Homeward Bound

August 6, 2011

There is something mesmerizing about looking out at the ocean, watching the waves undulate.  We are on the ferry from Argentia, Newfoundland, to North Sydney, Nova Scotia.  Skye and I have a cabin with a large window looking out at the sea, and we are on our way home after more than two and a half months on the road, and it feels good to be homeward bound.  It feels particularly good to know we’ll be seeing Kerr and Burns soon, and resuming life as we know it.

There is a very different feeling to this journey than to the one at the beginning of our trip westward.  There were so many unknowns at the beginning, and with them, accompanying anxieties.  My biggest fear was about Skye’s safety.  That fear was intensified when one of my contemporaries told me about setting out to cycle across the country many years ago, only to have his plans curtailed by a car with a trailer that fishtailed, and landed him in the hospital, fortunate to be alive.  Now, there is not only the relief that Skye is alive and well, but I feel such a sense of pride in Skye’s accomplishment, and I am moved by his passion, dedication and self-discipline.  Cycling across the country is a feat for anyone who does it.  Add to that, actively participating in approximately 25 events, sticking to a rigorous schedule because of those events, blogging mostly on a daily basis—often when he was dog tired—and  talking to the media countless times; this was an extraordinarily challenging journey.  The weather—particularly the wind and the rain—was often more of a fierce opponent than a friendly companion.  Skye did it all, day after day, and I could tell from the responses he got from one Cool Communicator after another, as we traveled across Canada, that Skye’s journey sent an implicit message to everyone who speaks in different ways, not only that , “You deserve to communicate,” but that, “You deserve to be treated in the same way anyone else is treated, you deserve to participate, you deserve to be respected and valued”, and “You are important.”

Now, on this journey home, there is a sense of having faced the challenges, having sent the messages over and over again, a sense of how important it is to keep sending those messages, and a sense of how much work there is to do to ensure everyone is able to communicate to the best of his or her ability and  to participate fully in every aspect of  Canadian life.

We also have a wonderful sense of community.  There are so many of you who inspire us, Cool Communicators across the country who, through the way you are living your lives and through your advocacy, are making a difference; dedicated professionals—many of you members of ISAAC Canada— who are passionate about AAC and who have worked hard to make the events across the country happen; and families who are trying desperately to find the services and supports to help your loved ones communicate and live meaningful lives. And then there are all of the volunteers who jumped on board, some of you who knew little or nothing about AAC before getting involved in Kilometres for Communication. There are those of you who joined us along the way, old friends and new friends who cycled or traveled with us. There are our sponsors, many of you unfamiliar with AAC before making your contributions to Kilometres for Communication. There are also all of the reporters who understand the importance of what we are trying to do, and who are doing a wonderful job of helping us to spread our message.  There are those who have donated and those who have continued to encourage us every step of the way. The hospitality we’ve been offered has been extraordinary.  Skye and I talk about Kilometres for Communication as a campaign of generosity; it has been personally restorative and rejuvenating. To all of you who have participated, contributed, encouraged, and supported, I add my heartfelt thanks to Skye’s.

I want to say a special thank you to everyone who has submitted stories to our website.  I apologize for the delay in posting them—not an easy task to accomplish while on the road with slow, unpredictable or nonexistent internet.  Posting stories will be a priority once we return home, so thanks for your patience and understanding.

Skye has completed his cycling journey, but Kilometres for Communication has just begun.  We look forward to continuing this journey together.


Day 77 – Chapel Arm to Cape Spear, NL – 114km

I didn’t bother to set a wake up alarm on my phone for this morning. Adrenaline and excitement is better than any annoying chime. I was up at 6:30am—Newfoundland time. I put my headphones on and listened to my pump-up playlist as I cooked breakfast. Breakfast was  8 eggs and some fruit. I was on the road a little after 8am.

I decided that I didn’t want to meet with the support vehicle. I just wanted to get to the finish—no stopping to refill water bottles or any of that. I filled up four water bottles of water and put 3 energy bars in my jacket’s pouches to get me through the 110-115km ride.

There was a fine mist. At the top of the hills this turned into a drizzle. It was chilly. The wind was against me. It wasn’t a pleasant day for cycling. Strangely, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It seems proper that a trip of this magnitude, with the bad weather I’ve had, should have one final challenge to overcome on the last ride. The weather wasn’t wretched as it was a couple days ago between Deer Lake and Grand Falls-Windsor (I had constant heavy rain that day). It was manageable, but unpleasant enough to make the final haul epic, and the fog added a scenic eerie touch.

The lingering mist at Cape Spear

With only 30km to go, just as I was entering the St. John’s area, I got a flat tire. I felt a heat of frustration at first. Then I laughed. I would get a flat tire in the final stretch. It was written. I set myself a challenge three years ago, and I was going to get it; every last morsel of it.

