Archive for August, 2007

August 20

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

If I ever find that wise man that I was talking about yesterday, I’ll punch him right in the nose. When I rolled away from Canyon Hot Springs today, the rain was coming down harder than ever. Back to back rain days. Ugh. BC has now produced the most rain days of any other province next to Newfoundland! Hopefully BC will also produce the most donations! hint hint.

 

It didn’t take long for the water to start squishing between my toes. All my efforts to dry out my clothes and skates last night were obviously in vain. There was no point in fighting it now. I just had to accept the fact that I would be part amphibious today.

 

Other than a lunch break and grocery shopping in Revelstoke, the day was flowing along as smooth as the water running down the highway beside me. At one point, the rain subsided long enough for the pavement to semi-dry. But that doesn’t say much, because if you live in BC, you know that roads can dry in about 15 seconds. Nevertheless, this was a great opportunity to stop for a break at a Ghost Town called Three Valley. It was quite picturesque with a dark lake being guarded by 3 giant mountains. The woman in the souvenir shop had seen me on TV and had a bit of fun zinging my Dad with a few quirky remarks. I don’t think I’ll forget her, either. Especially since her parting words with us were “Now you’ll always remember Three Valley!”.

 

The drying asphalt quickly turned wet again as a heavy cloud reared it’s ugly face from behind a hilltop. Then I had to go through the Enchanted Forest, across the Sea of Swirly Twirly gum drops, and under the Lincoln tunnel. Oh wait, that was Will Ferrel from the movie ‘Elf’. But I did go past a place called the Enchanted Forest! I wasn’t much in the mood to stop, though. I just wanted to get to a campground and dry off.

 

Our emotions were running a bit too high today. Maybe it was the 2 days of rain. Maybe it’s the thin mountain air. Or maybe it’s just the fact that my parents and I have been couped up in an RV the size of a walk-in closet for nearly 3 months straight! We all needed a bit of a timeout to regain our composure and all gave our apologies. I guess that’s another great thing about having my parents as my team… we can argue and make up within minutes.

 

It was nearly quitting time for the day, but I wanted to get in a few extra kilometers so that my skate into Salmon Arm tomorrow would be easy. We came across a historical point which I have been waiting to see for months. The Last Spike. It was at this exact spot that the last spike was driven to complete the first trans Canada railway in 1885. The reason I’d been waiting to see this is because it is another place that I remember stopping 3 years ago when Crystal and I moved to Vancouver. It’s been fun seeing all the places we stopped at back then.

 

I continued on in the torrential downpour for another couple kilometers. All of a sudden, the rain stopped. Not only that, the pavement was instantly dry. It was like I had just skated through a door or under a canopy. It was obvious that this area hadn’t seen rain for hours. When we arrived at Cedar’s Campground not far from Sicamous, the woman working there confirmed our suspicions. They hadn’t had rain since the morning. Maybe it’s a sign of clear skies ahead! I got chatting with a family who had seen me on TV in Edmonton. The woman and her son later came by the RV to make a donation, as well. The boy, going into grade 7, is already so aware at such a young age of cancer and the need for help that he is in the process of growing his hair so he can shave it for cancer patients. It’s people like him who are the real hero’s.

 

With every stride, I can feel the finish line getting closer and closer. September 8th is quickly approaching. At this point I haven’t hit any large cities in BC, but I need everyone’s help to make the last 1000 kilometers the most successful. Please spread the word. Send out e-mails, tell your friends, and most importantly, mark September 8th on your calendars. I really want as many people as possible to come out and participate in my finale. Dust off the rollerblades or oil up the bicycles. How ever you want to roll through Vancouver with me is fine. Keep an eye on the website for the meeting location.

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August 19

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

A wise man once said that a journey will always end similar to how it began. Well, I’m starting to think that is an accurate prediction. The rain was coming down steadily as I laced up my skates today. I was also faced with a 10 km climb leading into Glacier National Park right off the bat. With the hills, the rain and the cold, it was all reminiscent of my early days in Newfoundland.

 

I was now deep in the heart of the Park and was trying to mentally prepare for my first big challenge from the Rockies… Roger’s Pass. Just before I began my long trek upwards, I met a pair of cyclists who had just come down the Pass. They had marked the distance from the summit to where we now stood at 20 km. The woman told me that her hands were in pain from using the brakes so extensively on their descent. Yup, this was going to be interesting and slippery.

 

A sign marking the entrance to Roger’s Pass provided a suitable location for me to pause momentarily and take a deep breathe of concentration. But my trance was interrupted by a telephone call. It was the Mayor of Golden! Unfortunately I had gone through yesterday and we were not able to connect. So he wanted to call to wish me luck. A wonderful gesture. I hope the Mayor in every city from this point on will take a minute to meet me or call me.

 

Here goes nothing…or everything. The rain continued to pound on me as I worked my way up the Pass. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about in-line skating, it’s how to adapt to changing conditions. With the slick pavement and the steep incline, I had to alter my stride in order to maintain my balance. I inched my way up with a slightly duck-footed style. A few jagged peaks from the surrounding mountains were protruding through the billowy clouds which were rolling over the hills like a waterfall. I can only imagine how breath-taking the views here would be on a clear day. Roger’s Pass was offering me no reprieve from the tormenting climb. I figured that if I could get high enough, I’d be in the clouds and the rain may subside. I figured wrong. The only time I had a break from the rain was when I had to roll through the 5 avalanche tunnels along the way up and 3 others on my way down. But the tunnels were no walk in the park. They were unlit, wet, single laned in each direction, and had barely any shoulder to skate on. I would wait at the mouth of the tunnel (in the rain) until there was a break in traffic so I could race through as fast as possible. Try to imagine me skating as hard as I can, uphill, in the dark, on wet pavement. The only thing that kept my mind at ease was that my Dad was behind me with his hazard lights flashing to warn vehicles coming up behind us. There was definitely nothing easy about going up Roger’s Pass, but I reached the summit unscathed.

