Suggested Listening: I’ll Be Back Someday by Tegan and Sara
After 21 days filled with cycling one of the first things, Shantel remarked about upon waking up was how excited she was we finally had a day to rest. We joked about how we weren’t sure how we’d use all our free time now that we wouldn’t be cycling most of the day. In fact, the only cycling we had planned for today was the short ride to Canary Cycle to disassemble our bikes and box them up for the flight home. With no set agenda for the day though we were free to take our time having breakfast after Mark and Nicole’s place before heading out to the bike shop.
On our short ride to the shop, the strangest thing happened. While riding I noticed two women walking and that it looked like one of them was wearing a t-shirt for a relatively obscure hip hop artist named Astronautalis that I love. It was only when we got closer that I was certain it was an Astronautalis t-shirt because I have the exact same one. For some reason or another, this compelled me to shout something like “I love your shirt”. Doing so made them look back, realize that it was Shantel and I riding and shout Shantel’s name. It turns out that the person wearing the Astronautalis t-shirt was Shantel’s friend and co-worker Monique. The other woman with her also looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it right away. We stopped and chatted for a while appreciating how unlikely of a situation it was that we’d actually run into someone we knew in a situation like this.
It was only a bit later in the day when I realized I had met Shelley beforehand. I even have her partner Andrew as a friend on Facebook and have played board games with him a handful of times. It didn’t take me long to piece together that our paths had likely crossed at a party hosted by either my friend Jen or my friend D’Arcy. It definitely felt like one of those small world moments.
After our roadside chat, we continued onto the bike shop where we’d spend the next three hours embarrassing ourselves trying to wrap up bikes in foam and pack them into cardboard boxes. It seemed like the store staff felt bad for us because they’d occasionally pop their heads out to check in on how we were doing and to offer some support. We eventually got it all sorted out, but it was a frustrating and painful process since we really didn’t have a clue what we were doing. In the end, it actually wasn’t that complicated though so hopefully in the future we don’t struggle so much. With more of the day used up taking care of this than expected and our stomachs now rumbling we were eager to get food. Before doing so we had to get our bikes back to our host’s place and then get back downtown. Taking a taxi, unfortunately, was really the only option since with it being a long weekend there were no rental vehicles.
The bike shop was happy to call us a taxi and our driver was a big help loading the bikes in and out of the cab. From there we took the taxi to a restaurant called Peaceful Loft that we were both very excited about and had been recommended to by a few friends. It was only when we arrived that we saw the place had decided to take a few days off and would be closed until well after we left. Disappointed we looked up a couple of other places nearby. We ate dinner at one place and then had dessert at the other. In both cases, I found myself pretty disappointed with their mediocre food.
Once we finished up our meals we made our way to go take a walk on the path up to Signal Hill. Before heading there though we made sure to see the houses on the Jelly Bean Row which an old professor of mine recommended checking out. Once we made it near Signal Hill we took the North Head Trail to make our way to the top. Along the way to the top of the hill, we diverted off the trail to some rocks where we’d be able to touch the Atlantic Ocean. Being at the base of the ocean was important to me because this whole trip I’d been carrying something very special with me and with the ride over now all that was left to do was to find the perfect place to take it out. And no… it wasn’t a ring for those that might have that idea. The single most important item I carried with me both the entire first half of the trip and this ride was the ashes of my dear friend Ken Tomilson (known to some as Luke Warmwater). Ken and I first met back in 2010 in Vancouver, BC when he was my second ever host on Couchsurfing. I stayed with him for only a few days, but we hit it off and stayed up late into the night each day talking and sharing stories. I knew when I left his place that we’d be friends forever. Over the seven years of our friendship we were never be afforded the chance to see each other in person again, but we regularly stayed in touch through long emails back and forth where we’d discuss politics, life, and most importantly love. Those who want to learn more about his beautiful soul can read my thoughts about him http://wherearewenow.ca/remembering-ken-tomilson-aka-luke-warmwater/
After carrying his ashes with me for 7,790km it felt a bit surreal to me that I’d finally be spreading his ashes into the Atlantic Ocean. Capturing the experience on video was important to me since when Ken passed away a website was set up so that folks from all over the world could upload photos or videos of their own unique goodbyes. Once Shantel was done filming I pretty much immediately I broke down into tears and began crying. Something most folks don’t know is that as much as this entire ride from coast to coast was, of course, focused on honoring my mother and loved ones that had/have Alzheimer it was for me also silently about taking my dear friend Ken on one last final cycling trip. I made a promise to myself two years when Ken passed away and the idea of sending his ashes to his friends all over was first discussed that I wanted to do this for him. Since I was never afforded the opportunity to properly say goodbye to him in this life, taking the moment to do so on the rocks in St.John’s felt like my first chance at finding some closure and trying to make amends with the fact that he was gone for good.