There’s a 12km stretch of road out to Cape Spear from the St. John’s suburb of Mount Pearl. This is Highway 11. Leaving Mount Pearl, Highway 11/Black Head Road has hairpin switchbacks up a steep hill. I was still thinking what goes up, must come down. Start at sea level, finish at sea level. I kept going up and down these really long steep hills. At one point, I looked at my odometer, and figured that I must be on the last hill before the finish. I wasn’t. On this last 12km stretch, I was pushing myself like I haven’t pushed myself before on this trip. I didn’t have to worry about being stiff or sore the next day. I didn’t have to worry about making it through the next 100km. This was it. I felt my heart hammering and my legs burning like never before on this journey. I was earning every kilometre of that last 12km stretch. When I came near, I could hear a foghorn every couple minutes. As I pedaled fiercely in anguish, the finish glaring in my mind, although not yet visible in the fog (and there were some hills in between), I had a smile that wouldn’t leave my face and tears escaping to drip down my cheeks.  Cape Spear, the most easterly point of North America, is actually about 50m above sea level. My mom, Linda, Martin, and Robert were parked in a parking lot near the sea about a half kilometre before Cape Spear. I pulled in, said a tired, distracted ‘hi’, and told them I wanted to go all the way. I pedaled up the final hill to Cape Spear.


Crashing on the grass, overwhelmed. About to call my bro and dad

I dismounted from my creaking bike on a patch of moss and grass next to the parking lot. I lay my bike down. It deserved a rest after two and a half months of strain. I collapsed next to it. I was overwhelmed. I felt confused as to what I should be doing first. My mom, Linda, Martin, and Robert pulled into the Cape Spear parking lot, got out, and we had a proper greeting and celebration. My mom came and sat on the grass beside me. We had a long hug. We both cried and laughed.

The sign says it

It was quite magical. Where I had stopped, there was a fog that limited visibility to about a half kilometre. Waves crashed ominously against the rugged rocks below us. The water looked cold and fierce. I wouldn’t be surprised if these waters had a fierce undertow. Whales were emerging from the water. Occasionally they would flip their tails elegantly out of the water. I’ll never forget that moment.

The furthest east point of North America

I remember my fear back in May, driving out west, seeing the poor roads without shoulders in Northern Ontario. I remember stopping at a picnic area in Saskatchewan off the Trans Canada. I stepped outside the vehicle and felt a fierce wind from the east. I was rattled. I hadn’t thought too much about getting headwinds in the prairies; not until that moment. I was scared of being clipped by a trailer. I was scared of not making my distances in the prairies, and getting so far behind that I would have to hop in the support vehicle to make events; and not truly cycling across the country. But we humans are adaptable creatures. When you’re feeling safe in a car, and you feel the wind from trucks whizzing by you in the opposite direction on the two lane highway, it’s easy to think: “a cyclist would be doomed on this road”. Once I was cycling on these roads, I realized that the shoulders were wider than they looked from driving, the truck drivers were usually quite considerate, and when they did pass close the gust could be harnessed to help me accelerate.

Kilometres for Communication is about promoting values of accessibility and inclusion. It’s about advocating for new policies that don’t act as barriers to people who are differently abled. It’s about hearing and sharing stories to create change. It’s about increasing services, supports and technology to help people communicate. It’s about making sure that everyone is heard. It’s about teaching people so that all of this can happen.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, this journey is not over. I may be on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, but the journey towards empowering the voices of Canadians who have little or no speech is still back in the Prairies fighting headwinds. We want to expand our network further and create an inter-provincial coalition to advocate with strength. We want to develop our website further and keep it as a resource of stories and educational info on AAC. We want to continue teaching people.

We’ve received tremendous support on this trip. Some of what was behind those tears to the finish was the generosity and devotion that many have shown us. Everyone who arranged events, offered us your hospitality, shared your stories, taught myself and many others, wrote us comments of encouragement, donated, cycled, fundraised, sported a Km4C shirt, and contributed to this campaign in your own unique way, you all have touched me. Generosity, creativity, courage and charisma exist in all of you. If such a large number of people, across such a large country, can possess these traits, I have faith that the quality of life for Canadians who are differently abled will improve.

We brought the banner from the Cool Communicators at Camp Winfield (near Kelowna, BC). Each hand print on the banner has the child or youth's name written inside it and the communication device they use

I want to say a special thanks to Cyclepath in Toronto, our first official sponsor. I’ve worked there for several years and consider them my second family. Without hesitation, the Wilsons and the rest of the crew at the bike shop were behind me.

A huge thanks to Norco Performance Bikes. That bike persevered through so much abuse. Norco helped to ease the financial strain on our family by covering spare parts, the spare bike, and auction items and goodies for events.

ISAAC Canada has been a terrific partner. The support and networking that our partner has offered us is remarkable. We look forward to continuing on the road towards our mutual goals.

I won’t be blogging daily anymore, however I will continue to blog. There are lots of photos and video that will be posted when we have arrived back home and have access to high speed internet.

I have learned so much from this trip and I hope many have learned from what I’ve shared. This experience was profound, has changed my life, cannot be done justice by any sentence, and will likely remain the most memorable 77 days of my life. This was the toughest challenge I’ve ever had.


August 3/11

P.S. If anyone has questions which I have not addressed, please ask them by commenting, and I’ll be happy to reply or address them in a future post!

Day 76 – Terra Nova National Park to Chapel Arm, NL – 158km

Three years ago, I had a thought. I tried to imagine myself cycling across Canada. “There’s no way,” I told myself. I went out for road rides and couldn’t get the idea out of my head…If I can do 180km today, there’s no reason why I can’t do 100km on the day after today… “There’s still no way,” I told myself.

