Archive for June, 2007
Saturday, June 30th, 2007
I thought I was up early today, but Sandra and her roommates were awake and gone to work before I was ready to skate! We met up with a police and fire escort at Airport Road at 8:00 am where I was lead into the heart of London and up Richmond Road. With the police in front of me and the fire truck behind the RV, we were invincible! We breezed through every intersection with ease. It was obvious that the conditions were favourable for me because I was through the city, past Western University and out by Masonville Mall before 8 am! By the time 10 o’clock rolled around, I had already reached highway 7 and turned towards Kitchener.
Although highway 7 was busy, the road was long, straight and boring. Fortunately, the occasional drive-by donation helped to keep my spirits up. It’s great to see that even on the back country roads, people are still willing to offer whatever they can. I was just about to pull off the highway and head into the town of St. Mary’s when a vehicle pulled over to make a donation. And immediately in front of them, another SUV stopped to see me, as well. I love when people have to wait in line to donate! It makes me feel like I’m actually getting though to the masses. The gentleman who waited patiently to meet me and donate was apologetic for only having a few dollars in his pocket. I already told you this, Barry, if everyone gave me just a toonie, I’d already be at $300,000. So your donation exceeds my expectations. As we chatted a few minutes, it turned out that Barry was an advertising mogul in Brantford. I had mentioned to him about coming through Brantford yesterday and being disappointed that I wasn’t able to hook up with Walter Gretzky. “I know the Gretzky family. Let me make some calls,” Barry told me casually. It was a nice gesture, but I was trying not to get my hopes up. I hadn’t even finished my lunch less than an hour later when Barry called me to let me know that I was invited to meet Walter at the opening ceremony of the 1st annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament in Brantford tomorrow morning! I was more than willing to drive back to Brantford for this once in a life time opportunity.
I felt light on my skates for most of the remaining afternoon. There was a light breeze, but not much shoulder to skate on. Traffic was thickening as people were taking off from work early to take full advantage of Canada Day Weekend. A few of the drivers must have been a bit too anxious to get to cottage country and didn’t appreciate that I was on ‘their’ road. As we came through the quaint town of Startford, I noticed that cars had suddenly stopped passing me. Thinking this to be odd, I glanced over my shoulder to investigate the reasoning. There was the RV with my dad behind the wheel as always, but there was an OPP cruiser stopped beside him having a word. A moment later the police drove up to me and let me know about a few complaints that drivers had been making. I could hardly believe my ears! We had just been pulled over by the police for the first time in nearly 4000 kilometers! When the officer told me what people had been complaining about, I couldn’t help but laugh at the similarity between my situation and that of Jennifer Aniston in the movie Office Space. Apparently the RV didn’t have enough “flare” to make it distinguishable. People were upset that it was not marked clearly enough. I skated to the back of the motor home with a puzzled look on my face. Let me paint the picture for you. The back of the RV (for those of you who haven’t already seen the pictures) has ‘Skate For Hope – SeeTheEnd.com’ in big black letters at the top. And directly under that in bigger, blacker letters is the word ‘SLOW’. It’s not overly attractive, but it’s impossible to miss. And to make absolutely sure we won’t go unnoticed while driving, we have fastened red plastic ribbons all over the back of the RV. I stood there absorbing our masterpiece and counted 20 red ribbons! 20!! And people were still not happy?! ‘Well, if you want me to wear 47 pieces of flare, then make the minimum 47!’ But, I’m not one to argue (unless it’s with my parents or Crystal:)) so we pulled out Red Green’s cure-all, duct tape, and fastened a few additional ribbons on the back.
Satisfied with our newly improved artistic creation, we continued on through Shakespeare and towards Kitchener-Waterloo. I wasn’t far out of the big city when we hit our first major construction zone. I pause briefly trying to see if there was an alternative, but I was forced to hop in the RV for about 2 or 3 kilometers to get through the gravel. Normally, I would have been stubborn and walked carefully through it, but there was only one lane and no room for me along the edge. It was late in the day and I wasn’t happy about having to bypass this small stretch of road. Our patience was all running thin. My dad and I had a small tiff and I can’t even remember what it was about. But it just reinforced the fact that we’re all human. We all get frustrated and we all have bad days. But because I was raised in a loving environment, we were both able to apologize for being short and realize that we weren’t really mad at each other. We were just mad at the tough situation and put it all behind us quickly.
I started skating again when the road became 2 lanes once more. But the construction wasn’t done yet. you know when they grind the pavement to prep it for re-paving? Well, I was faced with ove 4 km of that type of surface. it was slow and painful. My entire body shook and was nearly numb by the time I was through it all. The only good thing that come of this struggle was the fact that the oncoming traffic was bumper to bumper so everyone couldn’t help but notice me. Hopefully it was great exposure. Although I’m sure some people just looked at me like I was nuts for subjecting my body to such punishing conditions.
As the construction zone ended, the road became enjoyable again. But the enjoyment was short-lived. Before I could realize what had happened, the road suddenly became a major freeway. I may have been doing 25 km/h, but the cars all around me were moving at 130 km/h! The situation had gone from painful to uncomfortable. I’m not sure which was worse. As quickly as I could I got to an exit that I knew would take me into Kitchener. I decided that I would stop here for the day at Fisher-Hallman Rd and Highway 7. I was pleased that I started the day East of London and had covered almost 110 km.
