August 18, 2011
After two years on the Bike Rally I’m going to take a year off. My friends, coworkers, and strangers who sponsored me were incredibly generous and over two years pledged around $8,000 – more than I ever thought possible. Peoples’ generosity was really inspiring and did much to lessen my cynicism in a world that sometimes seems more than a little rude, selfish, and unkind. That said, I do want to give my friends’ wallets a break after pretty much continually asking for pledges from about December of 2009 to just about a month ago.
This doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t be doing a long ride next summer. It also doesn’t mean I won’t be trying to bring more good into the world by doing it. And so I present next summer’s project – designed to continue to reduce both my own cynicism and hopefully yours as well:
Next summer I’ll be riding from here in Toronto – what many consider to be Canada’s least friendly and rudest city to what many agree holds that title in the United States: New York City. I won’t be asking for any mone. Instead I’ll be asking for a different contribution from you. Between today and my departure next summer I want to collect pledges of acts of kindness – at least 500 to be exact – so more than one a day. Like any charity ride, I know the pledges will vary in scale and can be as little as buying a coffee for someone or giving a friend in need a hug. I also know from some of the stories I’ve already heard that they can be pretty huge. The point is that while North American culture is portrayed as a cold, selfish one, I’m pretty sure that there’s still no shortage of good things being done without anything being expected in return. And having been on the receiving end of many such acts, I can also say that even the smallest acts can make someone’s day and make them more likely to pass the goodwill on.
Over the upcoming weeks I’ll be setting up a site to collect these pledges, and their associated stories and I’ll be sharing them with you. In the meantime, I’m collecting stories of acts of kindness you have received to encourage others to pledge by showing them how these acts are valued by those who receive them. If you have a story to share, please message me or contact me and do let me know if you would like to remain anonymous as well.
August 8, 2011
Unfortunately due to the rain delay our departure wasn’t carried live like last year but ended up as a blog instead. You can see the footage of our departure here.
July 23, 2011
So I’ve ridden the Xtracycle for two days now. Yesterday for 40 km with a small load to/from work and today with a full load of gear for my Quebec City journey but for only 5 km – and then 5 km home empty.
Overall so far I’m *really* impressed. The ride is stable – it doesn’t feel like the same bike with really full rear panniers. There’s less wobble. On the other hand, I do notice the extra weight. The effect, though, isn’t quite what I’d expected. I’d expected it to be a constant small drain on me. Instead, it really feels like a truck. Gone are the days of quickly accelerating up to 35 km/hr from a red light. Instead, I find myself starting in a lower gear and working my way upward slowly just like a large loaded transport truck. However, once I’m up to speed, maintaining that speed seems to be about the same. That said, my top speed is 2-3 km/hr slower.
So overall I’m really happy with the purchase. I expect it to be a good ride that gives me a lot more flexibility – particularly on the Montreal to Quebec leg of the ride.
July 23, 2011
July 22, 2011
March 12, 2011
As of about an hour ago I reached the first milestone on the fundraising process. At the moment I’ve raised a total of $2,230.17 for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. This is $30.17 over the minimum fundraising amount for the official ride from Toronto to Montreal.
Day 6 was an amazing day. It started with a ton of mixed feelings. On the one hand I was really looking forward to meeting my goal – to have ridden my bike all the way from my home in Toronto to downtown Montreal. Not only that, but even though I’d ridden almost 500 km in the past 5 days, I felt physically fantastic. On the other hand, it was sad to think that in just a few hours the ride would be over. The days spent waking up, getting on the road early, riding 100 or more kilometres then camping for the night were about to end. As someone who enjoys sleeping in and lazily nursing a coffee for half the morning, it was a bit strange to find myself missing the prospect of waking up at 6:00 AM, breaking camp and eating quickly before hitting the road by 8:30 but it was.