Through the years that I was in middle school and a junior in high school, my brother had an ongoing battle to get the education he deserved. One of his teachers took his communication device away because she thought the voice was annoying.

Sometimes new vocabulary would be programmed onto Kerr’s Dynavox. He would go to school with a note for his teachers which explained the new programming and asked them to work with Kerr on using it. We later found out that the school considered these notes harassment. Whenever our family pushed for an improvement in Kerr’s education, Kerr seemed to suffer reprisals—forced to eat his lunch in a different room than other students, less time with his attendant who had worked with Kerr for years, and coldness from some of his teachers. Sometimes Kerr came home with a full lunch box. They weren’t even feeding him his lunch sometimes.

Kerr withdrew. He was bored and depressed. Kerr’s assistant would come home in tears some days after witnessing what was happening. I was younger at the time. I knew my brother had every right to communicate and that people who I did not know were taking this right away from him by underestimating and refusing. I was filled with anger. I think this was the only time in my life where I’ve had pent-up hate for particular people. I hadn’t even met these people, but I wondered what had happened to them to make them so naïve and wretched. Biking and running have always been my main outlets for stress and anger (not that I’m angry if you see me running).

I’ve learned a lot since then. I still have many of the same thoughts. However, I now know that it’s not as simple as certain people being cruel and narrow-minded; although there was a lot of cruelty and narrow-mindedness. The politics of a segregating system and disabling attitudes that people learn from others around them are the frameworks that discrimination is constructed from.

Sometimes I like to talk about my problems. I think it’s the healthy thing to do. The unfairness that my brother was experiencing became a battle with the Toronto District School Board that lasted many years. This battle consumed our family life. Ironically, although we were talking about the situation all the time, I never talked about my anger or frustrations. I was sick of the situation. I wanted to tune it out. We were all stressed out and tense, Kerr was depressed, and arguments were arising between us. My mom didn’t need any more stress at this point—she was on a strict macrobiotic diet to eliminate cancerous growths. I hated these teachers, the principal and everyone who made my brother’s twice a day, one hour trek to and from Scarborough for school meaningless; not just meaningless–torturous. I hated these people for ruining our family life.

Biking and running were my emotional releases.

At the end of high school I was thinking much more positively. Kerr had left school. Our battle with the school board had transformed into a legal fight. Kerr was no longer in jeopardy of being discriminated against and not having his needs met on a daily basis. Our family still had our stresses, but we were doing better. Kerr was doing better too. He was volunteering at the Royal Ontario Museum and doing research at the Toronto Archives, giving presentations on human rights (at least some positive things came out of this experience), and learning lots more with his assistants than he learned in the toxic condescending environment at his former school.

This “cycling across Canada” thought wouldn’t leave my head. In grade 12, I made it final that I was taking a year off before university. As you can tell from reading the last couple paragraphs, this experience my brother endured for too long triggers spite in me that most people who know me can’t believe I possess. I’m very passionate in my belief that every person has a right to be included and to have a voice. In Kerr’s experience, he was stripped of his voice, stripped of his humanity, and treated as an object. I knew that my brother wasn’t the only Canadian alternative communicator with such experiences.

I wasn’t sure how, but I was sure of who, why, what, and when. I was going to cycle across Canada to raise awareness about people who speak with augmentative and alternative communication and to try to get values of inclusion and the presumption of ability in mainstream media. I wanted to improve the lives of all Canadians who have disabilities, my focus being on those who are in situations similar to my brother’s. I hadn’t thought much about fundraising at this point, nor had I thought much about advocating for new policy. I knew that I needed my brother’s help. I knew that my mom would be a powerful force in the campaign. I knew my dad would be behind us, and willing to make any sacrifice to make it happen. I talked to my friends, family, and network. Slowly, Kilometres for Communication took shape.

That was three years ago. Tomorrow I finish my pedal across Canada—all the rain, wind, hills, mountains, blisters, sores, thirst, flat tires, fatigue behind me. By no means is this journey to empower voices or prevent what happened to Kerr from happening to others over. However, it does feel that years of emotion, planning, months of giving everything I have, the stories from all the people we’ve met, are manifesting. I haven’t finished yet, but I know that when I do, I will know a new feeling.

Today wasn’t a tough physical challenge. The wind wasn’t a huge factor. There were hills, but what goes up must come down. The sun was out. Nonetheless, today was one of the toughest days mentally of the trip. I was feeling some pain from some rashes. Moreover, I felt so close to finishing, yet I knew that I wasn’t finishing today; that I’d have to wake up again tomorrow and do it one more time. I went through each day of the trip. I tried to go through each road I took, the weather, and the people I met. I had shudders thinking about my days in the prairies and the days of rain in Northern Ontario. That, in combination with thinking of the memories from the last decade, the last three years of planning, and the training 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, got me through today.

At one point today, I was quite high up on a section of the Trans Canada going from the mainland along a channel of land to the Avalon Peninsula. The sky was blue. I could see thick cloud in the valley below me, which I was about to descend into. It really was an epic view, being above the dense clouds and seeing the ocean outlined by misty mountains fading into blue on my right and left. Someone down in that valley probably is wondering where the beautiful day went. They might even think it’s going to rain. I descended into the valley. I lost my view of the ocean. The clouds weren’t dark or threatening from below. They were even more spectacular. The light reflected off the afternoon fog in a magical way that I have never seen before. Life has a way of hiding beauty from those who are afraid to venture.

