Choosing to Cycle with a Handicap

Doing part of each day with a one wheel handicap is turning into and interesting personal area of reflection. Let me explain.

Initially I chose to unicycle 10 percent to create awareness for those who experience poverty due to hidden handicaps. All fine and good.

No sooner did I begin the tour and realize that my choosing this handicap is resulting in putting expectations on others.

Because I took some knowledgeable person’s advice I ended up with a unicycle that I can not get onto without a physical assist. The physical assist can be anything, a pole, a wall, or a mailbox. No problem so far.

However, if I end up with a UPD (UnPlanned Dismount) in an area that has no pole, mailbox then I’m as helpless as a turtle that has been flipped on his back. At that point I’m at the mercy of another cyclist that happens along.

That makes me beholden to them as they need To break their momentum, get off their bike, have the rest of their peleton stop as well.

The other cyclists can view my type of participation as a nuisance. After all this is a bicycle tour… bi means 2 … what’s not to get. Uni means 1.

Instead my fellow riders have embraced my choice and are being very encouraging. The encouragement is taking various forms… stopping to help, waiting at the top of several hills to help me mount the uni after walking the Last part of a steep hill, riding along with me or celebrating the distance I might have completed that day.

People who live day in day out with disabilities not by their choice are at the mercy of other members in the community and the attitude they bring to the help they give. How to help people with disabilities maintain their dignity as well as their worth in the community.

The group of cyclists that I am with bring two things into the equation:

1. There is a strong commitment to help every cyclist, whether the person is lost, has mechanical issues. The well being of each rider is fore most.

2. The fellow cyclists are very much taken in by the unicycle challenge… after all it is unicycling and it has the novelty of being ‘extreme’.

There is a respect and appreciation for each member of the team, cyclists and volunteers alike. Each bring essential skills to the team.. bike repai skills, preparing food, driving the 2 semis or the SAG vehicles.

Making this choice to unicycle is both an experience of humility and one of being embraced and appreciated.

Some amazing and generous help

After yesterday’s disappointment of having my 36″ unicycle break down it didn’t look like thing would get back on track very soon. A spoke for a 36″ wheel is not a standard bike shop item.

Last night one of our fellow riders made a call to The Bicycle Shop in Sarnia where she used to work.

When I came in the bike shop today Scott the owner told me he had made a half dozen phone calls to find the part. He even tried to contact a unicyclist in Sarnia who rides a 36″ so he could steal it off him as he put it. Alas that did not work as the fellow was out of town. It was one of his workers who suggested making one spoke out of two. On the second try he had it done. After all that effort and time he told me there was no charge. What a generous gesture from Scott McPherson, owner of The Bicycle Shop in Sarnia. The shop name might lack creativity but the people in that shop are capable, generous and creatve and resourceful.

We left Imlay City this morning with a major thunderstorm overtaking us within 15 minutes of hitting the road. We took shelter briefly and were still able to make the 12:00 ferry in Sombra.

It was thrilling to be welcomed in Sombra by well wishers from the Sarnia community and many other communities. After another 30 km ride we were welcomed to a banquet at the Sarnia Christian School.

Due to the severe weather warnings most cyclists are sleeping in the school. Many others were billeted. The generousity has been overwhelming.

Tomorrow we are on to London Ont.

Cycling the Sea to Sea for real

Monday morning started early with each cyclist assembling their own breakfast and packing a lunch for the day. After a few words of encouragement and a prayer led by Mary Hulst, Calvin College chaplain, the cyclist were off.

In order for me to do part of the day unicycling and the rest biking, I had to coordinate with the SAG team (Support And Gear). The plan was to bike the first 30km to get a head start on the group by arriving with the stronger cyclists at the first SAG stop.

I had arranged to have the unicycle dropped off at SAG 1 at which place I would put my bike on the roof rack. From there I would unicycle as far as a I could towards the next SAG stop. The deal was that the driver would check with me when they moved to the next SAG stop. Well it wasn’t till I arrived at the next SAG stop that the van came by with my bike. That meant I had covered 28 km on unicyle (the goal was 10km for that day). I was quite pleased. I then proceeded to the camp ground by bike. Since I had covered 1/4 of the distance by unicycle there was not a lot of biking left to do.

Today, Tuesday, was a different story. The  route for the day was 20 km longer. We had 120 km to cover. The strategy was going to be the same… bike to the first SAG stop, switch to the unicycle, get my bike back at the second SAG stop. But that wasn’t to be. After covering 3 km on the unicycle, the wheel jambed against the hydraulic brake causing the wheel to lock. The unicycle went skittering across the road, while I fortunately landed on my feet. After trying a few things I determined that the wheel was too warped to ride further. A gracious local resident kindly returned me to SAG 1 where I retrieved my bike.

As I got in the car the driver turns to her 3 daughters and says, this still means we never pick up strangers. It was the cycling jersey that put me into the non-stranger category.

I managed to finish the rest of the day by bike. Other than getting rained on in Flint, the day went very well. We are now in Imlay City ready to eat supper.

Tomorrow we cross into Canada and will be welcomed by the Sarnia community for the night.

The ride today took us through Flint Michigan, a prime example of extreme poverty as the shift in industry has left much of that city dealing with severe unemployment and all the challenges that come with that. We rode through some areas that reflect the problems as seen in burnt out houses, burnt out business, abandoned houses and boarded up businesses. For those who have seen Michael Moore’s documentary on the topic it is a reality that will take serious changes in our system to turn it around.

The contrast of 120 of us cycling through the slums of Flint was rather obvious. While our means of travel was rather simple, the amount of money represented by the equipment being used by the 120 cyclists is phenomenal.

As we ride, there are many opportunities to talk with people and share the goals of the ride – working to end the cycle of poverty, one person at a time.

