Saturday, August 30, 2008

Final Thoughts

Now that some time has passed since the completion of our cross Canada bike trip, I have had a chance to reflect on this 7800 km journey we completed. We had many great experiences and met a lot of awesome people along the way. Considering I only met Pat in person the day before and Keith the week before our trip began, as a group we got along amazingly well. I feel lucky to have been a part of the Moving Muscles Ride and will remember this experience for the rest of my life. I want to thank all my friends and family who supported the five of us in many different ways throughout this trip from making donations, hosting us for meals or giving us a place to stay.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Getting screeched in after dipping the tires in the Atlantic

We have ridden our bikes a long, long way.

On Tuesday our journey came to an end as we arrived in St. John's,
greeted by friends and family in the harbour at Prosser's Rock in Fort
Amherst. The day started with a rough awakening. Our ferry got in to
the terminal really late and only got to bed at 4:30am after biking
nearly 10km to the hotel. We were on the road later than we had hoped,
and with 30km/hr winds in our face and rain, we knew that we had a
long 140km day in store.

The landscape between Argentia and St. John's was barren but scenic,
lakes nestled between the forest-blanketed hills that surrounded us.
The road was hilly, and in the wind we moved slowly, but the thought
that it was our last day was imprinted in our minds. It was hard to
imagine that a trip we had been on for so long was coming to an end.

Arriving into the St. John's area, we were greeted by the city's
firefighters who led us to their station in Mount Pearl. We got a warm
welcome from the firefighters who had assembled, and they led us on
the last 20km stretch into town. A few of them even brought out their
bikes to ride with us! Thanks to Craig Cox and Shelley McWilliams for
their help, as well as all the firefighters who came out with us.

It was a special feeling when we finally saw water for the first time,
indicating that we were near our end point. Our families had gathered
at the harbour, and as we came around the final corner they cheered
until we finally broke the ribbon to end the trip! After greeting the
family and friends who had come out to see us, including MDC staff and
two young boys whose lives have been affected by Muscular Dystrophy,
it was time for the trip to come full circle and dip our tires in the
Atlantic. Everyone gathered around as we made our way down the boat
landing, cameras going all around us with applause and cheers. It was
an incredibly awing moment to think about what we had achieved, and
what better way to celebrate than champagne? We popped the corks and
the bubbly went in all directions, some drunk but most of it
completely soaking our clothing, making for some interesting smells on
the car ride to the hotel.

With the trip done, it was on to celebrating it in St. John's, and
what other way to do it than an official screeching in ceremony? Erin
Townsley-Smith, a representative from the MDC office in Vancouver who
has been incredible in supporting us, and Kathy Cuthbert organised to
have Christian's Pub on George Street to give us all an appropriate
taste of Newfoundland's finest spirit, screech. One of the workers
came out dressed in fisherman's gear with an oar, and started talking
speedily in a heavy Newfoundland accent, funny and entertaining. Much
of the act was trying to teach everyone to say "'Deed I am, ye old
Cock. Long may your big jib draw," a response to "Are ye a
Newfoundlander?" and one person after another fumbled as the crowd
roared with laughter. We then got on our knees and he passed around a
shot of screech, and brought out a big frozen cod for us all to kiss
before downing the burning liquid. Officially Newfoundlanders! We even
have a certificate to prove it.

Everyone is taking off over the next few days, and I don't think we'll
forget our time here anytime soon. And now we have an entire month to
rest and relax!


With the trip at an end, all of us will be writing a final blog to air
out our thoughts on the trip (and whatever else comes to mind).

The trip's been an emotional challenge. When I decided that I wanted
to accomplish the feat, I put every ounce of what I had to give into
the project. I'm driven to challenge myself, and I saw this as an
exciting way to see our beautiful country while pushing my body and
mind to achieve what relatively few people have. There were times when
I wondered whether my body would be able to handle it, but it meant a
lot to me to prove to myself that I could do it. Others have, so why
couldn't I?

A big motivating factor for me was the fact that I have Muscular
Dystrophy. There have been many times over the past several years when
I struggled mightily to cope with the realization that my body was not
going to function how I wanted it to. I completely lost interest in my
favourite sports over seeing the decline in my performance, and was
unsure as to how to deal with people's reactions to my physical
appearance and the difficulties I had with seemingly normal physical
tasks. Not only did I see this trip as a way for me to deal with my
affliction, but I wanted to be able to turn it into a positive and
help others. The knowledge that my confronting the ailment could
inspire not only others with the disease, but anyone who would learn
about the ride, was a huge motivator and only pushed me more.

It's pretty special to be able to say that we have made a real
difference in people's lives through our actions. I am so lucky to
have been able to accomplish what I have with Mike, Pat, Brian, and
Jon. Not being as physically strong as they were, they helped me by
taking most of the weight, pulling the trailers and carrying the
water, drafting for me when I needed it. Thanks to their unselfish
actions, we moved quicker, and I was able to conserve my body's
strength without pushing it over the edge. When it wasn't helping me
keep up, it was trying to slow me down when I was getting ahead of
myself, or a bit of comic relief when the times got tough. Group
dynamics are a funny thing, and we were blessed with a fantastic team
that got along relatively harmoniously all the way through.

