Archive for July, 2007
Tuesday, July 31st, 2007
They were calling for another day of record breaking heat today. Collectively, my parents and I made the decision to get up early and skate before the sun reached it’s peak. I even surprised myself when I was on the road by 6:30 am! I have to admit, the cool morning temperatures made a significant difference. As much pain as I had been in for the past couple days, I was almost enjoying myself this morning.
We knew that the 4 lanes of traffic would be reduced to 2 almost immediately today. But what we didn’t know was that construction of the new highway running parallel to the existing road was practically complete. All of a sudden, I had brand new blacktop that had never even been driven on by a car! So I took full advantage of the situation. As I bladed down the deserted road, my Dad followed along the rough shoulder on the older highway. There may have been about 20 feet of land separating the 2 roads, but I felt like I was in my own world. I looked ahead of me and could see nothing but asphalt. It was like being on a never-ending tarmac. I could finally maximize my potential and casually coast through the Prairies while enjoying the vastness surrounding me.
My 6:30 start helped me get ahead of the game, but the time change when we hit Saskatchewan helped even more. Before I knew it, I had completed 75 km and it wasn’t even 11:30am! I was feeling good, but I didn’t want to take any chances. We stopped in Moosomin for lunch and rested for over 3 hours. I’d never taken a 4 hour break before, but better safe than sorry. The break gave us time to catch up on some media work that had been piling up. City TV in Vancouver had called me and was expecting a call back. Keep your eyes open for me on BT Vancouver! I’m not sure when I may be on.
When I crossed the border from New Brunswick to Quebec, there was a distinct line in the road where the pavement changed. When I crossed from Quebec to Ontario, the weather changed instantly. When I entered Manitoba from Ontario, the rolling hills disappeared. But now that I’m in the Prairies, what could possibly change when I went from Manitoba to Saskatchewan. Well, I’ll tell you. It was almost like flipping a switch on my computer. Suddenly we went from having no internet service (for the entire province of Manitoba), to having a strong, consistent signal! It was incredible. We were in the middle of nowhere, but the Telus internet card I have (courtesy of Hostway Canada) was now working like a champ. Now I’ll have no excuses for falling behind on my journals!
The new highway I had been enjoying was now open to traffic beginning just before Whitewood, Saskatchewan. But even with the cars now flying past me, I still had my own huge shoulder. I was feeling comfortable even in the late afternoon heat. My Mom was convinced that today was the hottest day of the year, but I felt the breeze kept me cool enough. When I arrived in Whitewood, I had easily completed 115 km. It was my easiest 115 km day that I can remember.
My day wouldn’t have been complete without a feast fit for a King. My Dad fired up the barbecue and grilled up the biggest, juiciest, most succulent bison steak I’ve ever had. It melted in my mouth like butter on a hot day. With potatoes, carrots and fresh corn on the cob, I was satisfied with my day. And just to add icing to the cake, my internet connection was strong enough that I was able to get my webcam working so Crystal and I could see each other. I’ve been away from Vancouver for 3 months now. It won’t be long now before I’m home.
Monday, July 30th, 2007
Too often I’ve been woken up by the sound of water. Today was one of those days. But this time it wasn’t the typical ‘drip, drip, drip’ that I heard. It was more of a sloshing noise, followed by a ‘thud’. Sherry, a good friend of Harvey and Marnie, had gone out early on this Sunday and donated 15 cases of water donated for me! The sound I was hearing was my Dad helping to unload all the water into our RV. Awesome donation. Thanks, Sherry! This should get us through to Vancouver!
Harvey invited us to attend church with them this morning and mentioned that the Pastor would introduce me during the service. Considering the punishment my poor feet had endured the day before, I saw this as a golden opportunity for a few reasons. First, it would give my feet a bit more rest and time to recover. Second, it would be great exposure. Third, I could use some extra time in the morning to catch up on some journals! It was a win-win situation. However, it would mean that I would be leaving Brandon in the early afternoon on what was supposed to be one of the hottest days of the year. And the Weather Gods wouldn’t disappoint.
I’ll be honest. I’m not a church goer. So this was a unique experience all around. The live music was an interesting spin from what I remember as a kid, but unfortunately church just isn’t my cup of tea. I respect all religions and beliefs, but I don’t see how any single religion can be superior over another. Pastor Dan made a simple announcement about me being in the church today. I was well received and even collected a few donations. I guess I was invited on the right day, because after the service everyone was invited to participate in a luncheon buffet! Fabulous! I was starving. And the food was great. I may not be back at a church anytime too soon, but I know this visit won’t go forgotten.
