Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thunder Bay

June 30

Today was an amazing day for us. We were invited out for lunch. Maurice Fortin, Executive Director of the CMHA Thunder Bay invited us for a visit and to tour their facilities. New Foundations Clubhouse members put on the lunch. Although it was a big deal for us (a nice change from peanut butter and banan sandwiches) it was no biggie for them as lunches and special occasion meals are a regular occurance. They cater too. It was a perfect meal to fuel Mel on his ride. The Clubhouse is a program where members can receive support in the areas of education, employment, housing support, advocacy, crisis and social recreation. Jason led us on the tour. Ralph, one of the members, shared with us that when he first started here he was totally computer illiterate and in a few short years has become a pro. To demonstrate it took him about 5 minutes to whip up a flyer and print it in colour. Was that a Xerox printer?.
Bye-the-way Gord, Brenda says "Hi", Clubhouse to Clubhouse.
New Foundation Clubhouse is only one of many valuable and diverse programs run by the CMHA in Thunder Bay. We were also treated to an inside look at the crisis line phone room. 807-346-8282.
Lindsay and Mel wanted to be sure to look their best for an interview that Ken, our PR manager in Thunder Bay had arranged for later. Turns out Shane Judge of CBC Radio was more interested in the sound. Shane had them outside in the rain so he could capture the authentic sounds. He even had Mel run through a puddle a couple of times.

Ride into Thunder Bay

June 29

The ride into Thunder Bay today was wet, but not as wet as yesterday. Lindsay rode with Mel during a period that wasn't raining and we took a break at Kakabeka Falls. When we got into town we had To Do list for our PR manager/go to guy -an old friend and colleague at Xerox Ken Gravelle. He even made an appointment with his barber for Mel to get a haircut. We had another issue - Mel's bike needed new tires - remember Manitoba? and a tune up. Ken directed us to Cyclepath where owner Peter Tofinetti looked after us. Apparently when Mel had his little run in with the Texas gate back in Lake Louise he damaged some doohicky that connected to some other thingy and after another 1500 kms or so on the road it wasn't working right. No problem for the mechanics at Cyclepath - they diagnosed it, repaired it and now it's good for 10,000 kms of abuse on the road.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Atikokan to Shabandowan

June 28
I don't know how Mel does it he remains positive even when things look really, well, crappy. The weather forecast looks bleak for days to come. We are travelling through bush - miles and miles and even kilometers and kilometers of bush, northern Ontario bush, full of black flies, mosquitoes and ticks. And it's raining, hard. It's beautiful mind you, wildflowers on the side of the road, countlessless lakes and beautiful forests. Did I mention it was wet?
Yesterday's rest day was only nice because it was a rest day. The weather was wet and windy. Today was still wet but it was windy too. It was only nice because it was - a tail wind with gusts up to 30 km/hr.
Lindsay and I had pulled over at a pulp check station. Not sure why it's called "pulp" because the trucks are carrying a huge load of logs. Anyhow, I'm glad they get checked. So we were pulled over, intently waiting for Mel, well, napping if you must know. A knock on the window roused us. "Are you raising money for this?" We had failed to notice another vehicle pulled over here too. "We want to contribute." Bernadette and her husband were on their way back to Atikokan and noticed our RV. We had a friendly but short chat - after all it was raining. When Mel rode up Bernadette's husband came back from their truck. "You need a doughnut, they're fresh." You should have seen Mel's eyes. A donation and a doughnut. The day is looking up.
No sooner had we said our goodbyes and seen them off but another vehicle stopped. The driver came over "Do you need any help? We saw you pulled over and just want to be sure you're all right." We explained to Shaun and Marg what we were all about and they replied with a contibution on the spot. This is a great country and wonderful people.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Taylor's Cove to Atikokan / Quetico - Rest Day

