The four members of the Lemeunier household travel by family power.
Father and mother Bertrand and Vanessa are showing their children Leo and Lucas where they met, the province of British Columbia. Leo is 9 and Lucas is 7. All four of them are peddling the province on bicycles. Technically, they are doing the B.C. landscape twice: once from Vancouver up to Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, then a second time back down to Vancouver by Highway 16 to Prince George and Highway 97 through the Cariboo and the Fraser Canyon.
It is more of B.C. than most British Columbians ever get to see, and it’s all from behind the handlebars. The children are carrying an appropriate amount of weight and the adults maintain an appropriate family pace. They know this from hundreds of kilometres of honing their flow.
The bike mode is not new to Bertrand, who 15 years ago, rode from Newfoundland through his home province of Quebec, and onward across Canada, not stopping until Tofino. As a young, single documentary filmmaker, it generated incredible footage and fodder for his creative projects.
“At the end of my bike trip, I met Vanessa at Vancouver,” Bertrand said. Now that they have children both old enough to handle their bikes and be conscious of their experiences, “we thought it was a good idea to come back to B.C. to allow them to know more about these places, and where we met years ago. And also for them to improve their English.”
Filming and writing for future projects is also, of course, part of the process. Bertrand has written five books and produced three documentaries already, and he has a vision for the next one this excursion will produce. The working title is Face To Face With Serendipity.
“It is about how serendipity is involved in the creative process of different artists,” he explained. “The bicycle is a kind of catalyst to improve the roundedness of this project. It brings connection with nature, but also with the local people. This is the best way to know about the place, about the country, about the future.”
Bicycle travel is intimate. You smell the flowers as you pass by, you hear snippets of conversations, the bugs and raindrops land on your skin, and you look your environment - landscape and human - right in the eye. That’s how the Lemeunier family met the Loeppky family. Both were on the Haida Gwaii islands when they bumped into each other and a casual exchange of a few words turned into a relationship. The Loeppky’s, Don and Lorna, live in Quesnel and knew the Lemeuniers would eventually pass through. An invitation to stay a while was offered, accepted, and carried out.
That brought its own wave of serendipity. Bertrand was scheduled to interview one of his artist subjects while in Prince George, but that subject had to cancel the meeting. With Barkerville already on the agenda, thanks to plans made with the Loeppky family, Bertrand learned of Julia Mackey, the operator of the Sunset Theatre and creative force behind renowned play Jake’s Gift. She became the replacement interview, and during that on-camera conversation Bertrand learned that she, too, was once from Quebec and moved to B.C. where she met her life/creative partner just like Bertrand did. In fact, it was 30 years before, to the day, that Mackey struck out on her cross-Canada life odyssey - serendipity dipped in kismet.
“It’s hard to explain,” said Bertrand of whom his interview focus is drawn. “I like different backgrounds, different view points, different arts people - a potter, a stone carver, professional dancer, a digital artist. I try to have a mix - women and men, older and younger. It’s hard to explain how I select people. We could do more interviews, but the way we travel, our plans are always changing, when are we going to be there?, so it’s interesting.”
As a family, they can do 40-50 kms per day. Bertrand’s bike is outfitted with the FollowMe Tandem adaptor in case Lucas needs a rest; they simply lock his front wheel to Bertrand’s bike for a pull. They adjust their travel ambitions based on weather, terrain, roadside amenities, and any other factor that presents itself.
They have had no safety concerns, in the two-plus months they had been on the road so far in B.C., by the time they reached Quesnel. Sometimes the air-wake of a transport truck buffets them, or traffic can be noisy, but no notable concerns have emerged.
It was a longer respite in one place, when they reached this city, because the Loeppky family took them in as eagerly anticipated, and led some excursions like rafting on the Quesnel River.
After that, they felt inspired to take the road less travelled between Quesnel and Williams Lake, covering those four days by using the gravel West Fraser Road through the rural communities away from the main highway, on the west side of the Fraser River. Like most elements of life, the Lemeuniers are on a path less often seen, and more slowly experienced, but fully embraced as a family.