I cycled by an exit to a place called Mosquito Cove. My first thought was: “Why build a road to such a wretched place?”. On second thought, maybe some people have discovered a gem which they want to keep polished. Perhaps Mosquito Cove is simply a deterring name to keep the tourist traffic away. There’s always another perspective to be taken.


August 2/11

Day 75 – Grand Falls-Windsor to Terra Nova National Park, NL – 175km

Last night, the local campgrounds were all full from the summer tourist traffic. We ended up in the free Walmart RV Park. It’s quite funny. Here you have a large empty Walmart parking lot. There’s ample space to park so that you are secluded from any other vehicle and you don’t have to contend with customer traffic. Despite this, all the other RV drivers choose to park their vehicles side by side, a couple metres apart, literally creating an RV park in a Walmart parking lot. We didn’t join the cramped crowd. We parked in a more secluded area of the lot.

Anyhow, in the morning I lugged my bike stand out from our RV’s storage compartment. I put my bike in the stand and tilted it upside down. A rush of water came out from all the bearings, creating a big wet spot on the dry ground. I probably shed a couple pounds from the bike right there. I started working away at fixing up my bike, in the Walmart parking lot a bit before 9am. Customers were staring at me as they drove by. I’m sure it’s a strange sight to see someone fixing a bike in a department store parking lot. I definitely wasn’t fixing my bike in my natural shop habitat.

The weather was fantastic today. Perhaps Mother Nature felt guilty about yesterday. The sun was shining, and the wind was in my favour for 60% of the day. I need all the help I can get to assist me through these last couple days. My mindset earlier in the trip was about pacing, calmness, and enjoying seeing Canada slowly. That was my coping mechanism. Without that way of thinking, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have. Now, my mindset is about survival and making time.

I got a really bad rash from my ride yesterday. A combination of constant wetness, sand and dirt from the road, and the rubbing from my pedal strokes led to breaking skin on both sides of my inner thighs. I also aggravated some older riding sores on my butt. I lathered my sores/rashes in calendula, then taped them with kinisio tape, and then slabbed on a thick layer of Vaseline. That helped a bit, but not enough. I don’t know what I would’ve done if it was raining again today. Thankfully the good weather made it possible for me to make it to where I did.

Here are some things I’ve noticed in Newfoundland.

One: there are a ton of brand new Chevrolet Impalas and Dodge Caravans, often sparkling clean. They dominate the road. Actually local pick-up trucks dominate the road. After the pick-ups, these sparkling clean rental vehicles are the most common on Trans Canada Newfoundland pavement. That probably gives you a bit of perspective on the scale of Newfoundland’s summer tourism.

Two: Every 200km or so, there’s a “Watch for moose” sign that is covered in ‘Navy’ stickers. I find it a little odd. Did someone on a road trip across Newfoundland make it their goal to put stickers on moose warning signs every couple hours?

Three: Newfoundland has to be the ATV capital of Canada. There are log bridges everywhere across the Trans Canada’s ditches from the shoulder into the forest. I question whether some of these bridges could hold my weight. Some of these bridges are built with care, precision and pride. One bridge over a ditch which led to an overgrown seemingly unused trail was built using brand new 4×4’s. That’s a lot of money spent to get over a ditch.

Four: Newfoundland RV drivers like to park close to each other in Walmart parking lots. I haven’t seen anything like this in any of the Walmart parking lots we’ve parked at in other parts of the country.

Five: In other provinces I have to dodge car debris and sometimes glass on the road’s shoulder. In Newfoundland, I have to swerve around moose pooh. Not kidding.

Six: I think people had fun naming places in this province: Dildo, Come by Chance, Random Place, Jumper’s Brook, Heart’s Desire, Old Pelican, South Dildo…weird, but entertaining.

Most of today wasn’t spectacular scenery like the western part of the province. It was much flatter, and there were lots of rocks and  trees. Near the end of today, when I entered Terra Nova National Park, the rugged hills emerged again, and so did glimpses of the ocean.

I’ve planned out my distances so that each day I’ll have to pedal a slightly shorter distance. Yesterday was 185km, today 175km, tomorrow 140km, and at last, on Wednesday, I should only have to pedal 120km.

It doesn’t seem real that I am so close to the end. On one hand, I’m excited and proud. On the other hand, I feel like there’s so much more that needs to be done to improve the lives of Canadians who communicate with AAC and all Canadians who are differently abled. I have a towering mental to-do list that gives me ambition, yet can also be a burden. There have been many profound moments, many people have learned from this campaign, and there have been many fantastic events thanks to many fantastic people. Kilometres for  Communication has been a catalyst for a lot. Despite these positives, I am hesitant to call what we’ve done a complete success. There’s so much that needs to be done. We’ve given it our all, but that never seems to feel satisfactory when we hear stories first hand of systemic discrimination, segregation, and other barriers that need not exist. We’ve been giving it our all, but it always seems like we could be doing more.

This trip may be over in 2 days, but this journey towards accessibility, inclusion, equality, empowered voices will continue.


