Archive for June, 2007
Thursday, June 21st, 2007
Kelly, Zack, Slater, Screech, Jessie and Lisa. The whole gang was there as I bladed past Bayside High! Ok, well maybe not. But I couldn’t help but remember the days of Saved by The Bell when I saw Bayside High school just outside of Belleville.
My day started off well in Napanee with a live interview on Joe FM. If you were listening while I was on the air, you may have heard some giggling girls in the background. Joan and Jose’s granddaughters came bouncing down the stairs while I was talking to Buzz on the radio. But the interview went well. Shortly after that, I was met by 2 reporters from the Napanee Guide and the Napanee Beaver newspapers. They walked me through some standard questions and snapped a few pictures before I started on my way.
It didn’t take me long to realize that today would not be an easy skate. Although the sun was shining and the temperature was comfortable, the wind was strong and in my face. Because of my slow speed, I had plenty of time to think, ponder and analyze the meaning of life. But All I could come up with was the fact that it was damn windy. In fact, I’d rate today as one of the top 5 windiest days since starting on May 5th. There was no sense in dwelling on my slow progress. All I could do was keep my legs moving and cover as much ground as I could. I knew there would be days like this, so I just had to stay positive.
Just East of Belleville, we were met by an officer who helped guide us through the city. The flashing lights really help to drawn attention to me. As we saT at a red light waiting to proceed, a woman came tearing out of a nearby office building. “I saw you on TV!” she exclaimed excitedly. She planted a big hug on me and handed me a donation. A few other people stopped to donate, too. Some cars pulled over and one woman even tried the patented ‘out-the-window hand-off’ move without hardly slowing down! And once we made it through Belleville, the officer who escorted us offered a donation of his own. I’d only covered about 40 kilometers at this point, but it seemed like a good place to break for lunch.
While I was being escorted through Trenton and Brighton, I had the opportunity to finally look around and enjoy the surroundings. I’m usually watching the road and traffic. But the escorts gave me time to absorb what was around me. And then it dawned on me. I grew up in Kingston and I’ve driven by these places a million times. But I really haven’t been through the downtown areas of these cities. It’s weird how you take for granted the things that are close to you. It’ll be very interesting to take highway 2 all the way to Toronto. I always take the 401.
Just before reaching the West side of Trenton, I bladed past a man walking his dog. I could help but notice the dog was a Doberman. My favorite. They rank right up there with rattle snakes and black widows! The dog glared at me as if to say “Why are you in my city, Boy?” I tried to quietly skate past and be on my way, but the Doberman must not have like my stride. I heard a growl as I glanced over my shoulder to see the owner wrestling the dog to the ground. That animal wanted a taste of me, and the owner was doing everything in his power to hold the dog back. He was now lying on top of the dog, but the dig was squirming loose. I don’t think I’ve eve been more motivate to move my legs any faster. I didn’t look back a second time. I poured on the juice and got as far away as possible.
After a quick dinner just outside Brighton, I decided I had to strap on the blades for some additional evening skating. The wind had set me back a bit, so I needed to make up some time. The road didn’t improve and the wind didn’t let up. So when I finally reached Lyle Rd, 10 km East of Cobourg, I’d had enough. I managed to finish 95 km today, though. And the highlight was right near the end when a little girl came rolling down her driveway on a Big-Wheel and asked where I was going. “Vancouver,” I answered.
“You’re like Terry Fox!” She squealed with excitement. She gave another loud cheer as I continued skating. I don’t think I can be compared to someone like Terry Fox. But hopefully I’ll be able to help raise some money for research.
Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
As I laid in my bunk, I realized I hadn’t slept in the RV in quite a few days. It’s been different having a real bed to crash in for the last while. And now that I was back on the road, I had to get used to the lack of elbow room again. But something wasn’t right tonight. This isn’t how I thought I’d feel when I arrived in Trenton. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t in Trenton. Heck, I wasn’t even in Belleville!
I woke up around 8 am so that we could go pick up the RV at 9 am. I was hoping we could have ad it ready earlier, but a 10:00 start wouldn’t be too bad. But when 10:00 rolled around and the RV still wasn’t ready, I was starting to get concerned. It wasn’t just ‘not ready’. It actually wouldn’t start at all! The mechanics were stumped. We had been driving it yesterday, and now there were new batteries and a few other new parts, and yet it just wouldn’t go. I was getting frustrated and anxious. While my dad and I were pacing back and forth hoping for good news, a man came up and started talking to us. This guy seemed to know all about me. It turned out that his name was Marvin, a.k.a, ‘The Highway Prisoner’. Marvin is a truck driver who is good friends with Butch (Crystal’s step-dad). He’s pretty convinced that he’ll cross our path again when we’re heading through Northern Ontario. That would be pretty neat to see him again, but I don’t know if I can make it up there as quick as he thinks I will.
By the time it was 11:00 am, I couldn’t bare it any longer. I had to leave. My dad decided to wait at the mechanics to see if they could get the van running. I headed home so I wasn’t wasting so much time. I should have been half way to Trenton, but instead I was heading to the house to work on my journals (which, by the way, I’m almost caught up on!). My mom and I also took the unexpected extra time in Kingston to fire off some errands. We ran to the bank, picked up some more supplies and even stopped by my old high school, Frontenac Secondary.
I was now almost 3:00 pm and I had come to terms with the fact that I had lost another full day of skating. I was a bit disappointed since I know I will likely lose more time in and around Toronto. But I was more concerned with the fact that the RV still wouldn’t start. Talk about irony. We drive the old beast all the way to Newfoundland and it breaks down just outside of St. John’s where I was starting the Skate For Hope. And now that we’ve made it all the way to my home town of Kingston, the RV is having issues again. I can only imagine what will happen what is in store for my arrival in Vancouver.
And then the phone call came. It was 3:36 pm and the RV had started. It took several mechanics all day to figure it out, but finally a broken wire was discovered. Ralph, the man who found the broken wire, got the shock of his life, literally, when he put the wires together and the engine roared to life. My sigh of relief was not the only one. I could hear my dad, my mom, and all the mechanic exhale simultaneously as the stress was lifted.
With the van brought back from the dead, we decided it would be best to have dinner at home and then try to get a few late kilometers in before the sun set. By the time we had the RV packed up and eaten dinner, it was going on 7:00 pm. This was officially my latest start. I usually finish my days around 7:00, not start them!
Our neighbours, Darlene, Rick and J.J., have been a huge help and very supportive of my journey. So I was more than happy to pose for a few quick photos with them before heading out highway #2 towards Toronto. I knew I had to get moving now. Judging by the clouds rolling in, I didn’t have much time before the skies opened up. I was able to complete almost 10 km before the clouds became too heavy and started throwing drops of water the size of marbles down on me. No problem. I’ll just put my wet skates on and I’ll be good to go. Wrong. FLASH….KABOOM. It only took one flicker of lightening to convince me I shouldn’t be on the road. I still can’t figure out why, but it’s pretty obvious that all the Gods were doing everything in their power to stop me from skating today.
