Gratitude and Opportunity

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“Kiza adds colour to this place”

Looking for Wifi

I had gone to Subway in Transcona when I was visiting Winnipeg. I planned to take advantage of their free WiFi with no intent to buy anything. After standing outside the restaurant with my cell phone for 15 minutes I decided to inconspicuously take a seat inside.

I was greeted by one of the workers who wondered where I was from. He had seen the bicycle when I leaned it against the window. He told me he had never been outside of Winnipeg and wanted to know the best place in Canada to visit.

After chatting with  him off and on for a half hour he offered me a bowl of cream of mushroom soup. I had initially declined the offer as I had ended the day with a good supper. I changed my mind and told him I would love some. I offered to pay for it but he told me the soup would have been thrown out because they were closing for the night.

I decided I would put up a thank you facebook post of his gesture of generosity. He clearly wasn’t offering the soup because I was a good client. There was a different motivation.

Kiza’s story

To do the facebook post I asked for his name. Now I knew I had been speaking with Kiza. His name intrigued me. Turns out he is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). His parents had fled for their lives from DR Congo due to political unrest, and Kiza had been born in a refugee camp.

At age two Kiza’s parents left him with his grandparents and moved on to another refugee camp where they figured their opportunity to get sponsorship was better. Once his parents arrived in Winnipeg his parents made application to get Kiza to Canada. Kiza wasn’t reunited with his parents till he was nine years old.

During the time that Kiza was in a refugee camp he already valued education. He arrived in Canada speaking Swahili, Bengali and French. His command of English was impressive because I found him easy to understand.

Kiza’s experience in the refugee camp taught him several life lessons. He recalls his father skimping on food so Kiza and his brothers would be able to eat. He told me that when you have little means, family is everything. The second thing he told me is that when you have little means you smile a lot.  We’re smiling because once you stop smiling you have nothing. If you lose your spirit you have no future.

When I met Kiza he had just graduated from high school and was very pleased to have been accepted into university. He was working his summer job to save up for his tuition fees.

To help save up for university he had been cycling to work. Initially it took him an hour but over time he reduced his commuting time to twenty minutes. On top of that he arrives at work feeling energized. Having biked almost halfway across Canada I could certainly relate to that.

Opportunity

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A free high school education is helping me realize my dream.

Kiza is overjoyed at being accepted into university. He appreciated the free education offered through high school. His acceptance into university was a very important stepping stone towards realizing his dreams. The fact that his education through high school was free made him even more appreciative of the Canadian educational system, because, as he sees it, it opens up opportunities for anyone who has dreams.

His goal after completing his university degree is to help rebuild DR Congo. He wonders whether that is dreaming too big. There is so much that needs to be done to rebuild DR Congo. The problems are many many and he wonders how someone can even figure out where to start.

I assured him that one can never dream too big. Dreaming too small is will result in short changing himself and lead to disappointment. Keep dreaming big and stay focused. Dream big and share the dream.

His sense is that it is best to start with the next generation. He thinks promoting education and making it available is the best place to start. Ensure that all children receive basic literacy.  He wants young people to expand their education to include learnin trades like electrician so they can help rebuild their country while at the same time develop a sense of satisfaction.

Kiza proudly shares that he is motivated out of a sense of appreciation for the opportunities that Canada is giving him. He’s not looking for a hand out. That’s the furthest from his mind. His motivation comes out of a sense of hope because deep down he believes that he can make a difference.

Chantel, Kiza’s co-worker at Subway, appreciates him for the colour he adds to the place. She says it with a chuckle realizing the double meaning.

When Kiza shares his dreams his excitement is infectious. Even as a teen he lives with a clear idea of what his priorities are. His toughest choice at this time is between helping his family when they need something and getting his tuition money together.

Kiza is one of three people who I know who have been displaced because of the war in DR Congo. All three are focused on finding ways to help their country recover from the political strife and assist in the rebuilding of their nation. Seeing his love and dedication for his country, a land that he has never seen, prompted me to share a book with him.

Connections

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I want every child in DR Congo to receive basic literacy.

