June 17th, 2007
Another peaceful night at the cottage with no transports roaring past and no bright gas station lights beaming in through the van windows let me get a good nights sleep. I woke up refreshed and ready to get to Kingston. I quickly stopped by my Uncle’s cottage to say goodbye to my family, and also Chris and Wilma, the neighbours next door. As we drove in to the starting point in Gananoque, I tried taping my ankles as I do every morning. However, this time I was trying to do it while my dad was driving down County Road 2 hitting every little bump and turn. By the time we arrived and I finished taping, my feet looked like a 4-year-old had been turned loose with white glue and paper. But I knew I only had about 30 km to travel today, so I couldn’t be bothered making any adjustments. I was sure it would be fine.
Wendy, Butch and Brandon (Crystal’s family) called us just as I was getting ready to start. They said they wanted to come out to see me before I left. What I wasn’t expecting was that they actually wanted to join the convoy and be the lead vehicle all the way into Kingston! It made for a nice change. It was reassuring having another vehicle in front of me with his four-way flashers on. As Butch drove ahead of me, Wendy and Brandon sat in the back of their Jeep with the back hatch wide open so they could snap some pictures of me and wave to cars passing by. Wendy also spent more time calling Kingston radio stations to let them know I was coming. In fact, not far out of Gananoque, Fly FM called me again and did another live interview with me.
I wasn’t quite half way to Kingston when I noticed a car coming towards me that slowed down so much it practically stopped traffic altogether. I turned to see what was written on the side panels, but I couldn’t quite make it out. The next thing I knew, my dad told me the car had turned around and was now following behind us. This guy was either very supportive, or very interested, or very confused. He finally pulled ahead of my dad and came up beside me. There were 2 men in the car and they started to ask me questions. The only problem was that they were asking in French. I had no idea what was going on. They pulled over and got out so we could try to communicate. The driver was actually bilingual, so I was able to find out that the passenger, Claude Batha, was in the process of walking from Windsor, Ontario, all the way to Hawkesbury, Ontario (maybe you remember Hawkesbury from a recent journal entry of mine). Claude was raising money on behalf of the Optimist International Club in support of a Childhood Cancer Program. He was a very intriguing man and I wish him all the best. By the sounds of things, he’s almost done!
I was now getting very close to Kingston. I knew I just had one more small hill to climb and then I should be able to see the city skyline. I heard a van come barreling up beside me, but it was the sound of a mans voice that caught my attention.
“Way to go, Rich. Keep it up!” the voice yelled as the van barely slowed down while it passed by. Two things struck me as unusual. First, the van was pulling a small boat on the trailer and the wheels looked fairly low. Second, how the heck did the driver know my name? My question would quickly be answered and my observation of the wheels would later reappear. I was able to catch a small glimpse of the man’s face and realized it was an old family friend, Jan MacDonald. Ironically, my mom had just called Jan’s house a few minutes prior and left 2 very length voicemails letting the MacDonalds’ know that we were arriving. It was just coincidental that he happened to come by at that time, though. Later in the day when my dad spoke with Jan, we found out that he was giving the small boat away to somebody in town and had to tow it from his house. In an unfortunate turn of events, the trailer ended up with 2 flat tires which resulted in Jan spending a couple hundred dollars to repair. So he basically had to pay to give away his boat! But look on the bright side, Jan… at least you got to see me in action!
Just before coming over the ridge which would lead me into town, we were met by Constable Viktor Jutasi of the Kingston Police. He looked unimpressed with the fact that he, of all the police on staff, had been assigned to escort duty. As he eyed me up and down with an intense glare, I felt a bead of sweat form on my brow. But he wasn’t eyeing me at all. I think he was just looking at me wondering if a skinny kid like me could survive another 7,000 km on rollerblades. And I’m pretty sure the sweat was just from the heat and humidity. Constable Jutasi was genuinely interested and happy to be there. We talked for a minute about our route into the city and decided that once I was over the Causeway, we would circle up Brock Street a few blocks and come back down Princess Street to gain a bit more exposure before finishing directly in front of City Hall. It was an amazing feeling knowing that the city had lifted some by-laws specifically so I could come through town with no problems. I guess it helps that I’m a Kingston boy.
