Archive for the ‘Daily Journal’ Category
Saturday, September 8th, 2007
The day has finally arrived. My journey across Canada on in-line skates is coming to and end. But the battle against cancer remains.
I couldn’t let myself get too excited, though, because I still had some skating to get done. I strapped on the blades on the north side of Nanaimo pretty early today since I had to be at Departure Bay ferry terminal by 8:00 am. When I rolled up to the docks, it felt like the crew was already expecting us. They put us in a separate lane and explained that we would be the last vehicle on the boat so that I wouldn’t affect traffic when we depart in Horseshoe Bay. I was hoping to have some time on board to catch up on journals and pictures, but when the Captain announced that I was there, my morning just got busier. During the announcement you could sense that everyone was listening intently and trying to figure out who I was. My Dad was about 30 feet away from me chatting with some people and began yelling “Stand up! Stand Up!” I rouse to my feet and gave a bashful wave as everyone around turned to look and applaud. Almost immediately people began coming up to me and hand me donations.
Once the congratulations died down, I had the chance to meet a few interesting people on board. An incredibly generous and caring family from Aruba spent some time talking to me and asking about my journey. Then Bill Robinson introduced himself to me. He told me about an organization he started called Hidden Heroes. It is basically like a leadership camp for children in BC. He then asked if I would consider being a guest speaker at the camp. I’d love to, Bill.
When the ferry floated into Horseshoe Bay I waited patiently with my skates on as all of the cars departed. Finally I was given the ‘All Clear’ and was permitted to roll down the ramp onto the mainland. I hadn’t been on the pavement for more than 3 seconds when a policeman on a motorcycle pulled in front of me to begin my escort through West Vancouver. After another 35 meters, I looked to my right and saw 3 smiling faces watching me. Eugene, Ryan and the one and only, Adam didn’t want to wait at the Inukshuk for me. They came right to the ferry to participate in the final convoy of my journey.
Just before heading thorugh West Vancouver towards downtown, I had to make a quick stop at Trolls Restaurant to meet up with a few members of the Vancouver Torrent In-line Skate club. 3 of them decided to join me for the last leg of my trip. So off we headed across the rolling hills of Marine Drive with a dual police escort. I think the hills would have been tougher for me, but I had a pretty big surge of adrenaline to keep me going. It also helped having a crew of people to skate with.
The group grew even larger when we arrived at Park Royal mall where we were joined my several other members from the Torrent including Conny who helped set it all up, as well as my friends Kirsten, Pat, and Dave. Crystal also hopped out of the RV with her skates on for the final haul into Vancouver. It was pretty impressive to see about 20 or so skaters huddled around and then funnel down the road and over the Lions Gate Bridge. Once over the bridge, some more friends, Kevin and Jay, joined the procession on bicycles. Like a swarm of bees, we all followed the police into the heart of Stanley Park and around Prospect Point. We eventually met back up with Georgia Street and took over a traffic lane on the busy street. Cars were bumper to bumper, so our momentum was creeping along at a slow crawl. We worked our way up Georgia to Richards Street (ironic, I know), went one block south to Robson Street where we hung a right and headed back down towards Denman Street. The exposure was incredible. People couldn’t help but notice us. There was clapping, cheering, honking, sirens and flashing lights. With a final turn onto Denman Street, I was now heading down the last few hundred meters of a historical journey. I could see the bright red Boston Pizza tent down by the Inukshuk and crowd of people anxiously waiting for me to roll in. And then, just as quickly as I took my first few strides in St. John’s, Newfoundland, my trip came to an end at English Bay.
There was more cheering and clapping from an amazing crowd consisting of friends, family, colleagues, sponsors and strangers. The Deputy Mayor of Vancouver was there to congratulate me in my efforts. So many people from Hostway Canada were on hand to witness my finale. Hostway has always been supportive, but it was incredible to see so many people out to greet me. I posed for a few quick photos before removing my skates and plunging head first into the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. Sure, it was cliche, but I bet if you skated across the country, you’d have the same urge.
The ‘Thank You’ speeches were filled with tears, embraces and surprises. In a moment like this, you might feel prepared with words to share. But when it comes down to it, nothing can make you ready for the flood of emotions that come gushing out. I tried my best to recognize and acknowledge everyone who played an important role in the Skate For Hope. But I’m sure I missed someone. To anyone I forgot, Thank you. The crowd listened as I spoke, the deputy Mayor spoke, my parents spoke, Robbie (Hostway) spoke and Andrea (Boston Pizza) spoke. But I was at a loss for words when Andrea and Brian walked over to me from the Boston Pizza tent and handed me a giant novelty check in the amount of $5000. The support they have provided across the country has been wonderful, and this was just icing on the cake.
After some mingling, chatting and pizza, another big moment was awaiting me. I was finally going to my apartment! As comfortable as the bed in the RV was, I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own place again! But my work was far from over. I still had to unload everything from the RV in lug it up to my apartment. Once I felt confident everything was out, I took a peek in my living room which looked like a bomb had gone off. There was skate gear, clothes, shoes, papers and parcels everywhere. It’s a good thing I don’t have to go back to work until October. I think it’ll take me a month to organize everything.
