Hello from Dinosaur Land. Today started off great. Our Skype presentation to the Breaking the ICE Conference in Toronto went smoothly, and it was fantastic seeing some familiar faces from back east (Kerr, Burns, Channy, Tracy, Nora). Kerr attended the ICE Conference, so he was there in person to introduce us to what looked like the hundred-and-something people in the room. Kerr flattered me, but he did poke a little fun at me—it’s ok, I can take it. Thanks for the intro brother. I had put together a PowerPoint of photos documenting our trip to date. This presentation was displayed on one screen at the conference, while our faces were projected on another adjacent screen. Our voices were on the sound system. For 50 minutes, Gail and I presented what Kilometres for Communication is about, what we want to accomplish, and we shared many moments from the campaign. I have to give a shout out to Kim and Barb at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. They made our presentation possible and deserve lots of credit for everything going as planned. Kim Beckers, Bruce Helmbold, along with Christine Beliveau, organized a fantastic event yesterday, where local AAC speakers shared their stories, Gail and I shared ours, and there was a video connection to Edmonton, so AAC speakers there shared their stories with us, and got to see and hear ours. I’ll come back to that in a little bit.
This morning, following our Breaking the ICE presentation, we had packed up and said our goodbyes by 11:30 am. After I had eaten my second breakfast and geared up for the rain, it was already noon when I was pedaling away from the Alberta Children’s Hospital. I decided to take arterial streets to escape Calgary—I’d rather cope with the extra traffic than deal with getting lost on back routes, and stopping every ten minutes to look at a map to figure out where I am. Shaganappi Trail and Country Hills Boulevard were not friendly roads. It was raining, the traffic was fast, and there were hills to climb. I managed to cycle across and out of Calgary in about 45 minutes. It stopped raining. The terrain was quite flat. I had a slight cross headwind, but overall I was relieved to be riding on a smooth paved shoulder. I took Highway 9 towards Drumheller. In the beginning everything was great—I even had a tail wind heading north. The road changed direction, running directly east and west. I regained my cross headwind. Then there was the construction.
When I see signs for highway resurfacing, I think of doing it bit by bit; grate and gravel a 2km stretch of highway, repave it, move on to the next 2km stretch. I suppose they do it differently out here. After 10km of cycling on coarse gravel, bumpy packed gravel, pulling over to let vehicles pass, getting clouded in dust by trucks, and getting clipped by stones from the macho Cherokee driver who doesn’t slow down for construction, I had enough. There was a paved side road. I looked down the Highway 9, and couldn’t see an end to the construction, so I turned off. My detour seemed great at first with a strong tail wind, but ultimately I added an extra 10km, went up and down some unexpected hills, and fought a brutal headwind coming back down south into Drumheller from the extra distance north which my detour brought me. I was spent by the time I reached the fountain and huge T-Rex replica in downtown Drumheller. For those of you who have never been to Drumheller, there are sculptures of dinosaurs at every corner. So just a pointer, as I learned today, “I’m near a large dinosaur,” is not a good thing to say to someone on the phone looking for you in Drumheller.
We have this intrusive and annoying firewood inside our RV right now. We got it several days ago at a campground in the mountains. Silly of us, we haven’t had the time, nor will we have the time, to have a fire. For the past couple of days, we’ve been stubbing our toes and manoeuvring around this awkward pile. Our campsite tonight has a fire pit, but there’s a ton to catch up on, and sleep is the next priority.
Tomorrow, we’re going to try to get to the famous dinosaur museum before I start pedaling. There’s a huge low pressure system over the Prairies, and thunder showers are forecasted, so the weather will be quite variable tomorrow. I hope I don’t encounter thunder and lightning—so far I’ve stayed clear of those bullies.
Ok, now I’m returning to the “Share your story” event. A young man, Duncan, who speaks with AAC, presented his story. Imagine that you have a way to communicate the basics: that you like or don’t like something, you’re thirsty, hungry, etc. Now imagine how you would feel if for the first time in your life you had a way to express complex thoughts—things that are uniquely your own and which no one else could possibly predict. When Duncan got his communication device (from my understanding this was several years ago), he wrote a story. He sent his story to Robert Munsch. Robert Munsch loved it. The charismatic and inspiring story teller came to Duncan’s school, and read the story which Duncan wrote to the entire school.
If you have been fortunate enough to have speech your entire life, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it would be like without that crucial outlet—for years. You get a communication device for the first time in your life. You now are able to express what’s uniquely yours for the first time. What would be one of the first things you’d do?
Brodie Boychuk has tried various forms of alternative communication over the years. At times, he’s ditched his communication device after becoming frustrated waiting for it to be repaired in the United States. He used a marker on a white board instead. When Brodie was 10, and living in Saskatchewan, he got his first communication device. This device was not designed for a 10-year-old. It was designed for adult stroke survivors. Somehow, Brodie coped with it. Each word had a three-digit numerical code. For example, if you wanted to say the word ‘the’ in a sentence, you may have to type in the code ‘101’. Now imagine writing a whole sentence, a paragraph, keeping up in a conversation, or writing an essay for school. There’s an important lesson to be
drawn from this. Speech language pathologists help people get the devices they need—the devices which they can communicate most effectively with. As well, assessments performed by speech language pathologists are also crucial. Without assessments,
many people who are capable of communicating go undiscovered, and live without voice. Often, the funding for communication services provided by provinces isn’t enough or isn’t secured for the long-term.
Ok, it’s that time. The last couple nights I’ve stayed up late putting together PowerPoints, I had a rest day yesterday, but it wasn’t a mental health day—only a physical rest day, I tolerated some frustrating cycling today, and now I’m about to head-butt my keyboard. Good night!
I haven’t received too many photos or stories from Calgary yet, so my plan is to have another post up soon with photos. Check in on the stories page on the Kilometres website soon to read some of the stories that we’ve heard on our trip.