A few days before the start of the Sea to Sea tour my greatest concern was that the ride would be over too fast. Not that nine and a half weeks is a short block of time to be away from home. Somehow the uniqueness of the experience leaves me dreading the end. Reaching Halifax will signal the end.
As one person commented recently, “This is what it must be like to live in a circus.” It’s like leaving my real life behind for a whole summer. The real life with it’s responsibilities of paying bills, looking after the yard, weeding the garden and all the other things that make up day to day living.
Oh, yes, don’t forget to go to work five days a week if one is still in that phase of life.
Instead, I’m living the simple yet luxurious life.
Simple in that I have a basket of clothes that I keep laundered by hand, set up and take down my tent as needed each day, and then focus on getting to the next camp site and do it all over again.
Luxurious in that every day I have breakfast and supper prepared for me. All I need to do is walk up to the table, have my plate filled and find a place to sit down and eat it. In exchange I simply need to do one task for the whole group each day.
Each day that I ride, along with a few dozen other cyclists, I have no idea what variations I’ll experience in my day. It’s the chance meetings that turns our riding into a moving billboard. A motorist on the highway or a pedestrian in a small town will have seen several cyclists in identical gear. At some point their curiosity gets the better of them.
When the curiosity overflows the question gets popped. What is going on? Where are you going? Why are you riding?
How I answer the question depends on how the inquiring person strikes me. In a Mac Donalds in Baudette, Michigan some seniors were very intrigued. As I was explaining that we had been riding since June 26 from Vancouver they were impressed. They were complimentary about me as a 64 year old riding all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. They dismissed the idea that they were past the age of joining in on such a venture. When I told them our oldest rider is 81 and three quarters their jaws just dropped.
It’s only when a person asks why we are riding will I mention that we are riding to raise money to End the Cycle of Poverty. I will then give them a sticker of a bicycle with a heart. The heart is a great symbol. A heart for an adventure that involves an intimate connection with a bicycle, and an even greater heart to help the poor.
Other times, when I see a parent with a young child or two I’ll stop and tell them I have a sticker for them. As a former teacher I know that kids love stickers. I’ve also learned that adults will get just as excited to receive a sticker.
The end in sight give Hope
Cycling across the continent each day can sometimes be grueling. However, we know that at some point we will reach camp. Just keep pedaling. If things get really tough we know we can get a SAG vehicle to bring us in. A broken down bike, an injury along the way does not spell disaster. We have a way out. And a convenient one at that.
For many living in poverty, there is no end in sight. Each day is a struggle. Each day brings with it the possibility of unknown challenges. And worst of all, an injury, a breakdown of something essential could very easily spell disaster. For many people they are not living with a safety net of a SAG type vehicle that will ‘airlift’ them to a place of help.
Does it sound like a dream? Only in that all good ideas start out as a dream. They are making the dream a reality in so many different ways.
Because they are business people they are not interested in giving handouts. Handouts create dependency if the support doesn’t go beyond that step. Also, their model would also not be described as a hand up. They are committed to ending the cycle that is holding so many people down.
As business people they work with a viable business model. As such that means providing families with the resources needed to give them hope by helping them leave behind a spirit of defeat, a spirit of poverty. This means providing individuals with micro-loans, advocacy, education, skill development and mentors or any combination of these supports.
At times the support is providing a loan and teaching the skills needed to raise a crop that has a viable market. Other times it involves securing proper land ownership so the family have a place to farm needed crops. Other times it’s setting a family up with equipment and a market for small scale home manufacturing.
The possibilities are only limited by one’s imagination. Each project is designed to ensure a high success rate. Each successful venture becomes the model for other members in the community to imitate and work their way out of poverty.
The beauty of the work done by Partner’s Worldwide is that it costs on average $150 per person to help a family out of poverty. That means financial poverty. That means poverty of spirit. With each success another family is making a positive contribution to their community. The outcome is a spirit of generosity as they in turn are motivated to help others.
Dreading the End
This ‘circus of a ride’ while it seems like an unreal world to be living in will come to an end for me on August 29. However, this ‘circus of a ride’ has been a further eye opener for me that working to eradicate poverty is not a hopeless venture. It is attainable.
In that way, this experience does not end for me on August 29. I pray that in some way the 56 days of cycling is only a prelude to further understanding and working on ways to end the cycle of poverty, both in Canada and in developing parts of the world.
Poverty, at heart is an issue of justice. It comes down to resource distribution. When families are deprived of access to resources because of corporate greed or war. It beats people down to a point where they are at risk of losing all hope.
We have the eyes to see. We have the means to bring change. We need the will make that happen.