August 1/11

Day 60 – West Point to East Point, PEI – 235km

We spent the night in a beautiful harbour. We watched the sunset. We woke up to a calm ocean. We didn’t pay a cent either. No one bothered us in the night to tell us that we couldn’t park there. Seems perfect, right? Wrong. We discovered at 7:30am that we weren’t at West Point. We were one cape east of West Point; 60km east.

I can be quite stubborn. I insisted that we eat and drive to West Point. My mom would have preferred that I cycle from where we were, which was still on one of the western edges of the island. However, there’s this little obsessive part of me that wants to do the trip proper—covering every morsel of road west to east on my route. My mom agreed to drive further west, to the west point. Thanks mom.

I was at the end of the pier at West Point by 9:30am. It was a hazy day with wind from the south at the beginning of the day. I had no wind for the first 30km, then a headwind, then a crosswind, and the last 100km of the day I had a tailwind after the winds shifted partway through the day. It was interesting how much my speed varied through the day. I average high twenties, then low twenties for a while, up to mid-twenties, and then low forties for the last 2 hours.

Leaving the pier of the real West Point

It's difficult to see, but there's a waterfall at the bottom of this hill, where the road T's. The cam was set to take a photo once a minute, so I didn't get a great shot of it 😦

Prince Edward Island is beautiful. If you haven’t been, it’s worth spending a couple of days on the island. I don’t think I’ve seen an area of the country with fields as lush or green as Prince Edward Island’s. I find myself thrilled by the pink soil. I know; it’s just soil. Most people out on their property wave and smile as I pedal by. The place has a charm. Both the western and eastern sections of the island are fairly flat, with the exception of the gorgeous red rocky coastline. The middle of the island is actually quite hilly. There’s an abundance of rolling hills. These slowed me down a bit. I was surprised to learn that downhill skiing exists on PEI in the winter.  Then again, I also learned on this trip that Saskatchewan has a ski hill.

After 7.5 hours of biking, I arrived at East Point. The last 40km, I kept thinking I was closer than I was. I was hammering away, only to be disappointed when another hamlet appeared that wasn’t near my destination. Finally, I arrived. The last section of road was a 1km straightaway where I could see the break in the trees at the end of the road, where the ocean was restlessly waiting.

East Point, PEI

The mount for the handlebar-mounted camera broke today…again. I’m not impressed GoPro. I’ll try to figure something out to get footage for the rest of the trip. I still don’t really understand why they make the mounts for an extreme sports camera out of plastic rather than metal.

The ocean was restlessly stirring. East Point is literally a point.  I could see two currents meeting right at the spear tip of the island. On the north side of the tip, the waves were smooth, and calm. The waves to the south of the island were small, choppy. I could see the choppy surface water was lapsing towards the gentle waves from the north. My mom and I unfolded our beach chairs and appreciated the cloudy sea scene. I felt a rush of relaxation lapse over me. This was the last long day of my trip. No more 200+ days. I’m 2 days ahead of schedule. I’ll finally be able to post my blogs. It was nice to think those thoughts. Tomorrow will be the first day without pedaling since I was in Toronto for a full rest day.

One day, one province. That was a personal goal of mine for the trip. I really wanted my brother to join me on this day. I was feeling sad at parts of the ride when I passed by scenic lookouts and lush farms that I wished he could’ve seen. The two of us will return to PEI together someday.

I’m going to sleep well tonight.


Day 58 – Oromocto to Shediac, NB – 188km

I wasn’t looking forward to this day. There was a long distance. There were lots of hills. Headwinds were in the forecast. All of these turned out to be realities. I was on the Trans Canada so I had a nice wide paved shoulder the whole day, which really does help. When I ride on a road with a narrow bumpy shoulder or no shoulder, I have to be intensely concentrated. When I have 2 metres of smooth pavement, it’s a much more relaxed ride, and my mind can wander to help pass time.

My goal for today was to reach the Atlantic Ocean. That excitement was my drive for the day. I only stopped to meet the support vehicle once today, at the half-way point. Earlier in the trip, I liked meeting the support vehicle every hour or two. I accepted that I had a long way to go, and there was no point in rushing. At this point in my trip, I’m tired. I’m not tired as in, “my legs are sore,” or “my mind isn’t functioning.” I’m tired as in “I don’t feel like getting up. I just want to sit here.” I’m feeling worn out. If I stop to refill my water bottles at the support vehicle, and I sit down, it turns into a half-hour rest. I’m filling up 4 water bottles at a time (2 on the bike, 2 in my jersey’s pouches) and packing lots of nuts and jerky so I can drink and eat without stopping. It’s not hard to stay on the bike. It’s hard to get myself on the bike.

Today was pretty much all bikes—not much else happened. To be precise, other than sleeping, eating, washroom, talking to my mom, and killing a few mosquitoes, nothing happened. I feel like I should be celebrating (making it to the Atlantic), but I don’t feel in the mood at all. I know that I have about 1,500km left to go. I also feel like something is missing—the rest of my family. I was really hoping that my brother and my dad would make it to the Atlantic with me. We tried. I suppose it’s a good thing they turned around. On their way back to Toronto, the van had some mechanical issues which would be very difficult to deal with had they occurred out here in the Maritimes…far away from our trusted garage.


