Archive for July, 2007

July 20

Friday, July 20th, 2007

I felt unusually tired when my Dad woke me up this morning at 7:30. Did I get too much sleep? That often makes me feel sluggish. Was I getting sick? No, I felt ok. Oh I know what it was! My dad didn’t take into account the fact that we’d crossed the time zone, so it was actually only 6:30 am! I know you want me to get to Vancouver as soon as possible, Dad, but c’mon.

 

My morning routine and breakfast was interrupted unexpectedly by a terrifying sound. The soft, high-pitch hum of the deadly Northern Ontario mosquito. Apparently my efforts to kill them all last night were just in vain. However, I took this opportunity to create a new sport. I call it the Mosquito Minute. The rules are actually quite simple. Just kill as many mosquitos as you can in one minute. Then try to beat your previous score. You could also play against someone or in teams. but you can only use your hands to make the kill. This game proved to be too easy in Northern Ontario because on average, you can usually kill 4-5 mosquitos with one swat. And to be honest, the game is only fun for about 2 minutes. Then it starts to get annoying with the buzzing sound of the bugs and the blood splatters all over your hands.

 

The day was beginning pretty average. No big hills, no crazy weather, no unusual traffic. I hit a short construction zone but decided to just walk through the gravel on my blades since it was only about 20 feet long. I’d knocked of 55 km when I stopped for lunch. Not a bad morning at all!

 

I got a great e-mail in the afternoon from an inline skating magazine who ran an article on me. They sent me the link to the story. I really liked it since it was more of a Q & A style story rather than a typical newspaper article where they print whatever they feel is most relevant. Have a look:

 

InlinePlanet.com

I was also sent a link to an awesome video that my friend Julie made. Tres cool, Jewels!

 

Video

 

The afternoon was as smooth as the morning. I passed a bunch more cyclists (I’ve lost count of how many I’ve seen now), and I’ve been told that I will soon catch up to another Walker in the next day. I ran into another patch of construction but was lucky enough that I was able to skate through the entire 12 km of it. There were some rough parts, but I persevered. Having analyzed the map during lunch, I figured that I should push to have a big day so I can get close to Dryden tomorrow (if not right in), which will allow me to reach Kenora on Monday. Ask and Ye shall receive. I stopped skating just outside of Ignace and just shy7 of 130 km. My second best day in terms of distance! That’s the equivalent of more than 3 rollerblade marathons!

 

We pulled into a campground called Davy Lake in Ignace. But we were turned away for the second time this week! It amazes me that some people refuse to waive a measly $30 fee for a cause as worthy as mine. I don’t think a $30 donation is much to ask for. Especially since I’m not even asking for $30 cash. All we really need is hydro so our food in the fridge won’t spoil.

 

Back to the Tempo truck stop we went where there was no trouble for us to plug our fridge in. My parents treated my to a special dinner in the restaurant. I had a burger and poutine. Ignace is an interesting place. A tornado ripped through here not long ago and the devastation is still very noticeable. You can clearly see where trees have been broken or up-rooted and building roofs have been mangled. It’s incredible what Mother Nature can do. When I think back to everything I’ve experienced since May 5th (Yes, even the blizzard), I consider myself very lucky. Knock on wood.

 

NEW PHOTOS ARE UP!

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July 19

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Today I was sent out of the city in true Thunder Bay style. With a sweet, moist Persian pastry hanging from my mouth. I met up with Rick and Hal who presented me with a box of these local delicacies for the long trek to Winnipeg. They’re sort of like a cinnamon roll, but kind of like a doughnut, and has pink frosting drizzled over the top. Let’s just say the box didn’t last until lunch. Thanks guys! Hal was hoping to skate with me out of town but unfortunately was in the process of moving into a new house so he just stopped by to wish me well and contribute.

 

It feels like yesterday when I was crossing the bridge into Hawkesbury and rolling across the roads of Ontario for the first time. And now here I am heading out from Thunder Bay on my final leg of this monstrous province. I’m less than a week away from Winnipeg!

 

There was a strong wind coming down from the North. The highway was basically straight but would alternate between westward and northward. Each time I turned West, I was able to pick up my speed and make up some ground. But when I was facing North, my speed was practically a crawl. By the time I stopped for lunch I’d only completed 40 kilometers. Not my best performance by any means. Made the Persians were holding me down. No worries, though. I had a secret recipe for the afternoon.

 

While we were breaking for lunch, a man came walking along the highway from the West. That’s right, walking. Bob Lewis had left Vancouver in April and was now coming into Thunder Bay. He and his wife are extraordinary people who left their lives behind and sold everything they owned so that Bob could walk the country. They have started the One Step Foundation (onestepfoundation.org) and hope to raise awareness for children and family safety. All the best, Bob.