The book is titled Still With Us: Msenwa’s Untold Story of War, Resilience and Hope. I met Msenwa Oliver Mweneake shortly after he arrived in Canada. He shares a story that involves twice fleeing from DR Congo. Despite that he lives with a strong conviction that God has a purpose for him, a purpose to help rebuild his beloved country.

It was an honour to meet Kiza. The whole time he was talking to me, he was busy doing the daily end of the day clean up. While he talked his hands never stopped working.

Hearing Kiza’s story I more clearly understood why he could not just dump the cream of mushroom soup down the drain. When someone lives with a spirit of generosity, sharing in the plenty is a natural response.

Even though Kiza is living in an economically struggling home, he does not live with a spirit of poverty. Poverty is not part of his vocabulary.

Kiza is clearly motivated by gratitude, appreciation and the belief that he has the personal resources to make a difference.

 

 

Overwhelmed by…

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One kilometer view of a Century Ride

Set up for a Century Ride

About a week ago, after having struggled with sensory overload for a couple of days I was happy to be riding, enjoying the countryside and taking in the sound of birds during the quiet moments along Highway 1, also known as the Tran-Canada. I was doing a century ride of 163 kms into Regina.

The first two weeks of the ride had it’s challenges. At this point things had settled down and I was getting into a workable routine.

I woke up that morning to find out that my glasses had fallen out of the mesh holder and and must have broken when I rolled onto them. The lens was lying in one place and the left arm was broken. My attention was initially on salvaging my glasses as best I could. I got the lens reseated with no apparent damage. I taped the broken arm which not surprisingly failed later in the day.

The scenario with the glasses put me behind schedule. Of all days to encounter a delay. It was going to be a hot day, and we were scheduled to pull out of camp at 5:30 rather than the usual 7:00 start. The intent was to get as many kilometers behind us before it got hot and before the favourable winds would turn against us.

After about an hour of hard cycling, partly to make up for lost time and partly to help dissipate the sensory loading of the morning’s setback, I was gradually finding myself in a better space.

On schedule, as predicted, at about eight o’clock as the thermal convection overpowered the predominant westerly flow of air, we began fighting a headwind. For the remaining 80 km of the ride we were fighting either a headwind or a crosswind. The occasional windbreak gave some appreciable relief.

Despite the elements we were facing, I was doing well and enjoying the ride. It looked like it would be a ride that would leave me with some energy to spare.

Turning Point

Just fifteen kilometers from the campground we were passing through a highway construction zone. As we approached the active working area I was sizing up the pile driver that was working in the median. I could see from the regular puff of smoke rising from the hammer, that it was on a 10 second cycle, pounding in steel columns for a new overpass.

There was no alternate route. As I approached the rig I covered my left ear with my hand hoping to block as much of the shock waves as possible. The bombardment of the sound waves got progressively stronger. Before I was even abreast of the pile driver I knew I was in trouble. I could feel my brain going into shutdown. I had no choice but to keep pedaling. Traffic was moving slowly but was heavy. I put all my energy into keeping myself moving forward as I felt my brain turning to mush. When I was almost past the rig I was in tears. The pounding was overwhelming, bombarding my whole body. The hand covering my left ear virtually ineffective. My eyes were stinging because of the mix of sweat, sunscreen and tears.

I remembered how one air horn blast from a truck a few days ago set my recovery back a half hour. I lost track of the number of hammer blasts. Given the time it took to pass the rig  there must have been 20 to 30 hammer blasts before I was out of range.

When the bombardment of the pile driver faded enough I stopped at the side of the highway trying to pull myself together. At the urging of my cycling buddy I started cycling again to get out of the construction zone and away from the traffic.

A kilometer further was one of our refreshment stops. I made it to the stop and then knowing I was out of danger, I physically, mentally and emotionally fell apart. I stumbled around trying to get my bearings, searching for a sense of pulling myself together. Meanwhile I was too incoherent to explain to the attendant that I would be okay. At least I wanted to convince myself I would be okay. Her concern was in order because she said she had never seen me in such a rough condition.