Adam, Ryan, Eugene, Crystal, my parents and I went out for a celebratory dinner before heading to the Rivers Reach pub in New Westminster for the after-party. As I walked around the pub talking to friends I hadn’t seen in months, part of me began feeling like I had never left. I especially want to thank Jordan for putting together the wrap-up party. You went above and beyond any expectations. The posters, the table settings, the food, the balloons and even personalize donation envelopes. It was truly remarkable. And thank you to the Rivers Reach for hosting the event and the surprise donation, as well. This was exactly what I needed to conclude my journey.
Having Adam with me at the end of this trip made the entire struggle worth every grueling stride. 10,000 kilometers. 4 intense months. 1 amazing country. And countless lives changed forever.
The Skate For Hope is far from over. It’s only just begun. Together we can fight cancer one stride at a time and we will See The End
Saturday, September 8th, 2007
It’s hard to keep focussed today since I know that this will be my last major blading day. Sure, it’s only about 50-60 km from Duncan to Nanaimo. But knowing that I’m so close to the finish line is exciting.
The sun may have been shining down on me today, but the conditions were far from perfect. My worst enemy decided to make one last appearance. The Weather Gods were huffing and puffing trying to deter me from reaching my goal. It’s never enjoyable skating through wind like I was today, but I’m pretty sure I would have bladed through a tornado if I had to today. The road was smooth, but generally up hill most of the way. I had a few nice downhill grades, but for the most part I was battling into the wind and towards the sky. About an hour after starting from Duncan, I rolled into Ladysmith where we took a break for food. I also had a chance to stop at the local BMO to deposit the latest donations.
When I finally arrived in Nanaimo, the Police met me at the south end of town to escort me through the city to Boston Pizza. Crystal strapped on her blades and joined me through the city. The Officer in fornt of us had his lights flashing and sirens blaring for the entire escort. My Dad looked in his rear view mirror to see a 2nd officer join the convoy. As we got north of the city, the wind picked up more and the ground was a constant incline. Crystal hopped back in the RV and I tried to speed through the last few kilometers. As if uphill and into the wind wasn’t hard enough, the pavement suddenly turned extremely rough just as I passed Departure Bay Road. It just seemed like nothing was going my way.
My determination hasn’t let me down yet, and today was no exception. I pushed through the conditions until finally arriving at Boston Pizza where a local reporter met me for a few quick photos. We thanked the policemen, met with the BP staff and headed over to Jinglepot Campground sos I could have a shower before coming back to the restaurant later tonight.
With the help of Dan, Ricki and Alvin, the evening was very successful. The store offered a draw for a $50 gift card at Boston Pizza for anyone donating to my cause. Being a friday night, the restaurant was busy and donation rolled in as soon as Ricki announced I was there. Alvin suggested we stick around until after 10pm since the Clippers hockey team would be coming in with 100 other people. We tried to drag our feet, but by 8:30 we were exhausted. Tomorrow is going to be a big day and we know we need some rest. So we didn’t get to meet the hockey team, but I raised a lot of money regardless.
You can imagine how anxious I am to get back to Vancouver tomorrow. It’s been 4 and a half months since I was last in my own apartment! But the day is finally here. I’m excited to see all my friends and everyone who is waiting for me on the mainland. It’ll be hard to sleep tonight, but I need to have energy to complete the last 30 kilometers from the ferry to English Bay.
Saturday, September 8th, 2007
I didn’t leave Langford today until nearly 10 am. Although I had the Malahat to climb, I figured that I only had 50 kilometers to Duncan. The Police had shown some concern with me being on the Malahat and had offered some suggestions to get through it safely. But when I look back at some of the ugly situations I’ve managed to work through, the Malahat doesn’t intimidate me.
Shortly after 11 am, I had come down Ice Cream Mountain through some narrow, winding roads and climbed my way to the summit of the Malahat. Other than an excessive amount of scattered stones on the shoulder, the road conditions were immaculate! The pavement was like new! However, I can see why there are so many accidents. The road could be treacherous if it was foggy or wet.
I coasted down easily into Duncan shortly after noon. After a visit at BP and lunch compliments of the Subway, we drove over to my parents’ friends house. Herb and Joyce used to own a cottage (or cabin, depending on which part of Canada you’re in) on the same road as ours. They welcomed us in with Joyce’s kindness and Herb’s thunderous laugh. Being avid travelers, I’m grateful they were around to allow us to indulge in the luxury of a clean hot shower!
I received an e-mail from a woman telling me about a Dragon Boat team near Duncan. Apparently the Dragon Diva’s, so they’re called, are a team comprised completely of breast cancer survivors! I was told that they were practicing today in Cowichan Bay and I should stop by to meet them. So Herb drove Crystal and I over to see them before going to BP for dinner. The women were a riot! So much energy. So much spirit. And so much love. Without even knowing too much about me, they greeted me happily and made amazing donations of their own. Thank you Dragon Divas. Good luck in Australia!