Waiting for me at Confederation Basin in front of City Hall was a small group of people including CKWS television, The Kingston Whig Standard newspaper, the Cataraqui Optimists Club, the Collins Bay councillor Lisa Osanik, and a few other friends like Peter Bird and Steven and Kailee Jamieson. After I interviewed with the television and newspaper reporters, I had a chance to chat with some people I haven’t seen in a while. But suddenly I heard my name being broadcasted from speakers setup across the street. A band was performing for a typical, traditional Kingston summer weekend and Wendy had wandered across and asked them to announce my arrival. Sure enough, they said a few words so I skated over and gave a polite, but slightly embarrassed, wave to the crowd who had gathered to listen to the music. I rolled back to the front steps of City Hall when I noticed a familiar face walking down the street. I wasn’t 100% sure if I knew the girl or if she just had one of those familiar faces. “Mandy?” I spoke hesitantly. But she stopped and turned to face me. It turned out to be Mandy McLeod who I went to high school with. We barely recognized each other. And it was sheer coincidence that she was walking by considering she now lives in Toronto. She just happened to be in town with her fiancee for the weekend. As we stood there chatting, the CKWS reporter must have liked what she saw, because when I saw the news later that night, she had filmed me talking with Mandy and her husband-to-be.
Before I left City Hall and headed to the west end of Kingston where my parents live, Gray Cunningham from the Cataraqui Optimist Club presented me with the single largest donation from any individual or organization. I may have already mentioned, but I’ll reiterate. The Optimist Club is a non-profit organization which is designed to help young boys and girls in the community and around the world. Although I’m not directly raising money for childhood cancer, the club feels that since I am visiting schools and impacting the lives of many children across Canada, they wanted to support my cause. If a non-profit organization like this can find $1000 to donate, I’m confident that other corporations and individuals will step up and match, if not exceed the standard being set. Every loonie is another dollar towards my goal.
The skate out of the downtown area was easy and enjoyable. Constable Jutasi came back to escort us all the way to our front door in Collins Bay. I guess the police cruiser, the jeep with people hanging out the back, the giant motor home with writing all over it, and a skinny rollerblader must have drawn some attention, because it didn’t take long for a few neighbours to stop by to congratulate me. But my sense of accomplishment was short lived. No sooner had we unlocked the front door did my dad have the whip cracking down on my heels again. The RV is in desperate need of mechanical work and my dad wanted to get it to the shop before they closed at 4pm. We unloaded as much from the van as we figured we would need and drove over to Kingston Truck Centre where we showed a mechanic a list of what needed to be done. The 3 top priorities are the brake lines need to be replaced, the temperature gauge does not work, and something is draining the battery because we have had to jump-start the motor home every morning since arriving in Ontario. We’re hoping KTC can come through for us with these repairs before Tuesday morning.
On our way back from the auto shop, we stopped in at Boston Pizza to try and find Corrina who has been helping with Kingston area publicity for me. She wasn’t in, but we bumped into another high school friend of mine, Mark D’Agostino. He was down visiting from Ottawa because his mom was hosting a bridal shower for Mark’s future wife. So it was another coincidental crossing of paths. You never know who you’ll run into on the streets of Kingston!
I also want to let everyone know that on Monday, June 18, Boston Pizza in Kingston will be donating 10 % of all sales between 11am and 2 pm. So if you’re at work and need somewhere to eat for lunch, please come to BP, or even order take out! If you can’t do that, just come by to see me there. Do whatever you can to convince your friends and colleagues to come to Boston Pizza on Monday! Every order is another donation towards cancer research!