The ride itself was absolutely lovely. Within less than an hour we reached the border between Quebec and Ontario and most of us stopped for photos as we passed. Within minutes after crossing the border it was clear that we were in a different province. This was true not just from a linguistic point of view – most of the signs were now in French, but also from the point of view of a cyclist. Much of our route was along La Route Verte and had dedicated bike lanes, many of which were physically separated from traffic. It definitely said Bienvenue Cyclistes!” to me anyway. Even when construction impacted the bike routes, accomodations were made to help cyclists get through the construction more safely.
Though it was my first year on the ride, the team I was on had a tradition of stopping for junk food at a McDonalds for lunch instead of the usual lunch stop along the way. This stop was a quick one, however, as the weather was cool enough that sitting out on the patio with our bikes was actually uncomfortably cool. We were there long enough, however, for a woman to catch up with me and ask me about who we were and why we were riding. When I told her that we’d ridden from Toronto and explained to her about our cause she ended up giving us a donation then and there.
The pace that day was much more leisurely than we had been doing for the previous days. In part, I think it was knowing that the ride would be over soon, and we were more inclined to savour the ride, stopping once again – this time in Lachine for a bit of ice cream. A couple km later we found ourselves at the meeting point about a 20 minute ride outside of Montreal. Once everyone had arrived the time came for us to leave, now in single file along the Lachine Canal headed in to the old port of Montreal.Riding together like that, an unbroken line of jersey-clad riders at least a kilometre long who all worked hard for the same cause was one of the most moving images of the trip and definitely one that will stick with me for years to come.
After a short wait in the old port to let all the riders gather together again and to allow time for the police escort to assemble we began the final minutes of our ride. While I knew we were expected with many folks knowing we were coming, I was completely unprepared for the reception. People were gathered along the street cheering us on, cars honked their support, with the biggest welcome waiting for us at Park Emilie Gamelin. Friends, family, and strangers were waiting for us cheering us on and high-fiving us as we passed through the gates of the park. Also apparently waiting for us was a huge wave of emotion as most of us dissolved into tearful hugs while the music played. An additional surprise was waiting for us this time as well. Thanks to the hundreds of amazing sponsors, we had raised over $1.2 million dollars for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation – a record for the event.
The time after that was bittersweet. As the party wound down, riders rode their bikes a final few metres down the street to the assembly location. There our bikes were loaded into trucks to be driven back to Toronto. At the same time all of our things were unloaded from the Rubbermaid bins we’d been living out of for the previous 6 days. I made my way to the hotel – but as I went I couldn’t help feel that things had finished too early. I still had all of this energy! I had finally figured out the routine of breaking camp, having breakfast, and riding through the day only to set up camp again. I also found myself recalling, still almost joking with myself at this point, the encouragement I saw chalked on the road earlier that week: “Keep on going to Halifax!!!”
Eight months later I’m thinking “Thanks. I don’t mind if I do!”
December 21, 2010
So since a project was laid squarely across my ride so that not only was the long ride impossible but even the week-long ride to Montreal wasn’t in the cards, I’ve been pretty bummed out. I really like having a big goal to work toward and my work schedule really did a fantastic job of making that next to impossible. Today on the way to a meeting at work (regarding said project) I lamented another side-effect of the cancellation of the ride on facebook.
Todd finds that it is *much* harder to motivate himself for winter training without a 600km bike ride to look forward to
Fifteen minutes later, someone threw a curve-ball in the meeting essentially changing the schedule such that the whole thing needs to be done in the early spring. In other words, not fifteen minutes after I complained that a ride wasn’t happening, the obstacle was removed. Now that’s service!
So I’m resuming ride preparations effective immediately. I had no trouble motivating myself to go to the gym tonight.
The second bit of good news is that thanks to the good folks at the Friends for Life Bike Rally and their recent upgrade to the donation site, it is now possible to donate via Paypal – this opens up a few more options for people – particularly those without credit cards.
And just a reminder – you can sponsor my ride and support the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation here.
