Road Lessons: Risk Taking, Fear, and Commitment

No country for timid drivers. A "run-away lane" on Trans-Canada #1.

Sometimes pride works in one’s favour.  I had told so many people that I was cycling to Vancouver, when the time came to leave, and I was having doubts, I couldn’t back out.

On the afternoon of September 10th, 2012, just having learned from Travel Alberta that the campgrounds along the southern route I had planned to take were closed, a shot of fear went through me, ” I’m leaving too late!  It’s 1,100 kms to the coast and it’s autumn in the Rockies.  Who knows what kind of weather I’ll face.”

I knew the road ahead would be long and arduous.  I had at least 5 major passes to summit before I hit the Fraser Valley and Vancouver.  Physical challenges aside, the fear that I could get hit by a truck and seriously injured – 0r killed – was real to me.  I felt no better at kilometre 10 when I passed a roadside memorial for a Canmore cyclist who had been killed on the Trans-Canada Highway a few years earlier.   I was battling with a major case of second thoughts, fuelled by fear of the unknown.

There was no turning back now.  I had decided weeks earlier to cycle to Vancouver and, despite the risks my journey presented, I was on my way.  These moments of commitment, these leaps of faith, some big and some small, were made daily.  The truth was that riding to Vancouver was dangerous – not foolishly so, but cyclists do get killed on these steep mountain highways and my safety depended on hundreds of drivers seeing me and passing with caution.

I myself would need maturity when making decisions about safety.  But, I would also need to take calculated risks, to abandon myself to the people, places, and situations that I would face along the way.   I would have to embrace the risks my journey would bring me, because a journey without risk is no journey at all.

In Banff, I stopped at Our Lady of the Rockies Catholic Church.  I took off my helmet, walked up the aisle, cycling shoes clacking with each step, and made my way to the statues of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I lit a candle, knelt down in front of Jesus and his mother, and asked them to protect me from harm, to give me strength, courage, and wisdom, and to ease my way to the coast.


  1. by Tammy

    On January 9, 2013

    Wow! Congratulations, Pat, for accomplishing this journey, with all its risks and challenges. Most journeys, to be sure, do have an element of risk, though not always one of physical harm, such as yours. Some “journeys” carry risk of a different kind: emotional risk, risk of embarrassment or heartache or disappointment, risk of being vulnerable, risk of a spiritual nature….. Of course, there is also the perceived risk of “failure”, though I believe that every journey is a success and worthwhile, regardless of whether you have reached your original goal or not. It reminds me of that familiar quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Life is a journey, not a destination”.

    Thanks be to God for helping you overcome your anxiety and doubts and for leading you safely to the end with so many wonderful sights and encounters along the way.

  2. by Patrick O'Connor

    On January 10, 2013

    Thank you Tammy. I agree with you, sometimes the emotional risk taking is much more difficult and threatening than a geographical journey. It occurs to me that taking all sorts of journeys, geographical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual – and sometimes all of them are mixed together, such as during a pilgrimage – bring with them varying degrees of risk and reward. But, you’re right, sometimes we fail to achieve the goal, but learning from our experiences is the important thing.

Leave a Reply

close window

Service Times & Directions

Weekend Masses in English

Saturday Morning: 8:00 am

Saturday Vigil: 4:30 pm

Sunday: 7:30 am, 9:00 am, 10:45 am,
12:30 pm, 5:30 pm

Weekend Masses In Español

Saturday Vigil: 6:15pm

Sunday: 9:00am, 7:15pm

Weekday Morning Masses

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 8:30 am

6654 Main Street
Wonderland, AK 45202
(513) 555-7856