August 10

August 12th, 2007

So there I was, back near Gander, Newfoundland. Bundled up with long sleeves and gloves to keep warm from the cold, wet weather. The shoulder was smooth but scattered with stones making it difficult for me to maintain any speed. And then it hit me. I wasn’t back on Newfoundland. I was in Alberta heading to Edmonton. But the temperature had dropped below 10 degrees and the rain had been pouring all morning. I had to start early today because I knew conditions would be dismal and I had to make it to the University of Alberta by 3:00pm.


You’ve heard me mention the health benefits of eating bison. I learned something new about the animal today. While I was rolling along the Yellowhead highway towards Edmonton, I came across a sign which indicated that 2007 is the year of the bison! Who knew?!


I was soaking wet and wearing about 3 layers of shirts, but I finally arrived in Edmonton. The Yellowhead became noticeable busier and I felt as if I was trying to skate on the 401 in Toronto! Fortunately the exit I needed wasn’t far. I had been in touch with a few local speed skaters who wanted to meet me, so I was happy to hear that Don was going to join me through the city to the U of A. With a 2-Cruiser escort, the police lead us down Wayne Gretzky Drive towards the school. The honks were plentiful and the hand-off donations started up again. It was still wet and cold, but we were enjoying the experience. That is, until we turned West and ran into a construction zone. Luckily, there was a parallel service road which we stayed on for a few blocks until we could get back on the street.


When we rolled onto the University Of Alberta campus, the rain subsided and gave me a chance to absorb the beautiful scenery. We came around a corner behind the Butter Dome (A bright yellow building closely resembling a giant block of butter) and were greeted by Global TV, CTV and a university reporter. Also standing there with a big smile on her face was Jo-anne Nugent, Director of Communications for the University, and another local speed skater, Ivan. It was an amazingly memorable moment to have such a warm welcome to the school. I presented Jo-anne with an envelope full of checks from all of the wonderful people who have donated along the way. And Jo-anne presented my parents and I each with a bag with University Of Alberta souvenirs and clothes. She then went on to tell me that next to Terry Fox, my Skate For Hope has become one of the most successful cross-Canada campaigns by a single individual. Can you believe that! I find it a bit hard to fathom, but I’m also extremely proud that my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Hopefully a lot of my skeptics have come around, too. Although I am a McMaster Alumni, I must say that the treatment I have received from the U of A has made me feel like a King. What a fantastic school.


For anyone who has never been to Edmonton (and I believe Calgary is similar) I need to tell you a bit about the newer neighborhoods. A specific subdivision will have theme for all the street names. For instance, When we drove to Mark and Christal’s house in Sherwood Park, we had to find the area called Foxhaven (not to be confused with the area immediately beside it called Foxboro). Once inside Foxhaven, all we needed to do was find their street. Sounds simple enough. But we quickly realized we had a problem when we came to the intersection of Foxhaven Place and Foxhaven Court. Also visible was Foxhaven Road, Street, Boulevard and Avenue! We knew Mark wouldn’t be home from work yet, so when we found the house we plugged the RV and cleaned up a bit. We were a bit embarrassed when the owner of the house came home and it wasn’t Mark! I guess he doesn’t live on Foxhaven Ave. Time to try a different one. Actually, that didn’t happen. My Mom is pretty organized, so we knew exactly which road to be on. But I would imagine these neighborhoods would be a postal worker’s nightmare!


With Mark and Christal now home, we all headed over to Boston Pizza where the Assistant Manager, Suzie was ready for us. She was unbelievably enthusiastic and wanted our visit to be a success. We were a bit skeptical about this location after meeting with the GM, but Suzie changed our opinion of the store. With her help and a couple simple announcements by other great staff, I was able to bring in a great amount of donations. While we were there, yet another local speed skater made an appearance. Thanks to Randy in Winnipeg, Blaine had heard about me and wanted to meet and skate with me. It was great to have you with us for dinner, Blaine. You’re a never-ending source of amazing stories and life experiences. People tell me I should write a book when I’m done this trip, but I think you’re stories should be recorded, too. I was also approached by another woman, who is a director at the university, and her sons. It was another nice gesture by the Faculty of the U of A which just helped reinforce my already strong opinion of the school.


I just arrived in Edmonton today, but my overall impression of the city and the reception I have received has been outstanding. Every aspect, from the media coverage, to the University of Alberta, to the public support, has all been overwhelming. The weather may be brutal today, but I love the city so far. Tomorrow is technically a day off for me, but I’ll be skating with a group of speed skaters through the city. It will be a great opportunity for me to see the rest of the city up close and personal. Even on my days off I’m still on blades! Hopefully these guys realize I’m not a speed skater and they’ll take it easy on me.


I’ll be in Red Deer at the BP on the Southside on Monday evening and then in Calgary on Tuesday/Wednesday. Keep it up Alberta! Other than the roads, you’ve been a great province so far.

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