Day 8: Lindsay to Uxbridge

Our eighth day on the road was wet and cold. A chat and a very generous donation from a friendly man as we left the hotel perked us up, then we headed into Lindsay for a departure as understated as last night’s arrival. We got the bike and the boys ready for their rainy ride, and as enthusiastically as ever Max climbed into his pod and Andrew pedaled off into the rain.  

The support crew, who can usually find some sort of activity to entertain ourselves, today decided to head straight to our midday meeting spot to check out lunch options as a picnic in the downpour wasn’t very enticing. We sat by the side of the road with the rain beating down, me in the van and Grandma and Grandpa in their car. I pulled out the laptop, the camera and my iPhone and whilst tracking Andrew’s progress on Find My Friends, I exported photos to an external hard drive, sent off a few emails and texts, and tried updating our website using the painfully slow Wi-Fi connection from my phone. I barely had that done when it was time to hop back out of the van to film Andrew emerging from the bushes. I have to admit that when we set off on this journey I had envisaged a lot more time spent with my feet propped up on the dashboard, reading a book and getting a tan. Unfortunately the life of a soigneur is not as laid back as I’d once thought. Between preparing meals, buying supplies, keeping the admin up to date and driving from location to location, there's hardly any time to relax at all! You’d almost think that we had the hard job. 

Over an excellent lunch at a small diner in Sunderland, Max told me that he now wants to be a ninja when he grows up having just chatted to Andrew for an hour and a half about what this career choice involves. We finished up and the boys got back on the bike to complete today’s journey to Uxbridge. 

As we prepared to greet a few visitors at today’s Kawartha Dairy ice cream shop (and no, I didn’t eat another one today), we put the word out that Max doesn’t yet know about his condition so could everyone please refrain from mentioning it to him. The vast majority of people have been fantastically understanding and tactful when it comes to this line of conversation, focusing on the adventurous aspect of the ride rather than the reason behind it, but due to a couple of potentially confusing comments to our little Max, we now have to take this precaution. You might assume that he knows given the public nature of what we’re undertaking, but Max is only four and isn’t yet old enough to comprehend his limitations or the serious implications that they have.

We had a couple of significant people come down and greet Andrew’s arrival today which made his 55km slog in the rain and cold seem all the more worth it. An owner of the Hamilton Bulldogs ice hockey team came down with his family to say hello and give us an extremely generous donation – a fantastic and very rewarding end to Andrew’s hard day in the saddle. Also there was a mum to two boys who also have DMD. She was actually the first mum I’ve had the chance to speak with about the condition and the impact it has had on our families, so it was terrific to meet her and to get the sense that we’re not in this alone.

What started as a slightly depressing day ended with the feeling that what we’re doing is meaningful and potentially – hopefully – worthwhile. It has definitely been worth it to meet the extraordinary people that we have so far. So with only three days to go, we headed back to the hotel for a shower where Andrew threatened to use all of the hot water in the taps. Thankfully tomorrow’s forecast is looking more promising. 

Day 7: Peterborough to Lindsay

Today marks the completion of our first week on the road and to celebrate the occasion we were treated to a rather exciting morning. First on the agenda was the arrival of Max’s school buddy, Cole along with his twin sister, Audrey and their mum, Heather. The kids ran riot on the lakefront and I was happily reassured that Max isn’t the only child who loves to whack himself in the face for fun.

Next up was the appearance of Eran from TO Events and his family who were joining the first half of today’s ride. Everybody put on Max’s Big Ride t-shirts and climbed aboard their bikes in preparation for the ride out of town... WITH A POLICE ESCORT!  

With lights flashing, the cool cop led our cavalcade of cyclists and cars out onto the road and down to the start of the Trans Canada Trail. It felt pretty special making left hand turns without having to watch for cars because a police motorbike was stopping traffic. Another trip highlight right there.  

One more newspaper interview, some more photographs, and off they all rode on what was promised to be a smooth path. Now riding through more heavily populated areas, Andrew and the gang passed lots of other riders, walkers and joggers, and even saw their first person on horseback, a big change from having the trail all to themselves as they have until today. 