I sat down for about five minutes to let the worst of the sensory impact fade. After a bit my riding buddy decided that if I was not ready to ride in two more minutes I should be sagged into camp.

Problem solving challenge

I was in a tough situation. When I am in crisis my ability to problem solve is seriously compromised. I had not anticipated the scenario that had just unfolded in the past 15 minutes and therefore had not considered possible exit plans.

Yet I was forced to weigh the options. Ending the ride there with 15 km to go would mean I would miss the exhilaration of completing the ride and instead have to deal with emotions of disappointment on top of the sensory overload I was already dealing with. To stay at the SAG stop meant I would not be able to do my end of the ride recovery protocol within the most effective time frame. Also, cycling is an effective way to help dissipate some of the sensory loading (unless I am feeling physically exhausted), while taking a ride in a vehicle would add to my sensory loading.

I opted to continue cycling since there were only 15 km left. I was trying to determine how much of my decision was influenced by being too proud to stop when I had managed other rather difficult parts of the tour. Had it been significantly further to the camp I would have packed it in for the day. (Easy to say that now as I look back on it.) Despite the heavy traffic getting to the far side of Regina, the rest of the ride went well, though I noticed my riding was not as steady and needed a few reminders to be attentive..

Willing support

When I arrived in camp I experienced a supportive community at it’s best. My riding buddy stepped in and arranged for people to help with my end of ride protocol. This involved getting my recovery drinks ready, my tent set up and for this situation to have one person attend to me while the supports were carried out. Once things were set up I lay down in my tent for about an hour. Didn’t sleep much in that time but was away from others and could relax. A couple people told me later they adjusted my tent fly so that I would be out of the direct sunlight. The tent fly had only been installed part way so there would be additional venting as it was still in the mid 30’s C.

I am interested in see if the earplugs would make a difference. Not that I’m interested in finding out at this time. I was told the earplugs would likely have minimal effect. The nature of the pounding is such that the whole body is impacted, not just the ears. I now pack a set of earplugs with my bike just in case.

After thought

What an experience to travel with a group of people who are focused on each person being cared for. It’s like the success of the tour depends on the success of each person who is part of the tour.

There is a strong sense that we are on a big ride for an even bigger cause.

Fort Qu’Appelle – SK

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Dream Big – Fort Qu’Appelle mural

Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.

July 17, 2017 was my first time in Fort Qu’Appelle. I had ridden to Fort Qu’Appelle with my cycling buddy, a short 80 km ride from Regina. We had traveled down some quiet roads, enjoying the tranquility of the open skies. It was likely the rough condition of the road that accounted for the lack of traffic.

20170717_090056As I was cycling along I noticed a highway maintenance truck waiting along the side of the road. I stopped to talk with the operator when I noticed he was driving a tarring rig. I asked if the plan was to tar the road today. His response was, “Yes, we got to fix this highway.” I expressed surprise that he called it a highway. If this is considered a highway then we don’t have much hope for what it called the Trans-Canada Trail.

I was assured that the tarring wouldn’t begin till all the cyclist had passed this point They were still waiting for the tar which was scheduled to arrive in about an hour. This being Saskatchewan that would likely mean a three hour wait.

When we arrived in Fort Qu’Appelle, having ridden with a tailwind most of the way, I decided to stop for a blizzard at the local DQ. We rode through the drive-through but got no response. Turns out they were open but busy getting things set up for the day. I warned the staff of two that there were about eighty riders headed into the town. Within the next forty-five minutes the place was overrun by almost half of the cyclist.

After setting up my tent I hiked into town with my riding buddy. Two blocks in we reached Broadway Ave. Judging by the layout this was definitely the main street. With a Bargain Store a half a block from the Dollar Store there were some obvious signs of entrepreneurial competition in town.

20170717_130914After meeting several friendly and welcoming locals in our stroll along Broadway, we encountered a quiet park with a Four Season mural. Some first nations women from Sandy Lake just four miles up the road picked up conversation with us. They liked the idea of posing for a picture. They had found a spot in the shade, probably their regular spot and had almost finished their bottle of rum by noon. I had the clear impression that they spent most of their time in this parkette between two stores. Other than a bench in the shade and a mural there was nothing else there. You could say they had each other.