Herb and Joyce’s daughter, Laura, and her husband, Joel, also came up from Victoria for supper to show support. We were also joined by a few other of Herb and Joyce’s friends for our meal. The most ironic guests tonight would have to be Lisa. She had read about me and came to BP with her family just to meet me. The reason I say it was ironic is that Lisa works at the Empress Hotel in the Tea Room! Had my mom known this a couple days ago, she would have been in heaven! And speaking of the Empress Tea Room, I also received another e-mail telling me that my facts were inaccurate. Forgive me, Barb. Apparently when my Mom went for Tea 27 years ago, it was with my grandmother, Barb, and Barb’s children, Malc and Trish. Barb, did Malc still have a black eye from the Tonka Truck I threw at him when you took him to the Empress?
With only Duncan and Nanaimo Boston Pizza’s left on the tour, I wasn’t expecting to see any new tricks come out. But they managed to find another creative way to bring in donations in Duncan. The store had gift certificates for various vendors around town. For every donation of $3.00, customers would be entered in a draw. It was that simple! It worked amazingly! It was another incredibly successful night. Only one more BP to go, but I’ve been blown away by the response from the Islanders. I hope Nanaimo is ready for me!
Saturday, September 8th, 2007
Four months ago today I strapped my skates on and dipped my fingers into the icy waters of the St. John’s Harbour and took my first strides of an epic adventure which took me across the entire country. Four months ago. The number sounds staggering. Over 9,000 kilometers. The distance sounds unachievable. One in 3 Canadians will develop cancer. Four months of my life and 9,000 km suddenly seem like a small, insignificant sacrifice when you look at the bigger picture. If I had really wanted to, I could have finished the journey in less than 4 months, but as it would be, I still have some ground to cover.
I back-tracked slightly towards the ferries to begin skating today at Royal Oak Drive. I was met by a small procession of Police motorcycles. The 2 officers were ready to lead me out towards the University of Victoria and down along the water front until I reached Mile Zero. I had just started blading when an A-Channel cameraman caught up to me for a quick roadside interview. We’ve worked incredibly hard to get media coverage to help spread awareness about what I’m doing. It always feels great when television, newspapers or radio stations put out the effort to let the public know. I have to rely on the media for exposure. Without the them to let people know what I’m doing, I wouldn’t have raised over $40,000 from individual donations to this point. I only hope more media will see the significance of my efforts and run a quick story. I’m very grateful to A-Channel in Victoria for taking the time.
The police escort wound me through Oak Bay and down to Beach Avenue. I’ve been warned about the drivers on the island but I was still caught off guard not once but twice today. Even with the Police in front of me. Both incidences involved drivers who were completely oblivious to what was going on around them. It was quite apparent that these people had severe tunnel-vision. They had only one thing on their mind. Fortunately I’m a superb athlete with cat-like reflexes. So I was able to react to the carelessness unfolding in front of me and avoid any catastrophes. I’m not sure if the sweat rolling down my forehead was from the beautiful morning sun, or from the near misses with traffic.
With the sun shining down and a thick, low fog rolling across the water, I was able to lose myself in the majestical setting of Vancouver Island. The gorgeous houses, the lush golf courses, the haunted cemeteries and the ocean breeze all contributed to make this morning one of the most enjoyable. I worked my way along the water until the moment of truth was upon me. “It’s just ahead,” the lead officer called back to me. I came around Beacon Hill Park to an open grassy area. And there it was. A big wooden sign. “Mile ’0′ – Victoria, BC”. It was hard to believe that I was actually there. I had really done it. I was the first man to in-line skate successfully from Mile Zero in St. John’s, Newfoundland to Mile Zero in Victoria, B.C. But it was a very odd feeling. I thought it would be much more emotional. I think knowing that I still have over 100 km before I finish my trip prevented me from absorbing the significance of what I had just done. And to make it even more weird, the water wasn’t accessible from this point, so I had to skate an extra 2 kilometers past Mile 0 so I could dip my fingers in the Pacific Ocean. 4 months to the day, and I had gone from one side of the country to the other.
After a short break, Crystal laced up her skates and started from Mile 0 with me towards downtown Victoria. As the 2 of us headed away from Mile Zero, it almost felt like we were at the beginning of a journey back to Newfoundland! I think once across the country is enough for me, though. Just get me back to Vancouver and I’ll be content.
Crystal was 98% excited and 2% scared. Or maybe it was 2% excited and 98% scared. That’s what makes it so intense…the confusion of it all! But I’m happy to report that even with her gitters, Crystal was able to skate smoothly with me, hand-in-hand, all the way up Government Street and out of Victoria and almost to Langford! She even got to experience what it was like to skate on the Trans Canada Highway for a while.
While we were making our way out of the city, a car pulled over in front of the Police officer and jumped out with a bill in her hand. “Do you remember me?” she grinned. Last night when we had stopped for gas, the attendant had donated all of her tip money to my cause. She was now standing in front of me again with another donation! Another multi-donater! It’s people like her that make me proud to be Canadian.
