The Kilometres Story

A little over a year ago, I dipped my bike into the Pacific before embarking on a cross country journey to meet Canadians who speak in different ways due to disability, hear their stories, and share them. On May 19th (the 1 year anniversary), I posted this video on the Kilometres for Communication Facebook page.

I was in a rush that day, and didn’t get around to posting it on the blog. Alas, I’ve gotten around to posting the link on the blog.

This is the same video we presented at the Breaking the ICE Conference at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital on April 29, 2012.

The narration of the video is composed of blog excerpts during our journey. Enjoy 🙂

Day 13 – Golden, British Columbia, to Lake Louise, Alberta – 88km

I didn’t get on the road until about noon today, but my timing actually turned out to be excellent. There was a long climb leaving Golden. The Trans Canada was under construction and there literally was no shoulder on parts of this windy climb. Of the 1100 and something kilometres I’ve pedaled so far, this was the scariest section of road that I’ve been on. There was lots of truck traffic, lots of dust and rock from construction, no shoulder, and only a concrete barrier between myself and a cliff at some point. Luckily, that only lasted several kilometres.

The construction zone...preparing for the sketchiness

The climb continued, but the road significantly improved. Paved or even packed gravel shoulders make all the difference. The climb continued, and boy, it was curvy—lots of fun to cycle. Even though I had a shoulder, I still had to listen carefully for trucks because on roads with such curves, they typically don’t stay perfectly centered in their lane. Usually the trucks like to go onto the shoulders for the turns—if there isn’t a cyclist there. At the top of the climb, there was quite a spectacular view of a gorge
which Kicking Horse River runs through.

The view from the climb after Golden

Windy mountain roads

I had to watch for over-sized trucks like this. Yes. It really is as big as it looks...hehe...but in all seriousness, it wasn't possible for that truck to stay off the shoulder without going into on-coming traffic.

About 10km outside of Golden, I was roaring down a hill. I was just reaching the bottom of the hill and soon to go back up hill. Normally, I would try to spin out one of my high gears at this point in order to get speed to carry into the climb; but instead I put the brakes on. There was a family of mountain goats at the side of the road. The largest one, with the biggest horns, was closest to where I stopped. I think he was dad. He stared at me with a curious hostility. Eventually he crossed the road with another family member, leaving 2 baby goats with another small goat without horns (maybe the mother?). I wasn’t worried about being head-butted anymore, so I got a little closer and took some photos. I’m such a tourist.

A little later in the day, I stopped to eat lunch in Field, British Columbia. Since Sicamous, I’ve been playing a game of tag with 2 other cyclists. We’ve actually been following the exact same route as each other for the last 300km and stopping in the same places. We’ve seen each other a number of times the last couple of days, so when we saw each other in Field, we finally met. David and Max are from Chicoutimi, Quebec, and are also doing a cross-Canada trip. They started in Quebec, cycled to St. Johns, Newfoundland, flew out to Vancouver, and took a route via Whistler, whereas I took a more southern route. From Field to Lake Louise, the three of us cycled together.

We took a shortcut that cut-off the Trans-Canada about 20km before the turn-off for Lake Louise. It was an old park road. It was
paved; barely. This road was barricaded and closed to traffic. It was about 1.5 lanes wide. The pavement was smooth enough. In some places, it looked as though mini earthquakes had occurred, or as if they had paved over a family of armadillos years ago, 1 or 2 of which woke up, broke through the pavement and walked away. There was even snow on the road in some places, which wasn’t too much of a surprise considering that we were at about 1300m above sea level and in a heavily treed area. Riding that road and chatting with my new buddies was probably the highlight of my day.

Poor quality phone photo...but hey. Me at a frozen Lake Louise

After our short-cut, we climbed a winding road up to Lake Louise. We all wanted to see the vivid azul coloured water that Lake Louise, nestled in mountains, is known for. Nope; still frozen. Well, the three of us had a joyful descent down a steep winding switch-back style road from Lake Louise to where we were staying. I’m in the Lake Louise Campground, and Max and David
are staying in a hostel nearby. I have to say, they deserve a good bed; they’ve been making some good time for people travelling with 60lb panniers. Unlike a lot of people who’ve never done a 50k ride and spontaneously decide they want the challenge of pain, mountains, shivers, sun burn, black flies and Canada; David and Max are quite experienced cyclists, and are great to ride with, so I’ll probably be joining them here and there on my trip across the prairies. My schedule does vary from the standard touring cyclist because of our scheduled events and locations, and as well, I have the speed advantage of riding a bike without the 60lb bags. I felt a little guilty today gingerly pedaling up Kicking Horse Pass while David and Max were givin’ er. Just a random mind tangent: at every road construction site I’ve passed through (about 10), the worker directing traffic has said ‘give er’ to me. Today was a short ride, there were some tough climbs, but even writing this at 4 minutes to midnight, I feel full of energy. I don’t feel worn down.

In the end, it all comes down to communication. Normally the cycling becomes a mental game for the last hour of my riding day. Today, the last hour went by quickly and was quite enjoyable. Too often in my own life, I’ve taken my communication for granted. I’m lucky to be able to strike up a conversation with strangers—to be able to talk and do other things at the same time. Riding in solitude is nice for a while, but it can lead to mental anguish after 5 to 6 hours of solo pedaling. I bike because I enjoy it, not because I have to or because I have something to prove (although I do enjoy a challenge). Life should be the same—we should enjoy it as much as possible while we exist.  Imagine this. Imagine that you know you can communicate, but nobody around you realizes this. You keep asking yourself, “How long will it be until someone notices?” Maybe the people around you know you can communicate and you’re placed on a waiting list for funding for a device. “Maybe this month I’ll get it…It’s been three months, so maybe this month…It’s been 10 months, maybe any day now…it’s been over a year, sometime this week… Think of the most difficult endurance event you’ve ever done by yourself. Focus on how you felt on the last portion before the finish. Our minds focus on the negatives—our pain and fatigue, the time, the kilometres left—if your event involves distance, you likely tried to calculate how many more kilometres/miles you had to travel and how long it would take you. Remember that anguished  feeling of anticipation for your goal to be completed? People waiting for a way to communicate experience similar mental battles, except their battles are harsher—24/7, no measurable finish line, and everything is on the line. Often these battles are lost. The waiting lists are extended. Funding is cut. I’m positive that some geniuses on this planet have never been discovered or nurtured properly due to their different communication abilities. There’s only so long one can battle and keep assuring that the finish line is in sight. Depression is often the outcome. My parallel doesn’t do full justice to the frustrations many Canadians without speech face, but I hope it helps others who aren’t familiar with AAC to empathize more with those who wait.

I’ve now finished the most difficult part of the mountains—I only have one more day of cycling to get me to Calgary. It’s hilly, and slightly downhill to Calgary (Calgary is about 1000m above sea level). David Cook in Toronto, I never would have made it this far, in a healthy condition, if it weren’t for your advice. There are so many to thank, I don’t have a place to start, but I’ll let my list get longer until the beginning of August.

Good night, or maybe good morning.