It warmed our wet hearts to hear the cheer of riders waiting to accompany us outside, including Greg Diamond, Joan Swain, Aaron Lawton, Dawn Titus, and Iron Maiden Christine Sutter, who donated all proceeds from her achievement only 3 days before to our cause. Super charged Board member Sue Rea and her pal Marliea Creighton joined us at the Husky later. The ride was wet but fun with wise cracks flowing and cars honking all the way up. Greg took on the role of photographer whipping ahead for some prime shots and video. The municipality had prepared a warm welcome in the Olympic Plaza, but due to the weather Carol moved it to Millennium Place.
Amidst all the excitement we had climbed Hydro Hill before we knew it, soon after being waved into the Plaza by well-organized volunteers (many thanks guys and gals), where we were greeted by a large mob of friendly faces. What a great feeling to be welcomed back to the home we love after 93 days on the road! With no time to change we had to drip dry and soon were shivering in our seats in My Place, greeted first by old friend and mayor (her name was McGill but she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy), Morden. Following summaries by Gin and myself, Andy Szocs, Christine Sutter and Ashleigh Demerit (nee McIvor), rounded out the rally. After a piece of cake (again many thanks),Gin and I peddled home in the rain, no fanfare, just my well thighed beauty and I dreaming of a cold one (Coors light) and a hot one (skinny in our hot tub), before preparing for our homecoming party courtesy of the fabulous Gibbons family.
And the party, if you're wondering was typical greatness. Imagine all your pals together, tired but energized after a big uphill climb in a hard rain, with a Longhorn spread that could feed the 6th Army and Dick and Colleen smiling and laughing around every corner. Sweet! A super ending to a super trip for such a worthy cause. I speak for Ginny and I when I say: WE DID IT CANADA and you know the key...WE DID IT TOGETHER.
Gin and I were summoned at 9am for an interview with Global National TV in Coal Harbour. We scampered around for breakfast and soon joined the swarm of volunteers at BC Place for the rally. BC Place brass had kindly allowed us to set up our sound system, balloons, sales table and even the full RV rig beside the monument of Terry Fox. At noon about 100 listeners were gathered to hear welcomes and speeches from various dignitaries and people affected by mental health.
One highlight was Andy and his wife Cheryl Szocs's donation for $1 million dollars! Andy decided he wanted to make a difference and attack stigma associated with the disease and that we were the best people to help execute a program in that direction. Andy spoke passionately about the cause and both Ginny and I believe we can make a difference under Andy's guidance. A million thanks Andy and Cheryl: you are really special people. Of course we would like to thank all the vollies, speakers and organizers, chiefly Sharon Smith-Swan.
We pushed off from BC Place with the aim of riding up to Squamish for another rally at 6 pm, along with 3 other riders .As we began our journey way back in May in the rain, so it was when we left for Squamish. Actually, it was a comedy of errors from that time on. We were meant to coordinate with the big rig and the Dawgs in North Vancouver, but they ran the car over the loading dolly and needed a tow truck to bail them out. En-route we lost two of the riders in Vancouver, and Ginny got a flat tire out of Horseshoe Bay without our support crew. After we fixed things up, one of the riders had a not so intimate meeting (they never are) with the asphalt and had to turn back with her knee in bandages. Worried about being late for our rally, and soaked to the bone, we boarded the Starship in Britannia and raced to The Squamish Youth Resource Centre.
Just in time, we addressed a small group along with our favourite MP, John Weston, before making our way to our complimentary rooms at The Executive Suites (many thanks) and after a quick fish and chips at The Wig and Pier, we checked in for hot showers and the immediate rack, excited about our final homecoming on the morrow.
Looking back at this, it was a bit daunting but it brought back those moments when I did not think I could get over that mountain. When I then realized I had my two angels on my shoulders nothing would stop me. We pulled into the campground that we had stayed at on our way out in May. Beside the campground is the BC Wildlife park that I decided I wanted to go see. Once again I was too late so I took off on a walk. Sitting in an RV for 11 days is a bit of challenge considering you have being biking almost every day for 3 months. I hope the muscle memory kicks in when we take on our last challenge from Vancouver to Whistler in a few days. As I walked back to the campground I met a lovely women who asked what ENOUGH is ENOUGH is about. I told her and she told me why she was here. She and a few friends had just completed in the BC Senior Games. She told me how some of the competitors were in their 80s and 90s. She said just being around these amazing seniors going beyond their comfort zone was truly inspirational. Her parting words to me as we left that I should consider entering next time in the cycling category. Hey, you never know! I love challenges.