June 26

The freshly re-surfaced road from Fort Frances to beyond Taylor's Cove to start the day's ride was like silk to ride on and refreshing after having to replace tires regularly over the past sections. Construction was near completion but not quite. Flag persons were situated along the route and were always friendly. One stop led to an exchange about the awsome surface compared to Manitoba roads. He said, "Don't get used to it. You have 3 more kilometres to go and you're back in Manitoba." Unfortunately he was right.
Fourth day in a row of 100 K plus distances and at 27 degrees. Hydration is crucial. Unlimited supply of Gatorade is vital to survival and staying strong.
we arrived at our goal in Atikokan,canoe capital,and did a little shopping and headed to our campsite down the way in Quetico Provincial Park
No sooner had we arrived and connected up when Dewain and Viki from north-eastern California approached us after sighting the RV in town. They told us about their background in Mental Health. Viki is involved with a consumer run organization that provides peer support programs in the community. They are funded by a tax on "millionaires" . Their quest this summer is to explore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. We might see them there.
Beautiful evening to begin our restday - Lindsay and Mel had a great swim. Looking forward to a quiet day exploring the provincial park.
Why is it the rest days always turn out to be rainy and cruddy? Oh well, makes it easy to rest.

Fort Frances and Taylors Cove


June 25

A roller coaster of a day starting with a kind lady enquiring about our RV and The Ride at the Parkside Campground near Nestor Falls. She took it all in, went back to her campsite and returned with her personal contribution.
Mel replaced a rear tire (all by himself), the 3rd of the Ride - had to. Remember the very rough road conditions in Manitoba?
When we hit the road we were blessed with favourable winds. We reached Fort Frances in record time. After picking up a few groceries we went for a coffee and a short rest. Apparently we drove in the exit and gave the locals in Tim's something to talk about. Blissful, we climbed out of the RV and were met by a fellow walking toward the RV. "Is Mel in there?" he asked. Turned out to be Ernie Crinkler, the Xerox Service Agent in Fort Frances. We had a great time reminiscing with Ernie. He told some amazing stories. "Working for Xerox teaches people how to have a heart."
Don't we know it. The Ride for Mental Health has only come together with the help and support of individuals at Xerox.
Break over, we still had a couple of hours to ride today. We were headed for Taylor's Cove about 35 km east of Fort Frances. Yet another flat tire slowed us down briefly as Mel changed over to the back-up bike and on we went to find the campground.
A sign for Taylor's Road sent us down a very narrow dirt road wondering what we would find and worrying about being able to turn around. At the end of the road, after passing the sign "Slow. Grandchildren Playing", we found a little bit of paradise. We got out of the Rv and looked around. Boats were tied up at the dock, and several cottages were perched out on the point and on the hill overlooking the docks. As a man approached us Mel said "This isn't a campground is it?" We met Ed Taylor who after explaining he doesn't run a campground and our explaining the Ride For Mental Health, showed us to a beautiful private campsite complete with our own beach and hook-up. Mel and Lindsay were swimming within minutes and we enjoyed the perfect evening together lakeside.
If you are ever in the Fort Frances area looking for wonderful hospitality, a breath-taking property, and great fishing, look up Taylor's Cove - Marina and Cabins. Come discover Ed Taylor's paradise on Rainy Lake.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Into Ontario - Kenora and Nestor Falls