As we sat in the RV waiting to see if the lightening would pass, a truck pulled over in front of us and a man got out. It was my dad’s friend, John MacDonnell. He just happened to be cruising by and thought he’d stop to say ‘hello’. We chatted for a fw minutes before I decided I would make one more attempt to continue skating. I hadn’t heard the rolling thunder in a few minutes, so I thought I’d give it another shot. I stepped into the pouring rain and pushed on. One kilometer done… no lightening. Two done… nothing. Before I knew it, the rain was letting up, but not stopping, and i could see the clouds breaking. I must draw more attention to myself when I’m blading in the pouring rain, because in the short distance between Kingston and Napanee, 3 cars pulled over to make donations. Maybe they just thought I was some poor kid that didn’t know any better than to skate in the rain.
Although Napanee was only about 30 km West of Kingston, it was a triumph to get there. I had faced more adversity today than I had in the last 2 weeks combined. Joan and Jose DaSilva, family friends, were waiting for us at their home in Napanee. I had the opportunity to meet a few of their grandchildren, too! The 2 little girls were a bit preoccupied with each other, but Connor and his brother were pretty excited to meet me. From the sounds of it, Connor has taken a pretty keen interest in what I’m doing. Hopefully I’ve sparked some fire in him to become someone who will help change the world.
A late night visit from a neighbour turned out to be one of the highlights. Buzz, from Joe FM, was convinced by Joan’s daughter that he should come over and meet me. I’m very appreciative that he did. Poor Buzz has to get up at 3:45 am every morning to go in to work to do the morning show on Joe FM. And even though he should have already been asleep, he took the time to come talk to me. He’s a great guy and has asked me to call him in the morning for a live interview on the radio! Looking forward to it, Buzz!
Through everything that went on today, I can only look to tomorrow and know that all the problems I have been faced with are trivial. A day does not go by that I’m not thankful for my friends, family and health. Things can always be worse. But maybe my skate across Canada will help make some peoples lives a little better.
Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Today I didn’t mind waking up at 6:30 am. I knew the day was going to be jammed packed, but I was looking forward to every minute. I started the morning with a live phone interview with Bob FM in Kingston. It was a great segment and I thought it went well. Hopefully some of you heard it, too! The crew from Bob FM had some good questions and spent a lot of time with me on the air.
Shortly after getting off that call, I got a hold of Big G at Kix 102.7 in Kingston. I was happy about getting a spot on this station for a couple reasons. First, Kix is apparently the most listened to station in Kingston! And secondly, I’m a country boy. So it was nice to be on a country station. I was lucky enough to meet Big G yesterday when I was at Telus Tyroute, and he had asked me to call in today. Without hesitation, I jumped at the opportunity to be on his station.
When I was finished with my morning interviews, I had to hustle over to R.G. Sinclair Public School where I spoke to a library full of kids ranging from grade 4 to 7. It was Monday morning, so the kids were a bit sluggish, but once I started telling them some of my adventures, they seemed to wake up. Although I didn’t have a lot of time to spend with them, I know I got through to many. When my time was up, I was presented with a donation from Steve and Kim Jamieson. And then a student in the front row shocked me. Justus stood up and offered me a donation larger than many adults do. I’m still floored when I see how aware today’s youth really are to the issues in society. They know there is a need for help. They know cancer is everywhere. And most of them have already been affected either directly or indirectly by cancer. If grown-ups and parents were all as generous and giving as the Canadian children, we would be living in eutopia. Before leaving the school, a few other donations were handed to me from Mrs. White’s grade 6/7 class, Jennifer Hamilton, Pamela Graham, another student named Connor, and a few students who’s names I didn’t get. Thank you, Sinclair! You went above and beyond my wildest dreams. When I visit schools, I never expect kids to make their own contributions. My intention is to tell them a bit about what I’m doing and hopefully influence them enough to make them realize they are all capable of changing the world.
No sooner had I stepped out the front doors of the school I rushed off to Boston Pizza on Gardiners Road. I think Corrina’s excitement was rubbing off on me. I couldn’t wait to get setup in the restaurant. As I pulled up to the front of the store, a bright neon sign caught my attention. “Come Meet Local Boy, Rich Ralph Today. Rollerblading Across Canada For Cancer Research.” There’s something weird about seeing your own name in giant neon letters on a billboard. It was awesome to see the sign sitting there, but it was almost surreal. I don’t know how busy the Boston Pizza usually gets on a Monday afternoon, but it felt like there was a pretty steady flow of people coming in. And leading the charge was none other than my favorite pig lady, Judy Osbourne! If you’ve been following my journal since Newfoundland, you’ll remember my encounter on the ferry back to Nova Scotia with Judy. She was almost as happy to see me as I was to see her. She even brought some friends with her to help contribute to my cause! People were pouring in who I haven’t seen in years!
Jan and Joanne MacDonald made an appearance. Jan was the guy who passed me on highway 2 just before Kingston while he was delivering a boat and ended up with 2 flat tires. It turns out their youngest daughter now lives in Vancouver about 2 minutes from my apartment! Sarah, I’ll be calling you when I make it home!
I’m sure I’ll forget to mention someones name, but I want thank everyone for showing up to BP. The entire Aldridge clan made it out! Wayne Campbell, friend and Optimist, was there. Sarah Donovan dragged her sister in to see me. Dan made an appearance. I think he felt he still owed me for pushing his car off the rock at my cottage a few days ago. Wendy wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Some of my parents’ neighbours, like Ray, stopped by and ordered a pizza to go. But I think my favorite guest of all was my 92 year-old Grandma! Corrina and her really hit it off. I think Corrina will be putting Grandma to work for her. They’re definitely 2 of a kind.
The afternoon went off without a hitch. A reporter from Kingston This Week took time out of his busy schedule to swing by for a quick interview and photo-op. I must admit, I have a feeling his pictures were some of the most unique so far. Make sure to grab a copy of Kingston This Week to check it out. And keep a copy for me if you think of it! Jordan from J.T. Photography was on hand to snap pictures of me with the guests. For $5, people were given a professional photo with me. Jordan even takes the time to put a beautiful border around the images before sending it to the customer. And for every $5 picture that she took, she handed $3 directly to me! When it was all said and done, Boston Pizza handed me a check for nearly $150. And that doesn’t include the straight donations! People really seemed to like the display I had setup because the total for the event end up being roughly $700 in donations. Ideally, I would have liked to give Boston Pizza more notice for my arrival. But considering I had just met Corrina the day before, I’m overwhelmed with the way things turned out. One last plug for Corrina and Boston Pizza… They have organized what they are calling a ‘kick-back’ program for me. Everyone who dines at the Boston Pizza on Gardiners Road must keep their receipt and take it to Kingston Power Play Centre and drop it in the box at the cash. Corrina will collect the receipts every month until I reach Vancouver, and Boston Pizza will donate 5% of the total to me! So please don’t forget to take your receipt to Power Play Centre. It’s on Gardiners Road, as well. And for anyone looking to sign up for indoor ball hockey, Power Play Center will be donating $50 for every registration before June 27 directly to the Skate For Hope! I don’t have all the specifics on the registrations, though. Give them a quick call to find out.