We arrived in Langford and stopped by the Boston Pizza quickly to meet Janice before heading over to the All Fun RV Park. We still had a while before we needed to be back at the restaurant, so after a much-needed shower we drove back to Victoria. Jess from the Saanich Boston Pizza had asked us to stop by if possible to pick up another donation that had been dropped off. Of course we’ll take any opportunity to go back to his store, so we swung by for a few minutes. Just before we had to leave Victoria and head back to Langford for supper, we made another quick stop. This time it was a request from Crystal to stop. She was pretty excited to find out that there was a pizza place called The Joint on Wharf Street which makes specialty gluten-free pizzas! It’s been torture for Crystal to watch us eat pizza at the various BP’s. So she was in heaven when she found this place.
Back in Langford, there was a familiar face smiling at me in the parking lot when I arrived at the store. The woman standing in front of me was the same woman I had met at the Boston Pizza in Merritt a couple weeks ago who had suggested I stop in Langford! She runs a dance studio across the road and brought her daughter and 2 other dancers over to meet me and make another substantial donation. Thank you to everyone at the Westshore Dance Studio!
Inside the restaurant, I was able to meet a lot of amazing people. I young boy named Chris walked up to me to congratulate me and handed me an incredible donation. Rhea and Sawyer were another couple of great kids with their parents. Sawyer, don’t worry about the chocolate stain on your shirt. I know it wasn’t you. I saw your Dad drop the ice cream on you! And of course Janice, Vic, Mark and everyone else at BP…Thank you. The Boston Pizza’s on the Island are stealing the thunder from all the rest! You’ve all been fantastic.
Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
Well, the long weekend is officially over. Back to regularity. Today is just like any other day. Kids are back in school and people are back to work. Oh yeah, and it’s also my Dad’s Birthday! I think he was feeling a bit left out since I spent my birthday in Wabigoon and Mom had Mother’s Day in Newfoundland. Dad is spoiled to be in a beautiful place like Vancouver Island for his big day. So to make him feel better, I put him back to work as soon as he opened his card. We have work that needs to be done!
Dad got on the phone started arranging Police escorts and media coverage. By the sounds of things, I should have at least a couple of Officers taking me through Victoria tomorrow. We mapped out the route through the city and decided to take a drive to see where I’d be skating. The area around Oak Bay and near the University of Victoria was breath-taking (even with the intense fog that was blanketing over us) with unbelievable mansions and ocean front property. I was driving at this point and pulled over when I saw a family of deer crossing the street. It seemed bizarre for deer to be wandering through this urbanized area. But it was awesome to see them up so close.
The weather network was calling for sunny skies, but all I could see was a sheet of white. And then the rain even began to fall. But we weren’t going to let it get us down. We park near the south end of Victoria and walked into town to look around. I figure that I won’t have time to stop and see all the sites tomorrow when I’m blading through, so I best be looking around now.
I knew Victoria was a small place, but I can’t believe how small the world is. As we headed towards the city, a young couple was walking towards us. My mom took one look at them and said “That’s a Vettorazzo boy.” Sure enough, it was a boy my mom had taught and Beth Caulfield who had also both gone to my old high school. It’s amazing who you run into when you’re skating across Canada.
The Legislative Buildings stand out as a memorable part of the day for me. Sure, the buildings have incredible arcitecture, and the history inside is amazing. But I was most impressed with their rules. While we walked through the halls, I came across an unusual sign. I could understand it they had signs that said No Talking, or No Cell Phones. But to see a picture depicting a person picking their nose was just plain weird. The only way I can interpret it is that they want us all to pick our noses while inside. So of course I had to oblige.
I was still giggling about the sign as we walked towards the Fairmont Empress Hotel. It’s a pretty impressive building, but has more meaning to my Mom. She explained how she has memories of having tea in the exclusive tea room in the hotel with my Grandma, Barb Darnley, Becky and Trish about 27 years ago. I wanted to see what all the hype was about so I walked right into the Tea Room and asked how much afternoon tea would cost. I walked away with my tail between my legs when the hostess explained it would be $55 per person without even batting an eye! Well, I wasn’t prepared to drop that kind of money since I don’t even drink tea, but I wanted to give my Mom a chance to re-live her glory days. So her, Crystal and I headed up an elevator and found ourselves in a private ‘members only’ section of the hotel on the 3rd floor over looking the harbour. Although there was no tea, there were a couple of tea cups which we took the opportunity to pose for a photo so it looks like we had afternoon tea there. Simple things for simple minds, I guess. It doesn’t take much to amuse us.
The sun finally broke through the clouds and burned the fog away. We jumped at the chance to stroll through the Old Town of Victoria with the sun beating down on us. Crystal and I did some window shopping which turned into real shopping and soon found ourselves in Chinatown. There some pretty neat shops and a remarkable area called Tan Tan Alley. This tiny alleyway is not even wide enough for 2 people to walk side by side. And yet when you stroll through it, there are some great shops an stores that you would never normally know existed. It was very unique.