We drove through Kitchener into Waterloo where we were expected at the Boston Pizza on King St West. We were joined by my parents friends, Tina and Chris, who came up from Cambridge just to see us. Not having given the staff more than a days notice about coming to their store, I was exceedingly impressed with this Boston Pizza. Yesterday, Sean had stood on a chair and bellowed to the entire restaurant about who I was and what I was doing. Today in Waterloo, the management team kept things a bit more low key, but gathered donations for me in excees of $660! And what made it really special was the giant novelty check that was presented to me in front of the store (picture to come soon). To Brian and all the staff at Boston Pizza Waterloo…Thanks you for your help!
The serving staff at this Boston Pizza were some of the best people I’ve met. One server came up to me right away and started asking me logistical questions about how I prepared for my journey. She was very interested because she plans to run across Ontario for cancer research next summer. I hope I can offer her some helpful advice along the way.
Another server came up to me just before I was leaving and was so thankful to me for what I was doing. She confided in me about her personal experiences with cancer. It’s moments like this when I’m able to give hope to people who deserve it that make my entire trip worth the adversity. I may or may not raise $300,000, but to know that I’ve influenced so many peoples lives in a positive way is more emotional gratifying than any dollar amount.
We drove back through Waterloo and Kitchener until we finally got to Cambridge where Chris and Tina live. They were leaving early in the morning for a cottage, as well, but they offered a place for us to stay and we couldn’t turn them down. While the old folks chatted amongst themselves, I had a chance to meet Chris and Tina’s daughter, Courtney. It’s always nice to have a peer in the same age bracket so I don’t have to discuss hair loss or pension plans. Courtney had traveled through Australia as I had done a few years ago. So it was nice to see some of her pictures and rekindle memories of my own. I hope we keep in touch. You’re a fun girl, Courtney. You’ll have to come visit Crystal and I in Vancouver.
It turned out to be a later night than expected, but it was an amazingly eventful day. I’m pretty excited to meet Walter tomorrow. The only downside is that I have to get up extra early to make sure we get to Brantford in time.
Friday, June 29th, 2007
“Hey, I stayed in that hotel once! And I stayed in that one over there, too!”
The familiarity of the buildings in London was comforting, but it felt like I hadn’t been there in an eternity. When in actual fact I was just here not too long ago for DIV (some of my buddies may recall DIV). But the weird part about being here right now is that it was only this morning that I was still east of Brantford and the skating conditions were far from ideal.
I started the day well with a dual police escort through Brantford. The city wasn’t too busy, but being accompanied by an Officer or 2 is always reassuring. I paused briefly at mid town for an interview with the Brantford Expositor newspaper. The escort continued through the city and North over the 403 towards Paris. When the police finally left us and I had arrived in Brantford, I realized that my hopes to meet Walter had quickly faded. But no sense in dwelling. There are over 30 million other Canadians to focus my attention on. It would have been great to meet him, but I’m sure he’s a busy man.
After a quick stop at a gas bar in Paris, I was back on the road and heading for Woodstock. I had been asked by the Woodstock Sentinel newspaper to meet the reporter at the big cow on highway 2. There’s a lot of farm land in the area, so I wasn’t too sure if I’d be able to find the right big cow, but sure enough, there she was.
After another interview and a few quick photos, I’m sorry to say that the rest of the day unusually ordinary. I skated a lot, and then I skated some more. The road was straight and the wind was in my face as always.
I was supposed to be having a reception at the Boston Pizza on Wellington St in London. So when I knew I was getting close to the city, I started to push myself a bit harder. I finally took my blades of around 6:45pm but had to be at the restaurant for 7:00. But I was able to get us into the city limits all the way to airport road. I had done nearly 100 km today directly into the wind all day. But I’d made it. I was now in LLLLLLLondon!! (That long ‘L’ is for you, Jeff and Ryan).
While my dad drove us into Boston Pizza, I toweled of as much sweat as I could. I wasn’t too sure what to expect at the restaurant because we gave them very short notice that we were coming. But the managed to give us red carpet treatment when we arrived. They had a welcoming committee meet me in the parking lot where we snapped a few pictures before heading inside. I was also greeted by an old friend of mine, Sandra and her roommate Eileen, who live in London. We were settling into our seats when a loud voice came thundering from directly above my head.
“CAN I HAVE EVERYONE’S ATTENTION PLEASE!” the Manager, Sean bellowed. He proceeded to introduce me to the entire store and let everyone know what I was doing. It seems that every Boston Pizza has their own unique way of handling my reception, and this was no exception. This was definitely a first, and I think Sean has set new high standards for the rest of the Boston Pizza’s ahead of me. Everyone in the restaurant was genuinely interested and happy I was there. Many people ended up coming to meet me and make a donation. Thanks, Sean. Well done!
An interesting bit of History I just found out… Today was the day that Terry Fox passed away in 1981. And he was born on July 28, 1958. He shared the same birthday (except the year) as my girlfriend! you should feel special, Crystal!
After dinner, we drove back to Sandra’s place where we were able to park our RV, plug in the electricity and even indulge in a hot shower! I was great to see Sandra and meet her roommates. We haven’t seen each other in years, so it was nice to sit, relax and not think too much about rollerblading for a couple of hours. But that was short-lived. I had some planning to do for tomorrow. There is a Native Protest that we have been warned about by the Police department. So it’ll be an early morning so i can try to get through London before the protest begins.
Friday, June 29th, 2007
The anticipating of an early morning phone call from my dad to let me know when the van would be ready to go made for a miserable sleep last night. I looked over at the alarm clock and saw it tick past 8:00 am. Still no call. Looks like I’m going to have another unexpected day off in Welland. Finally, my dad called to let me know the van should be ready around 10:00 am. By the time we packed the groceries in and I was laced up, it was about 11:00 am. It wasn’t ideal conditions today, that’s for sure. I was about to head out into the hottest part of the day and the temperature was supposed to reach 42 degrees with the humidex. One of the hottest days of the year and I’m heading out to rollerblade 100 km. Good call, Rich.
