July 25

July 26th, 2007

Between the Manitoba Border and Winnipeg, there’s really not a lot to see. So I left this morning from the East side of Prawda with low expectations. Imagine my surprise when today turned out to be one to remember!

 

The day started off on a good foot. We needed gas for the RV and the first place we found was a Shell station. Perfect! I’m an Airmiles collector, so I might as well take advantage when I can. Then someone made an interesting comment to me while I was paying. “10,000 km is a long way,” a voice came from behind me. “You don’t really think you’ll make it, do you?” he continued. At first I was caught off guard by the skepticism. But as I started talking to the man, I think he was just being sarcastic. As he reached into his wallet to make a donation to me, he mentioned that he had not donated to anyone since giving Terry Fox money so many years ago. It was a great feeling to know that I was able to restore some hope in someone who seemed to have given up.

 

The temperature was rising fast, and the humidity was right behind it. I stopped at a rest area to change into a dry shirt and cool off in the motor home. I sat in front of the air conditioner trying to bring my body temperature back down to a healthy range. The next thing I knew, the back door flung open and my Dad was looking up at me. “You have to meet these people!” he exclaimed. My Dad had started talking to a couple who had just pulled in to the rest area. In conversation, it came out that they were from Ear Falls. Talk about a small world. I’d never heard of Ear Falls until I met Kim and her family in Thunder Bay. Now it seemed like I couldn’t avoid meeting folks from up north! And to make things even funnier, the woman standing in front of me, also named Kim, works with the Kim I know in the same school! Seriously, what are the odds? Kim and Lloyd were amazingly kind and generous people. They were more than happy to contribute to my Skate For Hope even though they were on their way to Winnipeg for a little summer shopping spree.

 

We stopped for lunch a few kilometers East of Richer, Manitoba. I was a bit worried about what the afternoon heat would bring. I thought yesterday was hot, but today apparently broke records. I heard Winnipeg hit 48 degrees with humidity. Some places even broke 50 degrees! But once I got on the road again, I felt fairly comfortable thanks to the wind. Listen to me thanking the wind when usually I’d be cursing it. Without the wind today, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to skate. My wheels may have melted to the asphalt!

 

As I rolled up to the turn off to Richer, a car pulled over in front of me. I knew right away that this wasn’t just anyone getting out. It was Randy Plett. He is THE pro inline marathoner. When I left Thunder Bay, Rick had given Randy a call to let him know I was coming. And sure enough, here he was getting ready to skate with me the remaining 40 km into Winnipeg. I have to admit, it was a bit intimidating skating beside someone like Randy, but I’m not one to shy away. Randy knew I was no pro and he was very willing to give me some pointers with my stride. I don’t think I have terrible form, but I know I couldn’t compete with Randy.

 

We were just getting into a nice groove when I heard the sound of tires squealing behind me. Being on a divided highway, I wasn’t surprised to see a car coming up on the left side of the RV. But a cloud of dust from behind my Dad told me that something was out of place. In the blink of an eye a car appeared on the gravel shoulder to the right of the RV and showed no signs of slowing down! I still can’t figure out what this woman was doing or thinking (She probably wasn’t), but she decided that her only option was to pull onto the dirt shoulder and accelerate to pass my Dad on the right. I couldn’t tell if it was fear, anger or confusion in her eyes as she sped past Randy and I through the gravel. Unbelievably, she was able to maintain enough control until she could steer herself back on to the road and speed away. Talk about horrible drivers! This one easily took first place in my books to date.

 

Yup, Manitoba was shaping up to be one very interesting province. And my day was only half over! Within a few minutes of my brush with death (well, maybe that’s being a bit dramatic), we were met by Global TV. The film crew came up beside us to get some footage of us in action. They coasted along side us, coasted in front of us, and used a few other angles, too. They let us know that they were just getting the video and that a reporter would be in touch to get the interview.

 

We weren’t too far out of Wininpeg now, but I needed to stop for an important photo. We had reached the longitudinal center of Canada. Although this spot marks the center of the Country, not many people realize that the center of the Trans Canada is closer to Sault Ste. Marie. I was finding it funny in Ontario when cyclists would tell me that I was almost half way done. Little did they know that I was well over half way done. It was they who were almost half way done! I’ve covered around 6000 kilometers. I only have 4000 to go.

 

Almost on queue, the Winnipeg Free Press pulled up as I was posing for a picture under the Center of Canada sign. I’m sure Randy was getting frustrated by this point. I know I was anxious to get into the city, so I can only imagine that he was dying to keep skating. But I must make time for the media. So after another interview and a few more photos, we finally set our sights on Winnipeg. Unfortunately we were due for a few more interruptions yet.

 

I continue to mention the support that Boston Pizza has provided. Well, today they really out-did themselves. We were literally in the middle of no where when a Boston Pizza vehicle pulled up in front of us with a special delivery. I’ve never had pizza delivered to me on the side of a highway, and I likely will never again. But it was definitely unique. I think I have Andrew to thank for this one! Ashley got out of the car and handed us a pizza, some cold drinks, a t-shirt and hat. I’ll be honest, though. We didn’t eat the pizza until we reached our destination in the city. It was much more satisfying at that point.

 

Randy and I continued along with the wind thankfully keeping us cool enough to maintain a decent speed of 25 km/h. We stopped for one more break under an overpass which provide some much-needed shade. It was here that we had our final unexpected visitor for the day. Or should I say visitors.  A van packed full of young kids pulled over while were were sitting on the road resting. They all climbed out and ran over to meet us. They were part of a day camp and had seen us skating towards Winnipeg. They badly wanted to meet us and find out more about what we were doing. I gave each of the excited little guys a Rollerblade sticker and talked to them for a few minutes about my journey. But we couldn’t chat too long, because I still had some distance to cover. So off we set on what would hopefully be our last leg for the day.

 

I could see dark clouds beginning to roll in from the West as we entered the city limits. I think the Weather Gods were upset that I didn’t let the heat slow me down. So they decided to throw a few lightening bolts my way. If this was going to be another battle with the Gods, I was determined to win. Randy and I came to rest at a parking lot just on the East side of town. We hadn’t had our skates off our feet for more than a minute before some incredible gusts of winds came across the city like tidal waves. Shopping carts were flying across the parking lot. Black clouds were surrounding us. Lightning was crashing. And rain began hitting the ground like water balloons. The storm really only lasted a few minutes before breaking up. I think the Gods realized they were a few minutes too late. Sorry to disappoint you, Weather Gods, but I won this encounter. That’s right, 105 km on this record breaking hottest day of the year. Point Richard.

 

We dropped Randy off at home and drove to the West side of Winnipeg where my mom’s cousins live. Gene and Evelyn were happy to see us. And we were happy to see their shower! It was great to see them. Evelyn even prepared a fantastic bison sheppard’s pie for us! Delicious!

 

Tomorrow will be fun. Randy is going to meet up with me, as well as another skater from his club. And I’ll be finishing off my stop in Winnipeg with a visit to Boston Pizza on Portage Ave. at 6:30 pm tomorrow evening.

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