We passed the local hardware store which seemed well stocked with up to date equipment. Of interest was a fold up 160 watt solar panel and controller for $499. The attendant was explaining how this could be hooked up to 3 or 4 deep cycle batteries and maintain the power needed for an RV.

What caught my interest even more was a pickup and trailer parked on the side street beside the hardware store. The signage on the back of the trailer – Vermin Exterminator – caught my interest. The way the trailer was parked and packed up it looked like to school desk like arrangement one set behind the other. I decided that I would prefer to be the person sitting on the back ‘desk’. I knew I definitely wouldn’t want to be the driver when everything was set up.

As we were looking at the trailer, the owner Ron walked up. Turns out his well known no-name business provides a much desired service – exterminating gophers, beavers, coyotes and skunks. He set up one of his stations with a holder for his gun, and just as important a flag so he can keep an eye on the wind speed and direction. (Assured him that as cyclists we were well aware of the havoc that the wind could cause.) The ‘desks’ as well as the gun stand were on a swivel. Next to the gun is a counter. His record is eliminating 740 gophers in one day.

Being that the trailer is designed as a two person operation, Ron said he is very particular who he takes along as his shooting buddy. He always takes the back seat – smart guy. As the back seat guy he swivels in a 180 degree arc over the back of the trailer. The person in the front seat swivels in a 180 degree arc towards the front of the trailer. If the operator accidentally hits the truck Ron reasons that it can be replaced. It’s a bit harder to replace a fellow operator.

Found a health food store so I could pick up some Nuun, an electrolyte to keep me sustained while riding during the extreme ride days. They also had some iodine for internal use. It was great to see a store carrying quality health vitamins and supplements.

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Hudson Bay Co. 1897

While taking a picture of an original Hudson Bay Company store I was cautioned by Leon a First Nations local. As he drove by me he stopped and said, “Hey man, you got to be careful.” I was crouched beside a flower planter in the middle of Broadway. After he parked his car he was proudly giving me the history of the Hudson Bay Company store. Clearly the store had been repurposed. He was adamant that another stone building just around the corner was even older.

As I was walking away from Leon I mentioned I was looking for a bike shop. He directed me to the pawnshop which he assured me had both tires for sale as well as bikes. I kindly declined as I wasn’t sure how reliable their stock might be. I wasn’t able to find a bike shop in town. I might have to wait till we get to Yorkton.

20170717_132648Walking along we soon found ourselves in front of the Peace Hills Trust building, a Star – Blanket – Cree – Nation building. The signage indicated some helpful services for the indigenous population for the area, the Cree. The sign indicated that the building housed the Treaty Land Entitlement Office. The other offices in the building included Sask First Nations Safety Assoc., Q-Bow Child and Family Services Inc. and the office for Red Dog Holding. The sub-text on the sign was “Advocators of Community & Personal Developments.

I found a Coop at the end of Broadway’s business strip. My only reason for going in was to satisfy my longing for some orange juice. I decided that a 1.75 litre bottle for $2.70 was a better deal than a half litre bottle for $3.25. I would have no problem downing the whole 1.75 litre bottle before the afternoon was done.

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Eddie’s favourite bakery

In front of the Valley Bake & Coffee Shop, known for it’s Bavarian Pastries we met Eddie. As he approached the bakery door he stopped and waited. He seemed curious about seeing two ‘strangers’ in town. We got to talking. He was retired for 3 year but couldn’t believe he was that old already. He had been farming but now wasn’t able to work. The farm work had taken a toll on his body.

In the 1990’s Eddie and his brother were running a beef farm of 240 head of cattle. A few years ago, due to drought conditions he was forced to sell most of his herd. He had been farming for a couple years with his herd reduced to 40 head. When he couldn’t make ends meet he sold seven quarter sections, the last of his land, for $150,000. A few years earlier he had gotten $75,000 for a section of land. When he moved off the farm he still owed money on a farm.