 

My plan to catch people’s attention was working wonders today. I suppose when you see a crazy man skating through the Rocky Mountains in the pouring rain, you can’t help but notice. A family from Montreal came up to the RV while we were parked at the summit of Roger’s Pass to meet me. Pascal and his daughters, Camille and Rosalie, seemed to be impressed with my perseverance to have made it this far and plan to donate online as soon as they get home.

 

Having conquered my second major pass in the mountains, I could now enjoy a leisurely roll down the other side. Unfortunately I had to try to enjoy it in the rain. It had been recommended to me that I should consider fastening an anchor of some sort to my waist while I was descending some of the steep grades. Today may have been a good day to give that idea a try. I was picking up speed quickly and water was spraying in all directions from my wheels. In an attempt to slow myself down, I began to drag my left foot behind while holding my balance entirely on my right. As I was flying down the hill on one foot in the rain at a ridiculous pace, I started to hydro-plane uncontrollably. My left foot came back around to regain my balance but it was too late. It was as though I was on ice skates that had never been sharpened. With traffic plowing past me on the left, my only hope was to run onto the dirt shoulder and dive for the softest patch of pine trees and rocks that I could find. Thankfully this was just a ‘What If..’ scenario that I was going over to myself in my head. I actually came down the Pass in complete control averaging nearly 50 km/hr! I didn’t need an anchor at all. If it weren’t for the persistent rain, that may have been my most enjoyable stretch of road. But the water spraying in my face all the way down made the trek miserable.

 

Canyon Hot Springs sounded too good not to stop. When I finally arrived there, I had finished 90 km. Canyon Hot Springs RV Park generously provided us with a site and passes to enjoy the hot mineral pools, which we of course accepted willingly. The hot springs felt amazing on my entire body.

 

I’ve apparently greatly under estimated my skating capabilities through the Rocky Mountains. I could easily be covering 100 km a day, but I’m now trying to pace myself and slow down so I will arrive in Vancouver on September 8th. Even 90 kilometers a day is a bit too much. But I suppose you never know what obstacle you may face tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll lose some time in the Lower Mainland with numerous stops and appearances at various Boston Pizza’s.

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August 18

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

On our way out of the campground we bumped into the people from the trailer beside us. We came to find that the Janzen’s were from Kingston and actually live in a neighborhood only seconds from my parents house! Their boys even go to school where my Dad used to teach. What are the odds that 2 groups of Kingstonians would be camping beside each other in Lake Louise? I guess they’re higher odds than I realized.

 

Being so close to Lake Louise, I couldn’t resist taking another run up to the water for a few morning pictures. The mountains and the lake seem to change in appearance almost by the minute as the sun shifts through the sky. When we pulled into the parking lot, our hearts skipped a beat. There was a National Park Pass check point set up and we didn’t bother to buy a pass! We figured that we’d just be rolling through so there would be no need. The park Rangers thought otherwise. After a bit of sweet talking, we convinced the Ranger to let us go since we’d be out of the park in a few hours.

 

I was just about ready to get back on the highway when a woman came running across the parking lot to see me. She told us that she had seen me in Calgary, then again in Banff, then again yesterday at Morraine Lake, and now today. She wasn’t going to let me get away this time without making a donation.

 

We drove back to the BC border where I had stopped last night. There I was standing directly on the Great Divide and looking towards Kicking Horse Pass. I had goosebumps as I took my first stride into British Columbia. It’s been a long time coming, but I was finally in the last province. In a weird twist of irony, my Ipod which was on random, began playing some suitable music. Three of the first five songs included “I’m Coming Home” by City and Colour (who were also at the Edmonton Folk Festival), “I Wanna Go Home” by Michael Buble, and “Sweet Home Alabama”. I must have been running on adrenaline because I had completed 50 km by lunch even though I had a later start than normal. In fact, we had set our clocks back another hour for the time change as we entered BC, but later found out that the time change doesn’t take effect until Rogers Pass. So it was actually later than we thought now.

 

I wasn’t far from Golden, BC when a construction truck pulled over and told us he had received several complaints about me. But he was a great guy (and even donated) and told us that he didn’t even know who complained. He figured that it was just some cranky truckers. I’d say that’s pretty good to only have a couple complaints out of the 50,000 cars that had passed me. I guess that means I received 49,998 honks of encouragement from the rest of the people. The construction worker also told us that the next 10-15 km was under heavy construction and I would have a tough time getting through. But I was confident and determined, so we pushed forward. I hit some amazingly steep grades with some wildly bending roads. The highway seemed to hug the mountain like a vine growing on and around an old stone building. There were a few areas that I had to be careful with rough, dirty roads. But for the most part, the speed limit was only 40 km/hr due to construction. So I wasn’t holding up any traffic. I was actually doing more like 50km/hr! I was really enjoying the terrain. It was so different from anything else I’d ever skated on. I glanced back at my parents with a wide smile stretching across my face and could see a familiar look on my Mom’s face. Her eyes wide with terror and closely resembled my encounter with the black bear in Ontario. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Mom’s always worry so much.