 

I wasn’t too sure if I’d be able to make up for my rough morning start, but I had been given a special gift from Donna last night at Boston Pizza. A spicy perogie pizza! She warned me that it was very hot and that it may go right through me. Sure enough, I chowed it all down for lunch and it gave me an extra spring to my stride all afternoon! Maybe the spice boosted my energy, or maybe I was just trying to get to the nearest bathroom. Just kidding, Donna. I love spicy food, so it made for a great lunch. Whatever the case, I managed to finish the day with 98 km. I think I actually did 100 due to the variance of the old odometer in the RV.

 

The Savanne River Resort, a campground near Upsala, Ontario, provided us with a free site for the evening. And to make my day even better, I’d now crossed into the Central Time Zone. That means I’ll get an extra hour of sleep tonight! Now, if only I could find away to escape the mosquitos. I’ve never seen so many congregate in one place in my life. I must have killed at least 49 of them before falling asleep.

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July 18

Friday, July 20th, 2007

I’ve skated my ass off to get where I am today. When I entered Northern Ontario, I figured that I would probably only be able to blade 70-80 kilometers a day. But I am thrilled to look back and see how many days I was over 100! On that note, I’ve earned a day to sleep in. It was 8 o’clock before I got up. Whatever happened to the days when Sleeping in meant getting out of bed after lunch?

 

Although today was my ‘day off’, I still wanted to at least skate from the Terry Fox Monument in to the Boston Pizza where I was having a reception later. I made the quick 20 km skate early in the day so we could spend the rest of the day running errands around town. When I arrived at the Boston Pizza, TBTV / CTV showed up to run a quick story on me. Kristi interviewed me and taped some footage of me blading down the street. I won’t get to see it on TV, though, since I’ll be at BP tonight.

 

As we finished up the interview, my dad was turning the RV around in the parking lot of a restaurant called Joe’s. The owner, Joe himself, came out and without hesitation invited us in for lunch. We were treated to a delicious Mexican buffet at Joe’s on Arthur Street.

 

With our bellies ready to burst, it was time to run around town and get some much needed groceries among other things. While we were in the parking lot of the grocery store, my dad noticed a young woman walking along with rollerblades in her arms. He went over to her and brought her back to the RV to meet me. Tanya had actually read about me in the local paper and was very happy to see me. She even contributed an unexpected donation. Thanks Tanya! It was great meeting you. By the time we had completed our checklist of things to do, it was time to get back to Boston Pizza. The day had flown by.

 

The Police had graciously offered to provide a free escort for several blocks through the city. Even though I’d already skated to Boston Pizza, I thought it would be good for exposure and effect to show up to the restaurant accompanied by 2 police cars. I definitely turned some heads in the city as I came down Arthur Street with the escort. I rolled into the parking lot of Boston Pizza and was immediately greeted by a group of inline marathon skaters. Suddenly I felt like I was in a rerun of the Bob Newhart show. Except instead of everyone being named Daryl, everyone here was Richard. There was me, Rick, Rich and Bill. The guys all geared up and we headed down the road where they guided me through some local trails. By the time we returned to Boston Pizza, I’d seen Confederation College, Lakehead University and covered an extra 15 km. It was awesome to go for a casual skate and not have to worry about transports coming up behind me.

 

Back at BP, the staff provided me with a great reception. A supervisor got up on a chair with me at her side and announced to the entire restaurant who I was and what I was doing. It’s such a simple thing to do, but I find it to be one of the most effective. It immediately catches everyone’s attention and usually leads to fantastic donations. Tonight it also lead to a few autographs. A kind elderly lady came up to me to meet me. She introduced herself as Donna. Although she was younger, she reminded me so much of my own Grandma Lemon. Donna was at the restaurant with her daughter Sherry and grand daughter Kimberly. I chatted with the 3 of them for quite a while. Donna was quite emotional and extremely excited to meet me. They were on their way back to Dryden where they said they would be contacting some media for me! Amazingly kind women.

 

Sitting at the table we were joined by another gentleman who is now making his second appearance in my journal. Rick Harrington. That’s right, there were now 4 Richard’s sitting at the table. We just made a leap from the Bob Newhart show into the Twilight zone.

 

At the end of the evening, we headed back to Trowbridge Falls Campground where they had donated another night for us. On the way home I tallied the donations from the restaurant and found nearly $500 had been contributed. Thank you to everyone in Thunder Bay for the warm recepetion. And thank you Boston Pizza. You guys were great.

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July 17

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

As I skated away from Nipigon I was working hard to suppress the memories of the previous days difficulties. It was helpful and motivating to know that I was now entering a section of the Trans Canada dedicated to Terry Fox. The Courage Highway. The pavement prior to and including Nipigon were unfathomable. So they didn’t have to improve much to make them somewhat bearable. At least now it didn’t feel like I was skating on pins and needles. Nevertheless, I was able to maintain enough speed to reach the turn off for Ouimet Canyon well before lunch.