Eddie wished he still had his herd of cattle because today the price for beef are very good. He’s getting used to living in town and enjoys coming to the Bavarian bakery. He is reluctant to buy goods there because then he needs to work it off.

Fort Qu’Appelle is not much different from many other towns we have cycled through. Particularly the smaller towns. There are many places where the contrast between wealth and poverty can be seen. While there were no indications of it being a thriving town, the realty office showcased properties ranging from half million to a couple million. Obviously they were catering to a very select market.

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Ron’s Roost

Later in the day when I biked ten kilometers along Echo Lake I realized why they had a high end selection of houses. That’s where I saw some whimsical stuff like a toilet at the end of a driveway.

The main highway highlighted many of the recognized national franchises. If one is driving through the area the real character of the town remains hidden. The heart of the town could be seen two kilometers off the highway. In the downtown section one can enjoy local baking, cooking and friendly service but best of all was meeting the interesting local folk.

Meanwhile we are set up with tents and campers housing the 90 riders and support staff making the local elementary school look like a refugee camp. The refugee camp appearance hides the reality of who are housed there overnight. The appearance of poverty and transience is only incidental. We have the privilege and luxury to move on as we choose.

We are riding and raising money to help end the cycle of poverty both here in Canada and in other parts of the world. To more fully appreciate the purpose of Sea to Sea it is helpful to meet and speak with people who are dealing with poverty – whether that is poverty of spirit, or economic poverty.

It’s interesting to note that the bison is a mere skeleton, yet against that background someone had the courage to still dream big. To me, the skeleton represents the depletion of  personal, family and ancestral resources due to years of mistreatment by European settlers with whom they thought they were sharing the land and its resources.

What will it take to change the story for out first nations people as we recognize Canada as a nation for the past 150 years?

We’ve all Experienced a Hand Up

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…teach a man to fish…

Lemonade Stand (Unlicensed)

When I was training for my Sea to Sea tour I stopped at a lemonade stand being run by two pre-schoolers. I was looking for a grocery store to get some drinks for my ride when I heard this young voice ask if I wanted to some lemonade.

I did a quick U-turn and saw a 4 your old and his younger sister sitting at a table on the boulevard with a glass pitcher of ice floating in lemonade. The sister was all excited about having a paying customer. “Mom he gave us a toonie!” I asked the brother if he had tasted the lemonade. He hadn’t. So I asked if he knew whether it was good. Mom had supplied them and set them up probably with strict instructions that they were not to help themselves to the lemonade.

The next day I stopped by to see how the lemonade ventured turned out. The kids had raised $42 in one day. They pleaded with their mother to set up again the next day. When their mother talked to them about donating a percentage they were not as excited.

Partners World Wide

What the mother did for her children, with incredible stories, similar to what Partners Worldwide does for families in developing nations. For the two children their mother had given them a hand up by providing the lemonade, the cups and the furniture for the lemonade stand.

Partners Worldwide provides micro loans, often loans of less than $200. This provides families with the resources needed to become self sufficient.

Mark Ismond, engagement manager from Partners Worldwide shared an experience of a community in an African country where their life had been seriously disrupted. Raiders from the mountain area had been repeatedly coming into the villages stealing their cattle. As a result the young men were not able to accumulate a dowry. Without a dowry there was no prospect of them getting married. In turn the young me formed armed groups and hung out in the bush. They were returning violence with violence spending most of their time in the bush.

One of the elders in the village had a plan to turn the situation around. The young men were offered land on which to grow sweet potatoes. Partners Worldwide provided the micro-loans to start the project for each of the young men. The elder agreed to buy all the sweet potatoes they produced and sell them in the city markets.

In turn the young men were able to make a better living than when they were raising cattle. They were able to avoid a lifestyle of violence and accumulate a dowry to get married.

Partners Worldwide was the catalyst that enabled the villages to thrive. A great example of a hand up rather than a handout. On average it takes a hand up of $150 to help a family out of poverty.