We got prepared to tackle the blazing afternoon heat of the Prairies. Harvey even filled up our gas in the RV! The Proberts’ really out-did themselves on our trip through town. So I headed out of Brandon around 2 pm and was treated to more of the same crappy roads and powerful winds as yesterday. With each stride, I couldn’t help but shutter at the thought that my Dad may have actually been right about the Westerly Winds. With the pain biting at my feet, the heat pouring down on my head, and the wind slamming into my face, I struggled to even reach 10 km/h. The first hour was pure torture, but the road began to improve very slightly. With the temperature as hot as it was, I began to hallucinate. Without warning, the flat Prairies turned into the Rockie Mountain foothills. It was so realistic that I even felt like I was trying to skate up the long, sudden incline. And then it hit me… I wasn’t hallucinating. I really was climbing hills! I don’t know where these came from, but having to suddenly climb uphill as well as everything else I was fighting with was like rubbing salt in an open wound. With the humidex topping temperatures over 45 degrees celcius, I had to give in once again. It was just too much. But I wasn’t completely defeated yet. Since I started so late, I figured that I would wait until the sun started to go down and I would try to get in a few extra kilometers.
We stopped for an early dinner break near the village of Alexander at Hansel and Gretel’s Schnitzel House. I was surprised to see a German restaurant way out here, too! But I was even more surprised when the owner invited us in for dinner with her thick German accent. I’ve had schnitzel before, but this meal was mouth-watering! Just what I needed to give me a boost of energy to fight the evening elements.
When we walked outside, it was almost like someone had just flipped a switch. The temperature had dropped and the wind had shifted in my favour. Unbelievable! I strapped on my skates and began cruising down the Trans Canada Highway as if the last 2 days never happened. Manitoba had really knocked me down, but I was far from out. Call it determination, call it stubbornness, call it what you want. I knew I could make it to Virden before the day was done. Some 75 km after starting at 2 pm, I rolled into a campground in Virden. The best part was that I pounded nearly 50 of those kilometers after dinner, and it was still daylight! Just enough time to grab a shower and hit the pillow. I wonder if the Weather Gods will have more games for me tomorrow.
Monday, July 30th, 2007
I was supposed to remember to so something today. What was it? I know there’s something going on today, but I just can’t put my finger on it. Oh well. it couldn’t have been too important if I can’t even remember, right? Just kidding. Happy Birthday, Crystal! Miss ya, babe. Hope your birthday is more eventful than mine in Wabigoon, Ontario.
I’m glad Crystal was due for a fun-filled night, because my day started off as a day from hell. And it wouldn’t get any better. When I left MacGregor, I was instantly faced with unbearably rough roads and incredibly strong wind. Are these the ‘Westerlies’ that my Dad has been yapping about since we left Newfoundland? I hope not. I know the Prairies are generally windy, but I can’t imagine it being this extreme every single day! To give you an idea of how bad the conditions really were, I had managed to struggle through 30 km by 1:00pm. Officially my worst morning in terms of distance covered.
My one consolation was that Brandon was only 90 kilometers from MacGregor. But would I really be able to conquer 60 km in the afternoon having only done 30 in the morning? The pitted pavement was taking a toll on my feet. The pain was excruciating, and for the first time on this trip, a blister appeared near the ball of my foot. And there was nothing I could do to avoid it. It’s not one of those blisters you get from wet socks rubbing on your skin. It formed from the inescapable vibrations of the pebbly road. All I could do was grimace and continue to push through it.
I was about 30 km from Brandon when I had another run-in with the Law. When we entered Manitoba, we found out that I must have a permit to be in the highway. And the permit takes 4-6 weeks to acquire! Oi vie! In my mind I’m thinking, “There isn’t a cop in the Country that would write me a ticket for trying to raise money for cancer, right?”. So what are the odds that the officer who just pulled up beside me is going to ask me for my permit? No worries, though. My Dad had pulled some strings to get the permit fast-tracked. We had it if need be. But this encounter wouldn’t even go that far. The Policeman pulled up beside me with lights flashing. He had all traffic behind us completely blocked from getting past. “I just wanted to see how you were doing and say Good Luck,” the Officer yelled out his window as he coasted along side. Manitoba is really living up to their slogan “Friendly Manitoba”.
Earlier in the day I had given a quick interview to Chris from Star FM in Brandon. He really seemed to take a serious interest in my quest and gave my countless plugs throughout the day. It seemed like every 15 minutes my Dad was saying that he heard another mention about me on the station. Fantastic work, Chris. Thanks!
I was scheduled to be at Boston Pizza, Brandon, at 6:30 pm, but I was still 10 km from Brandon at 6 o’clock. A Police escort had been arranged to take me through the city to BP. My parents suggested I get in the RV and we come back to this spot tomorrow to start. But if you know me, then you know I’m stubborn. No way was I going to succumb to this Province! If I could get through a blizzard on Newfoundland, and the hills of Northern Ontario, I would get through this. With the help of the escort, I managed to stagger into the Boston Pizza parking lot about 20 minutes late. I may have been delayed, but I wasn’t beaten. But I’ll still give a point to Manitoba for the shear brutality I faced all day.
The reception was quiet, but effective. My Mom’s family, Harvey, Marnie and Doug, as well as a friend of there’s, Heather, all showed up to show their support and encouragement. The Boston Pizza Managers, Darren and Matt were very welcoming and even walked me around to each table and introduced me to the guests in the restaurant. Once I had finished my standard Thai Chicken Bites, Darren then surprised me with a check from the restaurant towards my efforts. Thank you, guys. It was a successful night with your help.