 

Since I was only about 60 km East of Thunder Bay now, I could sacrifice a couple of hours to take a tour of Eagle Canyon (near Ouimet Canyon). What I didn’t realize was that this little detour would be exposing my dad to unimaginable fears. We hiked up to the edge of the canyon where Ontario’s longest suspension bridge was dangling hundreds of feet above the earth. The view was magnificent. It’s a shame my dad couldn’t appreciate it. As we inched our way onto the bridge, I glanced back to see my dad white-knuckled and down on one knee. “What are you doing?” I asked. With eyes the size of saucers, I could feel the intense focus as he concentrated hard not to look down. With tiny steps and knees bent awkwardly in, my dad crept slowly until finally reaching the other side. My mom and I stared in amazement before bursting out in laughter at my dad’s fear. If you can’t laugh at your family, who can you laugh at? Now that we were back on solid ground, we had to calm my dad’s nerves and ease him towards the next bridge. Ontario’s longest suspension bridge was impressive, but we were now at the foot of Canada’s longest suspension bridge. There was no turning back now. As tears of laughter rolled down our faces, my mom and I watched as my dad’s forehead began to perspire and his eye’s began to moisten at the thought of what was in front of him. After the rough morning, it was nice to have this comical relief. We all made it safely back to the original side of the canyon and worked our way back to the parking lot.

 

They say we live in a small world and I just received confirmation of this. As I crossed the parking lot to the RV, I was stopped by a gentleman with a slight accent. “Are you the rollerblader?” he asked. As we got chatting, it turned out that Heiner Kammann and his wife Eva are from Montreal but have a cottage near Lyndhurst only minutes from my parents cottage. We ended up knowing all the same people in the area and had another good laugh. Great meeting you, Heiner and Eva. And thanks for the contribution!

When I got back to the highway, I still had a lot of ground to cover. I recently read an article that stated 47 cars disappear every year somewhere along the road between Nipigon and Thunder Bay. The theory is that these cars are engulfed by the 12-foot-deep potholes scattered along the highway. I believe it! As I skated past one hole in the pavement, I glanced down and couldn’t see the bottom! I struggled on across the incredibly rough roads grimacing in pain as the vibrations rattled my feet and shook my entire body. But my mind wasn’t focussed on the pain. All I felt was embarrassment. I couldn’t believe that our Government could allow the Trans Canada to reach such disgusting levels. Just the thought of tourists coming across our beautiful country only to see the state of our unacceptable Northern roads was shameful. I’m not saying the road should meet the expectations of a rollerblader who notices every single bump, but as a Canadian driver I feel there should be a certain level of standard that must be met. It’s a good thing my dad is only driving at 15 km/hr through this mess, because I wouldn’t want to bring a nice car across this stretch of highway at 90-100 km/hr.

 

That being said, I did run into construction. However, this section was only about 10 km long and was just outside Thunder Bay. And I’ve heard that’s as much as they are going to be doing. Fortunately for me, I lost 3 km due to the construction. The rest I was able to work my way through even though I had to fight across the same grooved pavement that I faced outside of Kitchener. That was the most distance I’ve been forced to miss since beginning my trek about 5,500 kilometers ago. Score: Northern Ontario 1.5 – Rich 1.

 

Just before entering the construction zone, I took a break where I did a quick radio interview for Hot FM. My dad also took some time to speak to some Thunder Bay city clerks who worked tediously to help us out. Leslie and Bonnie were fundamental in helping turn our view of Thunder Bay around. I had a bad taste in my mouth after yesterday’s experience with the Chronicle Journal, but everyone else in the city seemed to be very receptive to me.

 

Before the construction zone ended, I needed a pick-me-up. So I demanded my parents buy my an ice cream cone. I could feel my mood slipping and needed some comfort food. We pulled over to an Esso gas bar and I was surprised by a generous cash donation from the girl working behind the counter.

 

I was hoping that when I reached the other side of the construction the road would be new pavement. But I wouldn’t be so lucky. The treacherous conditions continued until I arrived in the Thunder Bay city limits. It wasn’t much past this point that I had one of the most emotional moments of my journey. Other than when I finish, I can’t imagine I’ll experience anything like this again.

 

Mile 3339. The exact spot right down to the inch where Terry Fox was forced to stop his Marathon of Hope. There is a monument for Terry closer to the city, but if you’re observant (or traveling 20 km/hr) you will see a simple white pillar on the right side of the highway marking the exact place where he had to stop. There is no monument and no indication that it is even there. But locals come and cut the grass around the pole in honour of Terry’s memory. Thousands of people drive by and never notice it. But I was told to keep my eyes open for it. There I stood on the exact place that immortalized Terry Fox forever. And here I was nearly 30 years later following the almost the exact same route he had taken. It was a surreal feeling. One I will never forget. For a brief instant as I skated away from this spot, a part of me felt guilt. Terry had paved the way for people like me. And now here I was going further than he was able to go. But guilt was quickly overcome by pride and determination. Sure, I’m not running like Terry was, but I think he wanted people to carry on his legacy in any way they can. Leaving that plain white pole behind me, I suddenly had as much energy as I did the day I left St. John’s. Maybe Terry was there with me helping climb those last few hills into Thunder Bay, but my dad told me he couldn’t believe that I was coasting uphill and into the wind at 22 km/h. I felt strong, motivated, energized and emotionally recharged. That will forever be one of the most sentimental moments in my life.