We treated my Dad to dinner at the Cactus Club Cafe on Douglas street for his birthday. I know it’s not quite the same as the truck stop I was at for my birthday in July, but it’ll have to do. As great as Boston Pizza has been, you can imagine that Cactus Club came a refreshing alternative.
The West Bay Marine Village RV Park didn’t even hesitate when we called them looking for a site. It was a very different style of RV park than we’ve ever stayed at, but it was really nice. We were right on the water in the heart of a Marina. We were surrounded by boats and floating homes. And if you haven’t seen a floating home, it’s nothing like a house boat. They literally are gorgeous homes that float in the harbour. Marie, the woman who checked us in, was so warm and welcoming. She eagerly handed me a donation of her own as we chatted for while. Sometimes I don’t realize the importance of what I have no accomplished. Although I set out with a goal in mind, you never really know how it will turn out. And Marie helped by reminding me that I’m living proof that anything is possible if you just believe.
Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
I know I continue to mention the days when I’m able to sleep in. Well, today I took it to a whole new level! It was 9:30 am when I finally opened my eyes! The hardest part about sleeping in is trying to hold your pee so long. Since we were already on the Island, I knew I only had a few kilometers to skate to the Boston Pizza in Saanich, so there was no hurry to get moving today. As I started down Highway 17 towards the city, I was carrying a faster pace the normal. I figured my stamina is good enough to sprint a few kilometers. But when 10 km went by, then 11, 12, 13, 14, I started to get impatient. I even saw a Welcome To Victoria sign before I finally reached my destination.
When I rolled into the parking lot at Boston Pizza, I could see the facial expressions of the staff through the windows. I’m not sure if their eyes were wide with amazement and admiration, or if it was shock and concern since I was a few hours early. But we reassured them that we were just stopping in to drop off some posters and we’d be back for supper. Jess and the rest of the staff at the BP were all pumped to have me coming in. The atmosphere was exceptionally welcoming and energetic. They even took the time to create a small description sheet about me and put them up at every table in the restaurant. Another simple but effective idea. And another first, too. The balloons at our table was another nice touch, as well. I can only imagine the success we could have had across the country if every store had Jess running it!
Oceanside RV Park in Saanich is a brand new establishment and were thrilled to have us stay with them. By the time I got cleaned up and showered, the afternoon was fading away. It was already 3 pm and the sky wanted to rain. So rather than driving to Victoria to site-see, or going to Butchart Gardens, we went up to Sidney and walked around the Harbour area. The misty rain that was now falling really made me home sick. It felt like the typical Vancouver rain.
We headed back to Boston Pizza where the wide eyes of concern had now been replaced by genuine warm smiles to greet us. Jess and his wife truly went out of their way to make us feel like part of the family. They even invited their entire family in just for me! Actually, they were there to celebrate Jess’s mother’s birthday. But it was great to meet them all. And the highlight of the night was having A-Channel television show up for an interview. Jess had taken it upon himself to arrange to have the media stop by. I’ve done a lot of interviews and thankfully I’ve only had to watch myself on t.v. once. But I’m told I don’t look too foolish.
If may be the drizzly rain, or maybe it’s a false sensation of being at the end of my journey, but all four of us were pretty exhausted and crashed pretty early. I’m also excited because tomorrow marks a special day. It will be my first day with no skating since I left Niagara Falls! I think I’ve earned a day off to take in the local scenery. After all, I’ve busted my butt to this point getting myself ahead of schedule!
Tuesday, September 4th, 2007
The stench of garbage didn’t bring me out of my sleep today. Instead, the sound of yapping dogs directly beside our RV acted as my alarm clock. It’s not uncommon for campers to have dogs with them, but it seemed disrespectful to stand around in a group talking, laughing and letting your dogs bark at 6:30 am only a few feet from someone else’s motor home. Our neighbors seemed to be lacking any common human courtesy. I’ve never been a morning person, and waking up in this manner sure didn’t help matters.
The overcast sky and the misty rain typical of the Lower Mainland really made me feel like I was finally home. I laced up my rain skates and hit the pavement rolling. But something wasn’t right. On every stride, I could feel my right leg jerk backwards as if I’d just skated through a tar patch. The same thing had happened to me just the other day as I was leaving Langley, but I didn’t take the time to figure out the problem. The only way I can describe the sensation is that it felt like my brake would spontaneously rub against the wheel, but only when I took a stride. If I was coasting, it seemed to be fine. I had a ferry to catch, so I couldn’t take the time to determine what was impeding my progress. I had no choice but to wear my dry skates. I wasn’t happy about this, but I figured I only have a few days of skating left, so it’s not that big of a deal.