 

If you’ve ever driven through the Rockies, you know what I’m talking about when I mention the transport Runaway Lanes. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it is a steep gravel uphill lane, typically at the bottom of a long hill, which transports can use in case their brakes were to fail. Today I had a chance to test a Runaway Lane out. As I came down the mountain side, the road bent sharply to the left and crossed a bridge over a river. But before I crossed the bridge, my Dad indicated that we should let some traffic by me. I slowed as much as I could and then headed for the runaway. Mom got a great shot of me doing this. In actual fact, I wasn’t out of control and didn’t really need the runaway lane. it was just a funny coincidence that I happened to stop there. But the photo looks great!

 

Just on the edge of Golden, I had my first encounter with real mountain wildlife. As I came around a bend in the road, I was face to face with the dreaded mountain goat. I’ve seen enough movies and cartoons to know that if I got too close, this thing would give me a vicious head butt right off a cliff! No way was I going to confront him. But the only problem was that there were nearly a dozen of them and some were directly on the highway! I stopped about 20 yards away and tried to evaluate the situation and determine the best course of action. The Traffic Gods must have been listening to my thoughts, because I hadn’t been stopped for more than a minute when a huge transport slowly came around the bend from behind us. He, too, saw the goats and slowed to almost a crawling speed. Using the transport as a giant moving barricade, I hopped back on the road and snuck passed the goats while following inches from the bumper of the transport. Mom got another great shot of this, too.

 

My steepest hill of the day was undoubtedly the decent into Golden. It was a magnificent view looking down into the valley and seeing the city, but the hill really punished my rubber wheels. I’m finding that I’m wearing the wheels out a lot faster now that I’m carrying a higher speed more often. But again, I can’t complain because it was incredibly fun streaking down that monstrous hill.

 

The mountain skies are unpredictable and ever-changing. They had been threatening to storm since lunch, but I seemed to be one step ahead all day. A few light sprinkles fell on my cheek as I was leaving Golden, but I worked my butt off for an additional 30 kilometers and managed to arrive in Donald before any significant precipitation came down. Donald isn’t really a town, but the Camper’s Haven Campground was happy to provide us with a site there for the night. Lightening suddenly flashed all around us and rain began to come down in buckets. Hopefully our buckets would catch any drips that make it through the roof. But like I said before, mountain weather can change on a dime. And that’s just what it did. Within minutes, the heavy, dark clouds had vanished and we were treated to a gorgeous evening surrounded by spectacular peaks.

 

I was able to catch up on journals and photos today, so I hope everyone appreciates my dedication to providing you all with some entertainment. I know a lot of you will be happy on Monday when you get to work and find several new entries to read. I’m not too sure why I keep falling behind with this, but it may be because I rollerblade all day everyday and still have to find energy to put my thoughts into words. At any rate, I appreciate everyone being patient and not sending me hate mail when I don’t get a new journal up every day.

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August 17

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Sterling showed up right on time to join me for the morning skate from Canmore to Banff. The weather was great and the road was enjoyable. Not much of a climb so far! Coincidently, I found out that Sterling has a cousin who is married to the son of a friend of my family, Mary Dixon! The world is getting smaller every day! It was great having you roll with me today, Sterling. Keep in touch!

 

I took full advantage of the idealistic conditions and skated to Castle Mountain where we paused for lunch. I also wanted to take advantage of the rejuvenating powers of nature which were all around me. So I waded into the Bow River almost up to my knees. I figured the icy glacier waters would do wonders for my stiff ankles and toes. Once I lost all feeling in my feet, I hobbled back to shore to dry off. I’m not sure if it really did much, but it sure woke me up!

 

We were recommended to switch over to Highway 1-A from Castle Mountain until Lake Louise. Apparently there was construction on the Trans Canada and the 1-A would have far less traffic. We haven’t had great success with taking advice from locals to this point, but we thought we’d give it a try. I think we made the right call. The roads weren’t perfect, but nothing ever is. I coasted into Lake Louise far earlier than anticipated. So after checking into the campground, I headed back to the Trans Canada and set my sights on British Columbia!

 

Although it was only 9 km from Lake Louise, I struggled against the wind, up hill, on rough pavement to finally reach the Border. I can’t believe I did it! Just over 3 months ago, I began a journey of a life time from St. John’s, Newfoundland. And now I was standing at the border into the last province. Not only that, I was also standing directly on the Great Divide. The highest point on the Trans Canada Highway. From this point on, all rivers run towards the Pacific Ocean. It was a remarkable feeling as I stood there beside the Welcome sign to British Columbia. I know I still have a huge hurdle in front of me, but nothing will stop me now. My only hope now is that BC will out-do all the other provinces with respect to donations.

 

Another early day meant that we could enjoy the early evening and pretend to be tourists again. We drove back to Lake Louise and walked along the beautiful water front which was being engulfed by glacier-covered mountains surrounding it. I again took the opportunity to stroll through the frigid water. I didn’t have the nerve to go in for a full swim, though. I may be crazy enough to skate across Canada, but I’m not stupid enough to dive into a lake this cold!

 

As I was drying my feet off, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would mind taking a picture for her. My parents made a wise crack to the effect “only if you donate to his cause”. Of course they were kidding, but it struck up some interest with the woman and her friends. As soon as they realized who I was, they were ecstatic. They had actually been at Boston Pizza in Canmore last night and heard the announcement about me. The woman who had approached me is in fact winning a battle with cancer right now! It’s incredible how peoples paths cross more than once. It almost makes you wonder if there is meaning behind these sort of encounters.