As windy as today was, the heat was embedded in every gust that washed across my body. My sweat couldn’t evaporate fast enough to keep me cool. So you can imagine how sticky and grimy I felt by the end of the day. Fortunately, Marnie and Harvey let us stay at their place so I could indulge in a much appreciated shower. Over the course of the evening, I met a few friends and neighbors including one little boy from next door who touched my heart. In his pajamas, he walked over to meet me and make a donation. With a grin on his face stretching from ear to ear, I never would have guessed that he had lost his mother to brain cancer just last year. My pain from today vanished instantly. I could not even begin to imagine the suffering he has had to go through at such a young age. He is the reason I continue to push myself to new limits.
Sunday, July 29th, 2007
I was hoping to get a nice early start today, but I also wanted to stick around for a few extra minutes in the morning to see the coverage on Breakfast Television. I don’t really like watching myself on TV, but the story turned out well. The Winnipeg Free Press also published my story today, too. It was a good article, but they missed a few minor details. For instance, I’m not from Newfoundland, and neither is Adam. It’s funny to see some of things the media will print without doing their research. A lot of the little mistakes would be avoided if the reporters would take an extra minute to investigate. It’s not hard to find the information on my site. Nevertheless, it was a decent article that will hopefully drive a bit more traffic to my site.
Last night, Randy had given me an alternative to taping my ankles. His store, Red River Speed, sells a product called eZeefit. They are ankle booties that are designed to stop rubbing and prevent blisters. I’ve taped my ankles every single day since May 5th, so this would be another first. I was a bit nervous, but willing to give it a shot. If these work well, they will be a huge time-saver.
The people of Winnipeg had obviously seen me on Global, City TV and the Free Press. As I skated out of the city and headed Westward, the honks and waves were in abundance. The eZeefit booties seemed to be working well. There were a few new pressure points, but no blisters were forming. I’m also working on my stride today. Randy had given me some pointers to help minimize my energy use and maximize my distance. It feels different, but I’ll give anything a try. I can really feel my legs using different muscles. I’m sure I’ll go through a couple tough days, but it should pay off in the long run.
Conditions today were great. It was hot, but the breeze kept me cool. I was able to cover over 55 km before lunch. Not bad considering I started after 9 am. I took my lunch break and a short nap in Oakville. The town may have the same name, but is nothing like Oakville, Ontario. The owner of the gas bar we stopped at even gave me a free ice cream for a little boost of energy to kick start my afternoon.
The plan was to make it to Portage La Prairie today. But since I wanted to make Brandon, Manitoba tomorrow, I thought it would be wise to get some extra distance beyond Portage to make my next day easier. As I was leaving the Portage city limits, I heard a car come up beside me honking repeatedly. It was pretty obvious that it was a friendly honk. The girl riding in the passenger seat waved to me excitedly. I continued on and was almost back to the main highway when I saw someone sitting on the side of the road ahead of me. The way she sat there, I thought she was a hitch hiker. There were no cars around her, so she must be looking for a ride. When I got up to her, she stood up and walked out towards me. It actually caught me off guard, but it was the girl who had passed me in the car a few minutes before. She held her hand out eager to give me a donation. It was a great gesture to know that she had driven past and then gone out of her way to hand me money.
Later in the afternoon, we were pulled over on a side road so I could take a break and get out of the sun. My Dad has a tendency to put the hood of the RV up every time we stop to let the engine cool a bit better. I figure that it’s only a matter of time before someone makes the assumption that we’re in distress. Well, today was that day. A man stopped and walked over to us. “You guys OK?” he asked as he approached. My Dad explained what was going on and chatted with the man for another 5-10 minutes. He was pretty impressed an ended up giving us a contribution of his own, as well.
I was getting tired but I was determined to make it to MacGregor. Only a few kilometers from the turn off, I saw a car pulled over to the side of the road ahead of me. When I got closer, the driver got out and waved to me. The woman had read about me in the paper in Winnipeg this morning. She knew she would be driving down the Trans Canada and was really hoping to see me. She was more than happy to hand me a donation to help my cause. Manitoba was really living up to its slogan “Friendly Manitoba”.
I had a quick shower at the campground in MacGregor before hopping back in the RV and driving back to Portage La Prairie for a reception at Boston Pizza. I didn’t have high hopes for the small town, but the owner, Randy, went all out for me. He announced to the entire restaurant who I was and what I was doing. He then surprised me by bringing the mascot, Lionel, out to walk around the store with me to collect donations. It’s always the simplest things that are the most effective. I ended up collecting over $300 in a very short time. This was one of the best Boston Pizza stops yet! Even some of the servers and staff made donations, including our server, Jordan. Thanks, buddy!
I had finished 110 km today and had a great reception to finish it off. It was a long, tiring day, but well worth it. I was now only 90 km from Brandon. I should have no trouble getting there for tomorrow night. Or would I?
Sunday, July 29th, 2007
The storm overnight wrecked havoc throughout Winnipeg, but the sun was shining on me today. My Mom decided to take a break from her regular duties so she could get a head start on the laundry that has been piling up. Without her with us, we had to call upon a special guest navigator. Who better to ask than the one and only Gene Edwards. Thankfully there is no relation to Matt Edwards! Gene is my Mom’s cousin and a Winnipeg native.
