Day 50 – Ottawa, ON to Oka, PQ – 180km

My day began at 2am. I woke up with a sore throat. If you
want the details, I’ll tell you. If you don’t, you’re welcome to skip ahead to
the next paragraph. My throat was foaming with mucus and I could hardly
breathe. I was unzipping my tent every 2 minutes to spit. After getting fed-up
with that, I left the tent, and went into the RV to get some honey lemon tea.
That helped a bit, but I never really got back to sleep after that. I half
slept from 3 to 6am. We had to wake up a little after 6am anyways for an event
in Ottawa at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre which began at 8:30am. We
had to pack up and beat the morning rush hour into the city so everyone was
waking up as I was still struggling to get some sleep. I got up, deciding that
I would try to tough the day out.

After doing a few laps around the side streets and
parking lots of the Ottawa Hospital General Campus, we parked. At this moment,
my mind was turning off, I could hardly speak, and I decided that I couldn’t
rationally walk into that building and engage myself in conversation for the
next hour or 2. I slept in the RV, while the rest of the Kilometres crew went
inside. I heard a little bit about the event—it sounded great—but it’s just not
the same not being present. My apologies Ottawa, I really wanted to attend, and
I tried, but my body wouldn’t let me.

The good folks in Ottawa at the fundraising breakfast who I never got to meet

 

Friends of ours who drove from Toronto to Ottawa for the fundraising breakfast

 

The 2 hours of sleep in the hospital parking lot was my
saviour. When the crew returned from the event, they had a platter of fruit,
croissants, and waffles. The good people inside who I never had the pleasure of
meeting were sweet enough to send the sick stranger sleeping in their parking
lot a bundle of tastiness.

After making a quick meal of the platter, I dressed up
and got on my bike. I took a bike trail from the centre which is a bit outside
of the downtown area, down to the river front a bit east of Rideau Hall, on the
Rockcliffe Parkway. The sun was shining, the trail was great, but I just didn’t
feel like biking today. We were going to meet Will and his brother Zachary, and
their mother, Genia, at a scenic pullover just off the Parkway, near the Ottawa
River. As I was cruising through Ottawa, keeping an eye on time so as not to be
late, yet trying to pace myself to not wear my body out, my bike started making
a noise (the most common line that bike mechanics hear). About a minute later,
the noise escalated to a loud clinking, “something is broken, stop now!” noise.
So I did. The bolts for my smallest chain ring in the front had all come out. I
had a chain ring bouncing around against the frame of my bike, trapped by the
outer chain rings which were still bolted into place. Of the 5 bolts holding
that piece of metal in place, only 1 need not be cranked down, and the rest of
the bolts can loosen off over time. I suppose that after several hundred
kilometres since Toronto, that’s exactly what happened. I was in no mood for
this. Luckily I only had a couple kilometres to go. I made quite the racket and
other cyclists looked at me in horror, disgust, and confusion as I went by them
clinking and clanking. Ottawa is a fine, royal place of smooth bike paths,
peacefulness, serious cyclists, and properly tuned bikes to whiz next to the
manicured lawns and watered flower beds. I didn’t fit the scene.

My day would get better. I met Will and his brother
Zachary. Their mother, Genia contacted us because she was frustrated with lack
of service and support that she could get for her young son, Will, who doesn’t
have speech due to a disability. Our family can relate to that feeling of
helplessness—especially Kerr and my mom. Many families don’t necessarily have

an issue obtaining the actual technology, they need the expertise and experience
of someone who can assess, recommend, and foster progression of their family
member’s communication. There are many things that we find change from region
to region as we travel across the country. One thing that doesn’t seem to
change is that there’s a lack of accessible professionals to help parents such
as Genia move to the next step. Every parent wants their child to reach their
full potential, but there’s a sense of helplessness when time passes and day
after day, week after week, month after month, the same question persists—what’s
the next step? What’s the next step? What can my child do that we’re not
enabling him/her to do? What is his or her potential? Zach, Will’s brother (who
I think is 10? Correct me if I’m wrong), raised a considerable amount for
Kilometres for Communication. After meeting Zach, I’m not surprised. He’s has a
warm charismatic character, and he’s full of energy and friendliness. Gail,
Genia, Zach, Will, Kerr, and I went for a bike ride near the Ottawa River. The
path we wanted to follow disappeared and we ended up cycling though the Ottawa
neighbourhood which is home to many of the ambassadors from other countries.
There were lots of flags, extensive properties, striking architecture, and
life-saving valued cars. We cycled 10km, but the real purpose of the ride was
to talk and for our families to meet.

Myself, as a brother of someone who lives with complex
challenges (Kerr is cortically visually impaired, has absent seizures, and has cerebral
palsy which prevents him from voluntarily controlling most of the muscles in
his body), I find it comforting to meet others siblings who are in a similar
situation. It’s the comfort in knowing that they know too, what the struggles
are. Genia and Will, I know that you will reach the next step—whether you
receive the support that you’ve been searching for, or if you stumble across it
yourselves. Zach, in the last couple years I’ve realized that Kerr’s been the
most influential teacher in my life. I hope that learning the world next to
Will gives you a profound and sensitive perspective that most people won’t ever
get to experience. I’m glad I met your family, stay in touch.

Will, Zach, Skye, Kerr--Brothers in arms

After saying good bye, I cycled out of Ottawa on bike
paths, along the old Highway 17, which was quite busy and bumpy, and then on
country roads. The country roads were smooth and beautiful, but they added some
distance—especially the construction detour. The sun was shining, the wind was
a light cross wind, and it was a perfect day to cycle. Nonetheless, I didn’t
feel like cycling at all. But I suppose I’m lucky the weather was what it was
because I would have probably called it a day before my final destination if it
rained or gusted wind against me on my couple hours of sleep day.

At Hawkesbury, I left Ontario, crossing the Ottawa River
on a bridge, entering Quebec. For 60km, I followed a beautiful road with a
paved shoulder that followed the shores of the river. Just a little north of
Montreal, near a town called Oka (there a stand-off here many years ago that
made national and international news), there was a 15km strip where every 2nd
or 3rd property was a cigarette stand. These stands had flashing
lights, signs that were almost on the road, huge banners, and sculptures of
cigarettes. It was quite sad to see that the culture and economy of an area was
so heavily centered on something that’s bad for our health. What amazed me was
that all these places co-existed, and by the looks of it, seem to be turning a
profit in order to afford cigarette sculptures and elaborate flashing lights. This
would indicate that despite the 100 shacks in the 15km stretch, the market wasn’t
saturated. That’s a lot of people taking a lot for granted.

At the end of this long day, I arrived in Oka National
Park where we had reserved a spot to camp. We found out that dogs weren’t
allowed in the park. This messed up all of our arrangements. My dad had to
sleep outside the park in the nearby town of Oka with the dog, in the van. Oh
my! What a day.

-Skye

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