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.

11 comments:

Jay said...

Congratulations Keith!

It’s been a real pleasure reading this blog since the very first post. I found out about Moving Muscles 2008 in late April while searching for the latest news about Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (thanks Yahoo). I have this disease too and know first hand how difficult this ride must have been.

It sounds like you guys had a great time. From city to city, town to town, the support you received was quite awesome. Canada rocks!

Now that it’s over, give yourselves a pat on the back and take a good long rest. The trip is finished, the memories forged, and a boatload of money was raised in the quest for a cure. Thanks.

Jason
Seattle, WA

Anonymous said...

Now that it’s over perhaps it’s time for some retrospective observations, not only from the five riders but from some of us who followed them across the country by computer and only participated briefly. (and marginally)

One comment I heard, and with which I completely agree is that, if you have young boys, you couldn’t hope for better than that they turn out as these five. Having only met them during their two days in Paradise-in-Gaspesia I obviously don’t know Mike, Pat, Brian and Jon nearly as well as I do my “Wretched Nephew.” But even in this brief encounter I can only confirm and applaud this observation.

I was talking with my brother Michael this morning and we were musing over changing perspectives and changing identities. For the next while we will have to become accustomed to being “Keith’s father” and “Keith’s uncle” - which is not a bad way to be known.

Well done, all of you from...

Wicked Uncle.

Anonymous said...

Some men just dream about lofty deeds and the glory it might bring them. Those men that suffer the pain, tears and sacrifice of great accomplishment seek not recognition nor reward. Their true ambition is greater challenge and further test of their spirit. It is strength of character that separates the doers from the dreamers.

Moving Muscle Riders 2008, Keith, Brian, Jonathan, Mike and Pat you are 7500 kms ahead of us dreamers!

A ride executed with great elan, grace and humility!

GDaddy

Anonymous said...

I was in Tofino the weekend before you left, and have followed the trip ever since via the blog, photos and Keith's mom, who he describes so accurately. It is an emotional moment even for us armchair travelers to read about the final moments and realize it's done.

Congratulations to all of you! You have this forever. It has inspired many people in many ways.

It gives me one more chance to say:

Ne lâchez pas.

Ne lâchez jamais.

Best wishes on the rest of life's journey.

M

Anonymous said...

Holey Moley (once more time Michael) that was one emotional blog. I'm not your mother but I feel like a zany aunt after meeting y'all and writing about your story. And you described Judith to a "T" cause she's just one dame you don't say no to. I am proud that I got to be a part of your amazing adventure. Bravo.
Annie

Ray Jordan said...

Awesome feat fellas, good on you and congratulations!

Ray :-)
Melbourne Australia

Anonymous said...

Awesome final blog - I look forward to the t.v. documentary on your trek across Canada - congrats again and wishing you and the boys all the best for the future! Now, go and enjoy the rest of your summer - relax and kick back - you all deserve it!

Deb Foster
Calgary

Sooooooo very proud said...

to be related to one of you and meeting the other four. WHAT AN ACCOMPLISHMENT - one to be very,very proud of. Let us know what your next adventure will be!!! xxxx's to you all

Anonymous said...

Just checked the blog this morning ... and you made your goal of $150,000!!! Excellent! The positive effects of your ride continue, even after your tired legs have stopped pumping. All the best as you young men continue your life's journey this fall, wherever your rides may take you.
The Kennedys in Alliston

Anonymous said...

You guys are awesome...your families must be so very proud of all of you...it was super great seeing you, Keith, dont forget to stop by when you are back east again..hope to see you at Xmas time...have a great fall...The Allens and Rob and Derek too...

Anonymous said...

Our bookclub has just finished your book. Congratulations on a phenomenal journey - you are an incredible inspiration. I have a question. There was a comment about 10 speed bikes not being very popular in one particular area of your journey. I was most surprised that you were not using 18 or 21 speed bikes. Were some of you using 10 speed bikes for this cross country adventure? If you get this message you can email me at sw.smith@hotmsil. Thanks