November 10, 2010
Well folks, some not so good news to report. It looks highly likely that a new work project may steal away most of my May-October. Unless something radically changes, the ride (and even the standard week-long Bike Rally) can’t happen. I’m extremely disappointed but am hopeful that I can do something in the following year. And hey, perhaps I can go even longer in 2012 with the vacation time I’ll be able to carry over…
Thanks so much (and apologies as well) to my amazing sponsors. Together we raised over $1,700 for the Toronto People with AIDS foundation. Add that to the previous rally’s fundraising and we’ve raised over $4,000 in the past year.
October 2, 2010
Thanks to a few more very generous folks I’m keeping the pace to be doing the entire Long Ride East in July. At this point, though the website doesn’t show it (because of a couple of offline pledges), I’m now at $1,420. So, going back to the calculator: at $3/km (the rough ‘cost’ per km to go from here to Halifax based on my $6k commitment), I’m now fully funded for 473 kilometers of the ride. Where does that put me? About 75 km into Day 5.
At 108 km, day 5 was pretty much an average day in terms of distance. On the other hand, the day was one of my favourite routes along the St. Lawrence River via the Long Sault Parkway and then to some bike trails along the river. Just before I left, a friend made a comment on one of my Facebook status messages warning me to hold my breath at Cornwall and before I left folks at work mentioned that Cornwall was a really ugly, smelly city made so by the paper mill. So as I rode I watched the map, waiting for this ugly place to rear its head. And before long…it did.
Pretty ghastly place, huh? Most of my memories of that day are of that stretch which seemed to last forever. One other rider said that with all the canals the area reminded them of the Netherlands. Needless to say, Cornwall was, without exception, the most beautiful part of the ride in my opinion.
As we pulled in to Lancaster we arrived at the Dairy Queen which was packed with riders. While many of us were glad to have a break and some ice cream, this DQ had managed to become something of a traditional stop along the way as not only was it conveniently located just about 10 minutes from the end of the ride, but the owners of the store pledged to donate all the profits from Blizzard sales to the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation. Based on the number I saw being sold just to our group, I think this was a pretty significant donation on their part. Just after the stop for ice cream, the route turned on to a service road next to the 401 (the major highway between Toronto and Montreal) where I saw this sign:
It was hard to believe but this sign signified that this would be the last night of camping and that the next day at about that time we’d all be riding in to Montreal. And then, just like that, we arrived at the campsite. Unlike most of the others on the route, this one was heavily wooded, and absolutely gorgeous. I set up camp and then went to deal with the only bad thing about that day’s ride. I went to visit the chiropractor.
As I have said before, there are a number of health support staff on the ride including one chiropractor. Fortunately for me, I was able to get in to see him within about 20 minutes of my arriving and with a quick couple of adjustments he was able to help unlock my sacrum (that had been locked since before the ride left), and the more annoying problem of my right hand’s going numb occasionally on the ride. And then it was time to take care of the other pressing need: the shower.
Bathing on the ride is a bit more of a challenge than on your average road trip. While some choose to just put on their bathing suits and wash up in the lake/river, it felt a little too cool for me on the ride and so I joined the queue for the showers which sometimes was more than 30 min long. All that for a quick 3-4 minute shower that sometimes even had to be paid for. Some might complain or call it too much hassle but I suspect those people haven’t had the joy of having alternating layers of sunscreen and road dust and grime to remove at the end of a long day’s ride. I don’t recall ever hearing a complaint about the queues and in fact they sometimes turned into something of a social affair with everyone hanging out while everyone showered. Once clean and showered, I headed back to the campsite and before long it was time for the team to go to the candlelight vigil ceremony:
While every rider and volunteer is well aware of why they’re participating, the ride overall is extremely festive and light. The candlelight vigil, however, not only reminded me of why we were there, it also provided me with a more personal connection to the ride. The vigil, held at sunset on the banks of the river is itself a moving image. 300 riders, 100 crew, each holding candles. Many folks got up and spoke, some about AIDS’ effect on their own lives or the lives of their friends while others explaining how they’d been somewhat homophobic in times past but that their being on the ride had changed their attitudes tremendously. But for me, it did something no number of PSAs could do: it made the disease real.