 

Next we headed up further to Morraine Lake. I remember Morraine Lake from my last trip through the Rockies with Crystal. I personally prefer Morraine over Louise. It is not as commercialized and I think the colours are more spectacular. It was a treat for my parents, too, because they had never been up here before. When you’re surrounded by so much natural beauty, it’s not hard for even the most talkative person to be speechless. The pristine blue water, the snow covered peaks, the aged driftwood and the intense serenity all make Morraine one of the most magnificent places in Canada. The only problem is the drive to and from it. Fortunately heights don’t bother me. I wish I could say the same for my Dad. Recall the Confederation Bridge from PEI, and the suspension bridges at Eagle Canyon near Thunder Bay? Needless to say, I was driving the RV back down the narrow road leading from Morraine Lake back to Lake Louise Village.

 

Being immersed in nature as we are now, one has to take necessary precautions to avoid unwanted encounters with wildlife. I’m an avid outdoors man, so I know all about bear-proofing. But the campground at Lake Louise has taken it to another level. We were specifically warned that there was a fence around the tenting area and not to go near it. At first I thought ‘a silly little fence isn’t going to discourage a hungry grizzly from charging the unsuspecting tourists. Think again. The fence is wired with 7000 volts of electricity. I suppose that might work. Tonight is a very significant event. This is the first night since I left Vancouver in April that we have had to pay for accommodation. I suppose we didn’t really need to pay, but we decided to splurge and check in to the National Park Campground rather than park at the nearest Esso. And we may end up being reimbursed. The ranger who checked us in gave us a form to request a donation from the Park. So I guess we’ll wait to find out.

 

I stood there talking to Crystal on a pay phone. I looked around at the mountains and glaciers and couldn’t help but think how easily it would be to fill my memory card with photographs. It’s hard not to get carried away in a place like this.

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August 16

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

The first 30 km seemed to fly by today. Even though I had a slow gentle incline most of the day, the scenery and company helped occupy my mind. Mark had met up with me near Canada Olympic Park with his bike and we set off towards the base of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve lived in Vancouver for 3 years now, but there’s just something mystifying about the Interior Mountains. They are rightfully referred to as ‘The Spine of North America’. Having Mark along side me and the inspirational hills in the distances, I completed 30 km in the first hour with no trouble. At this point, Mark decided to turn around since he would be battling the wind all the way home. we’d been working uphill all morning, but the slight tail wind had definitely been pushing me helpfully. Shortly after we parted ways, I reached the top of Scott Lake Hill. Although it’s not quite the highest point on the Trans Canada, there was a significant downhill portion from here until I enter the mountains. The hill leading down from Scott Lake Hill quickly accelerated me to 60 km/hr. I casually rolled down the hill for miles and miles before I noticed a blue jeep pulled over near the bottom. I took me about 600 meters to come to a complete stop, but when I did, Barb and Ted Graham hopped out of the jeep to greet me! I had met Barb and Ted in Wawa, Ontario and they have been tracking me ever since. They missed me at Boston Pizza,so they decided to come out on the highway to find me. It was great to see you guys again! Thanks for the support!

 

I’m looking up at these jagged peaks which are practically hovering over my head now and I can’t help but to succumb to their hypnotic trance. I just can’t get over the fact that I have just crossed the entire country on inline skates and am now about to embark on the last leg of the trip through the infamous Rocky Mountains. I know I will be pushed to the limit in every aspect as I work my way across the Great Divide, but I still look around in amazement at the sheer beauty of this phenomenal range. Even with road conditions deteriorating slightly, the smile never left my face. I was now at the base and felt as though I was entering the Dragon’s lair. I was able to maintain a reasonable speed all the way into Canmore and finished my day at 90 Km. The best part about it was that I was done by 3:30! Time to go sight-seeing!

 

I stopped by Boston Pizza before we drove over to Banff to become tourists for the day. The Manager, Michel was one of the most enthusiastic guys I’ve ever met! He had changed the sign in front of the store telling the public that I was coming and all the staff were informed and ready to meet me. Even on such short notice, Michel was able to put together one of our most successful Boston Pizza stops. I’m sure the announcements on Mountain FM radio also helped.

 

After checking in at Rundle Mountain campground, we headed to Banff and fought the unbelievable amount of traffic to find a parking spot. I’ve been to Banff before, but I couldn’t come by this area and not make a stop to see it again. It’s hard not to be trigger-happy with the camera when you’re in a small town surrounded by mountains like this. We grabbed a couple souvenirs and headed back to the Canmore Boston Pizza.

 

Just as I was getting out of the RV to walk into the restaurant, another familiar face came strolling over towards me. It was Sterling. I had met Sterling in Espanola, Ontario when he was on his way out West. We’d been in touch a few times since then, but I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to meet up with me. He even plans to skate with me tomorrow from Canmore to Banff.

 

My day was just about over when I got back to the campground, but I needed to make one more quick stop. Liam, the son of the owner of the campground was pretty excited to meet me when he heard I was staying here. So I had a chance to chat with Liam a bit before heading off to bed for a peaceful night’s sleep… or so I thought. Living in Vancouver, I’m used to the sound of traffic at night. But I wasn’t prepared for the trains that came chugging past the campground through the night. Our RV couldn’t have been more than 9 feet away from the tracks. But I managed to get some sleep, anyway. You’d be surprised what you can sleep through when you rollerblade all day!

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August 15

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Even with a police escort, the swarms of pedestrians on the Calgary streets were a tough obstacle. It was pretty obvious that it was lunch hour in the business district and everyone was outside to enjoy to warm summer day. As I rolled through the heart the city’s downtown core, I looked around and couldn’t help but wonder if any of the people walking around had seen me on television today.