With grey skies overhead rain threatened, but the riders made it to Omemee for lunch in dry, but cooler than usual conditions. A local church group, who was holding a sausage sizzle in the main street of town, spontaneously donated lunch to the riders – another great example of people doing what they can to make a positive difference to our day.

After lunch we pressed onto Lindsay where we were stopping at another Kawartha Dairy ice cream shop to finish the day’s tour. It was a subdued welcome, but we managed to fight our way through the tumbleweeds to get ourselves some more ice cream. I know at least one person who is going to have to go on a diet once we get back to Hamilton.

I called Andrew as he was riding today and I could hear a kid crying in the background. For a moment I was worried that it was Max, but it turned out not to be and once again I was reminded of what a trouper our little fella has been since we embarked on this expedition. Not once has he complained or cried, but instead has approached every single day as an adventure and an opportunity to make more friends and have more fun. Part of that fun was heading back to the hotel swimming pool before dinner. It was pure joy to see his little head sticking out of the shallow end, and to watch him jumping and hopping so proudly, all by himself. I still remember the two year old who said to me, ‘Mumma, I don’t learn how to jump’. My heart broke then, and to see him finally buoyed by the water and jumping just like any other kid made my heart swell with happiness and pride.

By dinner time the rain had rolled in and wasn’t supposed to let up for a good 24 hours, but Andrew spirit was not dampened. He told me he’s feeling good physically and mentally and with the first week behind us and only 4 days to go, nothing can stop us now (we hope!). 

Day 6: Campbellford to Peterborough

Today we set off under a bright blue sky for Campbellford. We had a mission and it wasn’t just a 58km ride to Peterborough. We had been told we needed to try some cream filled donuts from Dooher’s Bakery and we were extremely committed to the task.

The boys departed with Max in very good spirits, partly due to the new bug catcher containing a plastic deer fly on his wrist, and as Andrew pedaled off towards Hastings for his morning break, I set off to Dooher’s for a six pack of some pretty incredible looking pastries.  

We reconvened at a picturesque gazebo on the Trent River. It had been slow going for Andrew on the bike – the trail was still unmade and in pretty rough condition which was starting to take its toll. We sat down and opened up the box of donuts, and about 3.5 seconds later they were all gone and every body was declaring them to be the best they’d ever had. If you ever go to Campbellford, do yourself a favour and get a box of these babies.

After a quick chat to an elderly fellow who just wanted to say hi and shake Andrew’s hand, we pinpointed a place where the trail crossed County Road 38 for lunch, and the cargo bike pulled away again. The support crew killed a bit of time in the gazebo before driving on to our designated lunch spot where we arrived a few minutes before a very cheerful Andrew and Max came into sight. The quality of the trail had improved significantly, and quite frankly, our knack for tracking the bike and timing our arrivals was becoming a little too good. Things were looking up indeed.

Not long after we polished off another picnic and Andrew completed another radio interview, we pushed onto Peterborough for today’s ice cream shop finishing line. We had a small, but significant group of people gathered there to greet us today. In addition to the local media and some friendly faces from the Peterborough Arrowsmith School who had gifts for Max, was Catie Sims, a woman wearing a top emblazoned with the phrase ‘End Duchenne’ who was clearly very passionate about our cause. A few years ago she had signed up to the Who I Run4 program where keen runners run for those who can’t. She had been paired with a 9-year-old DMD sufferer from Nashville, Tennessee and clearly the partnership was very meaningful for her. Catie had collected a huge jar of money that she donated to Max’s Big Ride and which meant the world to us. Also there was super runner Scott Cannata who completed The Run to Live: 202 marathons across Canada over eight and a half months to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Scott was a great guy who stuck around and showed us some hot tips for face-to-face fundraising, something that Team MBR is a little uncomfortable with even at this stage of the game.

We all got stuck into some ice cream at Kawartha Dairy, where the shop was donating a portion of sales to Max’s Big Ride, so if we needed an excuse to indulge this was definitely it. Not that we needed one…

The group slowly dissipated. We waved good-bye to Cathy Koop and her lovely son Leif who had driven all the way from Hamilton to spend the afternoon with us, packed up the van and took off back to the hotel for some rest before yet another big day on the road.