In early January I found myself reflecting while spin-cycling for an afternoon cardio workout. As we all often think to ourselves during the time of resolutions, I wondered whether 2019 might the year I could set a goal and change. Can I change my mind and begin to develop a level of structure in my life that I have often thought about, but have never really accomplished? All these questions raced through my mind, and as the wheels spun in my mind, so did the ones on the bike.
I currently work for Paramount Resources, and fly back and forth from Kelowna to Calgary every week. I started to think about challenging myself to ride a bike from Kelowna to Penticton, and have my wife pick me up later that day. Or, maybe I could push to Osoyoos, or into Washington State? The distance kept growing, and ninety minutes later I had a much more ambitious plan. Without further thought or research into the distance or how long it would take, I decided I was going to challenge myself to ride a bike from Kelowna to my Alberta home in Sundre.
The anxiety of riding a bike on Highway 1 for 654 km was starting to sound completely insane, and I had thousands of self-defeating thoughts of backing out. I can’t even lie and say that despite these thoughts, I wasn't about to give up the challenge. Near mid-January, only a week after my initial thought, I decided it was best to stay safe and just focus on other goals and challenges. However, January 31st was BELL Canada’s annual “Let’s Talk” Day to try to grow global conversation about mental health and end the stigma that is so heavily engrained in the minds of people who struggle with mental health. The significance of this day helped me once again push forward. I needed to beat my anxieties of riding back to Alberta, and recommit to this trip.
I ruminated for days on how I could raise some money to put towards a cause that affects so many. My family, like so many others, has a long history of mental illness. Primarily this includes anxiety, alcoholism, stress, depression, OCD, and even suicide. This fact was in my mind along with another thought that has affected me on a personal basis along with thousands of others that work in the same industry as I do. I started in the oil and gas industry nearly 20 years ago, and in that time, I could write an entire book on the impacts that the volatile energy sector has had on hundreds of thousands of people working in the industry from coast to coast. In 2015 I struggled alongside many others in fear of losing my job and thus not being able to provide for my family. I have been very fortunate to have held my position thanks to the great companies that I work for (Apache Canada from 2008 to 2017 and Paramount Resources from 2017 to present). Even though I was lucky to hold my job, Apache Canada along with dozens of other companies throughout the province began the layoff process, and in 2015 tens of thousands of jobs were lost including a number of guys in the immediate field that I worked in. Oil prices hit record lows of $24 per barrel. Just before this period, Alberta had accounted for an incredible 87% of the country's new net jobs, and it was all coming crashing down harder than most had ever seen in their life. Between January and June of that year, suicides spiked up 30%, with over 654 hardworking Albertans taking their lives during the severe downturn of the economy. Addiction and gambling rose to the highest rate of any other province, and crime rose to record levels that have never really gone away. Just when it seemed things couldn't possibly get any worse for those in the energy sector, we were soon faced with four long painful years of an NDP government – a government with socialist platforms and motives that crushed the very backbone of an industry that provides not just for millions of Albertans, but all Canadians from coast to coast. Due to new taxes and royalties, costs to extract oil grew higher than any other in the country in the world, making it very undesirable for companies to want to continue doing business in the province. The downtown vacancy rate of Calgary currently stands at over 40%, and the city has the highest rate of unemployment from anywhere in Canada. The hub of economic growth and main provider for millions of Canadians is now closed for business! The US remains our only international source of market access, and they are currently producing record volumes of oil, leaving them very self-sufficient with a product produced in their own country. The Canadian energy sector and oil giant companies have been far too gracious in catering to the loud voices of anti-development across our nation. These voices have shut down pipelines like Energy East. The eastern part of our country now relies on conflict oil coming from the Middle East, and with the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline to Texas and Trans-Mountain to the west coast we are essentially landlocked with no alternative market.
I am not running a political campaign – This campaign is about change! #cycle4change2019 is to first and foremost to open up the conversation around mental health. It aims to try give back to the organizations that help people who cannot afford the cost associated with counseling or other mental health-related services. I am also doing this to challenge myself in areas I had not thought possible and to ride for all the colleagues, friends, and individuals that have been laid off and lost their jobs.
#cycle2change2019 is also about one other thing that is meaningful, and which truly gave me the kick in the ass I needed to get going. We currently sit in an economy for which the future is unknown. We have all heard of TML (Trans-Mountain Line) - #cycle2change2019 also hopes to change the minds citizens and politicians that influence projects like this to stay idle. We have the third largest oil deposit in the world, and when we can finally get some leaders in our country that stop wasting time and instead develop a particular way of business that will allow the economy to grow, companies to come back, and Canadians to return to work. The longer we have to wait for development to take place then the longer we watch the devastation in our homes, our lives, and in our minds continue. It is time that the Government of Alberta, and the federal government in Ottawa do whatever it takes to get that Trans-Mountain Line built to the west. I now live in beautiful Kelowna, and in my time there I have met some incredible people that have become lifelong friends. Like me, most of them fly back to Alberta for work, but choose to live in BC. The vast majority of British Columbians support TML so #cycle4change2019 is also in hopes of changing the minds of millions of people that think British Colombians are against this pipeline, because that is just not true!!
Before closing I will add just one more comment. No matter where you live, what you do, or what you believe in, I ask if you have read this blog that you stay open minded to the truth behind my mission. Know that the petroleum industry is not full of mass corporations that come to our country to destroy our land, our lakes, our trees, and our oceans. Know that the safety standards and quality control of billion-dollar pipelines are carefully planned and engineered with some of the best technology and state of the art equipment in the world. Know that the true environmentalists in the world are not the ones sitting out in Burnaby, BC protesting nonsense facts that they know nothing about. Know that the environmentalists are not the big US charities that are investing millions into anti-pipeline campaigns. They are definitely not celebrities that fly up to Fort MacMurray only to return to Los Angeles to voice contradicting facts on carbon pollution and oil sands activity. And they are definitely not the so-called leaders in Ottawa who focus their full attention on the eastern part of this country. The true environmentalists are the thousands of individuals that work directly, or indirectly for some of the largest oil corporations worldwide. Last but not least Know that no matter what you struggle with in life, regardless of the circumstances there is always access to help. Never be afraid to speak up, and always know that its ok not to be ok!
This ride is a ride for change! If you like what you have read today please follow curtisjross1 on Instagram, and make a donation to gofundme @ cycle2change2019 All proceeds generated will be going to two foundations - 50% CMHA ( Canadian Mental health association) in Kelowna BC. The other 50% will go to the Olds Mental Health Clinic.
Anyone who is up for the challenge I'll be leaving July 4th at 5am from my home in Kelowna. Join me for the ride. Itinerary so far: Day #1: Sicamous (124.7km) Day #2: Canyon Hot Springs (105.1km) Day #3: Golden (115.8 km) Rogers Pass day!!! Day #4: Banff (139.2km) Day #5: Cochrane (100.2km) Day #6: Sundre (79.6km)
Wish me luck, wish me well, and don’t ever hesitate to ask for help.