12.30 Toronto time. Day 8 June 22, 2003
The biggest challenge that has faced the 6 riders and 6 support crew is learning to live with each other in harmony in extremely tight quarters for 10 days under conditions of sleep deprivation and pushing our bodies to their limits at all hours of the day and night. Imagine spending 10 days inside a box that is continually being shaken. We all secretly wondered who was going to crack first. Inevitably we have all cracked one way or another, but remarkably we have all held together. I have never been a team player until now. These guys taught me how to become part of a team by accepting me the way I am warts and all. And ya I do have a few personality warts, but you already new that right
And now tis day 8, and after the exhilaration of going to the semi-finals in Toronto/Mississauga we are fast approaching the finals in the Maritimes. We can smell victory. Yesterday June 21, Saturday, the Beaconsfield Cycling club of 20 riders escorted us from the Ontario Quebec border all the way through Dorion and Montreal to the east end. Thanks to local police officers who donated their time our peleton was given a presidential police escort through every red light in Montreal. Even the Beaconsfield cyclists were impressed. We kept having to remind ourselves, we dont deserve this treatment, it is the kids who suffer from cancer that have touched all those who want to participate in our cause and fight cancer in our children.
Kevin became my new buddy on the road along the North shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway all the way to Quebec City. This route probably has the longest dedicated bike path in Canada. It was another gorgeous day and we shared the road with Harley hogs all day long. In Quebec they really are a friendly bunch of road warriors. La Belle Province really did show off her feathers late into the night when Kevin and pulled a second shift from 2 am to 6 am starting in Riviere du Loupe ending in Edmunston New Brunswick, WOW, the sun started coming up over ancient worn down mountains of that lower Gaspe region at 3.45 am. To see the silhouettes of silos and church steeples in the early morning light was a sight to behold while I chased Kevin up every mountain. The scenery motivated us this morning, by keeping us awake and focused. We were disappointed to get off our bikes at 6 am. Every day now I give thanks for being a Canadian, we are truly blessed to live here.
Day 7, June 20,
But now I must comment on today's extraordinary out pouring of support by neighbours, friends and my Remax colleagues in Mississauga. Again, Lucie, spent days calling up fellow bikers, schools, and neighbours to come out and support us at the precise time we where scheduled to roll through town.
I don't know who we think we are, but you all made us feel like conquering heros coming back from the wars. We are not heros. Lets get that perfectly clear. We are just passionate about why we are riding our bicycles across Canada and you, our friends and neighbours have responded. WOW, that makes all of us a community of caring individuals. We should all feel pride in your out pouring of support along Lakeshore in Clarkson, at the Starbucks in Port Credit and then finally on Front Street in downtown Toronto.
And then there were the school children from Hillcrest Public School cheered us on and personally gave me about 300 high fives in about 40 seconds. What did we, as a community, teach them today - that we can all dream big, that Canadians can show their emotions, demonstrate their passion.
These past 7 days have taught me what an privilege it is to be a Canadian. My heart swells with pride and so should yours.
Now, it is 12.30 in the morning. We are in Gananoque in the middle of a transition. We are still trying to digest everything that happened today. Except for the birth of my daughers, these 7 days have been the most meaningful days of my life to date. I can't wait to live tomorrow. Tomorrow begins at 4 am when Freddie and I begin our ride into Montreal.
Day 6 continued_ June 20, 2003.
The Bungalow dweller in backwoods of Michigan actually had a phone and welcomed us in to use it. I realized the only person who had been in regular contact with the RV support crew was Lucie, my wife. And she knew all the numbers. So Scott, my riding buddy for that shift and I called Lucie in Mississauga Ont.. She made contact with the RV somewhere in Michigan state (50 kms away from us) and we were retreived by Hal Brown from the Geismar support vehicle who bought us a Subway sandwich. Real food! We instantly devoured it.
Point is. We the riders are not alone out here. We ride
hard for sure, but without the support crews in front and behind us we
could not survive out there alone. And the people behind the scenes, such
as Dr. Pat Hewitt, who prepares our spartan, yet nutrious meals, Lon our
driver and massage therapist, and my wife we could not have pulled off
this amazing feat of riding across Canada. I will mention more support
Day 6 - June 19, 2003
Scott and I got lost today and it was my wife, Lucie
back in Mississauga who saved the day, again. The first hour of our 6
am shift skirted around the sandy northern shores of Lake Michigan heading
toward the majestic Makinaw suspension bridge, (Fabienne would be impressed)
which spans the strait where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet. Holly
Mackinaw, what a bridge. I have now seen all 5 of the Great Lakes. Just
after we crossed over the RV support crew instructed us to ride ahead
to the next town of Cheboygan 23 km ahead. We flew ahead on #23 South
got into town and continued along the #23. We followed the direction of
the sun and trusted that Lake Huron's shore line would guide us down to
Port Huron, our point of re-entry back into Canada. Stiff breezes and
deserted sandy beeches beguiled us into believing we were headed in the
right direction until we approached the last hour of our 4 hour shift.