Pray for safety for the cyclists, pray that the funds raised will be used effectively.

Joining the tour a day early

Jane and I drove from Cobourg to Holland MIchigan on Friday arriving at Hope College at about 4:00 pm. Riders had come in from Benton Harbor MIchigan and were already relaxing for the day. 

After supper we attended the Peleton meeting of cyclists. The key item was giving cyclists who were ending their participation in the tour an  opportunity to share some thoughts and thank the fellow riders for the heartwarming experiences.

We left this morning with clear skies and comfortable temperatures and a reasonable 60 km ride ahead of us. Much of the route was on well maintained bicycle paths. I was told this was like a ‘ride in the park’ compared to the usual day’s ride. It was heartwarming to see the many well wishers along the way encouraging the cyclists with either cheers or drinks, cookies, bananas, blueberries, granola bars, and anything else the would maintain our energy or tickle our taste buds.

We met for a lunch at Calvin CRC Church on Franklin Ave for a lunch. From there we did an organized ride into Calvin College. What an impressive sight seeing over 150 cyclists in riding colours meandering the 5 km to the college campus. I came in last, riding on one wheel realizing I could not keep up with the rest of the crew. A fellow cyclists from B.C. showed great consideration and stayed back with me. That’s the type of support riders have been experiencing throughout the ride. 

As one cycles, one realizes it’s not about the person, it’s not about the bike… it’s the journey that counts. It’s the experiences and the considerations that people show that makes it an experience to remember. 

On our route into Grand Rapids we were reminded of poverty. We travelled through the hispanic area of Grandville. From there we travelled through the african-american neighbourhood of Wyoming. There is evidence of poverty clearly evident in these neighbourhoods. Our presence there did not go unnoticed. 

At this point we are being luxuriously hosted by Calvin College. We are being put up in dorm rooms, hot shower facilities, supper in the dining hall and various details…. Blessings not experienced by many people living just 10 km from the campus.

Less than 2 Weeks till I join the ride

The regular daily work has slowed down giving me more time to train for the http://www.seatosea.org cycling event. I continue to log 15 km most days of the week. In addition to training on two wheels I make sure I get enough training time on 1 wheel.

I recently purchased a 36″ unicycle after being advised by an experience unicyclist that my 20″ unicycle was wholly inadequate (not that I ever was planning to ride any distance on that). I was advise that my 26″ unicycle would be a lot of hard work. I could manage about 13 km/hr on the 26″. Now with the 36″, without having done more than 3 days of training I’m already averaging 15 km/hr.

I had a fellow church member ask me a month ago what it would take to convince me to ride 50 km in one day. That is a good 35 km more than I was planning to do. I think I’m getting closer to attempting to do that. I have about two weeks to build up my endurance.

I plan to head to Grand Rapids Michigan on Aug 2 so I can join in the orientation on August 3 at Calvin College. There will be a large celebration on the campus on August 4th. On Monday, August 5 we will be hitting the road.

I will try to find a way to post updates on this page as often as I can.

Sea to Sea with Cobourg’s Boston Pizza

Who doesn’t like supper out. How about coming out on Wednesday, May 15. My compliments to Boston Pizza in Cobourg (at the Northumberland Mall) for opening their doors to the http://www.seatosea.org cycling to end poverty. They will donate 10% of the supper proceeds that evening.

I will be out front to welcome you in ‘unicycle style’.

My endurance on a unicycle has definitely increased since starting regular training a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been doing about 10K by unicyle at least once a week. In addition to that I try to get out every day and bike for a half hour or more. The late spring has made it difficult to get our sooner.

The most exciting part of training for my 1000km participation this summer is doing the unicycling in an urban area. Seeing a unicyclist makes people side step the regular social norms; kids will come up to me or call out to me, adults will make comments in an attempt to be funny (and some are very funny), teens will give a thumbs up or give some word of encouragement. For little kids, it’s not “don’t talk to strangers”. How can a unicyclist, who brings smiles to their face be classified as a “stranger”. However, I do not use that as licence to hand out candies (except when I rode in the Oshawa Santa Claus parade a few years ago).

I’m spending all of this extra time unicycling this spring so I can complete 10% or more of the distance from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Montreal, Quebec, by unicycle.

I cherish your support in helping me reach my goal of $5000 for projects that support people living in poverty.

Hidden Handicaps

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I recently made the decision to sign up with www.seatosea.org to help support their efforts to fund projects to help break the cycle of poverty. Anyone who has considered poverty recognizes it as a complex economic, social and spiritual issue. As such there is no simple answer.

One aspect of poverty is that there are often underlying handicaps. Often these handicaps are not immediately apparent. Recognizing the role that handicaps play in understanding poverty will hopefully create greater empathy for those who receive help.

In choosing to join the Sea to Sea bike tour for two weeks I have committed to an additional challenge of completing 10% or more of the tour with a ‘one wheel’ handicap. The unicycle handicap is meant to symbolize the handicaps that contribute to the chronic nature of poverty.

My choice to do 10% or more by unicycle grew out of my interest in unicycle riding and unicycle antics over the past 8 years. Unicycling is one way of staying fit, but more satisfying it the thrill it creates for both young and old when riding in public. It is interestingly a way to get respect from the skateboarding crowd in town. It’s heartwarming how a unicycle can open doors.

However, a unicycle also created challenges. One day while unicycling at Ontario Place, one of the security personnel stopped me and told me that riding a unicycle was not permitted. Strange enough, I had not seen any ‘no unicycle’ signs. With ‘no bicycle’ and ‘no skateboarding’ signs in sight, the message was rather clearly implied. I might have argued the case on a technicality but I had 6 of my grade 7&8 students in tow. I decided it was in my interest as a school principal to be a good role model in dealing with authority figures.