I left my Uncle’s house and headed out of Welland down Creek Road towards Brantford. Even though I was trying to take it easy, sweat was pouring off of me from the heat and humidity. A few cars pulled over to congratulate me and make donations, but a couple of them stood out from the rest. A man on a Harley Davidson stopped in front of me and hopped off his hog. The bikers across the country have been exceptionally friendly and constantly give me the thumbs up as they fly by. But this was the first biker to stop and donate. Another ‘first’ came when a motor home passed me and stopped just up the road. Usually I’m at eye level or looking down at the drivers of the cars that stop to donate, but this time I had to look way up and stretch my arm high to take the donation from them.
As I worked my way through the back roads towards Brantford, I had another encounter with a pack of ferocious Canadian wildlife. Well, actually it was just 3 dogs, but they were coming at me just the same. The Alpha male lead the charge with the hair on his back standing straight up. The other 2 dogs crept around slowly forming a circle around me. I felt like I was in a movie in the scene when the good guy is completely unarmed and surrounded by bad guys. Then some guy from the side shouts at the good guy and tosses him a sword so he can fight his way through to victory. Well, my dad was that guy on the side. And with a mighty heave, he thrust my Excalibur into the air towards my waiting hands. I was now ready for battle. Fortunately, the dogs just came up and sniffed my legs before deciding I wasn’t worth the effort. And the broom I was now holding was just being used for comfort. If I so much as saw a glimmer in the dogs’ eyes that looked like they were ready to attack, I was ready to sweep them to death. I’m happy to say that I’m almost 4000 km into my journey and this is the first close call with dogs (not including the Doberman in Belleville that was wrestled to the ground by his master).
I knew the wind was strong today. It was really hindering my forward progress. But I had no idea just how powerful it was until I reached the intersection of highways 3 and 56. I could see a flashing light as I approached the crossroads and when I was close enough to see what was going on, I was amazed. A transport had tip over on it’s side. It didn’t look like anyone had been hurt, but I’m convinced the wind blew him over. I could be wrong, but it’s my story.
We finally arrived in Cayuga where we parked down by the river for dinner. Yes, I was in a van down by the river! (SNL, anyone?). Because of my late start and the deterring winds, I had decided that I would skate more after dinner. After all, the sun doesn’t go down until I say so! We were preparing dinner when a little old woman came up to the door to donate a few dollars. I knew she was impressed, because she returned 10 minutes later with another donation to match her original contribution. Shortly after leaving, she returned for a third time with yet another donation! And to top it all off, she caught us as we were pulling out of the parking lot nearly an hour later to make a final incredible donation! As touching as her gestures were, it was a hilarious scenario to have her come back to donate so many times in such a short span.
Just as I was about to skate away from the river and head towards Caledonia, I had my most meaningful contribution to date. A girl, no older than me, and her boyfriend stopped to ask me what I was doing. I quickly told them about my Skate for Hope. Even with big dark sunglasses on, I could see the emotion in Marion’s face. Her eyes filled with tears as she explained to me that a good friend of hers had just passed away 3 days ago. She was incredibly thankful to me for what I am doing and wanted nothing more than to help as much as possible. Although cancer hits everyone, young and old, it’s very emotional when I meet people in the same age bracket who have been affect so dramatically. I happily accepted Marion’s contribution and dedicate a mile to her friend, Cameron. If I could choose, I would dedicate the entire day’s skate to the memory of Cameron.
The winds had now died drastically and the temperature had dropped significantly. I was trying to make up for lost time as I skated up highway 54 toward Brantford. I was able to squeak in 85 kilometers by the time I had stopped for the day just outside Brantford. So we drove into the city where we plugged our electricity in at a local gas bar for the night. It turned out to be a great place because several men cam up and made donations over the course of the night. So now all I have to do is find a way to get in touch with Walter Gretzky to see if he’d be interested in meeting me. I knew a few people have been working on this for me, so hopefully something will pan out.
Thursday, June 28th, 2007
Just a quick note.
I’m a bit behind on journals and pictures. Things are really busy right now.
I’m in London and heading for Kitchener tomorrow (Friday June 29), and then though Guelph and Brampton on Saturday.
I’ll try to get caught up tomorrow night.
Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
Knowing today was going to be a day off helped me sleep a little better last night. I’m sure the air conditioned room helped, too. I spent a bit of time in the morning trying to respond to e-mails, messages and work on my journal. I’m only a day behind now! But the site still has a lot of updates that need to be done.
My concentration was interrupted by the phone on the desk. It was Uncle Ron and he was ready to go! It was about 10:30 and I was scheduled to be at Boston Pizza in Welland from 11-1. On our way back to pick up my parents, we made a quick stop at Chippawa Park were I was introduced to Frank. Frank is an incredible athlete who is constantly competing in insanely long runs and marathons. He was telling me that he often participates in races up to 160 kilometers long! I couldn’t imagine. the longest I’ve gone so far is 130 km…. and that was with blades strapped to my feet.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect at the Boston Pizza today. After all, the only people I know in Welland are my Aunt and Uncle. But it wasn’t long after we sat down that a familiar voice came from behind me.
“Are you Rich Ralph, the famous rollerblader?” she asked.
I turned to see a face that I didn’t reconize. But that voice… I knew that voice. The woman standing in front of me smiling was not someone I’d met before, but I do know her family. This was the older sister of Wilma Hopkin who is my neighbor at my cottage (you may remember her from previous journal entries). Wilma had called her sister up to let her know I was in the area and she was able to track me down to the Boston Pizza today! It was a great surprise to meet her.