June 23 and 24

We travelled for about 500 kms or so over all kinds of roads in Manitoba. I'm not going to lie, generally speaking the roads were . . . well, not so good. But the people of Manitoba are friendly, just like it says on the licence plates. Friendly and Helpful. Especially a particular individual with Manitoba Hydro. Ok, Ok, here's the story. We were following not far behind Mel on a very quiet stretch of narrow, twisty Hwy 44 about 10 minutes outside of West Hawke Lake. It was pouring rain. Up ahead I saw Mel working on his bike on the side of the road. His chain had come off. I knew we had to stop, but where? This was not a very wide section of road. I edged over to the side and as soon as the wheels left the asphalt I knew I was stuck. In the pouring rain. No cell coverage of course. I was mad. For the whole trip so far I'd been really careful about where I pulled over - honest Dave.
I was looking for the CAA number, muttering to myself when Mel and Lindsay flagged down a Manitoba Hydro truck. "You're stuck" the driver said. See? I said helpful. "And there's only one tow truck in West Hawke . . . and if he's busy . . . it could be hours." I wasn't really finding that helpful. But wait, he went back to his truck and pulled out a huge towing cable. "I might as well give it a try. " he said. So he and Mel hooked it up and in literally 15 seconds I was free. And our hero was gone. Thanks truck #1508.
On the road again, heading for Ontario and hoping for better roads. Well that turned out to be good news / bad news. Road was good for about one click then dirt and gravel for about 20 kms. Try riding over that on the thin tires of a road bike. The road improved after that and so did the trip. We ended the day at a great campground in Kenora and only one bulging tire had to be replaced.
The following day we turned away from Hwy 17(TransCanada)and headed south on Hwy 71, supposedly a better route for bikes, not so desolate and fewer transport trucks.
It was a scenic ride/drive through Ontario forests and lakes - big hunting and fishing area.
We settled in for the night at Parkview RV Resort on the shores of Caliper Lake. Lindsay - never one to miss an opportunity to swim in a lake, swam out to the raft and back and then headed to the showers. We watched a large family of turtles play in the shallow water and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. During dinner one of the campers came by to enquire about the Ride and later came back with "a donation to the cause. You're doing a good thing."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Winnipeg Event

June 22
It was an early morning scramble to get us all to the City TV studio in the Forks Market area on time. Lucky we had our trusty GPS.
Mel, Lindsay and interviewer Brian addressed the need to raise awareness about mental illness and the need to reduce stigma. The RV was also featured on camera as a vehicle to attract attention to our project. Lindsay and Mel are media stars. They handled the questions like pros.
Mid morning found us in the centre of the business district at the outdoor square at Canwest Place. Nick Allaire and his committee were taking care of last minute details for the event. Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister of Healthy Living, arrived early and we had a chance to talk about the Ride and heard her views on mental health. When she took the stage she was elequent about people being able to speak openly about depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia without fear of stigma. I'm certain that having a Cabinet Minister such Ms Irvin-Ross' taking an active role today was a strong catalyst for the media to pick up on our message about mental health awareness.
Mel and Lindsay, media darlings that they are, spoke with interviewers from both CBC television and radio station CJOB. That left Caity and I to meet and mingle. The live music of Papa Mombo ensured that everyone was moving to their wonderful sound. We had the pleasure of meeting several individuals working with the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, Matthew and Johnathon. Johnathon gave us a gift from a porject he is working on. The gift was 3 candles for Light a Candle of Hope for Someone Your Care About Living With Mental Illness. "It's a project I'm working on." He is full of great ideas to bring attention to mental health issues.
Then we met Steve - one of the headliners on the day's program. Steve is a spokesperson for consumer survivors, and it is easy to see that he is a survivor. He spoke to the crowd and told a story of courage and strength and guts. He told his story and he didn't sugar coat it. He spoke eloquently and from the heart. Steve has seen some rough times, really hard times, but he is slowly changing that. One day at a time.

By the end of the day, after dropping Caitlin at the airport for her flight home, we were completely drained. We will sleep well tonight knowing that through the media opportunities and the event in downtown Winnipeg we touched many people with our message of awareness. Tomorrow we will be back on road early and headed toward Ontario.