While we were on our way to the starting point for the day, I gave a quick interview for one of the top local radio stations. Based on the honks, I think a lot of people heard it.
When I started skating today, I never would have guessed that I would experience many ‘firsts’ as I came across the city. Randy had told his skate club about me and asked if anyone else would like to come out today. Although most people were at work, Randy and Bernie joined me making it my first time skating with a small group. Randy and Bernies’ wives stopped by briefly to wish us well. They are bladers, as well, and would have loved to join us, but unfortunately had to get to work.
Our escort through Winnipeg was scheduled to meet us at 9:30 am. It was a later start than normal since I only had to go through town and no further. After all, I could use a break. We waited patiently for the Police to arrive so we could get rolling. It was just before 9:30 when an officer showed up. When I saw her approaching, my first reaction was that this was a joke. She coasted up to us in the parking lot on her bicycle! I could just picture it… we roll up to an intersection and she stops traffic for us with her bike and whistle. Fortunately, she told us right away that 2 officers on motor bikes and one in a cruiser were all on their way to help out. This was going to be quite the convoy through the city! It was the first time that a bicycle cop was involved in my escort, too. It really looked amazing with the 3 of us skating and the bicycle in the lead. The motor bikes were instrumental in shutting down intersections so we could blade through with no interruptions. And the cruiser behind the RV was just added insurance that there were no incidences. All in all, it was one of the best escorts yet.
With so many people involved today, it was hard for the public not to notice us. There were a lot of friendly honks, cheers and clapping. I was afraid that we may delay the traffic, but it seemed to work flawlessly… until public transit got into the equation. There were 3 lanes on the road: left lane, middle lane, and the right lane which was mainly for parking meters. We stayed in the middle lane except when we needed to turn left. At one point, I heard a low rumble to my right. I glance around to see a city bus come barreling up beside me. He had a stop to make at that moment, so we were able to keep in front of him. I wasn’t too sure how the police would like to handle this situation because I knew the bus would be coming up shortly. Sure enough, he came up beside us again but had another stop to make. This time, I watched over my shoulder as the RV approached the bus from behind. I saw the bus drivers arm come firing out the window as if to signal that he was about to merge in front of my Dad. I know transit typically has the right of way, but surely this driver realizes what’s going on! At second glance, the driver wasn’t signaling at all. clutched in his hand was a bill that he was trying to hand off to my guest navigator. Mark this down as another first! A hand off donation from a public transit driver. Very cool.
It took us under an hour to work our way across Winnipeg and end at Boston Pizza on Portage Ave. When we rolled in, a few neighboring businesses came out to chat and donate. City TV/Breakfast Television showed up within minutes of my arrival for an interview. If you look way back in my journal to the days of my training, I used to skate past the Breakfast Television studio in Vancouver every morning. So now that Winnipeg BT is having me on, hopefully BT Vancouver will hop on board!
I had a nice unexpected lunch with my police escort team in the restaurant and had a chance to meet Andrew from BP head office. With less than 20 km completed, my skating was already done! Talk about a short day. Now I have some time to catch up on the website, do some laundry, get groceries and run other errands. If all I had to do was rollerblade everyday, this trip would be a breeze. But all this extra work makes me realize that blading is the easy part of my day.
Lisa Hrytsak, reporter for Global TV, swung by the house we’re staying at to get some more footage and ask a few more questions. I don’t think my Mom was too thrilled to see herself on the 6 o’clock news, but it was definitely good exposure to be on Global.
We then headed back to Boston Pizza at 6:30 where we were met by Ashley from head office. Randy, his family, Bernie and his wife all showed up to provide some additional support. With a big grin on his face, Randy said to me, “Check this out,” as he flashed a band-aid covered hand and leg at me. After we parted ways earlier in the day, Randy headed home on his blades but had a little run in with a patch of gravel. It looks like the gravel won. Actually, he didn’t look too bad, but road rash can be a real pain.
Tomorrow I’m off towards Portage La Prairie. The temperature should be pretty good, so I’m looking forward to continuing across Manitoba.
Thursday, July 26th, 2007
Between the Manitoba Border and Winnipeg, there’s really not a lot to see. So I left this morning from the East side of Prawda with low expectations. Imagine my surprise when today turned out to be one to remember!
The day started off on a good foot. We needed gas for the RV and the first place we found was a Shell station. Perfect! I’m an Airmiles collector, so I might as well take advantage when I can. Then someone made an interesting comment to me while I was paying. “10,000 km is a long way,” a voice came from behind me. “You don’t really think you’ll make it, do you?” he continued. At first I was caught off guard by the skepticism. But as I started talking to the man, I think he was just being sarcastic. As he reached into his wallet to make a donation to me, he mentioned that he had not donated to anyone since giving Terry Fox money so many years ago. It was a great feeling to know that I was able to restore some hope in someone who seemed to have given up.