My meal was interrupted again by a phone call from another radio station asking for an interview. But these are the interruptions that I’m happy to have. Just as I was finishing up on the phone a man walked up to me and introduced himself as John Maloney. He is the Member of Parliament for Welland. I was honoured that he would take time out of his schedule to stop by Boston Pizza to meet me.
Trevor from Boston Pizza was pleased to let me know that he would be donating 10 % of the sales to my cause while I was there. And as an added bonus, Trever generously double the amount when he wrote the check! I can’t emphasize enough how amazing all Boston Pizza’s have been to me. Thanks, Trevor!
We had a few quick erands to run before heading over to Zehrs to pick up some groceries. I walked into the bank and handed the teller my card so she could call up my account. “Hey, you’re the rollerblader!” she said to me happily. She had read the article in the paper today and recognize my name when she called up my account.
We headed over to CAA to grab a few maps of Southern and Northern Ontario. When we walked in, the woman behind the counter was thumbing though a newspaper. She glanced up at us, then looked back at the paper. She looked up at us again, but this time more inquisitively. An then back at the paper. The double-take was priceless. She came over to us and simply said, “You’re Richard, aren’t you?”. My Uncle Ron has been instrumental at getting me enough media coverage and donations from Welland that people are beginning to recognize me. It’s a weird feeling.
Zehrs was in important stop for us. The store was donating an entire grocery cart full of food to me, as well as 10 cases of water! The Welland Tribune even showed up for another quick photo and a few more questions while I was picking groceries off the shelves. Thanks, Zehrs! I’ll be plenty hydrated in this ridiculous heat wave we’re in!
My mom and I decided we’d drive down to Niagara Falls to be tourist for the afternoon. We walked along the river in awe of the incredible power and speed of the flowing water. I got a bit trigger-happy with the camera, so I have a lot of work ahead of me to pick and choose the best photos. We went up to the new casino to check it out and see the view of the Falls from higher above. Just as we were walking into the casino, the cell phone rang. Suddenly my day took an ugly spiral downwards. It was my Dad. He needed to let me know that carborator in the RV had been cracked while it was being worked on at the mechanics, so it wouldn’t be ready for me tomorrow morning. And that’s all the details I got. I’m not a car guy, so I had no idea what this implied. I didn’t know how bad it was crack, if it could be repaired, or if it had to be replaced. My head was spinning. It’s just one thing after another. But it was completely out of my control, so I tried my best to shrug it off and headed in to play some slots.
A good friend of my Uncle runs a sports bar called C.C’s Dugout in Welland. Domenic Aiello was gracious enough to collect donations from his patrons and even treat us to a fantastic pasta dinner. During supper, my Dad and I discussed the implications of the RV’s mechanical troubles. We were both feeling pretty down until I had a brainwave. The biggest headache was not the fact that the RV was having problems. It was the fact that it was making it hard for us to plan ahead to other cities. I was trying to find a way to get us to Brampton for the weekend, but now it wasn’t looking to good. However, I just realized that this would be Canada Day Weekend. So that gives us the Holiday Monday as a small buffer. So if they can get the RV fixed late tomorrow, then things should be ok. I will be updating my estimated arrival times soon.
My parents and I were joined at C.C’s Dugout by my cousin, my uncle, and a couple of his friends, Murray and Janice Mulligan who made a wonderful contribution, as well. When we all left the restaurant, Jeff and I decided to head back over to M.T Bellies for a couple late night beverages. It was a mentally tough day trying not to be discouraged by the bad news about the motor home, so I thought it would be nice to unwind a bit. It was also nice to chat with my cousin since I don’t get to see him very often.
Jeff dropped me off at the Best Western where I am now. Hopefully I’ll sleep well. The plan is for my dad to call me at 8 am if the RV is ready to go. Otherwise I told him not to wake me up. I’m hoping I get the early morning call.
Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
I didn’t start my day off with my regular routine this morning. Although having my own room at the Best Western was great, I was a bit disoriented when I got out of bed. I’m so used to getting up, checking e-mails, having some food and hitting the road. But today I got up, had a shower (huge bonus!), was picked up by my Uncle who then drove me to Valley Way Elementary School in Niagara Falls. My cousin, Jeff teaches there and he told me they were having their year-end assembly today. So it was a perfect opportunity for me to visit the school and have the attention of everyone in the building. I was a last-minute addition to the agenda, so I could do my regular talk. Instead, Jeff showed the school the video clip from the Toronto Sun on the projector. He then called me up and presented me with a donation of money raised by the parent-teacher council. We then opened the floor up for questions. Staring out at the kids looking back at me, I could easily see a distinct line in the crowd where the primary and intermediate groups were divided. It was easy to tell because as soon as Jeff ask if anyone had questions, all the hands that shot into the air were on the primary side of the gymnasium. It’s funny how the older kids get, the more inhibited and self-conscious they become. Or maybe they had questions but Jeff was just showing favortism for his class. Who knows.
By 10:00 am I was back at Vineland where I met up with my parents and Aunt Lynda. I felt confident that I was well ahead of schedule so I decided today’s route would take us through St. Catherines, Niagara Falls, and end in Welland. Previously we thought we would be going straight to Welland. It was an honour to be accompanied by my Aunt on her bicycle today. She is a breast cancer survivor and now competes in triathlons around the world for team Canada.