AIDS really came on to the scene just before I entered my teenage years with stories about the disease’s cropping up in not just the gay community but also among Hatians, hemophiliacs, and IV drug users. And growing up as I did in rural Vermont, it remained pretty much an academic thing. I was well aware of what a terrible disease it was (especially back in those early days) but as far as I knew, I was many degrees of separation from it. Nobody I knew was affected, and nobody anyone I knew was affected either. Flash forward to last July and now not only was I among HIV+ riders, I was among people who were tremendously affected not just themselves by the disease but whose entire social circle was affected. One man whom I would estimate to be about my father’s age, read off over 80 names. The names were of friends that as he described it were good enough to invite over for dinner. And each one had been taken by the disease. I met children whose parents were affected and parents whose children were affected. I often felt a bit awkward when asked why I was riding by others, many of whom had a very personal connection, because my answer was simply: “I wanted to do a long bicycle ride and it seemed selfish to do it simply on my own when I could help others by doing it.” While that may have been my reason for doing the ride last year, my experience at the candlelight vigil is the reason I’m not only riding again this year, I’m hoping to triple the distance and the amount of money I raise.
After the vigil we all made our way back to the campsite. And at this point I learned the difference between camping in a field and camping in the woods. It was extremely difficult to find the campsite. In silhouette, all the campsites looked the same, and my sense of direction seemed to have disappeared. Later in the evening, however, a way emerged that helped me to find my tent on the way back from the washroom. I could use my ears. Every night a different social event was planned for the ride, some I attended, others I skipped choosing to spend the evening with other members of the team chatting and snacking on the various hors d’oeuvres some kind teammates had picked up. That night, the social event was a dance from about 10 to midnight or thereabouts. And somehow, our campsite had ended up right next to the large tent where it was being held. The generators they brought ensured that we had enough power to make the music so loud you had to raise your voice to talk over it even a ways away. After a long day’s ride, I was ready for bed, and was a bit despairing that I would be able to get to sleep with, in effect, an open-air nightclub next door. But I needn’t have worried for two reasons. The first was that as suggested in the packing list, I had brought earplugs. While they only reduced the sound level, I had one other thing that helped: having ridden over 500 km in the past few days. And so, while when I first laid down I resigned myself to resting with my eyes closed until the party was over, I was asleep almost the instant I hit my pillow.
Day 5 was also the day I started to really think about riding farther than Montreal next year. Despite the need to visit the Chiropractor, I was otherwise in great spirits and shape. I had no soreness on the ride, and other than having gained the superpower of being able to sleep in a nightclub, I didn’t feel overly tired. At this point in the ride I was well into the routine of breaking camp, riding and setting up camp and felt like I wanted to keep going now that I knew the drill. And so ended what was the most beautiful ride and though I had no idea of it when it started, the most inspiring day of the ride.
September 12, 2010
Those who know me in person know I’m all about analogies and finding different ways to visualize information. And this project is no exception. After this past week’s fundraising blitz, I’m at $1,030 raised – actually a little bit ahead of where I need to be in order meet my goal of raising $6,000 before I leave.
I particularly like looking at my fundraising in terms of how far that money would take me. If we assume that I want to raise $6,000 to take me the approximately 2,000 km to Halifax that equates to $3/km. And therefore with that in mind, $1,030 will take me a little over 343 km (213 km). And where is that in the ride? About half way through the fourth day of the ride – over half way between Toronto and Montreal. And what was that day like?