The temperature was rising fast, and the humidity was right behind it. I stopped at a rest area to change into a dry shirt and cool off in the motor home. I sat in front of the air conditioner trying to bring my body temperature back down to a healthy range. The next thing I knew, the back door flung open and my Dad was looking up at me. “You have to meet these people!” he exclaimed. My Dad had started talking to a couple who had just pulled in to the rest area. In conversation, it came out that they were from Ear Falls. Talk about a small world. I’d never heard of Ear Falls until I met Kim and her family in Thunder Bay. Now it seemed like I couldn’t avoid meeting folks from up north! And to make things even funnier, the woman standing in front of me, also named Kim, works with the Kim I know in the same school! Seriously, what are the odds? Kim and Lloyd were amazingly kind and generous people. They were more than happy to contribute to my Skate For Hope even though they were on their way to Winnipeg for a little summer shopping spree.
We stopped for lunch a few kilometers East of Richer, Manitoba. I was a bit worried about what the afternoon heat would bring. I thought yesterday was hot, but today apparently broke records. I heard Winnipeg hit 48 degrees with humidity. Some places even broke 50 degrees! But once I got on the road again, I felt fairly comfortable thanks to the wind. Listen to me thanking the wind when usually I’d be cursing it. Without the wind today, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to skate. My wheels may have melted to the asphalt!
As I rolled up to the turn off to Richer, a car pulled over in front of me. I knew right away that this wasn’t just anyone getting out. It was Randy Plett. He is THE pro inline marathoner. When I left Thunder Bay, Rick had given Randy a call to let him know I was coming. And sure enough, here he was getting ready to skate with me the remaining 40 km into Winnipeg. I have to admit, it was a bit intimidating skating beside someone like Randy, but I’m not one to shy away. Randy knew I was no pro and he was very willing to give me some pointers with my stride. I don’t think I have terrible form, but I know I couldn’t compete with Randy.
We were just getting into a nice groove when I heard the sound of tires squealing behind me. Being on a divided highway, I wasn’t surprised to see a car coming up on the left side of the RV. But a cloud of dust from behind my Dad told me that something was out of place. In the blink of an eye a car appeared on the gravel shoulder to the right of the RV and showed no signs of slowing down! I still can’t figure out what this woman was doing or thinking (She probably wasn’t), but she decided that her only option was to pull onto the dirt shoulder and accelerate to pass my Dad on the right. I couldn’t tell if it was fear, anger or confusion in her eyes as she sped past Randy and I through the gravel. Unbelievably, she was able to maintain enough control until she could steer herself back on to the road and speed away. Talk about horrible drivers! This one easily took first place in my books to date.
Yup, Manitoba was shaping up to be one very interesting province. And my day was only half over! Within a few minutes of my brush with death (well, maybe that’s being a bit dramatic), we were met by Global TV. The film crew came up beside us to get some footage of us in action. They coasted along side us, coasted in front of us, and used a few other angles, too. They let us know that they were just getting the video and that a reporter would be in touch to get the interview.
We weren’t too far out of Wininpeg now, but I needed to stop for an important photo. We had reached the longitudinal center of Canada. Although this spot marks the center of the Country, not many people realize that the center of the Trans Canada is closer to Sault Ste. Marie. I was finding it funny in Ontario when cyclists would tell me that I was almost half way done. Little did they know that I was well over half way done. It was they who were almost half way done! I’ve covered around 6000 kilometers. I only have 4000 to go.
Almost on queue, the Winnipeg Free Press pulled up as I was posing for a picture under the Center of Canada sign. I’m sure Randy was getting frustrated by this point. I know I was anxious to get into the city, so I can only imagine that he was dying to keep skating. But I must make time for the media. So after another interview and a few more photos, we finally set our sights on Winnipeg. Unfortunately we were due for a few more interruptions yet.
I continue to mention the support that Boston Pizza has provided. Well, today they really out-did themselves. We were literally in the middle of no where when a Boston Pizza vehicle pulled up in front of us with a special delivery. I’ve never had pizza delivered to me on the side of a highway, and I likely will never again. But it was definitely unique. I think I have Andrew to thank for this one! Ashley got out of the car and handed us a pizza, some cold drinks, a t-shirt and hat. I’ll be honest, though. We didn’t eat the pizza until we reached our destination in the city. It was much more satisfying at that point.
Randy and I continued along with the wind thankfully keeping us cool enough to maintain a decent speed of 25 km/h. We stopped for one more break under an overpass which provide some much-needed shade. It was here that we had our final unexpected visitor for the day. Or should I say visitors. A van packed full of young kids pulled over while were were sitting on the road resting. They all climbed out and ran over to meet us. They were part of a day camp and had seen us skating towards Winnipeg. They badly wanted to meet us and find out more about what we were doing. I gave each of the excited little guys a Rollerblade sticker and talked to them for a few minutes about my journey. But we couldn’t chat too long, because I still had some distance to cover. So off we set on what would hopefully be our last leg for the day.