To make things easier on us, the Police had sent another officer out to escort us to Niagara Falls. All was going great through St. Catherines and we were now approaching Niagara Falls when I heard the roar of an engine come screaming up beside me. I knew we were holding up traffic a bit, but having a Police escort usually calms people down. Especially when they see the big RV with “Skate For Hope” in black letters on the back. Well, this guy decided he’d try to make a quick pass and be on his way. Wrong. He came barreling up the road across the double solid lines before he was forced back over behind our Police escort due to on-coming traffic. And instead of waiting patiently for another clearing, he thought it would be best to tailgate the officer to emphasize his urgency to get past. You can imagine this didn’t sit well with the Constable. The next thing I knew, the door of the police car swung open as the Officer took a couple steps toward the impatient driver and gestured towards him. But the cop got back in his car and the tailgater took this as a sign to pass. So he threw his foot to the floor and sped past the cruiser. Wrong again. This time the officer flipped the sirens on and hurried after the car. The driver pulled over on the shoulder and came to a stop. ‘”This guys gonna get a big fine now,” I thought as I laughed into the walkie talkie back to my dad. But to all our amazement, the cop didn’t stop. This was even more humiliating for the driver. He was being sent back to the end of the line! It was priceless as I skated past the man and my Aunt gave him a polite wave. I understand that I slow traffic down, but seriously, you’ll have opportunities to pass. Please just show some patience with me. I’m not doing this to piss anyone off. I’m trying to help improve the lives of everyone.
The line of cars behind us continued to grow, but it was by no means out of control. Yet another driver decided the pace was just too slow for her liking. I heard her engine rev as she tore down the left side of the road past us and the police. I don’t think she saw the cop until it was too late. It was obvious the officer wanted to pull her over, too. He crept up on her, but quickly backed off. I think he decided that her pass was much safer than the previous man’s attempt. He later told me that this woman hauled past us doing 104 km/h in an 80 zone. But he gave her a grace.
We arrived at Oaks Park in Niagara Falls where we stopped for lunch and were met by a reporter from the Niagara Falls Review. The actual waterfalls were only a few kilometers from here, so it was a good resting point. I didn’t take my usual afternoon nap since I knew Welland was only about 20 km from here. So after my interview and a quick bite to eat, Aunt Lynda and I headed down Clifton Hill to the Falls. Up until now, we’ve been hitting all the major tourist attractions before tourist season actually started. But summer is now in full swing so we had to battle our way through the busy area. It wasn’t too bad, though. Traffic moved steadily and we didn’t slow anyone down. We found a place to pull over for a few minutes so my mom could snap a few pictures of me in front of the Falls. But there was no time to dilly-dally (is that even a word?). I continued blading along the Parkway which wound its way along the river until finally branching off to the West towards Welland. It was along this final stretch to Welland that I crossed paths with a remarkable woman.
She was the type of person I wish we could all be. I’m am extremely envious of her. She has never been affected by cancer. She has never known someone with cancer. In fact, she has never even heard of cancer. To live a life never knowing the fears of cancer would be incredible. How do I know all this about this young woman? It’s quite simple. On the way from Niagara Falls to Welland, I was rollerblading down Lyons Creek Road when this woman came driving up beside me from behind the RV. There was nothing out of the norm except that she gave a long angry blow of the car horn while holding her hand out the window towards me with her middle finger extended upright. The way I see it, for someone to be so upset with me, she must be unbelievably fortunate to not understand that 1 in 3 Canadians will have cancer at some point in their life. I wish I could live like her and not care about something like that. To make the situation even more humourous, the car immediately behind her was also blowing his horn. However, he was beeping short and encouragingly as he passed me saluting me with the traditional ‘thumbs up’.
Upon reaching the Welland city limits, Aunt Lynda and I were met by another Police escort. This Officer definitely enjoyed himself as we rolled through town. I could almost see his excited grin as he would block every intersection we approached with lights flashing and sirens blaring. What cop wouldn’t love that! He took us through town where I made a quick stop at D’Angelo Printing Company to thank them for the amazing job they did printing out my poster for my Uncle to plaster around the city. Less than a kilometer later, I was at Ron and Lynda’s front door and ready to stop for the day.
I had a bit of time to run back to the Best Western for a shower before heading over to M.T. Bellies restaurant for dinner. John Clark (owner), was very please to offer his establishment for another small reception for me. The food was great, the staff was excellent, and the magician was mind-boggling. Ron was just about ready to jump across the table and beat this poor kid because he was getting frustrated by the impressive magic tricks. After my delicious fajita dinner, I headed back to the hotel to relax and it wasn’t long before I was out like a light.
Monday, June 25th, 2007
It was great to see my friends and family, but I was ready to get back on the road today. We left my sister’s place and headed to Lakeshore where I left off a couple days before. I was only planning to go as far as Grimsby today, so I didn’t need to get started until after 9:00am. The road was smooth and the breeze was light. Nothing like a nice Sunday morning skate.
My dad had me pull over for a radio interview as I was coming into Oakville. It was a good opportunity to take a quick break, too. As I was wrapping up on the radio, a red car came up beside the RV and pulled over in front of us. Two women got out of the car and walked back towards us. “Rich? I’ve been following you since February!” a voice said. Noreen had heard about me even before I started the Skate For Hope. She had tracked my progress via my journal all the way until now. She had read that I was heading down Lakeshore today and decided to come down and find me. I’m glad she did. They offered me a donation and then presented me with the most unique gift I’ve received. Noreen’s husband had painted a picture of me on my blades. But the unique part was that the painting was done on an old LP record! I think my mom liked the painting as much as I did. I think she’s jealous that I’ll be keeping it in Vancouver when I get home. I know she’d love one to hang at the cottage. I’m glad Noreen tracked me down. I love meeting the people who follow me on the website. It was nice to put a face to the name.
