Journey to N.L ends with ‘a rush of tears’

Andrew Robinson
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Man completes bike ride from Calgary to St. John’s

Derrick Shirley stands with his bike on Signal Hill in St. John’s after completing a
75-day trek from Calgary to Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital city.
— Submitted photo

It was an overwhelming end to a 75-day journey for Derrick Shirley of St. Thomas, Ont., as he made his way up Signal Hill on Monday.

“I was just overwhelmed with emotion at the top,” said Shirley, director and CEO of the It Takes 2 Youth Leadership Institute. “Just a rush of tears.”

Shirley started the journey to help promote his group, a not-for-profit organization focused on the development of youth leaders. He also filmed interviews on parenting with youth and parents and plans to use that footage for a film.

He also set up tandem bike rides along the way involving youth and police officers. He met Assistant Commissioner Tracy Hardy, commanding officer of the RCMP’s B Division in Newfoundland and Labrador, in St. John’s and was scheduled to meet with Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Deputy Chief Bill Janes on Tuesday.

On a personal level, Shirley wanted to complete the bike ride to promote heathy living. He lost 180 pounds five years ago after weighing as much as 400 pounds.

“I’ve always been a basketball player, but after high school I just gained a bunch of weight and I’ve never really shook it off,” he said.

There were some dicey moments over the course of his

75-day journey, which covered more than 6,000 kilometres. He flipped over his front handlebars and hit gravel along Lake Superior in Ontario, and Shirley also found Newfoundland challenging when fog became thick.

“Newfoundland roads, the shoulders are beautiful,” he said. “But it was extremely foggy about three days ago. (If) you’re on the side of a road, there’s not a lot of ... reaction time for yourself.”

Riding on the side of the road in wet conditions also proved to be problematic, particular when Shirley was sprayed by tractor-trailers along highways.

As for highlights, he said the people stood out.

“It’s not one province that’s friendlier than another. Everybody has a layer of kindness.”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Takes 2 Youth Leadership Institute, RCMP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Calgary, St. Thomas Signal Hill Lake Superior Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Derrick Shirley
    July 11, 2013 - 08:31

    It was a surreal experience and I have many Newfoundlanders to thank for helping me make it across the island. The kindness I was shown by businesses and organizations like Hotel Port Aux Basque, Aunty M's B & B in Deer Lake, and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Police was nothing short of spectacular. But it was the people I met that really made this trip a life changing experience. Those that helped me on the road when I was broken down, those that put me up like Grace and Ron at the 410 Roadhouse, Danny and Charlene Rose at Clover Farms in Appleton, Melanie Sparkes and family in Clarenville, when wind and rain made road (and biking) conditions hazardous . And then there were the Sullivan's; Elizabeth, the mother and her two daughter's, Nikki and Cindy. They arranged for all of the media coverage, a 3-night stay at the Monastery Suite and Spa, a courtesy car from Cabot Ford for us to get around St. Johns, and a great night of hilarious entertainment at the Spirit of Newfoundland Dinner Theater. While the weather may be unpredictable, Newfoundlander hospitality is not. And yes, Doug, this is he. I've always loved the Rock, I just never thought I would return via bicycle! To follow our progress for our cross country, tandem bike ride for youth at risk project, visit Thank you!

  • Jackie Fleming
    July 04, 2013 - 09:47

    It was great seeing the pictures of you finishing your ride up signal hill. It is a tuff hill to go up especially on a bike but you did it and you should be proud of it. I hope you and Leanne enjoys your stay in Newfoundland because it is a beautiful place. Be safe throughout the rest of your journey and good luck :)

  • Doug
    July 03, 2013 - 21:57

    Is this the same Derek Shirley who brielfy played with MUN during the early 1990's?