Sea to Sea fundraising

By setting a target of $12,000 as a nation rider with Sea to Sea my funds raised will support 80 projects. Having surpassed my goal and raised about $16,000 that means my funds raised will support 106 projects.

When you think about the hope that one project can bring to a family, that is a lot of hope that is countering so much of the brokenness and poverty in the world.

If you choose to bring hope by helping a family or person out of poverty feel free to donate today. At the prompt you can type the name of any other rider you want to encourage in their efforts to help.

Life in the Bicycle Lane

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Bison Transport, a company with the most courteous drivers on the road.

More than a Routine

One could try to summarize the Sea to Sea ride as a simple routine of ‘Eat, Sleep, Bike’ though not necessarily in that order or at the same time. One couldn’t be more mistaken.

It has become very clear to me that life in the bicycle lane has a daily routine that is designed with a similar template. However, it’s the content that goes into each day that is as varied or rather more varied than I would sometime like it to be.

Reading My Gauge

I have learned to read my overall well-being according to how well I am able to carry out the numerous early morning routines. Once I have gone through the routines of breaking camp, getting breakfast, making lunch, doing the personal details of sunscreen and having the bike ready to roll, I measure my well-being based on how many details I missed.

I’ve decided that a score of ten is tops. For every item I forget I lose one point. If I score less than 6 I know I need to make focusing on the ride a priority. That means, minimal conversation while riding, focus on riding steady, and focus on the traffic from behind. A score of 1 or 2 probably means I shouldn’t ride that day.

A difficult visit

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit a friend and former colleague that took me back to my teaching time in Alberta. As the tour approached Picture Butte I made inquiries and was able to have a wonderful and meaningful visit.

My friend had a stroke a few months ago and so I knew that with my lack of sensory filters that the visit would take it’s toll on me. It was a short and focused visit. During our visit we had some tearful moments, but for the most part I was able to hold it together. We both understood from experience the difficulty of dealing with loss.

We laughed about things that I didn’t realize she remembered from when I worked with her. She thanked me for visiting. It would have been harder to ride by without stopping to visit. It really was my honour to visit her.

Once I left the building, the full impact of the visit hit me. I was in tears. I was unable to talk. It felt good to be riding, but the tears kept coming. As I turned the corner to get back onto the route I heard someone call my name. I saw a crowd of riders getting treats, and in that crowd was my riding buddy.

Caring support

I had prepped my riding buddy about the visit and so she wasn’t surprised by my condition. I walked past the group of riders to a quiet spot a couple store fronts further away. My riding buddy came over and sat with me. She explained to some others who didn’t know why I was upset that I had just had a difficult visit and needed some quiet time. Our tour chaplain while respecting my need for a quiet space came over and prayed for me.

In the next two hours as I rode I once more gradually became aware of the southern Alberta scenery around me. My riding buddy was able to give me a balance of time alone and offer occasional diversions. Over the next 50 kilometers I was gradually feeling more at peace.

Moving ahead

The next morning I knew I was still dealing with some significant emotional sensory loading of the previous day. The shorter ride mapped out for the day was a bonus.

Not thirty kilometers into the ride a passing truck driver intended to give a friendly honk. What came out was an ill-timed blast of the horn just as the truck was beside me. While my riding buddy noticeably jumped in her saddle, I was overwhelmed by the blast. I was instantly into sensory overload. I was in tears off and on for the next hour. The blast set my recovery back a half day.

The emotional sensory loading from the previous day was still at a high and sensitive level. The emotions reside in the Temporal lobe of the brain which is near the ears. The assault on the ears will suddenly put a person back into a recent emotional event. It’s like suddenly and unexpectedly being dropped right back into the event.

Despite this additional setback, when it comes to ‘cost / benefit’ I had no regret making the visit the day before. I was fine dealing with the setback and letting the rhythm of the ride gradually bring me into a better space. The routine of looking ahead, checking my rear view mirror for traffic and scanning the countryside was helping to dissipate the acuteness of the sensory loading.