Into Winnipeg

June 21

Lindsay rode with Mel. Caity rode with Mel. Fathers Day. The road we were on was virtually deserted which gave them each a chance to talk and enjoy the ride together.
It was a good day.
As we were nearing Winnipeg, we stopped on the side of the road for a break when two other bikes approached. A mother and her children out for a ride. They had seen the RV and wanted to share that they have a family member with a mental illness. "And he's doing really well."
There you go. That's the Hope and Recovery we talk about.
It was a good day.
Sometime later we stopped again, this time for gas, coffee and licorice (staples on the road). Another car was acting strangely, by that I mean it wasn't getting gas, it wasn't stopping at the restaurant and it was kind of in the way. Actually it seemed like it was following us. Turns out it was. The driver came over to my window before I was even out. "I have something I want to give you" she said. " and I don't have much time."
She said her name was Dawn and she works in the mental health field.
"I was on my way to work when I saw your RV and I actually turned around on the highway." she explained. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing." She is passionate about her work and told us there is strong support for mental health in this area. She went back to her dusty car (all cars are dusty on the road here) and brought back a big yellow magnet in the shape of a balloon. It read: "Pop the Stigma of Mental Illness". One of the programs she is involved with produced the magnets. "Good luck and be safe " she said as she drove off.
It was a good day.

Minnedosa to Portage La Prairie

June 19 2009
This was a complicated day for us. It started with a long conversation over skype with daughter Darcy who was heading off for a summer internship. It was a hard goodbye to Darcy - it will be hard to arrange phone calls for the next few months.
It was the longest day of riding so far. As it turns out it was the fastest day yet -a PB - averaged 31 over 121 Km of flat Trans Canada. Finally got a break from the winds - SW 7K/Hr
And daughter Caitlin was flying to Winnipeg and we were to meet her in Portage La Prairie. Caitlin arrived by bus into Portage several hours before we made it to town. "Welcome to my hood" she greeted us. She had scouted out the entire town and knew everyone at Tim's by the time we arrived.
We checked into the campground, bought a frisbee, had some fun playing catch. We shared a beautiful evening getting caught up on things back home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


June 18

Today was a rest day - no riding/driving distances to cover. Our Shay and Harlee family PR team - this time Uncle John and Aunt Gerry, arranged an opportunity for us to make a presentation to a group of juniour high students at the Neepawa Collegiate.
Upon arrival we received a warm reception by school staff and the presentation by Mel and Lindsay was met with attention and applause by the students. Afterwards a representative from the NACI Juniour High Student Council presented us with a cheque for The Ride for Mental Health. We were so touched. Open minds and open hearts. Thanks to the students and also Principal Mr. Hollier and Vice Principal Ms. Yarayeski.
Our agents had also alerted the Neepawa Banner about The Ride but we made a couple of short detours before we went to the office. First detour was to the former home of Margaret Laurence. We were reading a plaque out on the front porch when the guide opened the door and offered us free admission "because of your project". Ruth took us around and shared a wealth of information about Laurence's early life in Neepawa. The house was chock full her of awards, autographed copies, photos and donated artifacts by the people of Neepawa that grew up with her. It was a really hot day and the second detour was for ice cream. By the time we remembered the newspaper, it was closed, but a young photograher came out and took a photo of Mel and Lindsay with the RV. The next day reporter Kate called and we answered some questions from the road.

Minnedosa Beach, Manitoba

June 17

Another long day for Mel - 100 K into the wind. One thing we know for sure about the prairies is the wind. It never stops. And it's darn hard to pedal into a head wind.
Another thing we know about the prairies is that although it's pretty flat there are some surprises - and there's no warning. There you are looking out at the flat landscape, wishing for a little variation and then all of a sudden you're going down a big hill into a river valley. Can't see it coming.
Today Mel's hard work was rewarded with an amazing hill down into the town of Minnedosa, "the valley paradise" as it is known. Shortly after getting settled in the campground by the beach a car drove up. A young reporter from the Minnedosa Tribune was here for an interview. How's that for planning ahead to get media attention? Actually it wasn't our doing at all but an ad hoc PR team led by our friends Shay and Harlee and their various family members.
Interview over and along came Harlee's mom Dawn to welcome us to Minnedosa with a gift of tea from Chesterfields. We had a relaxing visit with Dawn and she told us about the bison compound just down the way, walking trails and other highlights of the area.
(By the way, Shay's mom was responsible for all the honks I received while driving in Saskatchewan. Well, not Linda herself, but she did post details of The Ride on a Saskatchewan website and I just know all the honking and waving in my direction was from the readers.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Abernethy to Esterhazy