Once I gained my composure and felt ready to move on from the rocks we made our way back to the trail and continued hiking to the top. The views from the trail are quite beautiful and hiking it at sundown made for quite a memorable experience. It was dark by the time we made our way to the top where we spent some time soaking up the view and appreciating the fact that we had made it all the way here by riding our bikes. Reflecting back on it I can’t help, but be reminded of the quote by Kurt Vonnegut: “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” It really did feel like a special moment and besides seeing the sign for St. John’s there were few other moments that compared. From here we got a taxi back to our place where we should a bit about our ride with the driver. He was absolutely blown away when he learned about our trip and insisted on shaking our hands when we left. It was a nice moment. Getting back to our place we didn’t take up much longer before passing out since we knew we had to get up early the next day to pack things up.
When Sunday morning rolled around we spent a short bit of time eating breakfast and making sure everything was packed before calling a taxi to take us to the airport. It was just as the taxi pulled up to pick us up that Nicole arrived home. We chatted quite quickly taking a moment to thank her in person for generously opening up her home to us and then loaded our bikes and bags into the taxi. From there it was a pretty short ride to the airport where we checked a few of our bags and began the process of checking our bikes in for the flight.
Since we were using Shantel’s Westjet perks and flying for extremely cheap it meant we were flying standby on the way home. Despite checking how many empty seats were on the flight before we left it looked like there might only be enough space on the flight for one of us unless someone didn’t show up. With the fate of whether we’d get this flight or have to wait for the next out of hand, we opted to get some food and hope for the best. Fortunately for us, we got lucky and managed to score the last two seats on the direct flight to Toronto. Once back in Toronto we waited for our bikes and luggage to arrive and then carefully made our way to the pick-up area where Shantel had arranged for her Dad to pick us up. Shantel’s dad picked us up and got home smoothly.
Once home the first order of business was taking a look in the freezer to see the vegan ice cream my legendary friend Wade had picked up for us a treat for when we got home. Since we didn’t want to make dinner tonight we opted to go to East Side Mario’s since we had a gift card. We arranged to have Shantel’s mother meet us here so she could hear a bit about the trip and enjoy the meal with us. It was share a meal with another familiar face and catch up a bit.
Come the morning on Monday I was very excited to just relax and take it easy on my last day off before returning to work. After sleeping in I binged watched a bit of Netflix and relaxed while Shantel told me she was going to go visit her nephew and niece. It was only a few hours later when she returned home and we left to go for an early meal at Democracy (at least that’s where I thought we were going) that I learned that rather than going to see her nephew and niece she was secretly running errands for a surprise welcome home party for me and her. Mission accomplished because I was totally shocked when we went into the building and I saw my niece Yasmeen there. It was only once I saw a few others that I processed what was happening. The next few hours were spent eating our weight in delicious food and some amazing celebratory cakes my sister had made to welcome us home. There was also plenty of friends and family to catch up with (including my Dad and his wife that made the trip from Manitoulin Island) to celebrate with us. Overall it was a really lovely way to be welcomed back and celebrate my accomplishment. Shantel’s mother also got a couple of nice gifts to commemorate the experience which was nice.
The next day and the many days that followed I returned to work and slowly things began to fall back into place and feel normal again. I couldn’t help, but find my mind wandering about what’s next in terms of adventure. I never really came to a conclusion but realized that there’s no rush to figure it out. In the meantime, I’ve found myself feeling so grateful for all the support that Shantel and I received on this ride. Much like the previous ride the success of this ride really feels like it ought to be shared by all the amazing people that helped make it happen.
To all the people that donated to the Alzheimer Society of Canada:
There are simply too many of you to thank individually and that fact alone is incredible. It means so much to me that you did so. From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank everyone enough for donating. I hope that one day I’ll find a way to pay everyone back for their generosity.
To all the people that read/liked/shared the blog and Instagram posts:
It was so nice to see your comments on the website, Facebook or Instagram. On the days when I was tired and it was hard to motivate myself to write I was motivated to do so by your engagement with it all. Thanks especially to anyone that took the time to read my lengthy posts!
To all the folks we met on the road that talked to us about the trip, made donations or simply shared words of encouragement:
Thank you so much. It meant more to me than you can possibly imagine.
Wade Zacharias: Thank you for all the support before and after the ride. Coming home to see the ice cream in our freezer was an amazing treat. More importantly, though thank you for all your work in making the first half of the ride a reality and for taking it with me. Without everything you did for the first ride, it’s quite possible the second half of this ride would have never happened. For all this and more I’ll feel forever grateful and so lucky to call you a friend.