The need to be aware

Not fifty kilometer further the healing affect of the cycling abruptly ended. I noticed an oncoming transport truck suddenly swerve towards me. The driver having noticed too late some debris in his lane. As he focused on straightening out his rig, I noticed the second trailer was out of control and swaying wildly as it moved towards our lane.

My riding recalls me saying, “What’s going on.” Then, “Whoa!!!”

I was trying to get her attention because she was about 3 or 4 car lengths closer to the impending disaster. I was concerned about her not having enough time to get out of the way.

My riding buddy was concerned about me. From her position she saw she was out of the trajectory of the second trailer. She pictured me being right in the path if the swaying trailer.

The driver was able to regain full control. We tried not to think about the further complication had a car been coming up behind us.

It took me about ten minutes to recover from the immediate effect of the close call. I decided I would carry on. Can’t change was had just happened. I reasoned that should a third incident happen that day I would call for SAG support and call it a day.

Coming into camp

As we approached the end of the 150 km ride my riding buddy was ware that I was still struggling with the sensory loading of the previous day, compounded by the two incidents this day.

As we rolled into camp she immediately summoned help. She had one person take the bike off my hands. She sent someone else for my tent and sleeping bag. She herself got my recovery drink ready and made sure that I lay down and begin the recovery protocol. Slept for almost two hours before supper time.

After a good night of rest, the next day was a great ride. It was a long day with 165 km to cover. Thankful for a shorter ride the day before, and ready for a long ride that day.

Why do what’s hard?

I am beginning to understand people who are able to be passionate and enjoy an activity despite dealing with suffering and difficult experiences in the process.

It’s not that I would go out of my way to do something that causes pain. So why continue with one major set back each week of the first three weeks. Somehow, with this group of riders, the greater the need, the great sense of community that one experiences.

Also, this ride which I hoped would help my rehabilitation is giving me new insight into living with ABI (acquired brain injury). This new insight is based on my own ‘detective’ work and then reinforced by a scientific analysis of the different responses my riding buddy observes. (She told me that I was providing her with a very interesting case study.)

The harder the learning, the more exciting the outcomes. It is definitely rewarding.

 

Love and Support

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It’s been two weeks of the tour and last weekend Jane left the tour to visit a friend in Edmonton. While she had signed on as kitchen help, which everyone has benefited from, the more significant part is that she has been here to see me through the first two weeks of the ride.

What a blessing it has been sharing these two weeks with her. She’s helped to keep me on track when the ride became too challenging. She’s made sure I had things ready and organized on the mornings when I wasn’t in the space to pull things together. She made sure I got supper when I overslept my 2 hour post-ride recovery nap.

Jane is leaving the tour knowing that there are other riders who are looking out for me. Several riders have offered their help. All I need to do is ask. It would do me well to ask Andrew or Stuart to make sure I don’t over sleep in the afternoon and miss supper. It would do me well to not be hesitant to ask for help with other needs, because failure to do that would come at my expense.

It’s become very clear to me, when I see the offers of support that I’m not alone in wanting to have a successful ride. Fellow riders are determined to help me have a successful ride.

In looking back, I realize I would not have managed much past the third day of the ride if it wasn’t for the support I have received from a number of people. I am still dumbfounded to end up with a riding buddy who is not only a brain injury specialist but had been assigned as a member of my Service Team. As members of a Service Team we have devotion and sharing time with 6 or 7 people (depending on which week of the tour one looks at the list.) There is only one word for that, providence.

With Jane taking a break from the tour I know I will continue to receive the support I need. And for Jane it is reassuring to know I have caring and supportive people around me.

Helpers, helping the helpers raise awareness for a cause that aims to help people to End The Cycle of Poverty.

When the Real Thing… part 2

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Kitchen and Luggage Truck at a SAG stop

So what happened last week that left me totally surprised? What was it that made the first four days of the ride so different from my four day ‘practice’ ride?

Let me explain what I learned about the first four days as I understand it. It might not be totally accurate but it gives me an other level of understanding of living life with ABI. Living life with ABI includes an exciting component of learning new and interesting things about how God created each of us with a brain that is so amazing while at the same time, fragile, resilient, reshapeable, and other to be discovered attributes.