Now that my advertising is done, I can tell you what it was like to give a 3o minute presentation in a sauna. Sounds strange, but this is what happened. My dad, Wendy and I all hurried over to Collins Bay Public School where I was to speak to another group of kids. This time the age range was grade 5-8. When I walked into the school, J.J, a student and also my parents neighbour, was setting up the projector in the library for me. As the kids started filing in, I couldn’t help but ignore the afternoon sun beaming through the windows. I started my standard talk for the kids but there was one major difference. This time I had sweat rolling down my back. I stayed focussed and collected. I had a bottle of water with me which helped keep me cool, but I had finished it before I’d even shown the second picture! Thankfully, I was only there for 30 minutes, so when I was finished I could sit down and relax while kids lined up for autographs. I think I figured out why the room was so hot, though. My theory is that the teachers cranked the heaters up to drain the kids of all their energy! Am I way off on this one? Seems plausible to me! It was neat being back at Collins Bay because that was my old Elementary school. There obviously weren’t any teachers there that I had when I came through over 10 years ago, but there were some familiar faces. I was caught off guard, yet again, when the school presented me with a substantial donation for my efforts. My dad was also quite surprised. He was either overwhelmed by the unexpected response from local schools, or he’s becoming menopausal and emotional because I could here his voice crackling slightly as he thanked everyone. As comical, energetic, and stubborn as he can be, my dad has a hidden sensitive side that has really come out as this trip proceeds.
The day was finally winding down, so we thought we should swing by Kingston Truck Centre to see how the RV was looking. Hopefully the mechanics could decipher my dad’s chicken scratch. They seemed sincere in their efforts to get things done and optimistic that we’d be on the road tomorrow morning by 9am. Dad and I headed home where we were told a Greek dinner was waiting for us! We weren’t told that my Grandma and Uncle were also at home waiting. It was great to see my Uncle Ron. He’s been doing a lot of hard work for me in the Welland/Niagara area. I think if my dad ever needs to take some time off this trip, it wouldn’t be hard to convince Ron to take his place. The entire Lemon family has been anxiously awaiting my arrival to the Niagara Peninsula. And I’m just as excited to get there.
We sat on our porch relaxing when I heard an unusual jingling sound coming from the side of the house. My parents neighbour, Rick appeared out of nowhere with an smirk that I couldn’t quite read.
“This is the best I could do for a half of a day’s work,” he said as he handed me a large double-double from Tim Horton’s. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but it only took me a second to realize this was no ordinary coffee. In fact, it wasn’t coffee. It wasn’t a beverage, at all! Rick had gone around his building at work and collected donations from anyone and everyone. The coffee cup was just his container to store what added up to be over $180 in cash! What an unbelievable and unexpected end to an incredible day. At least I thought the day was over.
Shortly after my Uncle and Grandma left, there was a knock at the door. It was Mark, another member of the Cataraqui Optimist Club. He wanted to let us know that the Club was increasing their donation from $1000 to $1500! Now I need to find a dentist because I chipped a tooth when my jaw hit the floor! I still can’t believe that a non-profit organization is offering such an amazing amount of money for me. I think the Cataraqui Optimists will be issuing a challenge to all other Optimist Clubs across Canada to beat their donation. Heck, if any companies, corporations or even individuals want in on that challenge, I’d love to see the numbers climb!
Another satisfying but exhausting day. It’s tough to say what I’d rather be doing. The PR stuff is fun, and the donations really roll in when I’m out there, but I think it’s almost harder work than skating 100 km a day.
Monday, June 18th, 2007
I know I’m still behind on my journal, but I’m getting closer! Ontario has been incredibly busy. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
I woke up confused. I didn’t know where I was, how I got there or even what time it was. But reality came slamming back down. I was still in Kingston, of course! I think the confusion was triggered by the fact that I was able to sleep past 8:30 am. My body really didn’t know how to react. It couldn’t tell if it should be happy to have received the much needed rest, or if it should be ticked off knowing that it will not likely get another chance to experience the sensation for quite some time. My brain quickly stepped in and made the decision to enjoy the moment. But it also reminded me not to forget Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there. Hopefully your kids don’t pull you into any journey’s the way I suckered my Dad into this one!
There wasn’t too much planned for today. It wasn’t going to be like my days off in Halifax or Charlottetown. This time I didn’t have any site-seeing to do. Instead of cramming as much into the day as possible, I could focus on organization and PR work for the Skate For Hope. But first thing’s first. I had to get to work on the website. I know there’s hundreds, if not thousands, of lurkers on this site salivating for the next installment of my journal. In fact, one woman in Vancouver thought I had quit the skate because I hadn’t updated the entries in a few days. Don’t worry, Murielle. I’m not a quitter. To all the avid followers who read this, I know you’re out there! I actually love the fact that so many people are finding my adventures so entertaining. Don’t be shy, though. I love getting messages. Even if it’s just a one-liner to introduce yourself and Hi. Keep enjoying my tales and tell everyone you know to read. The more people that know, the better. Having worked on my site all morning, I took a break to wander through my old stomping grounds on Aylmer Crescent and visit with some neighbour’s. I stopped in to see the D’Agostino’s who’s son, Mark (a year older than me), is engaged to be married in September. It was nice to see them, and it was nice to have the opportunity to walk to their house rather than rollerblade, but my day off came to an abrupt end.
Although I wouldn’t be skating any kilometers today, I was asked to make an appearance at the new Telus Tyroute store across from Boston Pizza. They were putting on a promotion and had K-Rock radio station broadcasting on location, as well as the local 15 year-old stock-car driver phenome, Chris Raabe. It was great exposure having my RV parked beside the stock-car and the K-Rock Hummer. When I arrived at the Telus store, a bright-eyed bombshell with a grin from ear to ear was waiting with open arms. It was the one and only, Corrina Zinck from Boston Pizza. She has been one of the most enthusiastic, energetic and supportive person of my entire trip. She has single-handedly gabbed the attention of Boston Pizza and has been pushing for support from other Boston Pizza’s across Canada. Boston Pizza on Gardiners Road will be donation 10 % of all sales between 11am and 2pm to my cause tomorrow afternoon (that may be redundant, but it’s important to emphasize!). The majority of my publicity in Kingston has been a result of the hard work and dedication of Corrina. Thank your, Corrina. You are a fantastic person. I hope you come see me in Vancouver when you visit your son!
The afternoon was great. Although it wasn’t too busy at the Telus store, the people who did stop by were very encouraging. A few donations were made and I was given a some plugs on K-Rock. The rest of the afternoon was a lot like the morning. I spent some time running some errands and even got a donation from Best Buy. I bumped into a few other old high school friends who I haven’t seen in years like Sherri, Chris and Heather. It’s really amazing who you see when you come back for a quick visit.
You may remember me mentioning Jim and Bev Stevens. Jim is my parents’ friend who contact all of the Quebec media, and then sent them all another e-mail slamming them for not contacting me. Well, they are now back in Kingston and had us over for dinner. As much as I enjoyed the incredible meal, I think my mom enjoyed not having to cook even more! Bev and Jim, I know you read this religiously, so I want to say thanks again for the continued support. You’re detailed maps of Napanee really impressed my dad. And your organization was a true lesson for my mom.
Hopefully by this time tomorrow, I’ll be practically caught up on all the website stuff I’ve been falling behind on. Be patient, everyone. As I get ready to continue my trek through Ontario and move towards the GTA, I know I’ll be looking for more help and support. So please don’t hesitate to contact your local media, tell friends and family I’m on the way, let people at work know that a couple dollars from everyone will change all our lives, or e-mail me if you want to come skate with me. I’ve had a few requests already, and I hope I can get thousands of people out blading before I reach Vancouver in September!