Monday June 15

As we passed Abernethy we noticed a sign on the road leading into town. What caught our eye was the name on the sign. Thompson. We were hooked. Apparently Abernethy is the home of Len Thompson, designer and originator of a famous line of fishing lures. Those of you amongst the fishy set will be familiar with the "five of diamonds" spoon.
After that shiny tidbit of inspiration Lindsay and I left Mel to pedal on and we went off to explore another highlight of the area: The Motherwell Homestead; a national historic site honouring William Motherwell who came to Saskatchewan in the late 1800's and and had a significant influence on the development of scientific agriculture in Western Canada. He went on to become provincial and federal Ministers of Agriculture.
We finally caught up to Mel in the small town of Neudorf. As he was replenishing his Gatorade a fellow came down the main street and introduced himself to us as the Mayor. "I'm Murray" he said. He inquired about The Ride and when we explained he said "That's good. We support the mental health association here. If we knew you were coming we could have put something together for you."
Next time we do a ride like this we will have to plan ahead better.
"Uh, next time?" asked Mel.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Regina and out to the Fort

Friday June 12, Saturday June 13, and Sunday June 14

No sooner had we pulled into the parking lot of the Sandman Hotel in Regina then there was a knock at the door of the RV. I don't think the keys where out of the ignition yet. It was the first of the greeters from Xerox. The action was fast and furious from that point. Next came a phone call from Alicia at Global TV who had been alerted by a Xerox representative that The Ride for Mental Health was in town. Mel just had time for a quick shower and freshen up before she arrived for an interview. And yes, it was on the 6pm and the 11pm news. Another representative from the Xerox welcoming committee arrived in the parking lot as the interview was taking place. We later met five others from the Xerox Regina office for dinner and another batch for breakfast at Denny's. We were given lots of advice on sightseeing in Regina, and the state of the roads. So, we headed out to do the tourist thing - saw the RCMP Heritage Centre - highly recommended. We also enjoyed a leisurely stroll around beautiful Lake Wascana and saw the impressive Provincial Legislative building.
Sunday morning and it was time to move on to Abernethy, 105 km down the road and Mel would have company. When we pulled into the Xerox office where we had arranged to meet Matt and Nancy,Matt already had his bike out and ready. Matt is an experienced marathoner but on a road bike, not so much. Didn't take him long though, and he was able to complete the distance. "Might have to work standing up tomorrow" he said.
We enjoyed a great dinner with Matt, Nancy their daughter and granddaughter and then we had a tour of the lakes in the Qu'Appelle Valley. Beautiful country and great people.

Kenaston and beyond.

Friday June 12

The other day at a gas station in Rosetown, while refuelling our RV with gas and our rider with non gas, we were approached by Don. He walked over to express his support. He knew the highways in the area and gave us the benefit of local knowledge. Yesterday we found the ride south on Highway 11 from Kenaston to be just the way Don said it would be - ever so slightly downhill. Add favourable winds to that and an overacheiver like Mel can make minced meat of the plan. He sailed past the scheduled stop at Chamberlain, blew by the next available stop at Findlater and motored on to Bethune. A quick check of the internet via our Bell Mobility wireless PC card revealed that the nearest campground was not actually on Hwy 11. It would require a short detour to Regina Beach.
Regina Beach turned out to be a real gem. Tucked away on the shore of Last Mountain Lake it is a haven of outdoor recreation. Lindsay braved the cold water and took a quick dip in the lake. Mel was brave up to his knees. I made the sacrifice to act as life guard and had to remain on shore.
When we registered at the Regina Beach Campground, the attendent Jamie would not accept payment. "You're doing this for charity, it's a good thing."
Today our destination was Regina - a much shorter ride than previously planned. After a leisurely morning routine we were unloading the bikes at the crossroads when a car stopped beside us. Out popped Brenda, " Hi, I'm a psych nurse and I saw your RV. I'm planning the local Canada Day Parade and I wondered if you would be in it."
Who doesn't like a parade, but as it turns out we actually already have plans for a Canada Day Parade.(Stay tuned)
Brenda was on her way to Story Time at the library with her 4 year old and 8 month old who peeked at us from the car. She went on to tell us she has worked as a psychiatric nurse for many years and knows full well the disabling effects of serious mental illness. She agreed that mental health issues deserve more focus - it deserves the attention of all of us and concentrated fundraising efforts to support people with mental illnesses. She currently works in geriatrics and points out that mental health issues such as demetia and alzheimers are related. As she reached into her purse to make a donation, a little voice said "Don't forget your helmet."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Xerox Charity Golf Tournament