We all live with a brain that functions at many different levels or modes. Each serves a distinct purpose ranging from survival instincts to quality of life decisions. Some of the functions happen without our knowledge, but we benefit from the results. Other parts of the brain is used to do very intentional and carefully thought out activities.

Reptilian Brain

The reptilian brain is the flight or fight response center of the brain. That’s the part of the brain that jumps into action, giving us the adrenaline rush we need when we are suddenly confronted with danger. It gives us momentary super human strength when the need calls for it.

I find myself becoming fatigued while driving or being a passenger because my brain has experienced that activity as a potentially very dangerous activity. Subconsciously my brain is in a hyper-vigilant mode. That’s why I need a break every hour while traveling.

Fortunately that hyper-vigilance does not seem to occur while cycling. Don’t ask me why even though I’m on the road, I’m in traffic and vulnerable from being hit from behind. The one difference is that I’m moving at a much slower speed and therefore my brain can process impressions at a manageable pace.

Limbic System

The limbic system is the part of the brain that handles emotion, behaviour, motivation and long term memory. This is the part of the brain that handles learning. It organizes learning into patterns that can be readily accessed. New information is added to the existing pattern. This part of the brain is very efficient at adding new learning to the existing patterns.

This could be called ‘fixed brain’ functioning because the pattern provide a stable structure in which to add new information.

My brain injury has caused damage to my limbic system. This makes it harder to access memory. New information doesn’t get stored in the limbic system due to the injury.

However, that by itself doesn’t explain my regular challenge of dealing with neurological fatigue. It’s not that my limbic system functions slower.

Neocortex

The neocortex is involved with the higher order brain functions such as sensory perception, conscious thought and language. This is the part of the brain that is the creativity center of the brain. That’s where new ideas emerge. This is the ‘non-fixed’ part of the brain.

For me, the limbic system has been injured and so I am not able to use this part of the brain as I used to. The limbic system is the part of the brain that is efficient in learning new things and storing information. Instead I end up using the neocortex which is very inefficient at assimilating new information and retaining it. As a result this part of the brain ends up working much harder, therefore the regular occurrence of neuro fatigue. With the brain working harder than usual, I need more rest times. When the brain is working harder it uses up more energy from the body so it’s important to not just eat more but be conscious of the nutritional value of what I eat.

Why I Bonked on Day Three

The tour has put me in to a totally different environment. I’m camping with 100 other people whose names I am gradually trying to remember. I’m in an environment that changes with each new camp site. I’m in an environment that requires me to work on a rather tight schedule. I’m in an environment that has all new routines and many more steps in the routine than one would have living at home.

Since the neocortex is not good at assimilating new learning and is very inefficient with remembering new routines, each day is a challenge. I can set a routine for organizing my clothes. Or I can set a routine for packing up the camping equipment. Or I can set a routine for breakfast. However, I find myself forgetting the routines I set up for myself. Because the layout of the camp changes each day, I don’t have the visual reminders or the visual organization of my space to remind me where things are.

The overload of learning new routines was a major factor that I could not prepare for ahead of time. The tight schedule to get things done in the morning was a challenge because it wasn’t a matter of taking a couple steps to get what I missed. No, often it meant walking across the camp or into the next camp to get the one important thing I missed.

The extra time that it takes to get something that I missed puts me behind schedule. That quickly puts me into a downward spiral. It could mean I have an abbreviated breakfast or don’t get a chance to make my lunch. It could mean that I don’t get the things out of the luggage truck before the doors are closed. It could mean that my electronics or bike safety light isn’t charged up properly for the day.

While my insurance for a successful trip was to over train, it has left me with a bit more reserve to adjust to the things that I couldn’t train for. Routines that I needed to set had to be based partly on the set up of the camp each night. The morning and the evening times required many more routines than I imagined. Living at home I’m accustomed to long established routines, basic routines in an environment that is mostly fixed.

Gradually I’m adjusting to the changing environment. Steps in my routines are slowly getting familiar. Let’s see what week three of my ride across Canada brings.