I headed down a wet highway 99 towards the Tsawwassen ferries. We weren’t intending on having an escort today since it was Sunday morning of a long weekend. So it was a pleasant surprise when we were offered our most unique escort of the trip. I was about half way there when a big yellow road-work truck pulled in front of me and came to rest. The driver got out and walked towards me. He just wanted to check if I was planning on blading through the Massey Tunnel. I explained that I wasn’t and that I was on my way to the ferry. Impressed with my efforts, the man offered to follow behind us with a huge flashing arrow warning drivers to merge left around me. He told us that he’d take us as far as he could, but we figured that meant just until we got off the highway. I couldn’t believe it when he followed us all the way to the ferry terminal! I’ve been given many escorts across the country, but this was the first time from a road-work vehicle.
There I stood on the bow of the ferry with Crystal at my side staring out at the Pacific Ocean. It’s still hard to grasp the fact that I was dipping my hand in the Atlantic Ocean 4 months ago and after nearly 10,000 km, I was making my way to Vancouver Island. Oddly enough, I’ve been in Vancouver for 3 years and never made my way to the Island. As if my experience onboard wasn’t exciting enough, the captain took the time to announce to everyone that I was on the ship. Although most people wouldn’t recognize me as ‘The Rollerblader’, when we got of the boat, it was quite obvious that everyone had heard the announcement. The honks during the first few kilometers on the Island were more abundant than ever before! But I have to admit the highlight of the ferry ride came about half way across the trip. About 5 months ago, Crystal and I had gone whale watching in these same waters and came out empty-handed. No whales to be seen. So I never expected to actually see a pod of Killer Whales while crossing on this boat! They weren’t exceptionally close, but it was impressive to see the tall, proud dorsal fins glide gracefully through the waves.
The clouds still hadn’t broke when I took my first few strides on Vancouver Island, so I thought I should give my rain skates another chance. The buggers still didn’t want to work for me. This time I couldn’t stand it, so I spent some time trying to figure out the issue. I removed the stopper, but that didn’t help. I changed the bearings, but that wasn’t it. I put a new wheel on, but it was still happening. Finally I tried changing all four wheels on the right boot. And that’s when I figured it out. The second wheel from the front was clearly rubbing on the bottom of the boot itself, but only when I apply extensive pressure to the boot….like the pressure of a full stride. The only thing I can think of is that the material of the boot has weakened from the constant exposure to rough weather. All the rain must have made the structure deteriorate to the point that it sags down when pressure is applied and rubs against the wheel. You can actually see on the boot where the wheel has begun to grind into the sole. After brainstorming with my parents and Crystal for some time, the only solution we came up with was to put 90 mm wheels on instead of the 100 mm wheels I’ve been using all the way across. It will be interesting to see how this works out.
On my way down Highway 17 towards Victoria I came across an advertisers nightmare. There’s a stretch of road a couple kilometers long with more billboards than I’ve ever seen in my life! Every 20 feet is a new sign with a different ad. It seemed pretty distracting to me. I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents along this road.
Not including the ferry ride, I’d covered over 50 kilometers when I arrived at Island View RV Park in Saanich. We were right on a beach with a gorgeous view and incredible driftwood scattered everywhere along the water’s edge. We hadn’t started our dinner yet when the owners of the neighbouring RV pulled in beside us. Janine and her son, Brenden came by and shared some amazing stories and experiences. Janine is a golden ray of sun and Brenden is an all around great kid. They are both wonderful humanitarians…and Brenden even has the certificates to prove it!
It was nice having some extra time with Crystal and my parents without having to rush off to Boston Pizza for a reception. We took the time to bond over a peaceful game of Wizzard. I’m not going to take the time to explain how Wizzard works, but it’s basically a card game with euchre-like rules. And there’s nothing peaceful about it. It’s every man (or woman) for them self. To make a long story short, I destroyed everyone!
Tomorrow will be a short day since I’m not scheduled to be escorted through Victoria until September 5th. But I will skate down to the Boston Pizza. For now, I’ll just enjoy our quiet campsite near Sidney.
Monday, September 3rd, 2007
And so another month begins.
Before this journey began, it wasn’t unusual to wake up to the sound of sea gulls or crows squawking near my window. But I know that living in a major city like Vancouver, there are a lot worse things that could wake me up. Humans have 5 senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised when it was my sense of smell that stirred me today. Some people wake up to the smell of fresh coffee. For others it may be bacon and eggs. I had the misfortune to be roused by the overwhelming stench of rotting garbage. That’s right, the Vancouver civic strike is still in full force and the mounds of garbage make it visually and aromatically noticeable. With any luck, the issue will be resolved soon. Maybe this was a good summer to be away from the city!
My blade down 152nd Street into White Rock didn’t last too long from Surrey. Crystal handed me an envelope along the way from Sandra, a colleague of hers at Worksafe BC. Inside was a generous contribution. If everyone collected a few dollars from their co-workers for cancer research, we would all be closer to a cure.
A lot of people have commented on the mix-up in Chilliwack. Today I had the opportunity to chat with the manager at the BP there. The situation was unfortunate, but it was just a break down in communication. The Chilliwack BP is very supportive of the Skate For Hope and is actually making a significant contribution to the cause. Thank you Chilliwack BP!