The great skating conditions continued through Oakville and Burlington. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the area, but I’ve always liked this part of Ontario. When I was a McMaster Student, I used to enjoying coming through Burlington. I followed along the water, crossed under the Skyway and over to the beaches near East Hamilton. Just before stopping at Hutches for lunch, another voice came from behind me.
“Those are quite the blades,” he said as he approached me on his bike.
I got chatting with Matt for a few minutes and was telling him about what I was doing. He was extremely interested and started telling me about his plans to bicycle across Canada for cancer research. Mat was very encouraging and really hope to hear from him again. Matt, let me know if you do end up biking across. You’ve got a place to stay in Vancouver.
I had my afternoon lunch and nap and tried to escape from the searing heat from the sun above. The summer was in full force today. But the heat wouldn’t stop my Aunt from racing. Lynda had been in a triathlon in Guelph before her and my Uncle Ron met up with us at the beaches. I headed off towards Niagara Falls along the North Service Road parallel to the QEW. I hadn’t gone very far when a little black car coming in the opposite direction pulled over. I knew right away that this guy had no intention on making a donation. He had a weird smirk on his face as if he knew who I was. And in fact he did. It was my cousin, Jeff! He’d driven down from St. Catherines to cycle with me for the rest of the day. He also brought his girlfriend, too. She seemed like a really nice girl, so I’m a bit confused how he’s convinced her to be with him. Just kidding, Jeff.
I continued skating with Jeff cycling beside me until reaching the town of Vineland. I was only a few kilometers from St. Catherines now. We decided to stop here for the day since I had to be back at the Boston Pizza in Grimsby for a reception. I just had enough time to drive into Jeff’s place for a quick shower and head back to the restaurant.
This reception was better than expected. Even though I don’t know anyone in Grimsby, the familiar faces started rolling through the doors. Leading the charge was Ian, Danielle and baby Evan. It was my first glimpse of Ian’s baby boy, and I’m happy to say he looks more like Danielle! Bruce and Barb Darnley showed up to say Hi and have some food. I had stayed with Bruce and Barb’s daughter, Trish, when I was in Halifax. Carrie, and old friend from McMaster, and fiancee Tom made an appearance. And of course the family was there. My dad made his typical rounds through the restaurant letting people know I was there when he came across a woman and her husband who mentioned they had already see me before. Coincidently, this couple had been in Kingston the day I had rolled through. They had seen me being interviewed by CKWS in front of City Hall. And now it was another coincidence that they were here at the Boston Pizza today! You never know when your paths will cross again. It’s a small world.
It was nice being able to hand people a business card so they’ll remember the website and they can check it out when they have a chance. Thanks again to ehGRPHX for to donated cards.
We drove back to Welland where my Aunt and Uncle live so that we could indulge in some more luxuries. My parents got the short end of the stick, though. The Best Western Rose City Suites has donated a room for me for the next 2 nights! But my folks don’t have it too bad. They’ll be staying at Ron and Lynda’s.
I’ll be skating in the Niagara area for the next couple days and then I’ll head toward Brantford and London. So if anyone knows Walter Gretzky or how to get in touch with him, please let me know. I know Walter raises money for Lung Cancer ever since Phylis passed away, and I think it would be amazing to meet him. I should be in Brantford late on Wednesday. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the comfort of my own room at the hotel!
Sunday, June 24th, 2007
Everyone has been telling me I need to write a book when I’m all done this crazy adventure. I’m not too sure what I’d call it, though. Any suggestions?
Well, unfortunately today’s entry isn’t very book-worthy. It was my day off so I spent all day with my baby niece and also catching up on website stuff and e-mails.
In the late afternoon, my buddy, Jeff, and girlfriend, Laura, came over and picked me up to take me to the Beaches. The plan was to meet up with a bunch of friends before heading back to Eugene’s house for a barbecue. I know it was a beautiful summer afternoon, but the number of cars in the parking lot by the beach was mind-boggling. You’re probably thinking “There’s only X number of parking spots, so it can only be that busy”. But that wasn’t the case. There were cars up on curbs, at the ends of each lane, on the grass, and even in the trailer parking. If you were lucky enough to see someone walking towards their car, you’d be in a race with 40 other cars trying to follow them. We circled around for the better part of 45 minutes before finally scoring a space. Once we got to the beach, it was nice to kick back and play a bit of volleyball in the sand (I had to be careful not to roll my ankles). We all headed back to Eugene’s place for some food and beverages as the evening approached. We mingled and reminisced about times gone by. Eugene and Amanda provided a great spread of food and were fantastic hosts.
It was an entertaining evening to say the least. It was great to be back with my peers in a more typical summer setting. As much as I’m enjoying my journey, it’s always nice to sample a taste of regularity. That being said, I’m looking forward to hitting the road tomorrow and heading towards Niagara.
Saturday, June 23rd, 2007
Check out the Toronto Sun today. There’s a video of the Skate For Hope on their website HERE
Knowing that Princess Margaret Hospital is only about 35 km from Frank’s front door gave me the chance to sleep in until 7:30 today! In order to arrive at the hospital around noon, I didn’t have to leave Scarborough until 9 am. And to help ensure we reached our destination safely and on time, the Toronto Police sent an escort to take us all the way in! The officer lead me down Lawrence Ave to Kingston Road with lights flashing the whole time. This entire trip, the only real protection I have is a helmet and wrist guard. But having a police cruiser in front of me and the RV behind gives me an unusual, almost scary sense of power. With vehicles flying past me on the left and right, you’d think I’d feel vulnerable or intimidated, but it’s actually quite opposite. Maybe I’m foolish, careless or silly. Or maybe I’m just relying on the fact that most people are respectful and courteous drivers.