I went back to the campground and started to prepare our last BBQ that Quinn and I would have together. As I was outside a couple came up to me and asked me what the RV was all about. I told them and they then shared their story with me. Their daughter had lost her battle with mental illness 3 years ago. She had suffered for 25 years. She was 43. They shared their journey through the frustrations of trying to get appropriate help, the stigma associated with the disease and how they had tried but it was just so hard to see their beautiful girl suffer so much for so many years. I gave them a gift of my book and a big hug as we now were connected. I always remember what my friend once said to me: “Those of us who have lost a child speak a different language,” and it's so true. That child can be 17, 23 or 43: they are still your children.
Quinn and I had a lovely dinner knowing it would be our last together. We shared stories and we reflected the past 3 months and how we have a bond that will be there forever. How fortunate we are to have been able to share this time together and to learn so much from each other. We said our good nights, me to watch another episode of the Orange is the New Black and Quinn to do the dishes! Tomorrow would be the day we returned home. I would see Kerry again. I miss him. We are soul mates and soul mates need to be connected. Tomorrow we will.
That night was spent with my family, eating leftovers from all the great meals we had, watching Board Walk Empire and hitting the sack very early as we were planning on getting up at 4.30am so we could be on the road by 5am as we were destined for Calgary to reunite with more Dennehy's. Quinn whipped into town to see a few friends that evening but knew he had the 4.30am wake up call so it would not be a long evening. It is always sad for me to leave Winnipeg. This is the place where my wonderful Mom and Dad are, and so many special family members as well as dear friends, but I know I still have not completed what I have set out to do and I will always be back again. Winnipeg is in my bones and as much as I love living on the west coast, I know I will always be a "Pegger " at heart.
Driving through the great Canadian Shield makes you realize how massive and impressive this country is of ours. I honestly could not believed that we had biked up these hills. They were long and fairly steep. I know we both commented at times they seemed harder than the Rockies but now travelling through them in "reverse" it will be interesting to see what I think of the Rockies. I was also so grateful that we listened to our dear friends at Norco. The winds were wild and I can only imagine biking against them. We had a hard enough time keeping the mighty Starship travelling in a straight line.
We stopped for lunch in Wawa, Ontario, must be the home of the big geese as they were all over the place - on the buildings, lamp posts, everywhere. I had a craving for a hamburger. Bad idea. I ate it and I thought I would explode for the rest of the afternoon. One of those homemade ones at a stand. No fast food hamburger places to be found in Wawa. It was not bad but just way too much for someone who is sitting on her butt for 9 hrs. Big mistake - won't be doing that again!
We needed to find a place to rest the Starship for the night so I called the KOA in Thunder Bay. I must tell you if you are ever RVing or camping, KOA are the place to go. They are consistent and always have such lovely people who run and own the locations. I explained on the phone who we were and what we were doing and they said of course we will comp your campground. It would be an honour she said. We pulled in around 8 pm, registered and I gave the young girl a copy of my book for the owner as a thank you for their generosity. Q Dawg had wanted to make tacos for dinner so that is what we did. It was another early to bed as we wanted to be on the road early as our destination tomorrow was Winnipeg - to see the family and yes celebrate my sister Cath's birthday. As we were leaving the campground I ran into the owner. I thanked her again and she responded, "It's the least we could do and I am so looking forward to reading your book....so thank you."
We went through the tiny French villages of Papineauville which we would have never experienced on the major roads. Took us a bit longer but it was worth it. Both Quinn and I commented how already we could see the leaves changing. Is it all happening this fast?
As the afternoon progressed we listened to John Meyer and for me it always brings back memories. That was one of Riley's favourite albums. We would listen to it together. As I remembered back to those times with tears in my eyes I once again reflected on the enormous journey we have just completed...not only physically but mentally and emotionally.
We had planned to make it to Sudbury but decided to see how it all went and if we could go further, we would, because the next day would have been extremely ugly - almost 1,000 kms to Thunder Bay. As luck would have it, we pressed on. Totally getting into our audio book of Jack Reacher we were destined to Blind River which was 184 kms further. With the easterly sun in our faces through a windshield that was the burial ground for every bug from here to St John's, Newfoundland, we pulled up to MacIvers campground. Hey, we've been here before. It was the place we stayed on our way through.
Nice guy - who said that this summer had been brutal for him but he expected the fall bookings to be way better because they are right in front of a river that has some of the best fishing around. Q Dawg and I were just getting ready to settle into our Friday night steak night and looked around and saw we were getting invaded by our noisy biting friends ...yes those deadly mosquitoes ...we had visions of Hammer Lake all over. We vowed not to go outside once we got our steaks off the BBQ and sealed up the Starship like never before. We had learned our lesson coming through when staying at Hammer Lake in Northern Ontario - those mosquitoes have no mercy! Luck would have it… we were safe from the beasts. I settled down with a cup of tea and another episode of "Orange is the New Black" on my Netflix and soon nodded off to sleep.
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