Day four started in Kingston, where instead of camping, the riders and crew got to stay in dorms in Queens University. After 260 km of heat, road grime, and two nights of sleeping on the ground as well as a LOT of calories burned, Kingston seemed like heaven on earth. As soon as we arrived, lunch was ready for us in the cafeteria. A lunch which on normal days would seem like standard cafeteria fare seemed the height of luxury. Hot entrees, food from the grill, pasta, pizza, and desserts of all kinds and even hot coffee which would have seemed disgusting on the hot road was lovely in our air conditioned splendor. We were able to do our laundry and even have a hot shower in a bathroom we shared with only one other person. I remember talking to someone at dinner who admitted to having had three showers in the 8 hours had been there. That night all the teams went out for celebratory dinners and many went to a show with Miss Conception. Everyone enjoyed having a real bed to sleep in.
While most days along the ride breakfast for me consisted of porridge, baked beans, some fruit, and maybe a bagel or two, we had a few more options at the cafeteria. Eggs, sausage, pancakes, fruit, and lots of coffee started my day off. After breakfast there was a quick series of announcements and, as the day’s theme was “superheroes”, we honoured those who raised more than $6,000.
One thing I noticed about the ride was that the terrain was so flat for the most part that the slightest hill, often ones that wouldn’t even rate a mention on a trip, say, up the Niagara Escarpment, would be specifically mentioned hours or even days before we encountered it. This was true of the hill as we left Kingston. But like the “big hill” on day 2 just before the Glenora Ferry, it turned out to be anticlimactic.
What wasn’t anticlimactic, though, was the discussion about the state of the bike trail along the Thousand Islands Parkway. The intentions were obviously very good – the trail is well separated from the road and offers two travel lanes. However, it appears that it was never maintained following its installation. With the cracks, potholes, roots and missing pavement it was impossible to maintain a decent speed. (Though I did get air a few times!). Eventually, though it wasn’t really what we were supposed to do, I joined the majority of the riders back on the road itself and my average speed went from about 15-20 km/hr to 30-40. And it seemed like in no time at all, I found myself at the lunch stop in Brown’s Bay park. While it was a beautiful park, it wasn’t much of a day for the “best swimming on the ride” advertised on the route map and in fact within a few minutes of arriving the rain started. Fortunately it didn’t last long and by the time I had eaten the rain was over.
Thinking back, I would say this day was probably the hardest day of the ride for me. It wasn’t the longest distance, the terrain wasn’t particularly difficult but the ride itself seemed quite long. In part I blame how I had been eating in Kingston for that – paying more attention to treating myself with delicious food than fueling my body. I remember the afternoon seemed particularly long. In fact at one point, I had managed to get to a pace where I was the only rider I could see for quite some time. And while most of the time, even if you don’t pass a rider, a crew van will pass every few minutes, I didn’t even see one of those and as I continued I began to wonder if I had somehow left the route. Fortunately, as I had the waterfront to use as a guideline I knew that unless I had somehow managed to pass the campsite (no, really, this did occur to me at one point), I was on the right track. At the same time, watching the clouds above, it looked like there might be some more rain very soon and so I was pushing myself to get to the campground as I didn’t want to have to set up my tent on wet ground or worse, set it up in a downpour.
But as it turned out, I needn’t have worried. I did eventually make it to the campsite. After some quick stretches (amazing what a difference stretching vs not stretching does – I didn’t believe it before this ride) I set up my tent and helped to set up a few of the other riders’ tents who hadn’t yet arrived. And within a few minutes after setting up the last one, the rain began to fall. Many of us retreated to our tents. I crawled into mine, lay back and relaxed a bit while the rain fell. And within 30 minutes the rain had stopped. This rain, and the little shower at lunch, was the only precipitation we got on the whole 6 day ride (lucky, eh?!)
So, 2011 sponsors, thanks for taking me back to that day first in terms of fundraising, and now with a little trip down memory lane. Curious about what day four actually looked like? Fortunately one of the riders mounted a camera on their handlebars and graciously uploaded the video.