTube posts and his various social media portals.
His advice for others to complete their own adventures?
“Just go for it” he said.