Sunday, June 17th, 2007
Another peaceful night at the cottage with no transports roaring past and no bright gas station lights beaming in through the van windows let me get a good nights sleep. I woke up refreshed and ready to get to Kingston. I quickly stopped by my Uncle’s cottage to say goodbye to my family, and also Chris and Wilma, the neighbours next door. As we drove in to the starting point in Gananoque, I tried taping my ankles as I do every morning. However, this time I was trying to do it while my dad was driving down County Road 2 hitting every little bump and turn. By the time we arrived and I finished taping, my feet looked like a 4-year-old had been turned loose with white glue and paper. But I knew I only had about 30 km to travel today, so I couldn’t be bothered making any adjustments. I was sure it would be fine.
Wendy, Butch and Brandon (Crystal’s family) called us just as I was getting ready to start. They said they wanted to come out to see me before I left. What I wasn’t expecting was that they actually wanted to join the convoy and be the lead vehicle all the way into Kingston! It made for a nice change. It was reassuring having another vehicle in front of me with his four-way flashers on. As Butch drove ahead of me, Wendy and Brandon sat in the back of their Jeep with the back hatch wide open so they could snap some pictures of me and wave to cars passing by. Wendy also spent more time calling Kingston radio stations to let them know I was coming. In fact, not far out of Gananoque, Fly FM called me again and did another live interview with me.
I wasn’t quite half way to Kingston when I noticed a car coming towards me that slowed down so much it practically stopped traffic altogether. I turned to see what was written on the side panels, but I couldn’t quite make it out. The next thing I knew, my dad told me the car had turned around and was now following behind us. This guy was either very supportive, or very interested, or very confused. He finally pulled ahead of my dad and came up beside me. There were 2 men in the car and they started to ask me questions. The only problem was that they were asking in French. I had no idea what was going on. They pulled over and got out so we could try to communicate. The driver was actually bilingual, so I was able to find out that the passenger, Claude Batha, was in the process of walking from Windsor, Ontario, all the way to Hawkesbury, Ontario (maybe you remember Hawkesbury from a recent journal entry of mine). Claude was raising money on behalf of the Optimist International Club in support of a Childhood Cancer Program. He was a very intriguing man and I wish him all the best. By the sounds of things, he’s almost done!
I was now getting very close to Kingston. I knew I just had one more small hill to climb and then I should be able to see the city skyline. I heard a van come barreling up beside me, but it was the sound of a mans voice that caught my attention.
“Way to go, Rich. Keep it up!” the voice yelled as the van barely slowed down while it passed by. Two things struck me as unusual. First, the van was pulling a small boat on the trailer and the wheels looked fairly low. Second, how the heck did the driver know my name? My question would quickly be answered and my observation of the wheels would later reappear. I was able to catch a small glimpse of the man’s face and realized it was an old family friend, Jan MacDonald. Ironically, my mom had just called Jan’s house a few minutes prior and left 2 very length voicemails letting the MacDonalds’ know that we were arriving. It was just coincidental that he happened to come by at that time, though. Later in the day when my dad spoke with Jan, we found out that he was giving the small boat away to somebody in town and had to tow it from his house. In an unfortunate turn of events, the trailer ended up with 2 flat tires which resulted in Jan spending a couple hundred dollars to repair. So he basically had to pay to give away his boat! But look on the bright side, Jan… at least you got to see me in action!
Just before coming over the ridge which would lead me into town, we were met by Constable Viktor Jutasi of the Kingston Police. He looked unimpressed with the fact that he, of all the police on staff, had been assigned to escort duty. As he eyed me up and down with an intense glare, I felt a bead of sweat form on my brow. But he wasn’t eyeing me at all. I think he was just looking at me wondering if a skinny kid like me could survive another 7,000 km on rollerblades. And I’m pretty sure the sweat was just from the heat and humidity. Constable Jutasi was genuinely interested and happy to be there. We talked for a minute about our route into the city and decided that once I was over the Causeway, we would circle up Brock Street a few blocks and come back down Princess Street to gain a bit more exposure before finishing directly in front of City Hall. It was an amazing feeling knowing that the city had lifted some by-laws specifically so I could come through town with no problems. I guess it helps that I’m a Kingston boy.
Waiting for me at Confederation Basin in front of City Hall was a small group of people including CKWS television, The Kingston Whig Standard newspaper, the Cataraqui Optimists Club, the Collins Bay councillor Lisa Osanik, and a few other friends like Peter Bird and Steven and Kailee Jamieson. After I interviewed with the television and newspaper reporters, I had a chance to chat with some people I haven’t seen in a while. But suddenly I heard my name being broadcasted from speakers setup across the street. A band was performing for a typical, traditional Kingston summer weekend and Wendy had wandered across and asked them to announce my arrival. Sure enough, they said a few words so I skated over and gave a polite, but slightly embarrassed, wave to the crowd who had gathered to listen to the music. I rolled back to the front steps of City Hall when I noticed a familiar face walking down the street. I wasn’t 100% sure if I knew the girl or if she just had one of those familiar faces. “Mandy?” I spoke hesitantly. But she stopped and turned to face me. It turned out to be Mandy McLeod who I went to high school with. We barely recognized each other. And it was sheer coincidence that she was walking by considering she now lives in Toronto. She just happened to be in town with her fiancee for the weekend. As we stood there chatting, the CKWS reporter must have liked what she saw, because when I saw the news later that night, she had filmed me talking with Mandy and her husband-to-be.
Before I left City Hall and headed to the west end of Kingston where my parents live, Gray Cunningham from the Cataraqui Optimist Club presented me with the single largest donation from any individual or organization. I may have already mentioned, but I’ll reiterate. The Optimist Club is a non-profit organization which is designed to help young boys and girls in the community and around the world. Although I’m not directly raising money for childhood cancer, the club feels that since I am visiting schools and impacting the lives of many children across Canada, they wanted to support my cause. If a non-profit organization like this can find $1000 to donate, I’m confident that other corporations and individuals will step up and match, if not exceed the standard being set. Every loonie is another dollar towards my goal.
The skate out of the downtown area was easy and enjoyable. Constable Jutasi came back to escort us all the way to our front door in Collins Bay. I guess the police cruiser, the jeep with people hanging out the back, the giant motor home with writing all over it, and a skinny rollerblader must have drawn some attention, because it didn’t take long for a few neighbours to stop by to congratulate me. But my sense of accomplishment was short lived. No sooner had we unlocked the front door did my dad have the whip cracking down on my heels again. The RV is in desperate need of mechanical work and my dad wanted to get it to the shop before they closed at 4pm. We unloaded as much from the van as we figured we would need and drove over to Kingston Truck Centre where we showed a mechanic a list of what needed to be done. The 3 top priorities are the brake lines need to be replaced, the temperature gauge does not work, and something is draining the battery because we have had to jump-start the motor home every morning since arriving in Ontario. We’re hoping KTC can come through for us with these repairs before Tuesday morning.