 

This morning we had to drive from Balzac to the City TV studio at the corner of 5th St and 7th Ave. They let us pull the RV up on the sidewalk right in front of the building. I met a lot of people from the show and was introduced to the host, Dave. When my time came for my live appearance on Breakfast Television, Dave and I stepped outside in front of the RV for the interview. Everything went great and the response was amazing. Once my short segment was done, I stuck around and did another interview which was pre-recorded for the evening news. City TV has given me some great exposure along my travels, and I can’t wait to see them in Vancouver too!

 

We headed back to where I had left off last night on Country Hills Blvd and Harvest Hill Blvd. Here we had a police meet us who would escort me through the city to Boston Pizza and then out the west side of town. With a City TV camera man popping up sporadically along the way like the Prairie dogs from yesterday, I worked my way downtown via Center Street. Since it was lunch time, everyone was out on the side walks which was incredible for recognition, but lousy for navigating. Several times, the police cruiser would clear a path for me and I would sneak through the people at a crosswalk. But my Dad would get stuck behind in the RV. It seemed like everyone was either on a cell phone or just not paying attention. They didn’t realize the giant “Skate For Hope” motor home was with me. However, I know one girl saw me and new right away who I was. It wasn’t until later in the day that I found this out from an e-mail, but a friend of a friend who lives in Calgary had heard about me a while ago. She sent me an e-mail today to let me know that she was one of the thousands of pedestrians on lunch break. She had been on her cell when I rolled right past her so she was caught off guard. She was only able to manage an awkward and muffled squeak when I went by, so I unfortunately didn’t hear her. But I’m glad she saw me and let me know.

 

Calgary has a surprising number of good sized hills. I had to climb a doozey as I headed up Bow Trail to the 33rd Street Boston Pizza. I paused briefly to drop off some posters at the store before heading over to Sarcee Trail and out towards the Trans Canada. I had an enjoyable decent down Sarcee Trail and was clocked at 60 km/hr again!

 

After checking in at the Calgary West Campground (Thanks again for the donated site), we had the afternoon to take in some of the city’s offerings. First stop… Canada Olympic Park. It’s amazing how well the facilities get used in the summer even though they were built for the 1988 Winter Olympics. I was given the opportunity to take a ride on the Luge practice run. The Icehouse, so it’s called, has a few indoor luge runs for training. I couldn’t pass up this chance. I pulled a helmet over my head, threw a luge sled onto the ice at the starting gates and hurled myself down the slick surface. When I finally reached the other end of the track, 3.5 seconds of my life had just rushed past me. It was a short ride, but a neat experience.

 

I had been contacted yesterday by a woman from the Olympic Oval, Bridgette, who was sending out an e-mail to all the athletes letting them know about me. I decided to pop into the Oval at the University of Calgary to meet Bridgette. She was very welcoming and took the time to tour us around the Fastest Ice in the World! I saw a few athletes training, but I was told that I had just missed Cindy Klassen. Her coach was still there working with another girl. Nevertheless, it was still awesome to be down by the ice and see some real speed skaters, unlike myself.

 

There wasn’t much time before we had to be back at Boston Pizza for dinner, but we thought we would get some groceries first. We actually parked in the Boston Pizza parking lot and walked over to the mall. My parents went and got the food while I checked out another cool store called Harmony. The owner helped me pick out a gift for Crystal and I’m fairly confident that it is the best present I’ve ever bought for anyone!

 

While I was sitting in the motor home waiting for my folks to get back with the groceries, there was a knock at the door. I opened it half expecting to see the Manager standing there and telling me that I should be inside by now. So It was a great surprise when I saw the smiling face of my old friend, Tiffany, staring up at me! Tiff had lived in Calgary but recently moved to Vancouver. So I never would have guessed she would find me here. But apparently she landed a role in a movie which was being filmed in Calgary. She’d heard I was around and tracked me down. We didn’t get to spend too much time, but it was so good to see a familiar face.

 

Although the restaurant was quiet (it was only a Wednesday night), the reception was very memorable. I finally had the privilege to meet Nicole and her dad. Nicole has been working hard for months building support for me and my arrival in Calgary. I know she is specifically to thank for a few of the interviews I received in the area. She even brought me a care package, a poster she made herself, and even a donation. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done and continue to do, Nicole.

 

Another old high school friend stopped by with his girlfriend, too. I’m glad I got to see at least one Bonaparte on this trip! Justin was telling me about a client of his who he had just met with for lunch today. Justin had to laugh out loud when the client began to rant about an encounter he had just had the day before on Deerfoot Trail with a crazy guy rollerblading down the highway! Justin’s response was simply, “I’m having dinner with that crazy rollerblader tonight”. Hilarious. Thanks for coming, Justin. It was great to meet Angela, too.

 

As we sat there eating, a woman came up to me with her 2 daughters. The one girl looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her. Then the mother told me. I had met Alyssa at Eagle Canyon near Thunder Bay! She’s been following my progress ever since and wanted to come see me again. Her and her sister, Samantha, are sweet girls. As if they weren’t nice enough to come see me, I then found out that Alyssa has been saving all of her babysitting money and donated it to the Skate For Hope! It’s people like Alyssa who will help make the world a better place.

 

The final surprise visitors of the night were Melissa, Shawn, and Melissa’s brother, Mark. Melissa and Shawn live in Vancouver but are back in Calgary for the summer. I met them through my friend, Kirsten. I wasn’t sure I was going to see them tonight since today is their Mom’s birthday. But I guess Rich Ralph is more important than the woman who raised you, right? To make it even better, Mark plans to meet me again tomorrow morning and cycle along side me out of Calgary towards Banff. I’m looking forward to the company, Mark. An Ipod can only entertain me for so long.