In other words, there should be no end to my ride experience. Rather a precursor to instill in me a greater spirit of generosity.
A break in routine should not be a big deal. Little did I expect the domino effect it would create. Given the strenuous nature of the activity I should have had some inkling.
I was the last of 85 cyclists to leave camp that morning. In hindsight I should have left later. Being the last rider did not concern me as we were scheduled to meet at the 120 km point in the century ride for a photo op. The midpoint was a milestone, an occasion not to be overlooked. It had been 3490 km since we had dipped our tires in the Pacific Ocean, with 3490 km to go before we would dip our tires in the Atlantic Ocean.
I arrived at the midpoint with a little over an hour to spare. I was a great opportunity to take in a nap… well, more to the point, a nap just happens when I relax after being very active for a few hours.
After the photo op I completed the last 40 km of the century ride for the day. With the long break in the early afternoon and the heat I arrived in camp knowing that my recovery protocol was essential. I couldn’t afford any short cuts or missed steps today.
This is where a seemingly very good day began to unravel. I didn’t have sufficient time for the full recovery protocol. I had set up my tent and prepared my recovery liquids as expected.
About forty minutes into my recovery time, supper time was announced. I had relaxed a bit, but had not had the benefit of a nap (a key element for brain recovery). The nap at the midpoint was to blame. I decided to get up and head over to the pavilion some 200 meter away. Missing supper was not a good option.
My walking was very slow and difficult, not a good sign. As I approached the pavilion with almost a hundred people engaged in animated discussions I looked for an empty spot near the edgge. No luck. I knew I couldn’t take the level of noise in the middle of the pavilion.
I chose a picnic table about 30 feet from the pavilion. By this time, the effort of walking, the unsuccessful attempt to find seating, added to my sensory overload, further reducing my functioning to the bare essentials. I sat down at the picnic table in tears.
The other term that is used instead of sensory overload is the term flooding.
Shortly one of the support drivers came over, having decided something was amiss. She asked me what was wrong. As I was unable to say anything coherent, she followed up with insisting that I tell her what was going on with me. Good intentions but the last thing I needed was to be flooded with questions. My brain was too fatigued. I didn’t need help. I just needed a quiet place with no questions adding to the flooding.
A second person came over out of a sense of caring. He asked me a few questions further adding to my flooding. Again, I was not able to give a coherent response. He suggested I move over to the group not wanting me to feel isolated. He insisted I was among friends and didn’t need to shrink away from them.
Had I decided I felt too vulnerable in my condition I would have foregone supper and remained inside the safety in my tent. I had chosen to join the group because I trusted this group of people based on the generous support I had experienced earlier in the tour.
I managed to convey that I simply needed a quiet place. In response the fellow decided he would join me for supper and just wouldn’t talk so I would have the quiet space I needed. An interesting choice for which I had no objection.
While I was eating my supper a kitchen staff member came over to me and simply put her arm around me. No questions. No need to know what was happening with me. Without adding to my flooding, I could simply convey my appreciation by putting my arm around her. No need for words, yet an unambiguous sharing of support and appreciation.
I have meanwhile arranged for an advocate to step in should I have another situation of sensory overload or flooding. I would simply refer the well meaning help to my advocate so that attempts to help me doesn’t add to my flooding.
Once again, I have stumbled across a situation that is hard to plan for. I did not have my regular support people near by. It’s just not possible to plan for all eventualities. Can’t be done. How does one plan for the unexpected?
For most people it’s hard to understand how to deal with someone who is neurologically atypical. Their experience with neuro-atypcial people might be rare or non-existent. Trying to help becomes counter productive. Without some careful reflection, the situation can continue into a downward spiral when the necessary answers or responses aren’t forthcoming.
In thinking aloud, I do wonder whose needs are being met with the questions that were put to me. What information was essential to my well-being at that moment?
When someone is experiencing ‘sensory overload’, or ‘flooding’ or severe neuro fatigue, it is most helpful to keep things simple. My suggestion is to focus on whether the person is in a crisis that would require emergency action. The two most helpful questions would be:
1. Are you in pain?
2. Do you need help?
Both of these questions can be simply and clearly answered with a nod or shake of the head.
Some helpful questions could be:
1. Would you like me to keep you company?
2. Are you fine where you are now?
These questions while being less intrusive can be just as effective in assessing what help is needed with neurologically typical people as well.
One way to determine the difference between a person who is upset or distraught as opposed to experiencing sensory overload or flooding is to use humour. It might seem strange to use humour when a person is in tears. A person who is experiencing sensory overload or flooding is not able to respond to humour. Since the key purpose of the intervention is to determine whether additional help is needed, using humour would not be considered inconsiderate or out of place.