Day 56 – Saint Marc-du-Lac-Long, PQ to Woodstock, NB – 236km

We stayed the night in Edmundston, New Brunswick. My day
started at 6 in the morning. My brother and Mia were sleeping in the van. My
dad and I got in the van at quarter after 6 and began to drive the 50km back to
the where I had stopped the previous day—in the middle of nowhere. Kerr and Mia
snoozed as we re-entered Quebec. I ate bread, salami, and fruit while I
listened to some pump-up music. I didn’t feel too pumped.


I got let off where I had stopped. It was a cool morning
with light clouds. The mist coming off the Appalachian hills was dense. My dad,
Mia, and Kerr drove back to the campsite where we were staying after they let
me off. I cycled 57km back to our site, which was where I was supposed to
arrive the day before, but didn’t due to thunderstorms.


I was at the campsite again around 9am. I ate my second
breakfast—fried eggs, granola, more fruit, and some bread. Sadly, today Kerr,
my dad, and Mia were turning around to go back home. This trip turned out to be
quite the test of endurance for my brother and all of us. I was sorting through
stuff in our storage compartment, seeing what was theirs to take back, and what
was ours to keep for the remainder of the journey. That made me sad. I felt


There have been 5 of us on the road since Tobermory,
Ontario: Kerr, Mia (Kerr’s assistant), Burns (my dad), Gail (my mom), and me.
My mom and I are quite used to the intense schedule of the campaign, and the
stress, but I think it was a shock to the rest of the group. As well, each
night, someone has had to sleep on the floor of the van (with some foam) or in
the front passenger seat. In addition, both Kerr and I have had our days in the
last week where we have had lousy health. This has also been the busiest 2
weeks of the entire journey. I missed our event in Ottawa and Kerr missed our
Montreal events. Anyways, our crew was feeling quite worn out, so my brother,
Mia, and my dad decided they had to turn around. I understand, but I’m sad they
had to leave after barely being with them for two weeks. Now it will be another
month until I see them.


One of the most difficult parts of this trip for me is
the loneliness. I’m meeting lots of amazing people, and seeing beautiful
scenery, but I miss my friends and family. My dad cycled with me for several
kilometres away from the campground, but then he had to turn back to continue
packing up to get on the road. I know he would love to do some bike touring
again if he had the lifestyle that allowed him to do it. I know my brother
would love to ride with me and finish at the Atlantic. Sadly, they’re going to
be living the rest of this trip vicariously through my helmet cam—but that only
captures the smallest fragment of this trip’s whole, and often I don’t post
helmet cam footage for weeks due to slow internet.


Anyhow, this was a sad morning. I’m counting down the
days again. Melisa, Jeff, Timo, and Sari came to our campsite to say good bye
and have breakfast with us. So many good byes were said on this morning. The
last 2 weeks I’ve had lots of company, my family s been around, and I’ve gotten
to see many of my friends. Now suddenly, I’m back on the road, by myself again.
There’s a part of me that looks forward to it, that likes the quiet time to think
and go my own pace. But I know the dominant me doesn’t want to be alone. My
nostalgia and sadness are strong today. Tomorrow they’ll be a little weaker.
Eventually, the feelings will numb, I’ll become distracted by many other
things, and before I know it, I’ll be back at home.


I took a windy, narrow road that can hardly be called a
highway down from Grand Falls to Woodstock. Highway 105 follows the Grand
River. Near the beginning of the highway, the road is high up on a plateau next
to brown cliffs that dive into the river. The cliffs dwindle down to steep
shores. There were many hills, and the road was bumpy. I would have had a more
direct, faster, and safer route on the wide, smooth paved shoulder of the Trans
Canada, but for one day, it was worth it to take this route for the scenery. This
is also the route to take if you want to see covered bridges and small town


To anyone planning a trip: there was a beautiful, free
place to camp about 25km north of Andover-Perth at a picnic area on a Lake
(near the junction of Highway 105 with another small highway).


In the end, I pedaled 236km between 6am and 7pm. I had a
paced day with many breaks, so it didn’t seem too bad. The scenery was great,
and I had lots to think about (distracting me from the anguish that the many
steep hills could provide). I did somehow manage to do that day without padded
bike shorts. All my padded shorts were dirty or wet. I ended up aggravating
some of my saddle sores from earlier in the trip.


I’m back on schedule. It’s been a struggle recently just
to keep up my energy through the days. I’m way behind on blogs. I’ve been
making notes and writing some of them each day. I’m hoping that over the next
several days without events, I’ll be able to catch up.



Day 49 – Sharbot Lake to Ottawa, ON – 131km

Gail and I were up early to meet people nearby in Sharbot
Lake at the Child Centre. Rather than packing up the whole site and leaving, we
decided to drive into town, and then come back afterwards to pack. We had a
nice informal gathering with people from the Kingston area who are involved
with augmentative and alternative communication in some way—whether they speak
with it, help others speak with it, or if they have a family member who
communicates with alternative forms.

Kerr had an awful night. Sometimes he has sleepless
nights due to extreme stiffness and seizures. Mia was also tired after staying
up with him. Understandably, they didn’t have the energy to come into town to
meet people after that night. This was unfortunate, because we met some
interesting people.