 

When we were done at Boston Pizza, I headed down to a pub with Justin, Angela, Melissa, Shawn and Mark. My parents went back to the campground and Justin offered to take me back later. It was nice to sit around with friends and just hang out. It’s been tough to sacrifice my summer and miss all the nights with my friends. Tonight was a nice reminder of what’s waiting for me when I get home.

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August 14

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Looking at the map, I could see that early today I would be facing my longest straight-away since entering the Prairies. People always warn you about the long, straight, flat roads. Well, the map was showing a stretch of road near 60 km long without a bend. This should be interesting…or possibly boring.

 

After beginning at the North side of Innisfail, I had to take my first break in Bowen. Although not overly strong today, the breeze in my face was enough to suck the energy out of my body. The rest came at a good time, though, because it gave CTV a chance to catch up to me for an interview. It was immediately after Bowen that I would be staring down the 60 km straight away. Here goes nothing.

 

It wasn’t the straightness that got to me. The rolling hills seemed to provide enough variance to make it not seem all that monotonous. But the wind continued to tickle my face as it danced it’s way North. Oddly enough, the weather network was predicting winds to be FROM the North all day… Not TO the North. But how often is the weather accurate or reliable?

 

When I reached the top of a small hill, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw something I’ve been waiting over 3 months to see. The Rocky Mountains. It was my first glimpse at the mountains since leaving Vancouver in April. I know I have a long, hard journey ahead of me to get through them, but just seeing them makes me feel like I’m almost home. It’s hard to believe that they are over 100 km away from where I am skating right now!

 

I’ve been lucky to have not hit much major construction up until now. I had some great pavement for most of today, but we did come up to a short section of repairs. Traffic was reduced to one lane, but I was able to sneak through the orange cones and pass most of the slow moving vehicles. By doing this, I managed to get ahead of the RV by about 12 cars. When I reached the point where I couldn’t continue, I either had to wait for the RV to catch up, or take a risk. You know me. I’m a risk-taker. Cars were moving very slow and the construction was only about 20 meters. I made eye contact with a truck coming up behind me and signaled to him that I wanted to go in front of him. He understood and obliged my request. So there I was on a major highway receiving an pseudo-escort by a complete stranger with my Dad and the RV no where in sight! It was a short but unique experience.

 

I never would have expected that my roll into Calgary would result in a close encounter with some of Alberta’s most ferocious wildlife… the Prairie Dog. Don’t let the name fool you. They don’t look anything like a dog, and they’re fearless. I was concentrating pretty hard on my stride to avoid the hail storm of debris along the side of the highway when a small brown blur came streaking out from the grass beside the road. I had a brief flashback to New Brunswick and the deadly attack rabbit. This was even closer! The little rodent came roaring towards my skates as I instinctively shrieked like a school girl. Fortunately I’ve had a lot of practice dodging obstacles on the Alberta Highways and I was able to execute a perfect spinning windmill move. I was literally airborne over top of the Prairie Dog but managed to land securely on the asphalt. I turned to watch the animal’s next move as it zig zagged in between the tires of the RV and waltz safely back to the confines of the roadside grass. Just when I thought the ordeal was over, another Prairie Dog appeared to my right. Then another. And another! They were everywhere! They seemed to be coming at me in waves. As if the stones and cracks in the pavement weren’t enough, now I had to contend with animals playing chicken with me. But just as fast as they appeared, they were gone. It lasted about 1 kilometer, but the fury was intense.

 

Calgary. I’m finally in Calgary. With the mountains smiling at me from the horizon, I can almost see Vancouver’s distinct skyline. I only skated to the edge of the city today since I will have an escort take me through town in morning. When I reached the Airport, we turned back to the town of Balzac where Whispering Pines Campground donated a campsite for us. I’m looking forward to my appearance on City TV tomorrow morning and heading towards BC the morning after.

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August 13

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Red Deer wasn’t very far from my starting point near Innisfail. But as we left Ponoka I knew the frigid temperature would be a factor today. My breath was fogging up my sunglasses, but I really couldn’t complain. At least it wasn’t raining or snowing, and the wind was at my back. Other than being bundled up to avoid frost bite, the morning skate was fairly uneventful.

 

Highway 2-A had turned rough again, so I decided to try my luck on the main Highway again. Just before I began down the on-ramp, I stopped for a break and was bombarded by media calls. I gave 3 quick phone interviews and setup an appointment to appear on Breakfast Television in Calgary on Wednesday! I’ve done a few TV interviews, but this will be my first experience in a studio.

 

I took another break when I reached the town of Lacombe. We pulled into the Petro Canada since we needed gas, too. My Dad and I proceeded into the store like we have a hundred times before. I still had my skates on since I rarely take them off during the day. Having received so much great media attention lately, the public is beginning to recognize me a bit more often. So it was quite a shock when I heard a voice telling me to get out of the store. I tried to explain to the man that I was blading across the country for cancer research and we were just stopped for a break. But he wouldn’t hear anything I had to say. He hastily motioned me towards the door and continued to tell me to get out. As surprised and angry as this man made me, I couldn’t help but see the humour in it. This guy was so out of touch with the world that he refused to even listen to a word I said. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock at Petro Canada. in fact, many Petro Canada Managers have donated a considerable amount to my cause. However, this man’s lack of compassion and human decency could use some work.

 

For all the golfers who are reading along, you’ll be happy to know that I rolled past Canada’s Longest Golf Hole today. Total distance…782 yards! I didn’t get a chance to see or play the hole, but I got a picture of the sign.

