Today was a pleasant and relaxed 75km cycle from Vernon to Sicamous; with the exception of a major adrenaline boost over a 100m stretch. I’ll get to that in a bit. It was partly cloudy most of today and a little cool; perfect for pedaling. Highway 97A from Vernon gradually goes up hill to Sicamous, and there were wide paved shoulders for the most part. The only exception to the continuous stretch of decent shoulders was about 2km near Armstrong where construction had absolutely butchered the shoulder, and rock, pebbles, mud and everything were on the road that I had to share with all the other traffic. That was a downhill stretch, so it went quickly. There was a dramatic change in the terrain today. Near Vernon, there are lots of foothills, grass, shrubbier types of trees (although there are coniferous forests on some of the higher hills, or ‘mountains’ if you’re from anywhere east of Alberta). As I travelled north, there was less desert terrain, and more greenery. I began to see some lush farmland. At one point today, I passed a herd of cattle huddled in their field close to the road. They were watching me from a distance. As I approached, they spaced out and then they clumsily ran beside me—or tried to—for about 50m. They aren’t the most graceful of animals.
A little further north, the road came onto the rocky shore of Mara Lake. It was on this stretch of pavement that I got my first major adrenaline rush of the trip. I don’t know whether to call it a close call or not—but I was scared. I came around a corner. There was a property on a hill, a bit above the road. This property belonged to Mr. German Shepherd, the enforcer—the guard dog. Apparently the shoulder of the highway was his property as well. This canine bolted down his little hill barking ominously and tore after me. I wasn’t going that fast—probably between 25 and 30 km/hr. He was faster than I was at this speed. He was only a couple feet away from me. At one point near the beginning of the chase, he was close enough to take a chunk out of my leg; he probably didn’t know what to do because I was on a bike. Anyways, I hauled out of there and that nasty critter ate my dust. Maybe it was just a great game for him that he plays in cycling season. Lots of trans-B.C. and trans-Canada cyclists follow that route.
At an Esso station in Sicamous, I met up with the support vehicle. My mom and I then tried to find the campground that Google Maps
indicated, but to no avail. We found one, but it had a bold sign, saying that they did not take reservations for single night over-camps. We stopped at a tourist info centre and Gail went inside. She was a little while, so I could tell she had gotten into a conversation. It turns out that she had entered a conversation about Kilometres for Communication with the lady working in the office. The woman who Gail had met was quite interested in the campaign—she had a friend entering the early stages of dementia. We’ve talked to many people about this campaign—many of them initially strangers. It strikes me that a vast majority of the people we’ve talked to know someone (a friend, relative, family member, colleague, or team mate) who has been, is beginning to, or will be faced with the challenge of communicating with limited or no speech.
Policies, funding, and attitudes vary in each province. So far, compared to what Kerr’s experienced in Ontario, and what we’ve heard from others in different parts of the country, British Columbia seems to be close to having it right. To us, one big positive British Columbia has over Ontario is the inclusive education. They don’t have schools where only students with disabilities attend. They have schools where everybody goes, and those who need a unique education will attend a special education class for a couple hours a day and attend other classes with everyone. As well, the funding in British Columbia is significantly better than in many other provinces. British Columbia has got a lot right, but I don’t want to sing my praises too loudly. There’s always room for improvement—waiting lists for communication devices and services are still about a year, and without the gritty advocacy of some individuals, families, and organizations out here, AAC funding would not be what it is and by no means is the tough part over. Lois and Robert, who we met yesterday in Vernon said, “[It’s a cycle,] we ask, they say ‘no’, we say ‘no isn’t good enough’”. Lois and Robert are married and live in Penticton. Robert lost most of his speech in a work place accident many years ago, which resulted in brain injury.
Hopefully, through a collective effort, Kilometres for Communication can raise more awareness about the changes needed in the provincial policies affecting funding for AAC services, supports and technology as well as those affecting education and inclusion. Sometimes, a flawed policy is based on misinformation and misunderstanding. My brother Kerr didn’t even have to go to Tribunal to change the funding policy in Ontario for communication device leases for people on social assistance. Policy makers simply didn’t understand the many reasons that people wanted to lease communication devices from the Centralized Equipment Pool (CEP) instead of paying the full purchase price, often $8000 or more. (CEP takes care of repairs, provides new devices and or software as a person’s needs change and as the technology changes.) Once the policy makers understood the advantages of leasing communication devices, they were quite willing to change the policy. One of the first steps in effecting positive change is ensuring that the policy makers have comprehensive knowledge about the issues, and that they understand the profound effects of their policies on people’s lives.
Today was a slight climb and a fairly easy ride. Tomorrow will be a little more difficult as I am finishing east of Revelstoke (well into the mountains). As well, I also had my helmet cam rolling when my encounter with K9 occurred, so I’m hoping to get that posted next time I have some swift Wi-Fi. Right now I’m operating via smart-phone, so it would likely take the rest of the trip to upload a 4-minute long video. Ok…maybe not that long, but Bell would be thrilled to charge me for that extra internet usage.
Until next time,