Day 1: Ottawa to Smiths Falls

85 kms

As we got ready for the MBR launch yesterday morning, I think we were all aware that we had something to compare this year’s ride to which, given last year’s success, added a little bit of pressure. The comparisons began on Parliament Hill. Last year, rainy. This year, hot and sunny. Last year, lots of print and television media. This year, one media outlet. Last year, no fire trucks. This year, two fire trucks. Last year, white t-shirts. This year, radioactive yellow t-shirts. Both years, friends and friendly faces assembled to wish us well. Both years, very exciting.

In lots of ways we were much better prepared for what lay ahead this time around. Andrew was familiar with the trail out of Ottawa and he knew to have lots of stories prepared to entertain Max, and the support crew knew what we needed to bring and what could be left behind. Mistakes were made – not enough sunscreen on Andrew and Max’s knees – but for the most part, MBR 2.0 was looking like a pretty well oiled machine.

The ride to Stittsville for lunch was hot and humid, but Andrew and Max made good time and were greeted by a reporter from the Stittsville News, and Ottawa Fire Services’ ‘Station 46’ who we recognized from last year. Also there was a friend of a friend with her little boy (who I kind of already knew from Facebook stalking – sorry Stephanie!), as well as another friend of the family who dropped down to say hello. It was very cool to have these people take the time to wish us well, and to know that the word about the ride is slowly getting out there.

Max’s Big Ride had also made page two of the Ottawa Citizen that morning, so on the trail Andrew was pulled over a number of times to collect donations, and lots of people were shouting out words of encouragement and recognition which was a definite boost to his spirits. It was a hideously hot and windy day and he had to pedal the heavy bike 85 long kilometers.

After lunch and a play, Andrew and Max pushed on and the support crew took off to our hotel in Smiths Falls. About half way there I caught myself thinking that the drive was a little long I was beginning to feel a little bored, and then the implication of that for poor Andrew hit me hard. It’s a helpless feeling knowing he’s out there working so hard in the heat and that there is nothing anyone can do to help him.

Going along for the ride last year was not exactly relaxing, but adding a 3-month old baby to the mix has definitely upped the ante. Isla is a laid back little thing, but a long day of driving in the heat with minimal time to kick back and ponder her hands took its toll yesterday and by the time we got to Dairy Queen for the arrival of the bike, she had just about had enough. As we stood waiting with a journalist from Discover Smiths Falls, and tracking their whereabouts on Find My Friends, we listened to the unsettling background noise of Isla’s cries. I hoped this wouldn't become a theme of the ride. 

As they came into view though, things took a more positive turn. Flashing lights and sirens heralded the arrival of Andrew who was being escorted between two fire trucks – our third fire department of the day! – but where was Max? In the passenger seat of the truck is where – grinning and waving and looking rather pleased with himself.

If we thought that we’d met some great people before, Randy, Josh and Julia from the Smiths Falls Fire Department were serious contenders for best people ever (not that we’re into comparing the greatness of people or anything). They were genuinely kind-hearted people who had gone to a lot of trouble to organize a memorable arrival for Max, and like last year’s amazing people, THEY were thanking US for letting them be a part of the event. They gave us a generous donation and showered us with gifts, including a real, personalized fire fighter helmet for Max, and left us with hugs, hand shakes and well wishes. It’s very emotional to encounter such wonderful people who are willing to go so far out of their way for a family they have never met, and it’s a sobering reminder of the reason we’re doing the ride and the response that this can trigger in others. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one close to tears when I saw all they’d done.

And if that wasn’t a great enough end to the day, a family friend had invited us to dinner at her nearby cottage where we enjoyed a delicious dinner with a spectacular view, and Max got to unwind on the trampoline they had set up on the lake. Yep, ON the lake. It was completely amazing.

So a different first day to last year – a slightly more subdued departure, but an end to the day that we’ll never forget. As Grandpa said, ‘different highs and different lows’, and I’m sure that will be our experience throughout the ride.