 

Just before I arrived in Red Deer, CH TV came out for an interview, as well. It was a media frenzy today! The girls did a great job and hopefully got some excellent footage for their story.

 

If you ever need an escort through a city, I recommend asking the police if they can provide a Newfie Officer for you. I was lucky enough to have one take me through Red Deer. With lights flashing and sirens wailing, we rolled through intersections and grabbed the attention of the entire town. She took me right to the Boston Pizza on the south end of the city. I’ll never forget the Newfoundland hospitality.

 

While I was standing in the parking lot of the Boston Pizza, a young fellow named Ryan came riding up on his bike. He was pretty excited to meet me because he told me he had just seen me on TV. I had passed him coming through town and he was trying to keep up, but I guess I was clipping along at a pretty good pace. I always love meeting and talking to kids, so I was happy to autograph a card for Ryan to take home.

 

It was just after lunch now and we had all afternoon to kill. My Dad wanted to have the brakes checked before we tackle the Rocky Mountains. So we headed over to KalTire where they took the RV in and donated a complete inspection for us. It also gave me a chance to have my afternoon nap! Everything looked good, and we still had time before we had to be back at Boston Pizza. So I thought I would lace up my skates and get in another hour on the road. This way I may be able to reach Calgary tomorrow night. I still don’t remember Alberta having so many rolling hills (other than the foothills of the Rockies). I clambered to the top of Antler Hill on the North side of Innisfail before calling it a day. I was within 120 km of Calgary now. So it is possibly within reach tomorrow.

 

Back at Boston Pizza, I was met by a Shaw TV reporter, a newspaper reporter, a few kids who wanted an autograph, and an old friend from Kingston who I haven’t seen in years. After my interviews and signing session, I finally had a chance to sit and relax with Chris McNichol and my parents. Chris was a neighbor of ours in Kingston years ago and now lives near Red Deer. The evening was great. Our server, Felicia, gave a great announcement to the restaurant followed by a big High-5. That was definitely a first for me. We tried to re-enact the high-5 moment, but the camera just didn’t do it justice. you’ll have to take my word for it that it was funny.

 

The Westerner Campground was kind enough to donate a site for us just down the road from Boston Pizza. I spent a bit of time doing e-mails, journals and photos, but it didn’t take me long before I was on my back counting sheep. I’ll have to have a big day to reach Calgary tomorrow, but I’m up for the challenge.

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August 12

Monday, August 13th, 2007

100. Yes, that’s how many kilometers I average in a day. But today it is also the number of days I have been skating! It’s hard to believe, but I began the Skate For Hope 100 days ago in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The memories along the way, the good and the bad, have been unforgettable.

 

On our way to the University to begin my day, we stopped at a gas station for some fuel. The roads were nearly deserted since it was early on a Sunday morning. So it seemed unlikely that we would bump into another vehicle when we were filling up. The odds were even slimmer that the car beside us at the gas station was occupied by someone we knew. It was Suzie, the Manager from Boston Pizza! And to make it even more bizarre, today is her birthday! I don’t know why you’re up so early on your birthday, but enjoy the day!

 

Traffic wasn’t an issue as I left Edmonton and headed down highway 2 towards Calgary. The pavement was pretty good, but the scattered stones gave me a terrible flashback of River Raider. Not only did I feel like I was back in Northern Ontario trying to dodge the oncoming obstacles, but I’m pretty sure I was now facing level 90! Pebbles were everywhere. They were unavoidable. I couldn’t use a proper stride without stumbling and staggering across the ocean of rocks. And to add injury to insult, the traffic began to increase. After all, this was a major highway between Alberta’s 2 largest cities. I had managed to get about 20 km before deciding I’d had enough. We got off #2 at Leduc and tried our luck with 2-A. This road ran south, as well, but had more bends and turns which increased my total distance significantly. I was willing to take the extra distance than struggle with the stones and speeding traffic. The decision paid off. This highway was much more enjoyable…until I reached Wetaskiwin.

 

The conditions of highways have a tendency to deteriorate as you approach cities, towns or villages. Wetaskiwin was no exception. The road became painful, but I knew it was only a couple kilometers to the other end of town. After 3 or 4 kilometers, I started to get a bit worried. Once I was 10 kilometers passed the city, I knew I was in trouble. But I also knew I really had no choice. I hobbled along slowly until finally reaching the town of Hobbema. Thankfully there was some relief for me in the form of new pavement. I figured that this would be a great place for a break to rest my aching feet.

 

I sat in the RV contemplating what I was going to do if the rest of Alberta’s roads were as bad as what I had just come through when there was a knock at the door. Tina Bruno had just seen me on TV and was amazed when she saw me pull into Hobbema for a break. I had the privilege to talk with Tina and her son , DJ, for quite a while. They are both exceptionally wise, courageous, generous, loving people. Tina is a cancer survivor and has great ambitions to help bring more attention and awareness to the need for help with cancer care in Native communities. When I was getting ready to leave, Tina and DJ presented me with a beautiful gift. It is a Native necklace symbolizing survival, strength and courage. It is incredibly sentimental and something I will cherish. Thank you, Tina and DJ. (And thank you Cree Convenience and Subway for the water and food)

 

The necklace must also have powers to bring good fortune, too, because the fresh asphalt that lead me into Hobbema continued for 20 km all the way to Ponoka! And as an added bonus, the wind practically carried me for the last hour of skating. When I finished in Ponoka, I had covered about 105 km. I was happy with that considering the barriers I had to climb over today.

