Day 5: Tweed to Campbellford

We started today in a bit of a daze, all of us still reeling from the incredible events of the day before. Tweed wasn’t finished yet though and while we ate breakfast, even more locals came by to shake our hands and wish us well for the rest of the ride. The remarkable Chris Lindsay also tracked us down to hand over some more donations and ice cream money collected by his children and their friends, as well as some gifts for Max, and more motivational posters made by Tweed Elementary. Astounding.

Andrew and Max also had company on the ride out of town today. Tweed resident Will was geared up and waiting for us when we hit our departure point, and it was there that we had the opportunity to chat to even more well-wishers as folks came over to donate money, give gifts and wish us the best of luck. We also had a tweet from local craft brewery, Church Key, inviting Andrew to stop by on his way past – so it was with some pep in his pedal that he set off on day five.

The support team took a wander around Tweed, the town we’ll never forget, and after stocking up on Tweed mugs, Tweed beer glasses and a few books from the thrift store that we really don’t have room for, we coordinated maps and set off for an intersection in Springbrook, which was to be our lunch spot for today.

A few kilometers down the road Grandpa waved me down to point out that I was actually driving towards Belleville – a town in the completely wrong direction. You’ve gotta love Google Maps, but sometimes the old fashioned paper ones have their place.

The boys made good time and had good conditions for the morning leg. We all had a quick bite to eat at a quiet intersection on the road, received a few more donations from local passersby, and then set off again for Campbellford, our final stop for the day. Deer on the trail and lots of chatter and questions from Max along the way kept Andrew entertained.

I followed Max and Andrew in the van for a short while as they rode along the highway, and the sight of Andrew pushing Max up a hill in the bike – even though I’d seen it a million times before – made me feel quite emotional. They looked so small, and their job was so big, and Andrew was working so hard, and Max was cheerfully oblivious in the front bucket; it was kind of representative of our lives since Max’s diagnosis two years ago.

Our arrival in Campbellford was slightly less grand than the previous day’s (and let’s face it, there would have had to have been a flyover by the Snowbirds and Michael Buble warbling us in to top that), but we still had a few locals and some media come along to say hello, wish us well and pop some money in our buckets.  After packing up the van – something that is getting easier each time now – we hotfooted it back to our hotel for a swim, some dinner and an early night before our next big day. 

Day 4: Arden to Tweed

Today saw us up early and out the door to Tim Horton’s for a swift breakfast. We had a deadline to meet at our destination in Tweed, and according to word on the street, there might have been one or two disappointed people if we were running late.

It was a low-key exit from Arden, despite a couple of people who had received a tweet about our adventures stopping by to wish us well before the boys took off. Andrew, Max and Grandpa made excellent time to Kaladar, today’s midpoint and lunch spot. They had great weather, but the trail did offer up some large puddles (hello wet shoes), even larger boulders and some tricky patches of sand, just to keep it interesting.

Lunch was at The Spud Box – something we’d been looking forward to since someone talked it up to Andrew a few months ago. Not only was it amazing food, but it was on the house! This was a very generous gesture, and a true taste of things to come as we approached our final destination of the day. We ate and ran, and the boys jumped back on the bikes, keen to meet the 3pm deadline in Tweed.

Grandma and I cruised into town a bit before the boys were due to arrive and were almost immediately approached by some members of the local Lions Club with cards, donations and kind words, (some of which were that I couldn’t possibly be old enough to be Max’s mum. Thank you, ladies! Oh how I wish that were true!) Over the next half an hour the crowd grew and grew as we watched classes from local St. Carthagh Catholic School march in carrying enormous banners bearing Max’s name, staff from the municipal office, one man wearing a Max’s Big Ride t-shirt, Mayor Jo-Anne Albert, dozens and dozens of locals, and finally, a fire truck!

Meanwhile back on the Trans Canada Trail, the riders were being awestruck by the dozens of handmade signs carrying messages of encouragement lining their path, all made by the students of Tweed Elementary School.

As the riders rolled into Tweed Memorial Park, the sirens on the fire truck piped up and the crowd cheered. It was an overwhelmed Max and Andrew who climbed down from the bike, and I don’t think I was the only one who shed a tear at the monumental effort this town had made to make us feel welcome. There were gifts, speeches, hugs, ice creams (of course), but most of all there was just an incredible sense of community and support for one little boy and the tremendous efforts of his dad to try to save his life.

And if you thought the day ended there, think again. Before the events of the afternoon had even begun to sink in, we headed out to dinner to Vito’s, the local pizza restaurant where we met the wonderful Maria who shouted us dinner and gave Max a magical, bottomless bag of gifts, and even more ice cream!

In our wildest dreams we couldn’t have imagined a day like today, and once again we have to thank Chris Lindsay – the man who helped make it all happen.  It has certainly given us all a huge boost as we get ready for day 5 of the big ride. 

Day 3: Perth to Arden

So if yesterday was easy, today was definitely not. We got off to a great start from Perth where a few of the locals came down to wish us well and give us some very generous donations, but things quickly got more challenging from there.  

We knew that today was going to be the longest ride with the roughest stretches of road, but we didn’t know we’d encounter storms, gale force headwinds, swarms of relentless deer flies, tick gravel biting at Andrew’s legs and flash flooding on the trail about 15kms out from Sharbot Lake, our planned lunch spot. The foot of water eventually rendered it impassable, so Andrew had to turn the bike around and head for the highway, something we’d wanted to avoid for obvious safety reasons.

As Andrew and Max battled through the tough conditions, the support team waiting in Sharbot Lake was experiencing a terrific welcome by Mayor Frances Smith, some district councilors and very friendly municipal workers bearing gifts for Max. The local media were also gathering to welcome our party to town.  

A call from Andrew came through and for the first time we sent Grandma to collect Max from the bucket of the bike – it was approaching lunchtime and we wanted to get our little guy off the shoulder of the highway.  But Andrew carried on, stuck in first gear as he battled the brutal headwind, and our Sharbot Lake arrival party slowly thinned out to a couple of committed individuals from town council and Metroland Media. It was a happy group that eventually celebrated his arrival however, and it was a tired looking Andrew who sat down to a picnic lunch before completing the second leg of the day. Yep – we were only half way through.

The ride from Sharbot Lake to Arden was less dramatic, but not a lot easier. Grandpa geared up and rode alongside Andrew and Max for moral support – if it was needed, today was the day. Max was given the option of spending the afternoon in the car, but there was no way that was going to happen. He happily hopped back into the Bakfiets with his whistle and kazoo, and off they went.

At around 5pm the riders pulled into Arden, a tiny town with a post office and not much else, with wet shoes and a sighs of relief that today’s leg was over. We took the long and scenic route back to our hotel (thanks Google Maps), cleaned up and set off for dinner.  

We’d been invited to a barbeque at the home of Tweed resident, Chris Lindsay, and what a barbeque it was! As we sat on their beautiful deck enjoying the best meal we’ve had since leaving Hamilton, we were all blown away by the family’s magnificent display of hospitality. A huge bucket of superheroes supplied by Chris’s son Rowan was awaiting Max’s arrival, and when it came time to leave he did so with a tub of homemade ice cream, an ice cream bubble blower, a voucher to the local ice cream shop AND one of Rowan’s Transformers. It was the perfect way to end a tough day, and we can’t thank Chris, Tristan, Grace, Riley, Rowan and Elisha enough for our wonderful night.

So with day 3 under our belts, we got some rest in preparation for whatever day 4 will throw our way. Bring it on!