Cycling while singing the Smurf song, hiding under a balcony during a storm, and sharing stories were all part of Dr. Catherine Glorieux’s trip across Canada.
The resident doctor from Montreal started her journey July 29 at Mile 0, in British Columbia, and finished at Crystal Crescent Beach on Nov. 11. She partnered with Autism Speaks Canada to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism.
“Two years ago, at the age of 37, I was diagnosed with autism,” she said. “It was a relief to get a diagnosis and know what was going on. I was struggling, and I reached out to a helpline for doctors about four years ago. Someone I talked to noticed something, I was tested, and autism was confirmed.”
Glorieux finds things like grocery shopping and having winter tires installed challenging but enjoys biking long distances.
“It’s therapy,” she said. “It keeps me young and lets me express myself. Each area I went through had some difficulties, but the hardest part was when I was biking into the wind. In the Rockies I had to be very careful about bears. I carried bear spray and I sang so they’d hear me. I sang the Smurf song – and I’m a terrible singer.”
"I dipped the bike wheel in the Pacific Ocean when I started, and it was important to dip it in the Atlantic Ocean at the end."
At one point in her journey she spent three hours sheltering under the balcony of an abandoned motel while a storm went through. She camped during part of the trip and got up one morning to find her tent surrounded by cattle. She encountered temperatures from -3 C to 42 C.
She found traffic to be the scariest thing she encountered and crossed into Minnesota to avoid a particularly dangerous section of road.
Glorieux is a fan of marathons and extreme sports such as high-altitude mountaineering. In 2014, during a mountaineering expedition in Bolivia, a piece of ice fell on her leg, causing a double fracture. She still completed the route, becoming the first woman to do so.
She travelled solo for most of her trip, but during the last few days her father followed in a support van.
“I dipped the bike wheel in the Pacific Ocean when I started, and it was important to dip it in the Atlantic Ocean at the end,” she said. “That’s why I chose Crystal Crescent Beach.”
Many people along the way asked questions and shared their own stories.
“I’m happy to share information,’ said Glorieux. “There are still misconceptions. It’s a spectrum with a wide distribution of symptoms.
It can mean you have some great strengths, but you have to be in the right environment to learn to use them. People can thrive and be happy if given the right tools
“It doesn’t define me, it’s just part of who I am.”
More information on her journey can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pg/DefineNormalCyclingAcrossCanada
Information on Autism can be found on the Autism Speaks Canada website at https://www.autismspeaks.ca