On our way back from the auto shop, we stopped in at Boston Pizza to try and find Corrina who has been helping with Kingston area publicity for me. She wasn’t in, but we bumped into another high school friend of mine, Mark D’Agostino. He was down visiting from Ottawa because his mom was hosting a bridal shower for Mark’s future wife. So it was another coincidental crossing of paths. You never know who you’ll run into on the streets of Kingston!
I also want to let everyone know that on Monday, June 18, Boston Pizza in Kingston will be donating 10 % of all sales between 11am and 2 pm. So if you’re at work and need somewhere to eat for lunch, please come to BP, or even order take out! If you can’t do that, just come by to see me there. Do whatever you can to convince your friends and colleagues to come to Boston Pizza on Monday! Every order is another donation towards cancer research!
Sunday, June 17th, 2007
Today started off on the right foot with a great phone interview with Jim Elyot from Fly FM radio in Kingston. Wendy, Crystal’s mom, had brought Codie, Crystal’s little brother, over to join me for the day. I sat in the bedroom talking to Jim on the air while my parents, Wendy and Codie sat in the kitchen listening to the radio. I was pretty pleased with myself when I got off the phone and stepped out of the room to ask my parents what they thought of my interview. When I came down the hall, I could here everyone talking and laughing. So I naturally assumed they had enjoyed hearing my voice on the radio. But then I realized that they didn’t have the inside radio turned on. “Did you hear my interview?” I asked.
“I don’t think you were on. I think they just pre-recorded it,” my dad replied.
Then I noticed Codie was sitting outside in the screened porch. “Did you hear me on the Radio, Codie?” I asked him since the outside radio was playing loudly.
“Yup, I think I heard you!” he said.
As much fantastic work that my parents put into this venture, I have to keep a close eye on them. This is just another perfect example. They must have got yapping away and didn’t even recognize the sound of their only son’s voice when it came on the radio! Oh well, I know they’ll make it up to me.
The plan was to bring Codie in the RV while I skated from Delta to Lansdowne. Once we reach Lansdowne (Codie’s hometown), he would lace up his skates and we would blade together through the village over to his school where his classmates and teachers would all meet us. Just before we took off, our neighbours, Chris and Wilma, stopped in to say Hi and congratulate me on my journey, so far. They couldn’t chat long since we were all on our way out the door, but they dropped by long enough to make an amazingly generous contribution. Just to let Wilma and everyone else know, I will be updating the donations and the Buy A Mile pages as soon as possible. I’m pretty swamped right now, but I’m slowly catching up.
On our way back to Delta, the cell phone rang, which was unusually because the reception in the area is awful. My dad answered and was able to talk to the woman long enough to find out that it was Peggy (the woman who had stopped to donate and mentioned that my website was left out of the article in the Ottawa Citizen), and that she had made a call to the newspaper for us. She was pretty sure that they would run another short story to let people know how to donate. Thanks Peggy! I just have one question for you. How did you get our cell number?? I don’t remember giving it out!
As I approached Lyndhurst, I was joined by 2 fire trucks. My buddy, Dan, is a volunteer fireman for the Leeds and Thousand Islands Fire Department and had arranged to have an escort take me through the county. Al and Tony seemed genuinely interested in helping me through the area. But I think realistically they just wanted an excuse to flash their lights and block traffic for a while. Al was pretty proud of himself for driving in the on-coming traffic lane to hold the cars up, while Tony was more concerned with chasing down vehicles that passed the convoy without authorization. I didn’t get much chance to talk with Tony, but from what I hear, he is a lot like my buddy, Dan. And that scares me, because Dan is a loose canon. The only thing keeping him in line is Kim and his new boy, Carter!
Speaking of Kim and Carter, as the precession continued down County Road 3, we came directly past their house. Kim had Carter at the end of their driveway waiting in a wagon and a sign that read “Go Rich, Go!” It was pretty cute. They later gave me the sign which I’ve already fastened up in the motor home.
I also skated passed my Dads’ cousin’s home where a group of the Kelsey’s family came out to see me and snap a few photos. Although I haven’t seen them in quite some time, it was nice to have their support and the donations are very appreciated.
When we finally made it to the edge of Lansdowne, Codie was ready to burst with excitement. He put his skates on and we headed into town. We hadn’t taking more than a few strides when I glanced down at Codie to see him in an uncontrolled pirouette with arms flailing. One skate was in the air and the other was desperately trying to stay on the ground. The spinning stopped when Codie hit the pavement. But if you’ve ever met Codie, you know that he’s fearless and has learned how to land gracefully when he’s out of control. He bounced off his butt and right back up onto his feet with a big grin on his face. Nothing slows this guy down. He just needed to get the feel for the road. This was the first time he’d ever skated straight down the middle of the street! We came through town and could see the school off in the distance. An entourage of squealing 8-year-olds came racing to the side of the road to welcome us in. I’m not sure who was having more fun, me or Codie. I talked to the kids for a couple minutes and took a few pictures, but I had to keep moving because I had to be in Gananoque at 2pm. As we bladed away from the school Codie looked up at me smiling and said, “That was awesome. I feel like I’m famous!”
As we got to the edge of Lansdowne, I stopped at Rapid Valley Restaurant where they had a case of water waiting for me. I can never have enough water, so this donation was greatly received.
Codie hopped back in the RV so I could get my speed back up on the way to Gananoque. Just as I reached the gates into the city, 2 more police cruisers and the big Gananoque Fire engine came into my view. They were waiting to escort me through the busy streets of the city. With Constable Watson leading the pack and Brandon and Codie riding in the Fire Truck, we made our way to Milano’s Pizzeria in the heart of town where I was treated to a delicious lunch. Wendy was fundamental in organizing and creating publicity throughout Gananoque. When I rolled into Milano’s, I was impressed to see a reporter, a representative from the Interact Club of Gananoque Secondary School, various other on-lookers and also the Mayor himself! We mingled and chatted for a few minutes before Milano’s brought out a few complimentary pizzas for us all.
I stuffed myself and bid everyone farewell, then headed to the other side of town. The Police escort was still with us and made this leg of the journey very stress-free. I didn’t have to worry about any cars zooming past me, and it also helped to grab people’s attention. When I arrived at the West Gates of town, I decided to call it a day. I was scheduled to arrive at City Hall in Kingston tomorrow at noon, but I was only 28 km from town. So I’d have no trouble getting in there in the morning.
We drove back to the cottage for another night of the finer things in life (running water and elbow room). Dan and Kim came over for a visit with Carter the Artist. The evening was quiet and enjoyable, but Dan being Dan couldn’t leave without causing a ruckus. As he backed down the gravel driveway, I watched from the top of the hill. I could see the headlights moving backwards away from me when they suddenly stopped. I waited. No movement. Then I heard it. The sound of spinning wheels. But how? The gravel wasn’t loose or wet. What could he possibly be stuck in. Well, it turns out he wasn’t stuck ‘in’ anything. He had rolled down the hill and over a small rock ledge where the bottom of the car grabbed on. He was basically balanced on the rock like a giant teeter totter. There’s never a dull moment when the Elwoods are around. I was able to come down and help push the car off the rock. I’m not sure if there was much damage to the car, but Dan just chuckled and drove off into the night.