I could see dark clouds beginning to roll in from the West as we entered the city limits. I think the Weather Gods were upset that I didn’t let the heat slow me down. So they decided to throw a few lightening bolts my way. If this was going to be another battle with the Gods, I was determined to win. Randy and I came to rest at a parking lot just on the East side of town. We hadn’t had our skates off our feet for more than a minute before some incredible gusts of winds came across the city like tidal waves. Shopping carts were flying across the parking lot. Black clouds were surrounding us. Lightning was crashing. And rain began hitting the ground like water balloons. The storm really only lasted a few minutes before breaking up. I think the Gods realized they were a few minutes too late. Sorry to disappoint you, Weather Gods, but I won this encounter. That’s right, 105 km on this record breaking hottest day of the year. Point Richard.
We dropped Randy off at home and drove to the West side of Winnipeg where my mom’s cousins live. Gene and Evelyn were happy to see us. And we were happy to see their shower! It was great to see them. Evelyn even prepared a fantastic bison sheppard’s pie for us! Delicious!
Tomorrow will be fun. Randy is going to meet up with me, as well as another skater from his club. And I’ll be finishing off my stop in Winnipeg with a visit to Boston Pizza on Portage Ave. at 6:30 pm tomorrow evening.
Thursday, July 26th, 2007
As I bladed out of the Kenora city limits, a surreal feeling swept through my body. In a couple of hours, I would be in Manitoba! Ontario has provided a lot of unforgettable memories over the past month and a half, but it’s finally time to move on. I grew up in Kingston and went to school in Hamilton, so I know all about the hot humid, stick, sweltering heat of the Ontario summers. But I was very fortunate that I managed to squeak through the province without having to take a day off due to heat. But then again, I still had a few hours in front of me. Who knows what the Weather Gods were holding up their sleeves.
With every stride towards Manitoba, I could feel the temperature rising. The Gods weren’t happy. They knew that I’d survived the rugged hills of Northern Ontario. As if the sun alone wasn’t bad enough, the wind that was being thrown in my face felt like someone had an industrial strength hair dryer aimed at me on high heat. I tried pacing myself, but the sweat was rolling down my face. I had to stop every 15 kilometers an make my dad start up the generator so I could get out of the heat for a few minutes. Score: Northern Ontario 2 – Rich 2. Low and behold, I came up to a huge blue sign towering down over me, but gave a sense of welcoming at the same time. If fact, it even said “Welcome to Manitoba”. I’d done it. I had face Goliath head on and chopped him down at the knees. I gave myself an extra point for conquering this seemingly impossible province. Final score: Rich 3 – Ontario 2.
I took a much deserved, extra long lunch break at the Manitoba border. But I couldn’t rest too long. We had been told that we must have permits to be on the highway in Manitoba. So I had to reach the RCMP office in Falcon Lake before they closed at 4pm to pick up the papers. Falcon Lake was only about 12 km from the border, but it took me nearly an hour. Sure, the hills were officially behind me (and I wouldn’t be seeing them again until late Alberta), but the heat today was borderline unbearable. I actually got a picture of a thermometer that was in the shade and read 100 degrees Celcius. And there was humidity on top of that.
Once we arrived at Falcon Lake, I’d only done about 65 km. But I had no choice to to take another long break. I decided it would be in my best interest to wait until the heat began to let off in the evening before skating anymore. So we headed down to the water and went for a swim to cool off. I spent another few hours relaxing in the shade and then went out for dinner to an awful restaurant. I can’t even remember what it was, but it was in a hotel. Who knew that a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich could get screwed up? I thought they just dropped in in the fryer, through on a bun and put some sauce on it. It was 7:30pm when I strapped the blades back on and headed down the long straight highway towards Winnipeg. The temperature had dropped significantly which allowed me to keep a comfortable speed of about 20-25 km/hr. By 9 o’clock I had nearly reached Prawda and decided to stop. With the insane heat I’d experienced all day, I was very satisfied to have skated 97 kilometers.
After being denied campground donations from Prawda and Hadashville, we came across a place called Riverside Pines Resort. They took us in without hesitation. The owners were very encouraging and friendly. We told them all we needed was hydro, but they insisted we take their last camp site. I was pretty excited to have a shower having soaked in my own sweat all day. Not only were the owners amazing people, but the other campers were incredible, as well! My Dad had wandered over to the next site to ask for an opinion about an old breaker switch that we’ve been having trouble with. Within minutes of his return, the campers came knocking on our door and handed us over $50 in donations that they had quickly managed to collect! I’ve said it before, but the generosity of the Canadian people continues to astound me. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the prairies will be like.
Wednesday, July 25th, 2007
I woke up in a wet bed today. I looked around frantically to see if the roof was leaking again. Nope. It hadn’t even rained. Had I gone pee in my sleep? Nope. Definitely no smell of urine. Then it hit me. Sweat was rolling down my forehead. It was only 7 am and it was 26 degrees already! It was a hot, sweaty start to the day, and it was only getting hotter.
