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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As part of Sea to Sea (link to facebook page) we just completed almost two weeks of cycling in Super Natural British Columbia. As we cycled each day, the British Columbia tourism tag line definitely reminded us of the Super Natural God that we serve. The landscape leaves one in awe at the beauty, majesty and awesomeness of the creator of this world. And to think that the Rocky Mountains are young mountains that are still gaining in height as they are being formed through the shifting plates of the earth. (So if you are a procrastinator, the longer you wait to do a trip like this the more climbing that you will have to do.) On a bike one experiences all this up close and personal.
Rather than seeing the awesomeness of the Rocky Mountain through the windshield of a vehicle and at predetermined rest stops, we had the privilege of seeing it in its unencumbered beauty. On a bicycle we could pull over at any spot we chose without impeding the flow of traffic.
The grandeur of the mountains, whether one attempts to capture it on camera or whether one tries to capture it through statistics, just doesn’t compare to the experience of being on a bicycle. The height of the mountains could be felt in my legs.
The steepness of the ascent could be experienced by the slow crawl forward. The descent, after a hard slow climb is purely and simply exhilarating, winding down the mountainside at speeds of up to 65 km/hr.
The route we took was along the Trans-Canada highway. There are no secondary roads through the highest passes of the Rocky Mountains. Because of that, we had to contend with a high volume of traffic, both passenger cars, semis, and holiday traffic in campers. The element of risk was never far from my mind. There were sections or road where the paved shoulder narrowed down to less than six inches. There were sections of shoulder with too much debris on it to cycle safely. There were sections of road where we has cars, campers and semis pass within inches of our shoulders. In places where we were squeezed onto the traveling portion of the highway it was a matter of checking for an opening in the traffic and then ‘owning the lane’. The safest vehicles to have behind you when ‘owning the lane’ is to be in front of a semi. You know you are dealing with a professional driver. The riskiest time to ‘own the lane’ is to be riding in front of a rented camper, (not that one can tell looking through a loonie size rear view mirror) probably being driven by a person who is at best unfamiliar with the vehicle and at worst uncomfortable driving through the mountains.
The most interesting time to ‘own the lane’ is when we were traveling through the snow sheds. The sudden change in lighting both for the cyclist and for the vehicles can create some surprise situations. Fortunately nothing significant showed up.
In fact, just before entering a series of three snow shed we passed through a traffic control zone. We were asked to wait for a minute or two to let some truck traffic pass. Then the ‘flag lady’ stopped the traffic for about five minutes and gave us the go ahead. For the next four or five kilometers we had the whole lane to ourselves. Gradually the traffic caught up to us, but they made no attempt to pass us. While we raced through the snow sheds at up to 45 to 50 km/hr they crawled along behind us.
It was a real sense of accomplishment reaching the summit of Rogers Pass. Even though it is only 1300 meters high it took about 7000 meter of climbing and 900 km of cycling to get there. It’s the ups and downs and turns in the road that adds to the beauty of the ride.
The day we cycled through Rogers Pass was a long day with chilly temperatures requiring us to layer up first thing in the morning to 35 C temperatures in the afternoon. We cycled 152 km and climbed 2281 meters while contending with highway traffic, and road construction. We couldn’t break up the day because there are no towns between Revelstoke and Golden. Since it is bear country it is not advisable to set up an improvised camp.
Having completed the ride through Super Natural British Columbia, we are leaving behind the majestic scenery and probable the physically most challenging part of the tour.
And now we will be riding through Alberta the province that a few years ago trumpeted itself as ‘Beyond The Super Natural’. They have meanwhile updated their tagline to “Remember to Breathe”. Even the first couple days in Alberta is proving to be breath taking.
We are a week into the Sea to Sea ride to raise awareness and raise funds to help people to end the cycle of poverty. In using cycling as the vehicle to raise awareness we have committed to living more simply.
“Live simple so that others can simply live.”
– Mahatma Ghandi
We are a week into the ride and being served by an incredible support team; two truck drivers who are carrying our personal gear and the kitchen equipment, SAG supporters to assist cyclists while they are on the road, cook and kitchen staff as well as the tour organizers. (SAG = Support And Gear)
While that doesn’t necessarily sound like the simplest way to be living, I don’t think we could be pushing on each day, talking with people on the way, and bringing our message in other ways if we tried to travel any simpler. Sleeping in a tent each night with a 2 inch self inflating pad is a form of simplicity that suits me; waking up each morning as the world comes alive with either the sounds of wildlife or the sounds of human activity (ie. the road of trucks and holiday traffic).
Rather than being apologetic about some of the luxuries we are enjoying, I want to highlight the appreciation that each rider has for the support staff. The important thing is that the support staff are getting a clear message from the riders that they are appreciated. And it’s not how many times one says thank you.
It is the generous way in which the cyclists pitch in to help the support staff that is the clearest and loudest way to show appreciation. Appreciation is an act, not a word.
The cyclists are all assigned to a Service Team. Within each Service Team is a Leader who oversees the communication with the rest of the team; where they are needed, what tasks need to be done, when they meet for devotion, raise concerns or needs with the head organizer.
When a service team is needed, for example to assist the kitchen crew, it’s not always possible to get all the team members there. Some might still be cycling to get to camp. Others might be recovering from the ride or off site for an errand. Nevertheless, there is never a shortage of cyclists from other teams ready and willing to pitch in.
The same posturing of being of service to others comes through in the encouragement that others give. The encouragement might be assisting with a bike breakdown on the road or just checking in with someone after a hot day on the road to see how they are doing.
There’s a song that keeps going through my head, call it my ear worm. The Servant Song.
Lyrics for The Servant Song by Jeanne Cotter & David Haas and adapted by myself to suit our tour
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too
We are pilgrims on the journey
We are cyclists on the road
We are here to help each other Ride each mile and bear the load
I will lead the pace line for you As you draft and cycle near
I will block the head wind for you Ease the ride as our camp draws near.
I will ride when you are riding
When you rest, I’ll rest with you
I will share your climbs and descents
Till we’ve seen this touring through
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant too
And so as we cycle each day, we have many opportunities to serve the servers and in that way achieve our goal through our actions.