The crew at the Sharbot Lake Child Centre

In the small crowd that had gathered to meet with us, was
Connie. Connie was one of the first three people in Canada to receive a
computer to communicate with back in the 80s. It’s a small world: the lady who
supported Connie with her communication many years ago turned out to be the
same person who has helped Kerr. That was interesting, but probably not a huge
shock; I know Lynette Norris has helped a lot of people. It just so happens
that Gail and Kerr have been in the same room as Connie before, with Lynette,
without realizing it. I give a big thanks to Lynn Guindon for arranging this
gathering and for hauling a heavy suitcase full of pennies to the bank. The Kingston
ACS team had done a successful penny drive, raising over $200…in pennies. Dear
innocent bank teller, who counted those pennies, thank you.

Rocking the red T's in support of Km 4 C

After our gathering, it was back to the campground, and
then onto the road. The forecasts were threatening thunderstorms. I was fairly
lucky with the weather. I was cruising along with a tailwind. Other than a
downpour in Perth, I had great weather. I got soaked, but I kept biking and the
sun dried my drenched gear. By the time I arrived in the Ottawa area, there
wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Between Peterborough and Perth, the landscape is rock,
trees, and lakes. After Perth, there is a change from rock and tree to an
abundance of peaceful farmland. As I came into Ottawa, it became very apparent
that I was entering an active, bike-friendly city. There were tons of cyclists.
I actually went trolling for roadies as I came into the city. I would
eventually catch up to a group of 2 or 3 road bikers. I would ride their draft
until they turned off, stopped, or slowed down, and then it would be on to find
the next group. It was a sunny afternoon, so there were ample cycling groups to
sneak up on.

Kerr joined me for the final leg of the day in his Wike
trailer, on path that ran beside the Rideau Canal. We had a lovely cruise down
the scenic path.

Kerr and I finishing up the day near University of Ottawa

At some points the path was very narrow and crowded, so there
was some skilful navigation and braking involved. If you’re ever in Ottawa, and
you have a bike, ride the path next to the Rideau—even if you’re a hard core
mountain biker who finds road biking mind-numbingly boring. Kerr and I finished
our ride by cycling through the University of Ottawa campus, which is quite a
beautiful campus. I wish I had the helmet cam set up…but it wasn’t charged.

We weren’t staying in downtown Ottawa, so met up with the
support vehicle and drove out of town to the Ottawa Municipal Campground on the
western outskirt, where we set up camp. I was exhausted and didn’t have much
energy left to do anything once my tent was pitched and my body fed.


Day 39 – Sault Ste. Marie to Thessalon, ON – 85km

I woke up sprawled across my extra-large bed; something I haven’t had the luxury of doing for a long time. After eating a hearty trucker breakfast in the Travelodge restaurant, Lynne, Max, and David met my mom and I outside our hotel. We went on a quick sight-seeing tour of downtown Sault Ste. Marie—the bridge into the States, the scenic boardwalk on the peaceful river, the Roberta Bondar tent. Thanks to Lynne, we saw the Soo with efficiency and got all the photos! It felt like a Sunday. The sun was shining. The river was peaceful. There was hardly any wind. Traffic was almost non-existent.

Max, Me, David, Gail

After our sightseeing, we went to the Central United Church where “Koncert for Kilometres” was held. There was a genuine friendliness to everyone we met at the church. It seemed like they had met us before, or that we were from their town. These people reached out and strived to understand how they could improve the lives of others in their communities and wanted to do all they could to help our cause; even though they had never met us. Gail and I were given a brief introduction, and then we had our chance to say thank you. Many of the people in the room helped Kilometres for Communication in some way—attending the event, performing, organizing the event, or broadcasting info about “Koncert for Kilometres” on a local radio station.

Just before going into the church

Often, I find the pace of the campaign is too fast. It has to be fast, otherwise costs would be higher and we may never get across the country. However, there is a slight frustration that accompanies the rapid pace. I’m constantly meeting people on this trip—generous, brilliant, intensely active, and people who have stories to tell. Some people I get to know better than others, but almost always, when it’s time for me to leave, I feel sad. I haven’t really gotten to know them that well. If I have, then I’ll miss them. I always have more questions to ask, and almost always, I feel like my simple “thank you” doesn’t do justice to the warmth that people have shared with us.

We didn’t stick around at the church for long. We were meeting people at Velorution (a local bike shop) for 11:30am. Gavin and Jav (apologies if I’ve made a spelling error) were waiting. As David, Max, and I were getting ready, more people started arriving. Quinn and his mother Suzanne came. Ben brought his dad, Stan, along. Both Ben and Quinn are fairly young fellows, so we figured that they might like to see the banner that the Cool Communicators at the Camp Winfield Easter Seals camp had made for Kilometres. We showed them the banner with the children and youth’s handprints with their names and the communication devices they use written inside their handprints. I looked up, and we had a fleet of road bikers ready to pedal; Christine, Robbie (the mech at Velorution), Gavin, Jav, and Max and David (again, apologies for any spelling
errors). There was a 15-minute gathering in the sunshine as we got organized to hit the road. We took a group photo, said our farewells, and then it was time to pedal to Thessalon, about 80km away.