 

Roughly 10 kilometers from the white post you will find the Terry Fox Scenic Lookout. I reached this area to find an inspiring statue of Terry in action. Magnificently carved and elegantly placed with a gorgeous background, the monument was another emotional boost. Although I personally found the white pole to be more moving, this place paid tribute to Terry in the way he deserves. When I finally took my skates off here, I had finished over 90 km. I like to get in 100 km, but considering the mess I’d come through and the torment I’d put my feet through, 90 was a huge victory. Score: Rich 2 – Northern Ontario 1.5.

 

It’s hard not to notice our RV and a few people came up to me when I was at the Terry Fox monument. One couple with their grand children were so excited to see me because they want to let me know that they had seen me nearly 2 months ago in Truro, Nova Scotia! Another woman came up to me and said she had seen me in Espanola. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that people are taking notice and remembering. It’s hard to walk (or in my case, skate) in the footsteps of someone like Terry Fox. So I hope my rollerblades will set me apart enough that people will continue to pay attention.

 

Just before we were about to pull out of the rest area and head to the campground, a generous man wanted a picture with me. As we got chatting, I came to discover he was an electrical engineer. Perfect! Maybe he can help us with our motor home! I think I mentioned previously that we’re having some issues with our fridge and the inverter near the engine. Sure enough, he pulled out some gizmos and started prodding away under the hood. Everything seemed to be in working order, but he suggested our problem was the location of the inverter. He said that because of it’s proximity to the engine, it was likely over heating and shutting off. Makes sense. So now we need to find someone who can help us re-wire it and put the inverter somewhere inside. It’s not an urgent matter, but it would make life a lot easier. Maybe we can get some more help in Winnipeg.

 

We drove less than a kilometer to Trowbridge Campground where a site was waiting for us free of charge. The amazing women running the campground even lent us a cup of milk for us to cook dinner! Thanks ladies. We won’t forget you!

 

As I was trying to catch up on website stuff that I’ve fallen behind on, and e-mail came in from a Thunder Bay man named Rick. Great name! He let me know that he is a marathon inliner and he knew a few other who wanted to meet and skate with me. Whoa! Don’t these guys know that I’m not a marathoner?! Talk about pressure! Sure, I cover a lot of distance, but I’m in no race! But who am I to say No? So I gave Rick a call and we had a great chat. We’re going to meet up tomorrow at Boston Pizza and go for a group skate around the city. Lots to look forward to tomorrow. Skating with marathoners, getting groceries, getting other supplies, eating at Boston Pizza (yes, I think I’m having withdrawal!). Hope to see everyone at Boston Pizza any time after 6:30pm!

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July 16

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Northern Ontario is truly testing my physical and mental strengths. It was another exhausting day in both aspects.

 

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. That’s pretty much the only thing going through my head this morning as I was faced with 2 mammoth sized hills almost immediately. Talk about frustrating. When I reached the top of the first hill, I was anticipating a nice break while I coasted down the other side. Wrong. Who knew that a hill can be on top of another hill?? Fortunately the pavement wasn’t too bad, the wind wasn’t strong and it wasn’t raining. But it was still tiring as hell.

 

I was cruising along side the beautiful Lake Superior coast line when I came up to a gorgeous area called Rossport. The crisp blue water seemed to be almost embedded into the swirling sand and jagged rocks. The green trees, the islands and the cliffs had seduced me into a hypnotic trance allowing me to forget about the rough start to my morning. Then as I passed Rossport the road swung hard to the right and began a gentle climb. I strained to see around the bend in front of me to try and catch a glimpse of the top of the hill. But the slope started to grow. The bend continued to wind. The hill came out of no where and caught me completely by surprise. It’s incredibly tough to pace yourself when you have no concept of how high the peak of the mountain will be. Not being able to see around the corners made for an excruciating climb. I was breathing hard and my arms were swinging wildly trying to provide some extra momentum. The air was still since I was engulfed in an endless canyon of rock surrounding me. The calmness and the late morning heat made for a perfect breeding ground for the infamous black flies. I had no way to escape the pesky little buggers. I couldn’t go any faster and they were only motivated to attack me more with every hot breath I took. Finally at the top, I was nearly ready to collapse, but I kept my legs moving until I was away from the flies. By the time lunch rolled around, I’d only managed to squeeze in 35 km. But my mom was happy because we stumbled across a patch of amythest. I personally think it’s just another rock, but whatever floats your boat.

 

It was encouraging to hear that the worst was behind me. Apparently the hills that I had just faced were some of the toughest in Ontario. A few nice down hill slopes helped me reach Nipigon even with my hard morning. I even hit one hill which allowed me to reach a top speed of over 60 km/h! And I didn’t have to push to hit that speed! I actually had to slow myself down at one point. That’s the kind of rush I live for!