The Peace Arch RV Park in White Rock was happy to accept us into their establishment. The park is a gorgeous place with incredible flowers and gardens through the property. The facilities were clean and convenient. My parents even said they will come back to stay here when they come to visit me which is fine with me since I only have a one bedroom apartment.
We had a bit of time to kill so we headed down to the water in White Rock. We strolled along the pier and through some local stores. My shorts have been annihilated by the harmful sun this summer, so I was able to find a couple new pairs. I know my Uncle Ron should be happy about my new purchase. I’ve heard he was never crazy about my flowery board shorts. We also made a quick stop at White Mountain Ice Cream. We were hoping to meet the owner since we have a unique connection with her. Her father was my family doctor in Kingston and actually delivered me just over 28 years ago! She wasn’t there today, but it would be nice to meet up sometime.
Ever since we had a tune up in Welland, Ontario, the RV has been running fairly well. So today we thought we’d give her a good test. If you know White Rock, you know there are some very steep hills on many of the streets. We headed up the most grueling incline we could find. My dad’s foot was to the floor. I could see a bead of sweat forming on his brow as we got near the top. With white knuckles and teeth clenched, Dad looked up to the peak and saw a stop sign. “Like Hell I’m stopping!” he exclaimed. We were all pretty nervous that if he were to come to a complete rest at this angle, we’d start picking up a lot of speed in the opposite direction. If a car hadn’t been coming through the intersection when we got to it, I think my Dad really would have rolled through. The grade must have been about 15% and now we were stopped. With a THUD, my Dad’s foot slammed on the accelerator and the motor home gurgled and chugged. Hair by hair we managed to turn the corner and barely made it back to level ground. She worked hard, and we all had to change our underwear at the end of it, but we made it successfully to the top.
I was pretty excited when I rolled into the Boston Pizza in White Rock. Topher, the manager, and the rest of the staff were all psyched to have me coming in! They had a contest planned for their servers to help raise donations for me, posters, and even a recent newspaper article displayed on the front counter. Another co-worker of Crystal’s made an appearance at the restaurant to show her support. Barbara had also e-mailed me earlier in the day to introduce herself. She’s an incredibly lively woman with a heart of gold. Not to be outdone by her cousin, my friend Pranita also showed up for dinner with her boyfriend. It was great to see you again, P.
The most special guest of the evening wasn’t even someone I knew. Fay and her husband had read about me in the newspaper and instantly decided that they wanted to come to Boston Pizza to meet me. A local to White Rock, Fay was so touched by what I’m doing that she invited us all to her place for dinner when my journey is finished next week. Fay, my parents might not be available, but Crystal and I intend to take you up on that offer. I’ll be expecting your phone call!
We scarfed down our food quickly because Boston Pizza had arranged to have me make an appearance at the Big Kahuna South Surrey Rams football game. The field was just down the street, so we hustled when we were done our meal. Kiri met us there and introduced me to a few of the top dogs of the football organization. At half time, I went out to mid-field with Kiri and Chris where I was introduced to the entire crowd. It wasn’t quite the same as the Edmonton Folk Festival, but it was great exposure to be in front of a couple hundred football fans. During the second half, we stood on the side lines enjoying the game when I was permanently scarred by a horrific scene in front of me. I watched as the teams broke their huddles and walked to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback took the snap and the play was under way. Suddenly I caught a white blur in the corner of my eye. It seemed a bit unusual that there were players so far down the field away from where the action was. As I turned my head to see why they were down in the end zone, I quickly realized they weren’t players at all. They weren’t referees, either. Three young men came sprinting down the stadium at top speed. And they were naked! I can’t say I’ve ever been to an event when streakers have made an appearance, and I hope I never am again. Simply disturbing.
That was enough for me. we headed back to the RV park for a quiet night. Tomorrow I head for Vancouver Island! It’s hard to believe I’ve been on the West Cost for 3 years and haven’t been to the Island yet.
Sunday, September 2nd, 2007
I woke up on the top bunk in the RV just as I’ve done 120 times before. But this morning was different. I opened my eyes to see an angel lying next to me. After 4 months of sleeping alone, I wasn’t sure what it would be like to have Crystal beside me again. I’ve been getting used to sprawling out across the double bed. But it felt natural to have her there.
Crystal headed to work, Kent and Matt were just waking up and I was getting ready to go back to Langley to skate. I didn’t have much time to visit with my friends this morning, but I knew I’d be back tonight to see everyone.
Sargent Cameron met us in the parking lot at Boston Pizza and provided an escort from Langley to Surrey. The sky was threatening to rain, but it had managed to hold off all morning. Then I started skating… and the rained started falling. Although it wasn’t much of a factor, but it was frustrating that it began to pour as soon as I was rolling, and it stopped when I arrived at my destination. Just cruel.