The crew at Velorution

Quinn and Ben meeting

We tucked into a line, and cranked it to the turn-off for St. Joe’s Island—about the halfway point of the day’s ride. We were making great time with the echelon-style of riding. We averaged just under 35km/hr in a headwind. It makes all the difference drafting, but inevitably your turn to lead the pack will come. At this halfway point, Detlef and Dan joined us (again, apologies for misspellings). Gavin, Jav, and Robbie went for another couple kilometres before they turned off to go home. Detlef, Dan, David, Max and I remained. We maintained our pace and made great time to Thessalon. We learned later on that the email sent out requested  the ‘fast road bikers’. David, Max and I have been used to riding at a much slower pace so as to not wear down our bodies on our tour, so this was quite the change in riding style. We definitely had fun cranking it, but tomorrow will have to start out quite lightly.

The gathering at the St. Joe's turn-off

Departing from the halfway point

We did 85km in 2 hours and 40 minutes, so we arrived at the campground quite early. There was a beach across the road from our site, so we decided to go for a swim and have a stretch. I still am trying to catch up on all my missed blogs as well as everything else. I took a little time to relax earlier, so now I’m up late typing away. I probably won’t have the patience or time to wait for the slow internet to upload all my photos tonight, so it will still be another day until my blogs are up. Then again, if you’re reading this, my blogs are up, so this fact is irrelevant.

Max et David sporting the Velorution jerseys--thanks to Lynne

How to sum it all up? The last 36 hours in the Soo have been fantastic. I have so many people to thank. Lynne, your generosity was legendary. Huge thanks to the local riders for the tow and company; I felt excited to ride my bike. Thank you to Rachel, Suzanne, Quinn, Ben, and Stan for coming out to Velorution—it was a delight to meet you. To everyone involved with the “Koncert”, you did a fantastic job that won’t be forgotten by those who attended. Marcella, I didn’t get to ride with you, but I adored the comfy bed and spacious shower of the Travelodge; thank you! What a gift! And what a crew in the Soo!


Day 24 – White City to Grenfell, SK – 110km

Today was a paced day. I woke up and heard the wind. I knew it wasn’t a westerly. I slept in, ate a hearty breakfast, and set off from our campsite around 11:30am. The wind was strong today—about 30km/hr consistently with stronger gusts. At least it was coming from the south. I made decent time for the first 50km of my day with the wind as a crosswind. However, the road changed direction to go southeast, and this meant that I got a headwind. My efficiency dwindled. Slowly and steadily I cycled on, tucking low, and keeping a steady rhythm of pedal strokes. I didn’t exert myself. I had time. I get there when I get there.

I was planning to get about 50km ahead of schedule today, but again; the wind was being rather rude. Tomorrow, the wind is supposed to come from the southwest, so I’m hoping to get a solid 160km in. There are also forecasted thunder showers, so I don’t want to bank on doing too many kilometres. Monday, a westerly wind is in the forecast with rain but no thunder and lightning (yippee), so I’m hoping to do a 200km+ day then and finish in Portage la Prairie a day ahead of what’s scheduled on the itinerary so I can have time to meet some new friends in Portage and get well rested for our event day in Winnipeg. Hopefully the wind can demonstrate some generosity.

I have a comfortable bed to sleep in tonight—thank you to Nicolle, Aaron, and Winter for your hospitality. I met Aaron 2 years ago. We worked at Cyclepath together in Toronto and became friends. He recently moved to Grenfell with his wife, Nicolle, and Winter, their 1.5 year old, mobile and rambunctious, son.

I finished my pedaling early. I didn’t see the point in struggling an extra hour to do a distance that I could easily make up with a tailwind tomorrow. Thanks to our generous hosts, I’ve had a relaxed evening—a nice meal, a beer, and a tour of the quiet town. Aaron’s been building a mini skate park inside a storefront of what used to be a grocery store. He has a cool set-up going on. I’m glad I got to see his sanctuary. It was great to catch-up and have a stress-free evening after battling the wind and fixing a flat tire next to the highway. Oh well, only the second flat tire in 2386km; can’t complain.

A corner of Aaron's small-town grocery store skate park

I found this sign amusing...you can see its purpose in the above skate park photo

I’ll be leaving Saskatchewan tomorrow. We did have a little bit of media in the province—a newspaper article and a radio show. Overall, there hasn’t been the same interest or involvement in Kilometres for Communication on as there has been and will be in other provinces. As we’ve travelled through this province, we’ve learned that the funding and supports for AAC, and other programs related to disability and childcare, aren’t what they need to be. The mother and father of a young girl who speaks with AAC in Sakatoon contacted us. They wanted to know about events planned in Regina. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the momentum going in the area, and as a result, there were no events planned. This family has an issue with the lack of support and not enough access to professionals who specialize in AAC. Communication devices are not easy to operate, are tedious to program, and consistently need to be updated with new vocabulary to fit upcoming events or new situations. Often, parents just want to know what the next step is in progressing their child’s ability to communicate. Our family has felt this feeling of despair as well, in Ontario. This isn’t just a problem in Saskatchewan. This is a national issue. Families and people who speak with AAC in Canada need to have better access to services and supports. If you are feeling hopeless because you don’t know the next step to improve your child’s communication, and there aren’t any trained professionals who you can regularly access, wouldn’t you feel frustrated and alone?

I’ll be in Manitoba tomorrow. If I have enough energy, and I get to my computer early enough, I hope to go into more detail about what we’ve learned about the situation in Saskatchewan for AAC, and how it compares to the other provinces we’ve visited or lived in (Ontario!). As for now, I really need to sleep.