 

As I said, the day was another mental challenge. I’ve been looking forward to getting to Thunder Bay and I’m only one day away now. But the city is starting off exceptionally unresponsive. John Ayearst from the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal practically hung up on my dad and told us that they get too many “feel good stories” and there was no way they would give me a write up. It’s people like John who impede our progress towards the end of cancer. Without exposure from the media, people won’t know what I’m doing. And if people don’t know, donations won’t be made. Thanks for the support, John.

 

With any luck, the people of Thunder Bay will see that what I’m doing is unique and donations will be abundant. Ontario has been an incredible province for donations. I’d hate to leave the last major city with a bad taste in my mouth.

 

We pulled into the only campground in Nipigon and asked if they’d be willing to donate a site for us. The owner looked snidely over her shoulder at us and scoffed. “I’ve already given too much to people like you”. People like me? I was stunned were her lack of empathy. If anyone is coming through the Nipigon area, avoid the Stillwater Campground. There may not be much else in terms of camping in Nipigon, but you don’t have to drive far to find an alternative. We’re just camped at the Husky Truck Stop less than a kilometer from Stillwater, and they were very accepting to have us stay here. The amenities are even cleaner and open 24 hours. Boycott Stillwater Campground!

 

As I sat here working on my journal, a friendly face popped up beside me in the window. “Have you already been through Marathon?” a voice asked. “Of course he has. He was at the Triathlon,” a second voice chimed in. The men standing beside the RV were the organizers of the Marathon Triathlon that I had watched a couple days ago. The one gentleman missed me in Marathon since he was actually competing. but the other fellow remembered me. We chatted a bit about the road ahead of me but they had to get moving since the sun was setting and they still had a long drive. Great guys and even made a donation. It was a satisfying finish to a draining day.

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July 15

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I have figured out one thing for sure. I can’t wait to get to Vancouver. Everyone complains about the rainy weather, but I’ll take the consistency of the West coast over the unpredictability of Ontario. In the last couple week, it’s been ridiculously hot, and insanely cold. It’s been horribly humid, and comfortably dry. It’s been raining, and sunny. It’s been unbelievably windy, and eerily calm. It’s been the worst road conditions, and the best. This is starting to sound like A Tale Of Two Cities.

 

My mom made a good point the other day. My journal is just that… a journal. More often than not, I tend to sugar-coat my frustrations. I think it’s important that people see the hardship and bad days I encounter in their entirety. Today was one of those days.

 

I know I’ve complained about bad weather or road conditions, but today was one of the most overall frustrating days to date. There was just nothing consistent about it. Sure, I managed to finish 95 km, but it wasn’t without a lot of screams and cursing. The pavement started rough, but got smooth. The weather started calm, but got windy. The sky started sunny, but couldn’t decided what to do. It rained on me 3 or 4 different times today. It’s so frustrating having to stop and change my skates and gear so often. There were hills and flat sections, but that’s to be expected in Northern Ontario. But all of the inconsistencies combined to make my day a living hell.

 

I wish I had something exciting I could embellish for you today, but unfortunately my day was packed full of nothing more than rollerblading. I left Marathon and didn’t see much sign of life until reaching Terrace Bay around dinner time. We stopped briefly for dinner at a restaurant called Drifters (I needed some greasy food to ease my frustrations) before tackling a final 15 kilometers and ending in Schreiber.

 

Tomorrow’s a new day and I’ll be in Thunder Bay in a couple days. Hopefully I’ll have a great reception at Boston Pizza on Wednesday night!

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July 14

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

My stride wasn’t feeling like it should this morning. The road was unusually slippery. Oh sure, it was pouring rain, but there’s been enough rain lately to wash the oil off the surface. So the pavement shouldn’t be this slick. The slipperiness wasn’t consistent either. It seemed to be very random. And then I figured it out. I looked down towards my feet just in time to see my wheels slice across a big fat dew worm. Slip. The rain had brought the worms out to the road and my wheels were sliding all over the place as I skate through them. After an entire morning of torrential raining, the drops began dissipating and simply became a mist. And the worms retreated back underground. I was back in form.

 

I took a nice long break in White River to give myself and my clothes a chance to dry off a bit. White River is the birth place of Winnie the Pooh. I couldn’t pass through and not get a picture with the silly little bear.

 

The roads were still wet, but the rain had pretty much let up. I still had my noisy rain skates on when I came across another wild animal. Grazing along the side of the highway was an enormous black bear! He must have heard me coming and began casually strolling in my direction. 15 feet away. 10 feet. 5 feet. I wanted a nice picture, but this was getting a bit too close. My mom was in a panic in the front seat of the RV. There was terror in her eyes as she frantically dug through the glove box for the Bear Spray. I was a bit uncomfortable with the bear approaching directly towards me, but I wasn’t worried. I knew I could quickly jump in the vehicle if need be. Sensing that he would be no match for my awesome power, the bear turned towards the back of the van and walked across the road where some foolish foreign tourists thought it would be fun to throw bread and apples toward the animal. I was able to snap a few great shots, but shook my head in disbelief as these people continued to lure the bear towards them. That was my queue to leave. It was bad enough seeing worm guts all morning, I wasn’t in the mood to see someone being mauled by a bear.