I tried pacing myself a bit slower today so I wouldn’t over heat and collapse. But it was no trouble to maintain a slow speed. Actually, I couldn’t get my speed up if I wanted to. The road from Dryden to Kenora has great shoulders, but it is completely littered with stones and pebbles. Almost every stride I took was affected by the mess. I had to use every ounce of concentration to watch for and avoid as many stones as possible. It sounds easy, but they blend in to the pavement surprisingly well. Remember the old video game called River Raider? I think it was on Commodore64 and/or Atari. Well, I felt like I was in a life sized version of the game. The objective is to work your way down the river without colliding into oncoming obstacles. It was frustrating skating through this, but I think level 1 is complete.
Before reaching the turn for Kenora, I stopped at a lake for an important photo op. It was Richard Lake! I figured someone would name a street after me eventually, but I never expected to see something so soon! Thank you, Northern Ontario. I’m flattered!
I took a short break prior to entering the Kenora city limits. I had the opportunity to check my e-mails. One in particular caught my attention today. The owner of Davy Lake Campground had sent me a request to ‘retract my previous statement’ from my journal entry a few days ago. I remember mentioning that they didn’t want to donate a night to me, and that’s fine. It’s their prerogative. I’m not sure why, but she even cc’d the University of Alberta. Other than the fact that donations are going to their research program, I have no direct affiliation with the school. But keep in mind that this is just a personal journal. It is my thoughts and feelings. It has no affiliation with anyone other than myself. I’m sorry Davy Lake, but it was and still is of my personal opinion that even though you offered to reduce the rate for us, another $17 would not have caused bankruptcy. I was not asking for a cash donation. All we need is hydro to keep our food from spoiling throughout the night. I hardly think $17 is worth one night of hydro. It would have cost next to nothing for the amount of electricity we would have used. I’m sorry if this offends the owners of Davy Lake, but I cannot retract my personal thoughts.
I followed a police escort into town all the way to Boston Pizza. It was still early in the day so after a brief stop, we headed back to Anicinabe Campground where the provided us with a place to stay. It took me all of 35 seconds to run out of the RV from our site, down to the lake and straight into the refreshing water. With my dark, tanned arms and my milky white chest, I’m sure most people thought I was swimming with a shirt on. You can see what I mean in the photo section.
After a few errands around town, we headed back to Boston Pizza where they gave me a nice reception. A reporter from the Miner was on hand for an interview as well. I must admit, he was probably one of the better reporters I’ve met so far. He had some amazing questions and didn’t waste time asking about all the typical info that anyone can read on my site (i.e. where/when did you start, etc.). He was more interested in my motivation, goals, and thoughts. I can’t wait to see the article.
As we sat enjoying our meals, my Dad’s cell phone rang. Excited as a 5-year-old on Christmas morning, he grabbed the phone and pulled it towards himself. Unfortunately there was a pizza tray in the way which knocked the phone out of his grasp and sent it flying. It came to rest with a Splat directly in the middle of his creamy pasta dish. And this is where the story gets good. Once he wiped the sauce off the phone, he answered the call to discover it was my Mom’s cousin in Winnipeg, Gene. With a little chuckle, my Dad spoke into the phone. “How are you doing, you a-hole?!” he said jokingly. We’d been trying to get in touch with Gene and Evelyn for the last few days and had left a few voice mails for them. So we were expecting this call. Gene didn’t sound amused with my Dad’s humour. Probably because it wasn’t Gene! Somehow, my Dad had got a phone number for the wrong Gene. The man on the phone now was just calling to let us know that we’d been calling the wrong house! Leave it to my Dad to call a complete stranger and a-hole.
My night ended with a nice change of pace. Kim, who I’d met in Thunder Bay with her mom and Grandma, had come down to Kenora to visit a friend. She came over to Boston Pizza and took me back to her friends place where they were having a bonfire. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the company of my parents…for the most part. But it was a nice chance for me to sit back and relax with other people my own age. Thanks Kim, that was definitely a nice break for me.
Tomorrow is a big day. I’ll be entering Manitoba. It’s been a long time coming, but Ontario will soon be a thing of the past. However, I still strongly encourage everyone in Ontario to follow my progress and donate whatever you can.
Monday, July 23rd, 2007
Weather forecast for today… Thunder storms, lightening, and HAIL! I rolled over in bed and glanced out the window to see dark clouds looming overhead. Sigh. Well, at least it wasn’t raining yet. But I thought it would be best to put my rain skates on right away so I wouldn’t be frustrated by having to change them when it finally did start to pour. Prepared for the worst from the Weather Gods, I set out from Wabigoon and headed for Dryden. A few sprinkles of wetness were tossed towards me from the heavens above, but nothing significant yet. I cruised into Dryden happy that I was still dry.
The RV was in need of fuel and I was getting hungry, so we pulled into the Husky Truck Stop for a break. A wave of familiarity swept across me. I’d been to this truck stop before. In fact, I’d even slept here before! This was where Crystal and I had stopped on our second night when we were moving out West. I’d call it a coincidence, but I think the odds are pretty high that I’ll continue coming across these spots.
Not far past Dryden I heard a friendly honk of a horn behind me. Normally I’d give a little wave or a thumbs up as the car drove past, but this time my Dad buzzed me on the radio to take notice of the vehicle coming up on me. It was a couple who had stayed beside us in the campground last night. They had left well before me, but were held up in Dryden for a while. They waved happily at me as they crept past with a line of transports stacked up behind them. I’m sure the truckers weren’t pleased with the slight delay, but it made me smile to see them again.