In case anyone missed it, or if you need a reminder, I’ll be at Boston Pizza on Gardiners Road on Monday June 18 form 11am-2pm. 10 % of all sales at the restaurant during those hours will be going to my cause! Please come out to see me. Order some food. Make a donation. Even take out orders help. See you all there!
Saturday, June 16th, 2007
This morning I actually woke up before my parents! I went downstairs and found Debbie who had already been up for an hour and a half. She’d had her morning exercise and was now baking some muffins. And it was barely 7am! As I sat down at the kitchen table, I was expecting to engage in a conversation about farts or dirty jokes. If you know Debbie, you know what I’m talking about! But instead, we started chatting about nutrition and health. People seem genuinely interested in my health. One of the most common questions I am asked is “How much weight have you lost since starting the Skate For Hope”? I suppose if you browse through the Photo section, I look like a stick man. But in actual fact, I’ve always been pretty slender. If I’ve lost any weight on this venture so far, it’s been insignificant. I’d say I may have lost 5 lbs max. My nutrition is very important, and Crystal is doing an amazing job with helping me to eat the right foods. I really haven’t had to make too many major changes with what I eat. I just focus more on the quality of the foods I consume.
While we sat there talking, the morning paper (Ottawa Citizen) came in. I hurried over with eyes as wide as saucers. Would my article be published today? I flipped open to the City sections and found myself staring back at me! Tony had written a fantastic article. I would later discover one detail he left out.
The rest of the house buzzed to life as we all prepared for the day ahead. Some of us had to work, others had to rollerblade, and others had nothing better to do than putter around with some unfinished renovations in the bathroom (seriously Peter, shouldn’t that be done by now!). When we were finally ready to go, my parents and I headed out and hopped in the RV. With a turn of the key, the engine roared to life…. almost. Actually, it didn’t respond at all. Just a faint ticking sound pulsated from under the hood. Perhaps the excitement of yesterday’s media frenzy on Parliament Hill was just too much for the old girl to handle. It turned out that a simply boost got us on our way. We did have concerns that the battery may die again, but we’ll see if we can make it to Kingston before worrying about it.
About half way to Smith Falls, a woman and her daughter pulled over to make a donation. She mentioned to me that she had just read about me in the Citizen and wanted to congratulate me on my endeavors up to now. And then she highlighted the missing ingredient in the article. My website was not included. That’s a pretty essential component to my quest. I need to rely on people’s online donations since I won’t be able to see everyone. I’ll have to call the Citizen and see if they’ll write a follow-up article to give the site.
We made it to the edge of Smiths Falls just before lunch where we made a quick call to the Police to see if they’d offer an escort through town. The dispatch wasn’t sure but sent a cruiser over to talk to us and see what they could do. My dad invited the officer into the RV for a minute to chat. When he came inside, I was standing face to face with Adam Slate who was a bit younger than me, but went to my high school! Small world. Adam was happy to give us an escort with lights flashing through Smiths Falls. By the time we had reached the far side of town, we were now on Highway 15. We had previously considered avoiding this road since we expected it to be busy and possibly in rough shaped. But after struggling across highway 17 into Ottawa a few days before, I knew this road would be a breeze. The decision was re-enforced when we realized the highway had been freshly repaved recently. Oh yes, this was going to be enjoyable.
The road was just as expected, if not better. At one point, it was so smooth that I couldn’t even feel my wheels turning. It was an odd sensation. Without the typical vibrations from the rougher surfaces, it was hard for me to get a feel for my speed. Up until now, I was associating louder sounds with faster speeds. I asked my mom how fast I was actually going. I figured I was hovering around 10-15 km/hr, so I was pretty surprised when my mom responded with 20-25 km/h.
Recently, the motor home has been creating some concern for us. So it seemed fitting when I stopped for an afternoon break coincidentally in front of a mechanic near Crosby. While I chowed down some fruit and yogurt, my dad managed to get a car battery donated and installed. Bob French was happy to help us relieve some of the stress of a weak battery under the hood. Just before we started away from the mechanics shop, a woman pulled up and mentioned she had just read about me in the Citizen. She was happy to make a contribution herself. It didn’t take long after the break for me to reach my destination of Delta. I was over 90 km on the day and decided we were now close enough to my cottage on Killenbeck Lake that we could make the short drive in for an evening of luxurious beds and comfortable living. My dad weaved his way through the heavily forested driveway to the base of our cottage hill. Branches were scraping down the sides and top of the vehicle, but we push our way through. Knowing the back end of the RV had poor suspension I figured it was a safe assumption that we would be leaving the van at the bottom of the gravel hill. I was pretty surprised to hear my dad say “I’ll just back it right up the hill”.
“Um…ok…If you say so,” I thought.
With a flick of the wrist my dad threw the van in reverse and started backwards up the narrow path. I had my doubts, but I was impressed to see the motor home emerge over the top of the ridge and come to rest neatly in front of the cottage door.
Although I had just had a shower the day before at the Read’s house, the drying sweat from today’s skate left a thick film coating my body that felt like only sand paper could remove. I didn’t have to think twice about running down the stairs and off the end of the dock into the refreshing lake. Ah…sweat relief. But the Warden (aka Dad) thought my 90 + kilometers wasn’t enough work for one day. “While you’re down there, drag the raft out and drop the anchor”. The work just never ends.
A few evening phone calls helped to solidify the plans for the next few days. Wendy smith (Crystal’s mom) has been working vigorously in the Lansdowne/Gananoque area to start creating a buzz for me. She’s been working on donations, sponsors, meals, advertising and everything else under the sun. She has even arranged to have the Mayor of Gananoque meet me in town at Milano’s Pizzeria! Crystal’s little brother, Codie, has been dying to get his skates on and blade with me for a while. So Wendy will be dropping him off tomorrow morning so he can ride with me in the RV and skate through Lansdowne. Then a call from Boston Pizza in Kingston put a huge smile on my face. Corrina was very interested in my venture and wanted to let me know that Boston Pizza would do everything they can to help. This coming Monday (June 18) I will be attending a reception at Boston Pizza on Gardiners Road between 11 am and 2 pm. During this time, 10% of ALL sales at the restaurant will be going directly to my cause!! That includes eating in, patio, lounge, take-out and deliveries! So if you’re craving some pizza (or any other tasty treats form Boston Pizza), please come see me on Monday!
The day was finally winding down, but not before a visit from my buddy, Dan, some neighbors on the Lake (Wes and Carol Evans) and my uncle Ron. It was nice to sit back and chit chat casually with the sound of crickets chirping and loons echoing across the water in the background. Then, just before turning in for the night, my dad got a message from our friend Bill Surrette in Newfoundland (you may remember me telling you about our week long stay with the Surrettes in Harbour Grace while the RV was out of commission). He wanted to let us know that our good friend, Rose, in Stephensville, Newfoundland, was up to her old tricks. He had heard her on the provincial wide radio station, VOCM giving them an update on my progress. She’s truly a wonderful woman with the type of enthusiasm that we all need. All I’m doing is rollerblading. It’s people like Rose that help change the world.
Friday, June 15th, 2007
I’ve been without an internet connection for a few days now. But I’ve been writing my journal so I could just import it onto the website as soon as possible. So, no I did not quit the Skate For Hope. No, I’m not injured. And no, I’m not lazy (regardless what my parents say). I know you’ve all been waiting eagerly for the next installment of my wacky life. So without further ado, enjoy!