 

The Northerly cross wind helped me reach nearly 110 km on the day. But the last 800 meters will go down as one of my toughest finishes so far. I was already tired from completing over 100 km today, and then I had to finish with a long, steep climb up a very rough hill. To add insult to injury, a single dark cloud formed over my head and began dropping water on me the entire way up to the summit. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the cross wind that had been helping me all day suddenly shifted directly into my face. Uphill, into the wind, in the rain, on wet, rough pavement. Ugghhh. I knew it was a long climb because when I finally reached the top, there was a ski lift. But it wasn’t a ski lift to take you up. I was at the top of the ski lift!

 

So I made it Marathon, Ontario where we drove into the downtown area and found a campground. What we didn’t realize is that today is Marathon’s 2nd annual triathlon. And the transition station is in the middle of the campground we’re staying in. So we were treated to front row seats to the show. The announcer even talked to me over the loud speaker which helped lead to a few late day donations. Some of the locals have warned me that from here to Thunder Bay will be hilly. But I think I’m ready. I will not be beaten by Northern Ontario.

 

NEW PHOTOS ARE UP!

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July 13

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Lucky be a lady tonight, cuz it’s Friday the 13th! Good thing I’m not superstitious. I think I should be just fine today. Knock on wood.

 

The morning started with a nice donation from the girl working at the campground. I hadn’t even put my skates on yet, and already I’d pulled in more donations than yesterday! See what I mean. No need to worry about Friday the 13th.

 

I set out to conquer the remaining 15 kilometers of Lake Superior Provincial Park. I was face with a couple early hills. Nothing like Montreal River Hill, though. However, it seemed too early in the day to be working so hard. I don’t usually need a break within the first 10 km of my day, but I decided I should take it easy since I had a great day yesterday and I still have a lot of Northern Ontario in front of me.

 

The break and snack was a good idea because I felt refreshed and rolled into Wawa just after 10 am. We stopped for a few pictures of the Giant Canadian Goose and met some great people from Calgary. One thing we’ve learned about heading into Northern Ontario is to fill your gas tank whenever you see a gas station, and get groceries wherever possible. So we did just that. I also took advantage of the internet connection we had briefly and fired of some e-mails that had been building up in my inbox. By the time we’d run all the chores in Wawa, it was nearly 12 o’clock. So I made the decision to have lunch here before heading towards White River.

 

While shoveling my face with food a woman came up to the RV. She was a local reporter and wanted an interview. As I talked to her, I learned that she had recently interviewed the man who is running, biking and blading across Canada for MS. I crossed his path in the Soo. I didn’t know too much about him but I discovered some interesting things. I asked the reporter how the man determines whether he runs, bikes or blades each day. Well, he has the luxury of alternating depending on the weather or terrain. I wish him and his team of 5 publicists all the best and I hope they raise a lot of money for MS. I have no choice but to keep my rollerblades on my feet regardless of the conditions, struggles and adversity I face. It is my belief that those suffering from cancer do not have the option to change their disease to make it easier on themselves. So why should I be able to take my skates off just to make it easier on myself?

 

Not long after leaving Wawa I encounter a perfect example of a challenge that I had to overcome on my skates. A construction zone provided a slight detour off the pavement and across a gravel section. Rather than removing my skates or getting in the motor home, I skated to the edge of the gravel to survey the situation. There were no alternatives available. I began staggering through the dirt, mud and stones. Not wanting to hold traffic back, I was careful to keep to the edge of the cement barrier which divided the gravel road from the construction site. And just to make sure I wasn’t in the way, I actually climbed over the wall and tip-toed my way through the muck and rocks on the construction side. There was no one working, so I was not in any danger from heavy machinery. I did, however, have to climb across several muddy logs to get to the other side. There’s a first for everything, and hiking through this mess was definitely a first.

 

Being so far north, I don’t see too many American license plates passing me. But today I did see one. I know there are a few American’s lurking on my side and following my progress (Big shout out to all the peeps at Hostway US! And Hi to cousin Rachel, as well as the rest of the Ralph Posse, and all the crew on your ship!), so I thought it would be important to let y’all know that the vehicle from the States slowed down and handed a donation to my Dad as they passed. Cancer sees no boundaries, and neither will the research that I am raising money for. So it was great to see that even our neighbors to the South see the urgency for help. I hope everyone reading this has made a small contribution in some way. Every dollar is another stride towards the end of cancer.