I also need to give a big thank you to my entire family for their
support, but in particular my mother. She was an absolute force in
helping us with various aspects of the organization. I don't know how
many hours she put in, but I know from many past experiences that when
she puts her mind to something, you either have to step in line or get
the hell out of her way, because she will stop at nothing. From
getting sponsorship, to designing donor cards, having the shirts made,
organising media contacts, and who knows what else, she helped us
bring our ride from a simple affair to an event that got attention
from ocean to ocean. We are all incredibly lucky to have had her on
our side. Thanks Nin, I love you SO much.

From mooing at cows to sleeping in a birdwatching tower, swimming in
Lake Superior to swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, drinking beer across
the country to getting screeched in on George Street, we have had some
incredible experiences, and it's going to take us a long time to fully
appreciate it. We're five extremely lucky young men who got to live
the dream this summer, and despite some of the hard times we had to
push through, we're never going to have a better "job" than this ride,
and that's the bottom line.

Thanks for being a part of it with us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Across the ferry to Newfoundland

This will be short, as it's late, and we need sleep.

We spent the entire day and part of the next on the ferry to Argentia. Way longer than expected, as we only got in after 3am. We then had to bike nearly 7km to get to our hotel to try and get some sleep before the ride to St. John's.

Our journey will end tomorrow as we ride into St. John's Harbour to cut the ribbon!

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

To North Sydney, our gateway to Newfoundland

After last night, we are officially done camping. No more tents, no more cooking with single burner stoves on camping pots and pans, no more setting up and taking down camp in the rain. From here on in, we'll have motel nights on both sides of the ferry before we ride into St. John's, a nice change from nearly three months of tenting it.

We saw Cape Breton's hills today, and some of its less attractive weather. The wind blew in our face and it misted all day, turning into legitimate rain just as we climbed 250m to the top of Kelly's Mountain. It was our first big climb in a long time, winding up over 7km. What goes up must come down, though, although in the rain and wind we couldn't exactly go full out.

We got into North Sydney completely drenched, so it was nice to be able to dry out in our room at the Clansman Motel just off the highway. We're close to the ferry, too, so we don't have too much work to do tomorrow before getting out the door. The ferry leaves at 7:30am, and we have to be there at least a full hour before, making for an early start. We will then have 17 hours to kill on our way to Argentia; normally the crossing is about 14 hours, but they will be working on one of the engines during the run, so it will make the trip longer. We will get in very late over on the Rock...

We can't believe we're on the ferry tomorrow. Only a few days to go.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Surf and Turf in Antigonish before the last few days in Cape Breton

We are getting very close.

So are two English men whom we met as we left PEI on the ferry to Pictou. They work in the Alps during the winter, and one night at the bar they talked about the upcoming summer. Neither wanted to work, so the idea came up to bike across Canada. Sound familiar? They will be taking the ferry to Port-aux-Basques in the next few days, while we take the one to Argentia Monday morning, so they've got a bit further to go. Moreover, they are biking back to Halifax once they're done, because that's where their flight leaves from to go back home. We will not be choosing that option...

The wind's been in our face for the last two weeks, and why would anything change on our way to Antigonish? Fortunately it was a relatively short day at 95km, and when we got into town, we were met by my cousin Andrew and his wife Laurell and brother-in-law Shane. They were picking us up to drive us out to Arisaig, where Laurell grew up and is now staying for most of the summer with my two cousins. Her family has a great location near the shores of the Northumberland Strait, but even better was their hospitality.

When they fetched us as we came into town, my cousin Andrew picked up 15 lobsters, steak, and sausage, and that evening we all gorged ourselves up at Laurell's parents Vince and Bobbi's home. Vince is a retired lobster fisherman, and on numerous occasions has cooked 100lbs of lobster at once, in a gigantic homemade cooking pot which he heats with a huge propane torch. The food was incredible, and we got in a bit of horshoes as well - Vince and his family host a horseshoe tournament every Labour Day weekend.

We couldn't eat all the steak, so it became this morning's breakfast before they drove us back out to Antigonish so that we could get on our way. We then had to plough through more headwinds and some rain as we headed onto Cape Breton Island.

Before crossing the causeway onto the Island, we were met by firemen from one of the local volunteer fire departments. Mike's mother Polly had told them a few days earlier that we would be coming through, and gotten them to help us out. Sure enough, Ian and Lou came out to meet us, escorting us across the narrow causeway with no shoulder. They even gave us some bottled water back at their station before we continued on. Thanks guys!

We pushed on for a 105km day to Whycocomagh over the hills and into the wind, leaving us a short day to our motel in North Sydney before we catch the ferry on Monday morning to Argentia. Countdown's getting close...


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