Wednesday June 10
As Day 23 of The Ride continued and we made our way slowly across Sasakatchewan to Kenaston, our thoughts were seldom far from the Xerox Charity Golf Tournament taking place today in Toronto at Angus Glen. This is the 15th year Jim Doherty and Jane Doherty with regular involvement from their children have successfully run the Xerox Golf Tournamnet. It's a family affair and a first-rate charity event; numerous charities have benefited over the years. We are honoured that The Ride For Mental Health is one of the beneficiaries this year. Jim has been a tireless ambassador for the Ride For Mental Health. He was our earliest supporter. His vision and drive took the idea of a charity bike ride from the kitchen table to a national campaign. He is truly an agent of support and the success of today's golf tournament is just another indicator.
Today our son Ben and our daughter Caitlin attended the dinner after the Golf, and Ben had an opportunity to talk about our family experience and why we are doing the Ride across Canada. He struck a chord with the audience because our story is real and one that thousands of other families are also experiencing. Outstanding feedback on Ben's comments started coming in immediately. Mental health awareness is growing every time we are able to speak with people and the reaction has been universally positive.
Tomorrow we have an early start as we head towards Chamberlain and the following day to Regina. We are bouyed by the tremendous support we received today. Our focus is strengthened. With the help of our friends we will continue to build mental health awareness. We will reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness. And we will raise dollars along the way to support community programs for those experiencing mental illness.
Thanks again to Jim and Jane Doherty for another successful Xerox Charity Golf Tournament.

Kindersley to Milden, Sask

Tuesday June 9
Whew, big day. 122 kms from Kindersley, Saskatchewan to Milden. It was sunny for most of the ride and you guessed it, rained for the rest. But, the wind was not a headwind, was not much of a wind at all so that was a big bonus for Mel. Out here in Saskatchewan there's no need to check an official weather forecast. If you look out the window you can see the weather coming for days before it gets here.
Rest day in Kindersley yesterday was a bit of a snooze but that's what we needed. It poured all day (and was really cold) so we couldn't take advantage of the 9 hole golf course across the street. The big highlight was going into to town for lunch at Tim's. From one on every corner and gas station in Toronto to, let me count, almost none out here ... I think there might be some franchising opportunities. Occasionally we see a big Tim's transport whiz by us on the highway- I feel like doing a u ie.
This morning as we packed up our campsite amidst the puddles, a bright eyed woman on her morning walk stopped to talk. She said she is from Calgary and her name is Rose. So I said " Are you Wild Rose from Alberta?" She might have been back in her day, but today she said " No, I'm just nosey. What's this ride all about?" We thanked her for her interest and explained what we were up to.
Nosey ... awareness... it all works.
Later in the day the two young woman in the Tourist Office in Rosetown remarked on our highly visible RV. "Cool" was their reaction when we gave them some brochures for the counter.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kindersley, Saskatchewan


Monday June 8

Well, the weather is not improving. Still cold , still windy and today the showers have turned to a full day downpour. Luckily it's a scheduled rest day and Mel is not riding. It's probably a good thing - forces him to actually rest because there's not much else to do
Yesterday showers were intermittent and Mel put in a good 100 plus on the bike. Lindsay helped him out for some of those klicks.