 

My afternoon was winding down when another car pulled over in front of me. The man who got out to greet me turned out to be Rick Harrington. He worked for Joe FM in Kingston and wa now on his way to Thunder Bay to start a new job with another radio station. It was a complete coincidence that he stopped to donate. He had no idea we were from Kingston. But I’m sure glad he did! Hopefully he’ll working on creating a buzz in Thunder Bay over the next few days before I arrive.

 

The early evening wind was starting to wear me down. I was very close to hitting 100 km when I decided I’d had enough for the day. Not only was the wind frustrating me, but it seems that drivers begin to get more careless and inconsiderate later in the day. I read through Terry Fox’s journal and now know how he felt. Today I had my first encounter with a trucker who was so heartless that he actually ran me off the road onto the gravel shoulder. Maybe he didn’t see the giant ‘Slow’ sign on our RV. Or maybe he didn’t see our flashing lights. Or perhaps he missed the 25 red flags flapping from our rear. Whatever the case, he came flying past us with his horn blowing and cut close enough to me that I was forced to step of the edge of the concrete. Fortunately I wasn’t carrying a lot of speed so I had no trouble holding my balance, but I could feel my blood pressure rising as I cursed at him and threw my arms up in disgust. I’m becoming a regular guest on a Nation-wide trucker radio station and I’ll be sure to let them know about today’s situation.

 

I like to try to end on a positive note, so we headed back to a campground that we had passed a few kilometers ago. They once again generously donated a site for us. Some of the other campers even made donations. I’m now only about 30 kilometers South of White River, Ontario. I don’t think I’ll quite make it to Marathon tomorrow, but I’ll give it a shot!

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July 12

Friday, July 13th, 2007

We picked up another traveler today. But it’s not an inconvenience since this guy is only the size of my thumb nail. During my morning break, I was going through my regular routine of mixing up a snack of yogurt and fruit when I got a little unexpected surprise. I opened the fruit salad and found a hairy little spider staring up at me. But this was no ordinary spider. I’ve never seen one like this. It almost looks like it’s carrying a small rock on its back. Very unusual. My theory is that it’s from Guatemala and smuggled its way in as an illegal alien with a shipment of blackberries. With the amount of rain we’ve been getting lately, you’d think we killed it (you know the old saying), but for whatever reason my dad has decided to keep the little bugger in a jar. I don’t know how long we’ll keep it. My mom and I aren’t to keen on having it in the RV with us.

I just want everyone to know that although I may not be able to respond to each comment posted, I do read them all. Actually, I have to approve them all before they are posted on the site. So keep them coming! I love hearing from everyone.

There’s a breeze coming off Lake Superior today, but fortunately I’m heading North. So it’s more of a cross wind and isn’t affecting my progress nearly as much as yesterday’s debacle. The temperature is significantly cooler and is producing horrid flashbacks in my mind to the early days in Newfoundland. I even resorted to wearing gloves today!

The hills of Northern Ontario are definitely in full affect now. Fairly early into my morning I was faced with a monster climb. But I’m always up for a good challenge… especially when I know that I’ll be going down the other side! Near the summit I glanced over to my right only to see a terrifying sight. Just off the side of the road beside the tree line was a huge timber wolf. Its eyes were yellow as the sun as they gazed hungrily at my every stride. It was salivating heavily with long white fangs protruding from it’s mouth. I watched helplessly as it crouched and prepared to lunge towards me. Suddenly, almost as if it knew it would be no match for my power, it turned and darted into the shadows of the forest. Now that I look back at the situation, I can’t help but think ‘Maybe it wasn’t a wolf at all. Maybe it was just a coyote. And maybe it wasn’t getting ready to pounce on me. Maybe when heard my wheels, it turned and ran away on instinct.’ Yes, that makes more sense.

I have been anticipating this very day ever since starting my skate on May 5th. What’s so special about today? Well, for those of you who have seen footage from Terry Fox’s run through this part of Ontario, you may recall his encounter with the infamous Montreal River Hill. It really stuck in my memory because I can remember seen footage of him struggling up the mountain with blood trickling down his artificial leg. It was one of those defining moments to me that immortalized Terry. It showed his determination, perseverance and selflessness. Regardless of the pain and blood, he fought his way up and conquered the hill. I could only imagine how difficult the climb would be for me on wheels today. But I have been looking forward to this ascent for a long time. The hill had a few bends and turns but the slope remained fairly constant until the very top some 3 kilometers from the base. Although it probably wasn’t necessary to push myself so hard as I staggered upward, I felt an obligation to overcome this hill as fast as I could. Upon reaching its peak, I climbed the Montreal River Hill on rolleblades in 14 minutes. I’m sure it’s no record by any means, but considering I had completed 50 km before arriving at the base, I was overwhelmed with my achievement. These will forever be 3 of my most memorable kilometers on my 10,000 km journey.