As I worked my way towards Toronto, my dad let me know that a reporter from the Toronto Sun would be coming out to meet me and shoot some video clips. Even though I had been warned and was expecting him, when Jack finally showed up he still caught me off guard. I’ve talked to and met a lot of reporters since beginning my skate in early May, but this one tops them all. He would drive up beside me and try to match my speed while snapping pictures out of the window. He’d then speed off ahead and setup to get some more shots as I skated past. He would do the same thing with a video camera to get some clips for the website. Jack would pop up in different places all the way into the city until we finally arrived at Princess Margaret Hospital. I felt like I was playing a real-life game of Wack-A-Mole. I never knew where jack would pop up next!
Just before coming into the downtown core, I was met at Woodbine Ave by Angelo Jorge. I don’t know Angelo and I’ve never met him, but he heard about me and my journey on Facebook. He had sent me many messages and let me know that he wanted to skate with me through Toronto! I let him know where I’d be and when, and sure enough he was there waiting for me with a big smile on his face. So away we went towards Lakeshore which we would be taking all the way into the city. the gentle downhill slope towards the lake made this stretch of road effortless. At least, it was effortless for me. I don’t think poor Angelo felt the same about the hill that I did. The police cruiser in front of me was slowing for a red light, so I naturally dragged my foot and coasted to a graceful stop. Not to be outdone, I saw Angelo out of the corner of my eye snaking side to side towards the cruiser before peeling off and jumping onto the sidewalk, rolling over a strip of grass and executing a perfect triple sow-cow landing elegantly on his elbow and butt! he made Codie’s little wipe out in Lansdowne look like a rookie. Although Codie is 12 years younger. But just like Codie, Angelo bounced back up with a grin and was ready to continue on. It was obviously just jitters, because we made it all the way to Princess Margaret without a hitch. Don’t worry, Angelo, I fell on my first day, Codie fell on his day, and now the torch has been passed to you. I have a few other friends who intend to come out and skate with me over the next few weeks. I’m curious to see what tricks they have up their sleeves that will out-do those before them.
Angelo and I faced some rough, pitted surfaces on Lakeshore as we skated beneath the Gardiner Expressway. But we made our way through the city, past the Royal York Hotel and came to rest on University Ave at Princess Margaret Hospital. We definitely turned some heads as we worked our way through the Toronto traffic with a police still in front. My direct contact at Princess Margaret has been Heidi Neuman. It was great to finally meet her, and a few other wonderful women from the foundation including Heidi’s boss, Wendy. They eagerly waited for me and greeted me enthusiastically as I rolled up right in front of the main entrance. And just as he’d been doing all along, Jack popped into the frame again snapping more photos and video. We all gathered and mingled for several minutes before the guest of honour arrived in fashion.
The man responsible for my entire inspiration and motivation has been Adam. He is the epitome of a fighter and survivor. He is positive, optimistic, and a true friend. And after nearly 3,500 km of rollerblading, I was finally face-to-face with him again. Although he had to drive down from Markham to see me, he wouldn’t have missed my arrival for the world. He jumped out of his car and locked me in a bear hug practically lifting me over his head. I’ve missed the traditional ‘Reid-style bear hug’. It was an emotionally satisfying moment to see Adam.
Our group grew a bit more when our friend, Ben, appeared from a nearby office building. We all headed around the corner and grabbing some lunch. I twas a nice chance to catch up with everyone and take longer than normal afternoon break. But before too long, everyone had to get back to work, including me.
I laced up my blades with Angelo hot on my heals. The Police escort was back and ready to take us through the city towards Mississauga. But being a Friday afternoon, there were 3 million other people with the same idea. Everyone wanted out of Toronto at the same time. It took nearly 45 minutes to get from Princess Margaret Hospital down to Lakeshore Blvd. If there’s one thing I don’t miss about Toronto, it’s the traffic. We sat (or stood) amongst the cars waiting patiently to get out of the town. I heard a disturbance behind me. I looked back to see a cab driver yelling at my parents. What I didn’t realize was that the cabbie had cut them off and nearly taken me out in the process. And then he had the audacity to yell at my mom as if she was in the wrong! I rolled back a few feet to interject and calmly looked the cabbie in the eyes and said “I’m sorry if we offended you. I’m just trying to raise money for cancer research. I hope you never get it.” And with a nasty flick of the wrist, the cab turned the corner in drove off in disgust. Again, I have to say, I’m still impressed that there have been very few of these types of incidences. I really expected more people to be angry with me being in the middle of the streets. So just to have one angry cabbie in a city of over 3 million people is pretty good!
Just before reaching Lakeshore, Angelo finished his skate with me at Union Station. I thanked him for his generosity and his participation and he said he’d try to meet up with us later tonight at Boston Pizza in Vaughn. Now that I was finally on Lakeshore, the traffic started to move a bit better. The winds were much stronger along the waterfront, and I had to work hard to keep up to the police escort, but it felt amazing when we pulled over in Mississauga and stopped for the day. It was still early (3:30 pm), but I knew I wasn’t too far from Hamilton and I wanted to optimize my free time in Toronto so I could see friends and most importantly my baby niece and sister in Maple.
I marked my place at Hurontario St on Lakeshore and we drove back through Brampton into Maple. And in case you weren’t paying attention before, I really don’t miss the traffic in this city. It still amazes me how many cars there are on the roads here and how much of a hurry everyone is to get where their’ going. Doesn’t everyone realize that I have places to get to? Everyone needs to get out of my way! But I guess that’s what everyone says.