Even though some television and newspapers in the Ottawa area decided against covering my story, I still feel Ontario is off to a fantastic start.
I was able to sleep in a few minutes later than normal, but I was scheduled to meet with CTV for a live interview on Parliament Hill at 11:50 am. I figured that if I waited until rush hour was over, I should have no trouble getting from Orleans to downtown Ottawa in time. I spoke to an old high school buddy of mine the night before who said he wanted to skate with me for the morning. Unfortunately, the timing must not have worked out well, because I circled around the Place d’Orleans Mall several times before I had no choice but to head towards town. I was really looking forward to having someone skate with me. I’m not too sure what happened, but maybe he’ll be able to meet up with me another time to skate.
The blade towards the city was awesome. I had a slight tail wind and the majority of the roads seemed to be down hill. While I was cruising along enjoying the morning, my dad relayed a message to me that A-Channel television and the Ottawa Citizen newspaper would both be meeting me at Parliament Hill with CTV! Now this is the sort of media coverage I’ve been working towards.
I was now getting pretty close. I crossed St. Laurent Blvd and over a bridge into a busier part of town. We pulled over to take a quick breather when a mean looking cop came by on his Harley with lights flashing. He looked like he was ready to throw me on the ground and wait wait for a cruiser to come pick me up. “I can’t be slowing traffic down that much, can I?” I thought. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I could feel their intense glare coming through his sunglasses and landing on me. Thankfully, it was only Kevin, my cousin’s husband. We had spoke to a couple different Officers, including Kevin, and the Police had arranged to escort me up to Parliament Hill through the busiest part of the city. We chatted with Kevin for a few minutes before his partner arrived on another motorcycle and off we went. It was my first escort, so I was on cloud nine. But as much as I enjoyed it, I think Kevin and his partner had fun, too. The had their lights flashing and would occasionally flip the sirens on. People were turning with curiosity as we plowed our way up Rideau Street to Parliament Hill.
Once I reached the Flame (name???), I could see the CTV and A-Channel trucks off to the West side of the court yard. Since I was ahead of schedule for the live interview, both camera men wanted to get some footage of me skating around the area. We shot a few different angles until they felt they had what they needed. I can only imagine what movie stars have to go through when they need to film one scene 45 times just to get the one perfect shot. We finished up and CTV pulled me aside to set me up with a wire and microphone for the live broadcast at noon. It was definitely nothing like I’d ever experienced before. I could hear the live broadcast taking place, but I could also hear a voice prompting me and letting me know how much time until I was live. It was a bit tough to decipher which voices were news anchors and which were producers talking directly to me. And then the moment of truth. Michael Burn(s) began talking about me and quickly lead into a few questions. Not being able to see what’s going on or what’s being shown on the television, I had to concentrate to make sure I was staring straight into the lens while I was talking. It’s funny how you tend to have a habit of gazing around at your surroundings while you talk on the phone. Well, this really made me aware of that tendency. All-in-all, the clip went well. It was an incredible feeling knowing that I had just sent my message to thousands of people on T.V.
After the camera man, Dan O’Connor, had unhooked me from the wires, Tony Lofaro from the Ottawa Citizen was waiting to talk to me. He waited patiently for me to finish with CTV, and I’m glad he did. The questions he asked were very thorough and thoughtful. We chatted for quite some time before he was satisfied he had enough details for his article. Then the photographer, Mike, lead me around Parliament Hill for nearly an hour to get the perfect shot to accompany the story. I tried to keep count of the number of pictures he took, but I lost track around 483. All kidding aside, both guys were amazing to work with and I can’t wait to see the Citizen tomorrow morning.
Throughout my experience on Parliament Hill, I had collected a small gathering of followers. I’d like to say they were strangers who had been drawn in to my charisma. But they were just friends and family showing support. I really appreciated having my cousins Pam and Angie, my Aunt Mary, my Mom and family friend, Peter Read all come out to see me. “But who is that guy peaking through the crowd from behind?” I thought. A young man named Jeremy was a representative from Peter Milliken’s office who had been sent out to track me down and present me with a letter congratulating me from the Government of Canada. For those who aren’t familiar with our politics, Peter Milliken is the Speaker of the House of Commons and also the MP for the Kingston area.
As an aside, I just want my buddies in Toronto know that Sean, a.k.a Bizerko, did manage to make it out to greet me at Parliament Hill. But unfortunately I was tied up with the media and didn’t actually get to meet up with him. thanks for coming, Sean.
By this time, I was starving. We grabbed a bit to eat before stopping by my Grandmother’s nursing home for a quick visit. Although it was a bit tough to see my Grandma suffering from dementia, I have to say that she was better than I expected. She may not have recognized me, but we were able to chat a bit and even take her for a short walk through the building. It was great to see the care she is receiving.
The afternoon was quickly escaping so I laced up and headed down the Parkway along the Ottawa River. There’s a beautiful bike path along the river which also follows the road, but I choose to stay on the street itself. I figured since I had just been on T.V., I should continue gaining exposure in the city however I could. The number of honks, waves and cheers indicated to me that I made the right call. One woman yelled out her window that she had just seen me on television. Another man pulled up beside me and told me he wishes he was skating with me. And one guy even flipped me the bird! Well, maybe that’s not the reaction I was looking for, but it was bound to happen eventually. Here I am skating a major road through Ottawa during rush hour. Of course some people will be upset. Actually, he’s the first person to show any kind of negativity towards me in a very long time. He was only the second person since I started this trip. So I just laughed it off. Every other car, truck and even bus was excited to have me on their roads.
I was now out of town and heading for Richmond, but the afternoon heat was wearing me down. As I pulled over to take a break, I saw a man and 2 young boys come charging towards me with big smiles on their faces. They had heard me on the radio and had also just passed me on the road. The boys were pretty excited to see me as they each presented me with a small donation. The father of the boys was just as excited and was actually video taping the entire encounter with his digital camera. “This is going on YouTube. Is that ok?” he asked as he and the boys got ready to leave. Of course it’s alright….but I’ll expect an endorsement check of no less that 6 figures! Only kidding, but I hope he remembers to send me the links so I can share them with everyone on this site.
Traffic had begun to lighten up. Either that, or I was just so far out of town that the only traffic on the roads were horse-drawn trailers! I still had no shoulder and the pavement wasn’t favorable on my feet. But I persevered yet again and rolled through Richmond where I called it quits for the night. We were only about 5-10 km from our good friends, Peter and Debbie Read, so I jumped in the RV and we headed over. When we got to their house they had the best surprise for us that we could ask for… they weren’t there! Actually, we knew they wouldn’t be there until later. Peter had a baseball game and Debbie was golfing. Sounds like pretty tough lives they lead. The quietness gave me an opportunity to change the wheel on my skates. I hadn’t replaced the wheels on my dry skates since starting the journey, so I figured it was about time. Heck, I’d done nearly 2000 km on them (and almost 1000 km on the wet skates). When Peter and Debbie got home, we were able to all sit around and catch up on the adventure I’ve been living. We talked late into the night, but since I had to get up to skate and Debbie had to work in the morning, we went to bed shortly after midnight. I guess we’ll see how I handle 100 kilometers tomorrow while I’m running off of 5 hours of sleep.
Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
It’s not easy to sleep in past 6 am when the morning sun comes beating in the window, you’re dog is pacing up and down the aisle, and there’s an eerie silence that’s almost unsettling. It was a different sensation sleeping in a peaceful campground rather than a busy truck stop or gas bar. I don’t think I slept all that well due to the lack of noise. But it was a nice change.
The goal for the day was to reach Orleans so I could arrive on Parliament Hill earlier the next day. It was obvious very early in the day that heat was going to be a factor. Fortunately I didn’t have far to go, so I could roll at a pretty casual pace. I started off towards Ottawa down a country road along the Ottawa River. It wasn’t the worst conditions I faced, but there was practically no traffic which made for very little exposure. We ended up back on Highway 17 when we reached Alfred. I became apparent that I was already getting more media coverage in Ontario than I had all throughout Quebec. People were honking and waving more than I’d seen in a long time. I was clipping along at a pretty good rate when my dad asked me to stop for a minute. The radio station 580 CFRA just called and wanted a quick interview. As I stood there at the side of the road giving the DJ the details about the Skate For Hope, a young woman came out of her house which we were parked in front of. “I hope she’ss not going to tell us to get off her driveway,” I thought. But it turned out she wanted to make a donation. My first ‘on-air’ donation!
After lunch in Rockland, I only had about 20 km to Place d’Orleans Mall where I was planning to stop for the day. What I was expecting was challenge of rollerblading without a paved shoulder. The entire stretch of highway from Rockland to Orleans had a 6 inch shoulder which was cracking badly. This wasn’t ideal considering I have a 5 foot stride. I had to alter my gate so my left leg wouldn’t swing out into the passing traffic, and so my right leg wouldn’t run over the cracks and gravel. It was a tightrope act if I’ve ever seen one. By the time I finally reached Orleans, my body was aching. Changing my stride forced me to use many different muscles in an unusual way. Normally, when the shoulder gets narrow, my dad and I will play a game of Chicken. I’ll sneak out into the lane so I can skate at my regular pace. And whenever a car comes up behind us, dad beeps me on the walkie talkie so I know to get over. Today this wasn’t an option. I was skating through Rockland/Orleans at rush hour. It was solid traffic.
The hot afternoon created some big black clouds above my head. It was deja vu to yesterday! By this time I was only about 5 km from the Mall. One droplet hit my face, then another. I really wasn’t in the mood to change into my rain skates just for a few kilometers. Time to turn on the burners. I pushed hard and ended up arriving at Place d’Orleans just as the rain really started coming down. Perfect timing.
We drove up the street to my Aunt Mary and Uncle Ron’s house where we were greeted and treated to a big pasta dinner. It was great to see a bunch of my family who I don’t see too often. They had generously held a garage sale a week or 2 ago and gave me all the earnings. Incredibly, I’ve only been in Ontario for less than 2 days and my media exposure and donations have already surpassed that of the entire province of Quebec. I took a couple quick pictures with my cousin’s kids and was soon ready for bed. It was a pretty long day even though I only skated 75 km. My parents worked exceptionally hard today contacting the media, too. Without them, the Skate for Hope would not be a success.
Monday, June 11th, 2007
Icing on the cake. That’s the best I can describe it. This morning the phone rang just before I was about to leave Saint-Lin-Laurentides. It was the Montreal radio station 940 AM who we spoke to yesterday and asked me to do an interview today.
“Hi. I’m just calling to cancel the interview for today” a woman’s voice told me. “We prefer to air current news stories rather than features.”
“I’m rollerblading across Canada, and I’m just outside of Montreal right now. Isn’t that current news?” I asked politely.
Unable to give me a straight answer about their reasoning, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the media of Quebec and let her know I had plans of reaching Ontario as quickly as possible so I could concentrate on exposure from a more receptive audience. Like I said… Icing on the cake.
As I started skating, I couldn’t help but realize that I was completely unfazed by the disappointing phone call. In fact, I almost found humour in it. Look at the irony. Quebec has a population of 7,500,000 people compared to Newfoundland’s 500,000 residents. Yet the people of Newfoundland donated 12 times more than Quebec. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a slam against the people of Quebec. Far from it. I met some of the nicest people there (you may remember me talk about Patrick and Sylvie). But the media in Quebec were completely unresponsive to our requests for coverage. Even though we had a language barrier, I was truly disappointed that I couldn’t reach more people in the province.
Nevertheless, I skated on with the occasional encouraging honk and ‘thumbs up’. My sights were now set towards Ontario. I was pretty confident I could make it, but I wasn’t too sure what the remaining highway would be like. It was just outside of Saint-Jerome when the phone rang again. I was sitting in the RV taking a break and re-hydrating, so I answered the call. It turned out to be 105.1 Mike FM out of Montreal. My mom had e-mailed them the night before. The DJ, Marie, was possibly one of the most enthusiastic people about my trip thus far! Mike FM was the polar opposite of 940 AM. She had me on the air for near 10 minutes! She even made reference to Terry Fox and the struggles he endured through Quebec. She encouraged everyone to stop and donated and even offered to pay people back if they did so! If all the media in the province were as genuine as Marie, Quebec would be tough to beat. Although many people may have missed me coming through Quebec, hopefully awareness will continue to build even after I’m gone.
By lunch time I had cleared over 50 km! I was now only 25 km from the Ontario border. But the heat and humidity were wearing me down. I get a kick out of the people of BC when they complain about humidity. Try living in Ontario or Quebec! Some days you feel like you’re swimming through the air it’s so thick. But I’m looking after myself well. I stay hydrated and well nourished. So after lunch and a quick nap, I pressed on.
I was less than 10 km from the crossing to Hawkesbury, Ontario, when the Weather Gods decided to have a little bit of fun with me before I left Quebec. The sun was shining, the breeze was light, and without warning a downpour opened up directly above me. I looked around trying to figure out where the rain was coming from. There was blue sky everywhere. Everywhere except above my head. Cars driving by in the opposite lanes were bone dry, but I was getting soaked. Yup, just a small dark cloud hanging out above me. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was pretty close to that! A little rain wasn’t stopping me from getting to Ontario. With a final left-hand turn, I was on a bridge over the Ottawa River and into my 6th province on rollerblades. A lot like Newfoundland, Quebec showed me some of the best and some of the worst conditions I could face. So when I saw the “Welcome to Ontario” sign, I got down on hands and knees and kissed the wet ground.
No sooner had I entered the Province did the rain disappear and the roads dried up. Just another taste of irony. I finished my day just outside of Hawkesbury where we found a campground willing to let us stay the night for free! And the grocery store in town donated a case of water to me! Yup, Ontario was off to a great start. We settled into our campsite along side the Ottawa River where I immediately ran down and leaped in. The water was barely over 70 degrees, but it felt better than any swim I’ve had in my life. It was a nice evening filled with little luxuries (like a picnic table, and a public toilet). We did a bit more media calling and some preparations for tomorrow. I think I should have no trouble getting into Ottawa. So for everyone in O-town, I’ll be coming along #17 highway into Orleans. Be ready with skates on. And if you miss me, I’ll be heading to Parliament Hill on Wednesday morning! Hope to see you all there!
NEW PHOTOS ARE UP!