"Hey, Scott, we haven't seen the RV in 2 hours."
"We're lost, or I should say they lost us."
"No, and even if I did we are in the middle of
nowhere with no money," Scott says.
Day 4 and 5 June 18, 2003
I just woke up. That is to say, it has taken me 5 days to learn how to sleep longer than 15 minutes. Today, during my first 12 hour break, I actually delved into deep REM sleep. What a luxury. Sleep deprevation was becoming a serious issue. Riding through the night is hauntingly beautiful but without sleep my legs where working hard while my head started nodding off. I was craving sleep on the saddle. Last night while riding with Freddie from 1 am to 5 am I said, "Tell me a joke quick before I crash." Before long I was splitting my gut laughing at Freddy's impersonations of a bear (of which we have saw a few in Yoho National Park) "Excuse me," says the bear. "What are you doing on my turf? Those calf muscles look mighty tasty." Then we broke into song and I swear I could hear Freddie weeping at my rendition of "Summertime When the Living is Easy." God it felt wonderful to be alive as we both woke up on a silky smooth American highway with no traffic. It was as if they closed the highway just for us. Then once again we retreated back into our own precious thoughts. And the thought that was most recurring in both our minds is how priviledged we both felt to be out here riding for such a great cause. Each 4 hour shift that we embark on has become a spiritual experience. We laugh hard with each other and cry easily in private while riding behind our partner. The most memorable night ride was with Kevin. With a gentle tail wind still pushing us across the last stretch of prairies we both became hypnotised by the Northern lights out of the north, the rising moon in the south and a diamonds in the sky directly over head. I can't wait to share all these experiences with Lucie, my wife, who worked so hard to prepare the team for this ride. There are so many other people I want to thank also, but Lucie, you are so much apart of what I am doing out here. Thank you, this ride is a gift. Oh and Fabi, I am wearing the rope braid you made me on my neck. I love it. Thanks. And thank you Pascale for your words of encouragment. Tell Hillcrest School it would be awesome to see some students on the road side cheering us on. We can't wait to ride through our hometown, Mississauga.
Day 2 & 3 June 16, 2003
2.47 pm Mountain Time
Actually were in the middle of the magnificent prairies. It chokes me up how beautiful this country is. But I want to go back to Day 2 and those marvelous Rockies before I talk about today. After logging a total of 278 km on day one in the foot hills with Jeff, and Jamie we tackled the high Rockies in the middle of the night from 11 pm to 3 am. Although we could not see their magnificence we could feel the grinding ascents in our legs and we could hear the crashing of water against rock along our ribbon of road. The most exhilarating rush, however were the descents without traffic and only our bike lights to guide us. The RV did not follow that night. After a 4 hour break, not sleep, Jaime, Jeff and I prepared our selves for our final assault on the mountains, from Golden BC to Banff Alberta, which included Kicking Horse Pass near Lake Louise.
We began at 8am, 2 hours later I was an emotional wreck. Physically my legs and knees were holding up, but the awesome beauty of the mountains was overwhelming. I began to think of my family again and realized how lucky I am to be alive and healthy and how lucky I am to have such a wonderful wife who gave me two healthy, beautiful, happy, smart and most importantly life loving girls. I gave thanks that morning to the power of love, and the power of the Rockies to make me understand what life is truly all about.
And now it is day three in the Prairies and this morning I pulled a five hour shift logging 165 km with Kevin and Scott. We were a great team. Scott counted train cars to keep us amused.
What are we doing out here 6 guys crammed in an RV following 2 of our buddies on bikes at 35 km/hour, for 10 days? Were testing our limits, discovering who we really are and giving thanks for being alive and healthy while millions suffer from the debilitating effects of cancer.
Day 1 June 14,2003
Hamish here reporting after doing my first real century (165 km) with Jeff Rushton. He's my road buddy for the next 2 days. What a guy. He kept my spirits up by commenting on my calves as we laboured up an 8% grade for at least 12 km. Awesome climb. This is what we signed up for. And just when we were feeling totally spent, Ron Mitchell, of the support crew read us a dedication to Meagan Bebenek. We have been feeling her spirit all day today as she guides over these mountains and beats her angel wings to give us a tail wind all day. What a rush. It means so much to do this. And to my girls, Lucie, Pascale and Fabienne I miss you so much already.