Five months after leaving central Mexico, ButterBike arrives in Stratford

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After cycling about 10,000 kilometres, Sara Dykman has arrived in London.

But she’s barely past the halfway point of her journey.

Dykman, an American nature enthusiast, has been pedalling a route inspired by the migration of the monarch butterfly.

She began in March from the mountains in the central Mexican state of Michoacán, where the species stays each winter.

She’s been on the road since.

“It’s been good,” she said Thursday from Stratford. “I’ve been on the road for five months, so I’ve seen a little bit of everything.

“I’ve gone through the prairies and desert and forests. Just when I start to get a little bored the scenery changes and you get a new view.”

In Stratford, she stayed with local nature enthusiast Barb Hacking.

“I try and go where the energy is,” Dykman said. “I rely on these folks who are already taking care of the monarch to take care of me.”

The goal of her trek, called ButterBike, is to raise awareness of the need to help the monarch butterfly thrive.

Thursday’s agenda included lunch with representatives from Bee City Canada and a presentation at The Local Community Food Centre. 

Sara Dykman looks at caterpillars sitting on milkweed on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Stratford, Ont. Dykman has been cycling a path inspired by the migration of monarch butterflies from Mexico to Canada. (Terry Bridge/Stratford Beacon Herald)

On Saturday, she’s at London’s Landon Library for a seminar beginning at 10 a.m.

Hats and Monarch gardening books are for sale and there are free stickers for kids and milkweed seeds by donation.

The daily distance she cycles depends on her presentation schedule, but on average she says it’s about 500 km a week.

“I haven’t been doing that lately, though,” she said.

The key to covering so much ground is being stubborn, she said.

“There’s moments that are boring and you want to stop. You’ve got to keep going,” she said.

“It’s definitely more a mental challenge than a physical challenge, I’d say.”

It’s a bit of a plodding pace as she rides a bike — she assembled it herself through a collection of random parts — saddled with equipment to camp, cook and document.

Born in Kansas, Dykman, 32, has travelled all over the U.S. for various jobs.

Previous bike tours, conducted through an educational organization called Beyond a Book, have brought her up to the east and west coasts of Canada, but this is her first visit to Ontario. She’s been impressed by its collection of pollinator gardens.

“I’ve been getting the grand tour of all the gardens, just enjoying walking around and seeing the sites,” she said.

“We’ve been meeting all these amazing monarch people, it’s quite a community working together and really raising awareness and motivating folks, so it’s been cool to see all their efforts.”

Southwestern Ontario marks the beginning of her return trip.

Monarch butterflies typically live in central Mexico during the winter months then fly north, taking about three generations to reach the Canadian province.

Multiple less-migratory generations may be born depending on the season, but the last one will fly back south by early fall.

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