We’ve been warned countless times about the wildlife of Northern Ontario. Specifically the moose. Just before breaking for lunch, I looked over to my right and saw an entire herd of giant, brown, furry animals. But these weren’t moose (or is it meese?). To my disappointment, they weren’t even wild. But my disappointment quickly vanished and morphed into excitement. They were bison! We pulled into the driveway which was advertising bison meat. What a perfect opportunity to stock up. This place had pepperoni, steak, sausage, roast, and more. As if it wasn’t good enough that we were getting our fix, the owner then made a substantial donation to my Skate For Hope and also gave me a stack of pepperoni sticks at no cost! You’re an incredible, generous woman, Janice. I’m sure business is good, but I still recommend everyone checkout Northern Wildlife Meat Products in Oxdrift, Ontario.
The cities and towns up here are few and far between. We paused for lunch at the crossroads leading to a village called Eagle River. And after eating, I worked my way to Vermillion Bay. I wasn’t too tired or hungry at this point, but I stopped because I remembered reading on the map that once we left Vermilion Bay there would be no civilization until Kenora. It was a stretch of nearly 100 km. As I coasted into a parking lot to stop, I noticed a family playing frizbee by their truck. I hadn’t even come to a complete stop when they came over to talk to me. It turned out that they were from Sudbury and had read about me in the Sudbury Northern Life paper. They were wonderful people and very enthusiastic. Not only did the gentleman hand me a significant donation, but his niece and nephew also made incredible donations of their own. It was great meeting you. I hope to see you again when you come back through from Winnipeg!
A few additional hand-off donations from moving cars and 35 kilometers later, here I sit. Literally in the middle of nowhere. We are 60 km East of Kenora. We were lucky to find a small hotel willing to let us plug into their electricity for the night. The family that runs this place are great, too. I’m still amazed by the people of Canada. I can count on one hand how many people have not been accepting of me. Even here in No-Mans-Land, Ontario, the generosity and hospitality from complete strangers is remarkable. We are truly lucky to be living in such an incredible country.
Saturday, July 21st, 2007
It’s always nice to be somewhere with internet access so I can check my e-mails in the morning before skating. But today I was swamped by a plethora of messages in my inbox. Normally I’d give a sigh and work relentlessly to answer each of them. But today was different. I half expected to see them. Thank you to everyone who remembered. And thank you to Facebook for reminding everyone else who wouldn’t have known.
If you asked me one year ago where I thought I’d be today, I don’t think I would have answered “Wabigoon”. To be completely honest, there’s nothing special about turning 28. However, I can say that this will go down as one birthday I’ll never forget. Who else can say they rollerbladed over 100 kilometers through Northern Ontario on their birthday?
After opening my gift from Crystal and a card from my folks, I did what I’ve done everyday for the last 2 and a half months. I laced up the blades, turned my back on the sun and headed West. No time to celebrate now. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to party when I get home.
I hadn’t skated more than 15 kilometers when I came up behind another RV on the side of the highway. It was pretty obvious that this was someone on a trek of their own across the country. But it’s nice to see someone going West against the consistent flow of cyclists. Denise began a 3000 km walk from Ontario to Saskatchewan. We stopped and chatted for some time about our travels. I gazed back at her safety RV in admiration. Our 1978 motor home made their 1981 look like a Ferrari! But it was reassuring to know that they had ensured even more repairs than we have. The encounter with Denise was a great morning break, but it was time to get moving.
We stopped for lunch near a tranquil waterfall about 40 km from where I started. Not a great morning, but not bad considering I started a bit late and had the unexpected break with Denise. The afternoon was jammed pack with excitement and action. As I skated along the highway, I was amazed by the number of trees, rocks and lakes. Ok, so it wasn’t that exciting. In fact, it was as typical as the day I started in Northern Ontario. All my efforts were being focussed on concentrating on my music to maintain my sanity.
I received a few phone calls from Crystal, Jeff, Eugene and Donna to wish me a happy birthday. Always nice to hear friendly familiar voices. Thanks everyone.
I ended my big day just outside of Dryden. We stopped at the first campground we found, but we were turned away again! The excuse today: “I already give sooo much to The Canadian Cancer Society. I can’t give any more”. The owner then had the audacity to complain to me that the people working for the CCS make too much money and his money is just going to pay salaries. Well, my friend, it sounds like you need to re-evaluate where you make your donations. In a sick twist of irony, we went down the road less than 3 kilometers to another campground who gladly accepted us for free. The irony: the owner of this location is the Aunt of the man who had just turned us away. Good thing we were careful to watch what we said about the other campground!
I had some delicious bison burgers for dinner and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert. Not exactly the birthday dinner you’d expect, but more memorable than any other. I’m now only about 150 km from Kenora. So I’ll have no trouble getting there in time for the reception at Boston Pizza on Monday night.
I have to get back to another game of Mosquito Minute. But I may increase it to the Mosquito Hour.