As I entered Lake Superior Provincial Park, I couldn’t help but realize the deceptiveness that was unfolding in front of me. Visually, the hills seemed to be continually on a downward slope. My eyes had me convinced that I was heading down a gentle grade. But my legs were in disagreement. Physically, my body was letting me know that the road was definitely angled upward. It’s funny how the brain interprets its surroundings. It’s a bit frustrating to think you should be picking up speed as you roll down a hill only to feel the drag of gravity pulling you in the other direction.

The afternoon brought more challenges. I had only skated a couple of kilometers after lunch before the rain started. The wet and coldness combined for miserable conditions. I could see the clouds were almost ready to break, but the rain just kept on falling. I decided to take a short break at rest area in the Park where there is a trail leading to ancient Native pictographs painted on the rocks by the shore. We hiked in to the designated area where a Parks employee was stationed to point out the paintings. It’s a good thing she was there because I would have walked right past them. As historical interesting as the pictographs may be, They were about as exciting as the petrified bear I told you about in Peggy’s Cove. And if you don’t remember, it wasn’t exciting. However, the hike was gorgeous. The beautiful shoreline, unique trees and jagged rocks made for amazing scenery. I can see why The Group of Seven focussed so much attention on this area for their artwork.

Yesterday’s fiasco lit a little fire inside me. Northern Ontario was one up on me and I was determined to get the upper hand today. So after stopping for dinner, I felt that I wanted to continue skating a little bit longer. I was hoping to get some extra miles in with my dry skates, but the rain started up again. I have had to change my skates more times today than any other single day on this trip. I think I have had each pair of boots on my feet 3 times today. Regardless, I forced my way through the early evening rain until finally reaching Rabbit Blanket Provincial Campground. I’m still in Lake Superior Provincial Park, but I’m less than 15 km from the exit. We were fortunate that the young woman working at the office of the campground is a strong supporter of what I am doing. She took it upon herself to allow us to stay the night at no cost. It could be against Park policies, but she was kind enough to help us out anyway.

With everything I faced today, I’m very happy to say that this was my second most successful day of the Skate For Hope. I ended up covering nearly 120 km. After the beating I suffered yesterday, today was much deserved. Score: Rich 1 – Northern Ontario 1.

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July 11

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

O, Draconian Devil,
Oh Lame Saint!
The weather Gods have returned and I’m pretty sure their working hand-in-hand with the Weather Devil now. Actually, I believe the Gods reappeared yesterday but made a error. The strong tail winds that I had all day were probably intend to be in my face. So today they are making up for their foolish mistake. Everything aligned this morning creating some of the worst conditions I have seen since leaving Newfoundland. The rain was beating down, the temperature had dropped significantly, the wind was blowing fiercely, and the road was pitted, rough and up hill. If any single one of these factors had been in my favour this morning, I would have been optimistic. But as it was, I was forced to battle the elements.

 

Realistically, the hills weren’t too bad. In fact, I was even treated to a couple nice down hill stretches. It’s just too bad the head wind prevented me from reaching my full potential on the slopes. By the time I stopped for lunch, I’d only finished 30 km. I wasn’t happy about the low number, but I tried to remind myself of the severe weather I’d been faced with all morning. And it was nice to see that the sun was trying to peak out now, too. While I was eating, 3 men came up to the RV to chat and make donations. Really nice guys. I hope they track my progress and help spread the word.

 

With my dry skates back on, I still struggled with the strong winds. But I finally arrived at a huge milestone that I’ve been waiting for. It was the halfway point of the Trans Canada Highway. Ironically, Crystal and I slept in our van in the parking lot where the monument sits when we drove across Canada 3 years ago. Although this point was only an estimate to be my halfway point, I can confidently say that I officially have less distance in front of me than behind.

 

We found a suitable stopping point for today at Pancake Bay (yes, that’s the real name). I think we picked this spot because there was a fantastic Trading Post that we bought some great souvenirs. However, I didn’t even complete 70 km on the day. I wasn’t physically fatigued, but the wind broke me down mentally pretty hard. I know I’ll make it through this province, but today Northern Ontario kicked my ass.

 

The Wild Rose campground a few kilometers back agreed to donate another site for us for the night. Now that the sun is shining, the evening is turning out to be quite enjoyable. I’ll have to stroll down to the beach and take a dip in Lake Superior.

 

We got settled in our site and started to prepare dinner when a woman came up to the motor home to say Hello. Victoria told us how she had seen us a few days ago before we reached the Soo. She was pretty happy to see us pull into the campground. She wanted to thank me for what I’m doing because she was going in to begin another round of chemotherapy tomorrow morning. I wish you all the best, Victoria.

 

My parents and I each have our own ‘babies’ to take care of in the evenings. My mom takes care of the dog. I take care of the website and my journal. And my dad has to care for the fridge. That’s right. The fridge. I’ve never seen a fridge that was as high maintenance as ours. I worked fine for the majority of our trip, but something is wrong with the thermostat now. The temperature will drop spontaneously below freezing. So my dad spends hours trying to readjust the settings. But nothing seems to work. Don’t worry dad, we’re over half way done now! The trip will be over in no time!

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