A City of Contrasts

Today we rode through the most congested part of Canada – Toronto. This is the first time I have ever ridden across Toronto and viewed it from the seat of a bicycle *not a uni cycle today till I arrived in Ajax)

The slower speed when approaching the city along the waterfront gives one a winderful perspective of Toronto.

We approached Toronto following the Lakeshore Road. As we rode through Burlington, and Port Credit we Experienced the quiet neighbourhoods with many affluent houses. Thise living there have a quick commute into Toronto while having a splendid view of one of the Great Lakes.

As we travelled into Oakville and Mississauga we passed through a noisy industrial area. Shortly after that we experience rows of small shops with the occasional streetcar rumbling by. We were soon greeted by the first glimpse of the downtown as we turned onto the Water Front Trail. Here we passed several more marinas, suggesting a great way to enjoy the expanse of water.

In short order we were right along the Queens Quay (key). Had to teach the American riders the proper pronunciation. This area was a buzz with both tourists and locals. A great place to enjoy sun and a view of the lake with concession stands galore. Right along side of this we meandered our way through the street construction as the city is busily trying to upgrade the infrastructure to service the many condo towers that have and are still being built here.

Once we escaped the construction area we found ourselves in the industrial area along the Gardiner as we approached the Leslie St. Spit area. Just as suddenly we were in the Beach area (Remember it is no longer called the ‘Beaches’.) It a long stretch of beach in abundant use even on a partially cloudy Monday afternoon.

After a short ride we crossed the Rouge Valley (Soon to be Canada’s first urban national park.) After riding through another residential area, we soon found our selves along Bayly Ave with its commercial and light industry type of traffic and activities.

It was great to receive a warm welcome from the Cross Roads CRC Church as we arrived at the Ajax Community Centre. Here is a church that is engaged in effective ministry among many people who are living in poverty and are finding hope with this church. What a blessing.

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A Sabbath Rest

After a week of biking this was a welcome day of rest. After breakfast I cycled down to the General hospital where my mother had been admitted on Monday. Thankfully she seems to be doing well with the tests coming back with encouraging results. She hopes to learn more from her doctor on Monday. My father has been making the 45 minute ride each day, getting there by noon and visiting till 6:00.

It was an exhilerating ride into the downtown coming down the escarpment, or ‘the mountain’ as the locals call it. The ride back of course presented a challenging climb. I took the advice of a street person with an old bike and made my way up West 5th St. Having to drop into a very low gear I wondered if the person advising me had actually ridden p that hill. Arriving back at Redeemer I was surprisedto see I had cycled 35km. So much for a day of rest.

I got Back in time for the celebration service. As the cyclists entered en mass into thr Redeemer auditorium  we were welcome by a packed house. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowds singing and worshipping together was truly encouraging and supportive.

The keynote speaker shared his story 20 years of working with the poor in downtown Hamilton. He shared how poverty has a face and helping begins by building a relationship and begining to love the people you help and get to know their story.

It was great to see my two brothers, Rick and George with his wife Yolanda. It was also heart warming to receive words of encouragement from colleagues and other friends.

Looking forward to this second week. We will leave early Monday morning and conquer Toronto with the goal of arriving at the Ajax Community Centre by mid afternoon. Just got to keep the lake on our right, we were advised, if we hope to find Ajax.

Getting Into the Groove

Last night at peleton meeting we said goodbye to about 2 dozen riders. Each had an opportunity to share a few thoughts about their riding experience. Many of the riders had been on the tour for 1 week. (One of the 1 week riders had introduced himself last Sunday as a weekling.) Others had ridden longer. As each rider shared their comments I was just glad that my ride would continue for another week yet. (Don’t be totally shocked if I can’t pull myself away from this ride and go on to New York – just kidding.)

Today I felt like I was getting into the groove. The bicycle riding has been going very well. The unicycling has definitely added some challenge both mechanical and physical. 

The mechanical challenges have been generously taken care of. The physical challenges have a fw components to it.

The official day one was great. I managed to complete 28 km which turns out is about a quarter of the route that day.

The second thing I check each day is to see which part of the day’s route looks best for unicycling. Sometimes the elevation maps get it right sometimes very different than what I expected.

The next thing that needs to be coordinated is checking with the SAG people to get the uni delivered to the right place and then how to get my bicycle back so I can finish up the route for the day.

Once the uni was repaired I started to work seriously on not only the 10 percent of the ride by uni but also the second challenge. 

I rode into London having completed 7 km. That was okay since I had bank some extra on the Monday. I rode into Breslau having completed 15 km. The rural country roads north of Ingersil and Woodstock worked very well. I rode into Redeemer (Ancaster) having completed 22 km. This was done leading up to and along Jerseyville road, with its rolling hills, onto Shaver Road, through a round-about and onto Garner Road, ending at the rear dorms at Redeemer University College.

That completed about one third of today’s ride on a uni.

This was greatly helped by two riders, Henry and Joyce Dejager from California. They helped me at the tip of about six hills when I needed a shoulder to lean on to remount the uni. They also rode ahead to give me the ‘all clear’ at crossings, not to mention creating greater visibility as we made our way along Garner Road.

The gradual increase in the number of kilometers each day will help me complete the 10 percent pledge sooner.

However, I need to work my conditioning to a point so I can complete Bill’s challenge of unicycling 50 km (30 miles to put it into American language) in one day. My guess it will be the day we ride from Kingston to Brockville.

Between good meals, lots of water, sunscreen for my nose, traumeel for my knees and prayers for safety and strength I should arrive in Montreal a week from now.

What’s a Regular Cycling Day Look Like

Cycling this Sea to Sea tour has reduced life to some very basic needs. Wake up, pack up tent and personal goods, eat, make a lunch, cycle, set up tent, eat, sleep and do it all again the next day.

In the middle of keeping life simple and focussed, there are amazing things to observe. Each morning, before it is even light there is a buzz of activity. Breakfast is laid out by 6:00 am with cyclists busy doing what they need to do to get on the road. 

If one were to step back and observe the area at about 6:30 one would see what most closely resembles and ant hill. People are purposefully moving all over the grounds. Between the gear trailer, the tenting area, the shower area, the kitchen area it looks like a frantic, chaotic scene. No one is giving orders, no one seems To be in charge, yet in short order the grounds are cleared, the trucks are loaded and all the cyclists have miraculously disappeared.

They’ve all mysteriously disappeared only to surface at some other location some 100 or 120 km away.

What at first glance might appear chaotic is all very purposeful and orderly. It is clear that each person knows what needs to be done and has a role.

It is very apparent that there is some quality leadership and planning with this tour. Good leadership is evident in the results.

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.