I only had to skate about 10 km to Surrey today, but it took a while since traffic was backed up due to construction. The slow pace and the police escort provided great exposure and lots of honks. When I coasted into Boston Pizza, and the sun started to peak through the clouds, my parents and I hit another frustrating obstacle. The staff at the restaurant had no idea I was coming in! Ugh. We’ve been working so hard to give the stores ample notice of our attendance, but apparently there was a mix-up in communications with this location. We were supposed to call back the owner to confirm but must have forgot. We must be on the phone at least 8 hours a day, so it’s pretty easy for miss a call. Someone had even called this Boston Pizza asking about me, but the managers had told them I wouldn’t be here. We learned our lesson. Immediately after smoothing out the wrinkles, we got back on the phone to make 100% sure that all remaining locations are confirmed.
Even with our carelessness, this Boston Pizza was excited to have us. In a last-minute effort, the management and promotional rep created a unique way to get customers involved and bring donation in. It was a very simple idea, but a great one. They sold raffle tickets for $5 a piece and the winner received their meal for free! Well done, Surrey BP! You surprised me with another first!
We had a full table tonight. Normally my parents and I would be eating alone, but while I was setting up at the hostesses booth, a voice came from behind me. “You must be Rich.” It was Dave and his girlfriend, Cory. I met Dave semi-randomly on Facebook. He had started a group asking for ideas of where to donate a substantial amount of money for cancer. To make a long story short, Crystal had suggested to him that he donate to my Skate For Hope and after receiving hundreds of other ideas, Dave choose me! We’d been in touch a few times and since he lives just around the corner, he came out to finally meet me.
Anjenett, a former co-worker of mine, also showed up to see me. If you’ve been following my progress from the beginning, you may remember when I was in Gander, Newfoundland. I was welcomed into the house of Bob and Kay for an afternoon meal and a hot shower. Well, these wonderful folks were Anjenett’s in-laws. It was great to eat with the company of Dave, Cory and Anjenett.
Back at my buddies’ house, I finally had a taste of what I left behind when I began the trip. Just a casual evening sitting around chatting with friends. The familiarity of it all was refreshing. Crystal, Kirsten, Chris, Kent, Matt, Louise, Jim and Nikki. Yup, seeing a few of my friends was nice, but also tough knowing that I’m not done. I feel so close, and yet tomorrow I’m rolling further away from home. As gratifying as this journey has been, I’m excited to get home.
Friday, August 31st, 2007
I’ve been in the Lower Mainland for a few days now and I’m starting to get anxious to get home. So you can imagine my frustration of being so close but not being able to actually sleep in my own bed! I woke up in Abbotsford today and we drove back to Mission where I would be starting my skate for the day.
Exposure has been getting better as I get closer to the finish line, so I was caught completely off guard when an irate motorist screamed out the window at me to “Get Off The (fill in blank here) Road!” I hadn’t been on my skates for more that 25 seconds when this man decided to express his opinion of cancer research. Obviously this guy was immune to cancer, I guess. To make my day even more surprising, yet another angry driver yelled at me as I came through Aldergrove. The weird thing about both of these encounters is that the drivers were both in the on-coming traffic. I can see why drivers behind me may get impatient if they get stuck behind me, but these guys had no excuse. I’d be lying if these type of situations weren’t disheartening. To think that I have come over 9,000 km on nothing more than my inline skates and managed to raise nearly $40,000 towards cancer research and people still show animosity towards me can be very discouraging. Especially since I’m finally coming into my home area.
Fortunately, the encouraging honks, waves and cheers greatly out-numbered the scoffs. I even had 2 wonderful women stop and donate today at the same time. The first woman to pull over told me that she missed me in Abbotsford and wanted to catch me today! The second woman had actually crossed my path in Northern Ontario and couldn’t pass up a second opportunity to help me in my cause. It’s people like these ladies who make it easy for me to forget about the very few jerks that I run into along the way.
40 kilometers after starting, I rolled into Boston Pizza in Langley on the Langley Bypass and it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. In order to kill some time I headed to the bank to deposit some donation money. I got chatting with some of the tellers who had heard about me on the radio. They were all so excited to meet me that they now plan to collect donations at their pot-luck lunch tomorrow! Great ladies at the BMO!
It was a quiet night at Boston Pizza, but the staff and owner, Ken, turned it into a great experience. Everyone in the restaurant, customers and staff, knew I was there. And as a result, the evening was very successful. It doesn’t take much…it’s all about awareness. Thanks for everything Ken, Rod, and the rest at BP! I tried to get a photo with Ken, but he insisted I take some shots with the staff instead. I even got one picture in which I’m having a sword fight using my skates with one of the servers!
Rather than pulling into a campground tonight, I figured that we were close enough to my friends’ place that we would just drive over and park there for the night. Although Kent, Matt and Chris weren’t home when we got there, Louise was there to welcome me home. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my friends, so it’s an amazing feeling to start seeing them again. To make the evening complete, Crystal came over to see me again, too! Since we weren’t far from her office, she decided to have a trial night with us in the RV and she could just go to work from here in the morning. You’ll be spending a week in these tight quarters with us, so I hope you can handle the smell of my skates!