 

We stopped at the Frank Mickey Stampede Park in Ponoka to camp for the night. Here we met another fantastic couple, Fairlie and Morris Coates. They didn’t hesitate for a second to offer us a site and also make a contribution of their own. Ponoka is host to the second largest Stampede in Canada next to the Calgary Stampede. I’ve been to Calgary, so I’m anxious to check out the Ponoka Stampede sometime. The campground was immediately adjacent to the Stampede grounds. I can only imagine the parties that would occur there while the stampede was on. Fairlie, I’ll be waiting to hear from you about coming back for next years Stampede! After a gorgeous sunset and meeting with another great couple staying in the campground, Scott and his wife, I had a bit of time to catch up on some journals and photos. It didn’t take long after I laid down in bed that the only thing I could see was the back of my eye lids. It still amazes me how a day that starts out so ordinary can turn out to be so extra-ordinary.

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August 11

Monday, August 13th, 2007

The extra few minutes I was allowed to sleep in today was a small taste of bliss. Not only did I get to sleep ‘in’, but I also got to sleep ‘inside’. It was nice being able to sleep in a house rather than my regular bunk in the RV. Don’t get me wrong, the beds in the RV are very comfortable. But I enjoy the feeling of knowing that I don’t have to worry about sitting up in bed and smashing my head off of a bucket that has been duct taped to the ceiling to catch water when it rains.

 

I’ve bladed about 8000 km now, so I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my day off than to go for a skate! Blaine picked me up and headed across town to a park in the River Valley where we were to meet the other skaters. We made a quick stop to get Emily, Blaine’s daughter, who was also joining us for the skate. Ivan, Don, Willem and Phil were all ready and waiting when we showed up. I don’t think we could have asked for better weather for the tour across Edmonton that I was about to have. We skated around some beautiful paths along the shore of the North Saskatchewan River. At one point, we came across thousands of people walking towards us! It only took me a second to recognize the sea of pink braziers and realize it was the Weekend To End Breast Cancer.

 

Once we had carefully worked our way through the crowd, Don came up with an idea. He made a quick call to his son, Evan, who was working at the Edmonton Folk Festival. Before I knew what happened, Evan had arranged for an All-Access pass for me and 2 general tickets for my parents. As if that wasn’t good enough, he had spoken to the organizer of the event and somehow convinced him to allow me to go on stage between bands tonight! At this point, I had no idea what the Festival was all about, but we skated over to the grounds so I could pick up my pass. A quick glance inside the gates and I realized the amplitude of what I was about to do. I would have an instant audience of 25,000 people listening to my message and seeing my pearly-whites on giant screens positioned around the park! I thought the crowd of 300 at Innisfree was big! This is undoubtedly the largest crowd I will have ever spoken to.

 

When Blaine dropped me off back at Mark’s house, I had a bit of time to relax and let today’s development sink in. Mark and Christal (mostly Mark, I believe 🙂 ) spent the afternoon preparing a succulent prime rib feast which was better than any restaurant could ever cooked. The meat was perfect, the vegetables were delicious, and the potatoes were amazing. The only thing that could have made it any better would have been if we didn’t have to rush. Unfortunately I had to be back at the Folk Festival around 6:30, so I requested an earlier dinner than originally planned.

 

We collectively decided that Mark and my Dad would use the tickets for the Festival. The plan was that I would announce to the crowd that they could donate to myself, Mark or My Dad. We came up with a unique idea to each carry a rollerblade with us and let people throw their donations into the boot. So there I was, backstage, rubbing elbows with artists like Blue Rodeo and City & Colour. I met with the event organizer, Terry, and the Emcee. Now I was actually on the stage mingling with crew as they adjusted equipment and wires. A band was playing to the crowd only a few feet from me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sweating a bit. But to be honest, I was too overwhelmed to be nervous. when the artists on stage finished their set, the emcee headed out to the microphone and gave a brief introduction for me. I strolled out as casually as possible but tripped over a cable and fell flat on my face! Only kidding. I walked up beside the emcee and answered a couple quick questions he gave me and then encouraged everyone to donate. It was an unusual, but incredible feeling to have that many people staring at you and listening to your words. I walked backstage and back to the Performers lounge area. A woman called over to me. “Hey! I’d like to donate.” I wasn’t sure how effective my presence would be. I knew it would be great to get my message out, but realistically, I didn’t expect too many people to donate on the spot. So I was pretty happy when this woman called to me right away. However, I felt a bit foolish at this point. I was still recovering from the shock of being on stage and didn’t recognize the woman in front of me as Buffy Sainte-Marie until she introduced herself to me! I couldn’t believe that my first donation tonight was coming from Buffy Sainte-Marie! I didn’t hang around too long because I had to go out to the audience to help collect more donations. The response was unreal. People were coming from all directions to stuff coins and bills into my skate. Mark and my Dad were having the same happen to them. At the end of it all, the 3 skates we had with us were over-flowing with cash. Thank you, Edmonton! And especially Don and Evan Colpitts, I don’t know how you did it, but thank you!

 

The adrenaline was running on an all time high now. I needed to find away to bring my blood pressure back down. So when we got back to Mark and Christal’s house, we enjoyed a snack, some beverages, and a couple mellow games of Wizard. Well, as mellow as Wizard can be. Sometimes it can pretty intense. If you’ve never played the card game, Wizard, I strongly suggest looking into it. Good times.

 

I’ll be leaving Edmonton tomorrow and heading towards Red Deer, then Calgary. I’ve completed over 8000 km now and finally feel like I’m on the home stretch. I’m sure that feeling will deteriorate as I make my first ascent into the Rockies.

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