Shantel Gailing: No amount of words would be enough to thank you for all the work you put into organizing the ride, joining me on it, and then organizing a surprise welcome home/celebratory party for us. Thank you for putting your best into each day of the ride and for never really entertaining the idea of quitting even when things seemed impossible. Lastly, thank you for making completing the second half of the trip a priority for us and for making my dream come true.
Mike Santacroce: Thanks for getting in touch with some friends for the welcome home party and generally for always supporting my crazy adventures and ideas.
Paula Gowan: Thank you for being such a big supporter of the ride from the moment you heard about it. Thank you also so much for all the work you put into organizing our welcome home party and your gifts for Shantel. It was such a lovely way to celebrate the ride with my friends and family.
My Siblings: Thank you again so much for always supporting me and my dreams. Thank you also for all the help with our welcome back party! I won’t ever forget it!
Savannah: Thanks for going out of your way to get us our spare tubes before for the trip. It was much appreciated!
Melissa & Eric: From the start, all the way until the very end you’ve been such amazing cheerleaders for the ride. I’m sure I speak for Shantel as well when I say that we’re are so grateful to have had your words of encouragement throughout the whole trip.
Mohawk/Compass Co-Workers: Thanks for supporting my dream, fundraising, and for providing so many words of encouragement. I feel lucky to work with so many supportive and caring people.
Chris Wilson: You might not have known it at the time, but when you sent me those words of encouragement and the quote “those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear almost any ‘how’.” it really helped. I found myself repeating them to myself over the next few days when I felt challenged to keep riding. Thanks for always believing in me and supporting my dreams.
Dizzy (Katie, Charlie, Alex, Mac): Thanks for being so supportive of the ride and letting us fundraise at the shows. Thanks also for helping to soundtrack my ride. I listened to Baby Teeth, Twist, and Heavy dozens of times on this trip alone.
Katie Munshaw: Thank you for putting us in touch with your mom and for letting us crash in your room for the night! You’re the best!
Karen: Thank you so much for making our exhausting first night a comfortable one and for going out of your way to take us to get pizza. Thanks also for spoiling us with snacks and breakfasts.
Niki: Thanks a ton for putting us in touch with Susan and Rodger in Gananoque!
Susan & Rodger: Thank you for supporting my dream and taking two strangers into your beautiful home! Thank you also for all the snacks and dinner!
Ang & Rich: Thanks for dinner and for having us in your home! It was great sharing stories and getting to chat for a bit.
Nicola: Thanks for spoiling us with the virgin piña coladas, dinner, love crunch and the comfortable place to stay. It was so nice to have the night to catch up with you and to chat with your mother. Please pass our thanks on to her as well! I hope the next time we see each other is sooner rather than later!
Maryse and Claude: Thank you for welcoming me into your home and for the great dinner! It was great to get a swim in the pool after our day of riding. It was also so nice to spend some time getting to know folks Shantel cares for deeply. I hope we meet again!
Suzanne: Thank for agreeing to host us on such short notice and for giving us the space to relax and enjoy Quebec City! It felt amazing to swim in the pool after a long day of riding and to actually have the time to go out for a proper dinner in town.
Traci and Dale: Thank you for dinner, a place to rest our heads, and all the help planning our route for the pick day of riding to Fredericton. All of it was hugely appreciated! You proved the stereotypes of east coast hospitality are true!
Eliza: Thank you for waiting up for us in Charlottetown despite our late arrival! I really appreciated it! Hopefully, next time I find myself there we can actually hang out a bit! Thanks also for opening up Oakar’s space for us.
Oakar: Thanks a ton for making space in your home despite not even being around! I hope perhaps one day when we return to Charlottetown that we can meet.
Roger & Debbie: Thanks for taking the time to meet up with us in Antigonish. It was great to have one last final ‘send-off’ before heading to Newfoundland. Thank you also for spoiling us with dinner and snacks for our next long day of riding! It was a massive help!
Mark and Nicole: Thanks for opening up your home to us despite not even being around! It was a lovely space to relax and celebrate finishing the ride. I’m so grateful for your support.
Much like the last trip, the moral of the story remains the same: even though Shantel and I did the riding, the success of the trip ought to be shared with so many others. I accomplished a lifelong dream to cycle across Canada because I had the support of so many others. It was by rallying together behind the common cause of supporting those suffering from Alzheimer that we were able to raise a huge amount of money for the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Through your support, you made it possible for us to live out a dream and make a real difference in both the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer and their loved ones. I said this after the last trip, but it warrants being repeated this trip – we had success because of your support. When we work as a community we don’t need miracles we’ve got something far more powerful.
Until next time…
Love, Peace and Bike Grease,