The Boston Pizza near Vaughn Mills Mall was happy to host a simple reception for me where a lot of friends and family made appearances. Adam and his brothers, Crytal’s Dad and family, Jeff and Laura, Eugene and Amanda, and even Angelo and his mom. They were all there. My dad made his rounds through the restaurant chatting with patrons and handing out my newly acquired business cards (thank you Eugene and ehGRPHX). It was another low-key evening, but several donations made it very worthwhile. Even Mark, a server at the restaurant, donated all of his tips to the donation box I had setup. Thanks again to everyone. I’m looking forward to my day off tomorrow and Eugene’s house-warming party. It’ll be nice to relax with some old friends who I only see once or twice a year.
And for everyone else, I’ll be starting again on Sunday at Hurontario and Lakeshore where I’ll be making my way through Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton and likely finishing near Grimsby. Be sure to honk and wave if you see me on the road!
NEW PHOTOS ARE UP
Saturday, June 23rd, 2007
I left Grafton and headed into the morning breeze down highway 2 towards Cobourg. I could tell the wind would be problematic (what’s new), but a little voice in the back of my head was telling me to push hard and I might make Scarborough by the end of the day. The road wasn’t too bad, so it helped me make better time than yesterday. Before I knew it, I’d made it through Cobourg and Port Hope. It felt good to be in familiar territory. I’ve made the drive from Kingston to Toronto a million times, so there’s a lot of landmarks that help me judge my distance. One of these landmarks is Newtonville road. Although there’s not much in Newtonville, a friend of mine used to live there. I paused for a quick picture when I rolled by her old house so I could send her an e-mail to see if she recognized where I was. She lived in that house a long time, so even though there’s a few changes to its appearance, I think she’ll like to see that I skated right past.
Leading into the Greater Toronto Area, part of me was prepared to meet people who just weren’t interested in what I was doing. I expected that some people would be down right rude. But another part of me has gotten so used to the generosity of the Canadian people that I was starting to think everyone supported what I was doing. Time for a reality check. We pulled into a plaza for lunch and my dad ran into the store to ask if we could plug into their electricity for an hour. No big deal. We’ve done this every day for the last 2 months and never had an issue. Today was different. We were in Newcastle and the first place we asked was a small video store towards the east end of town. The owner simply looked at my dad as if he’d just asked the man for a new kidney. “Are you kidding me? No one will let you plug into electricity!” the owner of the store snapped as if he thought we were crazy for even suggesting such a preposterous idea.
“That’s weird. People have been letting us do it every single day for the last 2 months from Newfoundland to here.” My dad said calmly.
The whole situation wasn’t a big deal at all, but it really caught us off guard. I was pretty surprised that someone was so unwillingly to be supportive. No worries, though. Every other person in the country is more than happy to help us.
After lunch, the wind started picking up even more so. It was a different wind this time. It was more gusty. But sometime the gusts can be more frustrating than a steady wind. I’ll fell like I’m making good time and picking up speed, and then WHAM. It’s like I just rolled through a patch of glue. My speed drops to a crawl and I have to fight to get my momentum going again. It definitely take a lot more energy to wrestle the gusting, swirling winds.
Fortunately I was now coming into Oshawa, a.k.a. The Shwaa. Here were were met by a big fire engine that would be taking us through the city. And as if the big bright red fire truck wasn’t enough to draw attention, rush hour was just starting. As I proceeded through the city and into Whitby, the oncoming traffic was getting thicker and thicker. They couldn’t help but see me coming towards them. As I rolled through Ajax and into Pickering, I could feel the stares from people stuck in their cars. I couldn’t tell if they were envious or interested to see me traveling 10 times faster than them on my skates. But the honks, waves and occasional donation kept me pushing my way through the winds. I surprised myself a little when i arrived at Frank and Sharron’s house on the edge of Scarborough. Frank is my sister’s father in-law. I was nice to be there so we could relax and enjoy the company of other people. As much as I love my parents, it’s always nice to converse with other people sometimes.
I still had to make time to work on my journals and website. The e-mails are starting to come in more regularly, so I’m constantly trying to respond to people’s questions. Hopefully everyone realizes just how much work I have to do at the end of the day and will be patient if I don’t reply to you right away. When I was working through my e-mails, I got some more amazing news from the Kingston Boston Pizza. Corrina has done it again! I don’t completely understand her fascination with me and my quest, but she has taken it upon herself to organize a Blade-A-Thon in Kingston at the Power PLya Center on Gardiners Road! She has full support from Boston Pizza, GoodLife Fitness, Power Play Center and local Fire Fighters. They have a DJ who will be donating his time and there will be a barbecue fired up, too. I don’t have complete details, but there will be prizes, food, music and of course rollerblading! And the best part is that the proceeds will be going to The Skate For Hope. The date is set for July 12. You can call the Power Play center, or maybe even Boston Pizza for more details. I’m pretty excited about this! I wish I could have been there for the event.
My final thought for the day (no this isn’t like Jerry Springer’s final thought) came to me when we were settling the RV into place to rest for the night in front of Frank’s house. I know I talk about the mechanical issue with the van, but it’s to be expected. It is a 1978! But it is a decent machine. It’s taken us from Toronto and back at 20 km/hr. All it’s asked from us is just a little TLC. Realistically, I wouldn’t be making this trip across Canada if it weren’t for the motor home. Although I did try to get a new vehicle from various RV rental and manufacturers, they all gave me the same response. “Sure, we can do that! But you have to give us 2 years notice.” Two years!?! I’ll be entering my mid-life crisis in 2 year! I couldn’t possibly make an attempt like this when I’m that old! So I was very lucky when CSV Transport in Bolton, Ontario stepped up and made it possible for my dream to materialize into reality. Thanks Paul, Sylvia and everyone at CSV! I guarantee I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you guys.