Friday, September 16, 2011

A quick update

Cross Canada By Bicycle: 7260 km from Vancouver to St. John's from Alexander Holton on Vimeo.



Vanessa and I are now comfortably settled back into our apartment and starting to find our way back to normal. Neither of us has had time to put together our final thoughts on the trip but that should come soon. For the moment here is a slideshow I put together that shows some of our favorite photos from the ride.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Celebrations in St. John's: Photos

Celebrations in St. John's

Your body does something funny the day after a 7260 km bike ride. It suddenly becomes absolutely exhausted. Fortunately for us, we had some great friends and a lovely event to get us through the day.

After an included breakfast at the Delta, Vanessa and I hopped on our bikes and headed to our last rehab class run through Eastern Health at Memorial University's Field House. There we were greeted by hospital representatives Wendy Decker, Dr. Michael Furlong, Sharon Meehan and a wonderful rehab class that made us feel right at home.

We were also thrilled to have a few special guests, including St. John's East MP Jack Harris, a representative of St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary and St John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe. I also hesitate to call them guests and not simply good friends, but we were grateful as well to have Barbara Kennedy, Executive Director of the of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada and Leo DelZotto, President of Tridel Corporation and The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, on hand for the celebrations. Both Barbara and Leo have been incredibly supportive of the campaign and have done countless hours of work to promote the Ride for Rehab. We can't describe how grateful we are for their unwavering support. While we have the chance, in abstentia, Vanessa and I want to give a big thank you to Cristina Mellos of the Cardiac Health Foundation for her work on the campaign as well.

Our last Rehab visit began with some very kind words from MP Jack Harris and Mayor O'Keefe. Mayor O'Keefe recently went through a cardiac health emergency of his own and was gracious enough to share his experience of personal crisis and eventual recovery.

Following the introductions, Leo DelZotto presented Vanessa and I with a check for $22,000.00 on behalf of Tridel, made out to the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada which we Promptly passed off to Barbara (No one should have a check that large in their hands for too long!).

A big part of this campaign has been to spread awareness about the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation programs and to make sure that people know that they are available. Part of this has been trying to attract media attention to cardiac rehab and today was no exception. At the event we were fortunate enough to have television coverage from CBC, NTV and Roger's TV. We were thrilled to have them there to help get the word out.

Following the presentations, Vanessa and I took a quick ride back to The Delta where we had a celebratory luncheon hosted by Leo DelZotto and attended by hospital representatives.

It's hard to digest that the trip has finally come to a close. When you consider the time it took to plan and prepare for the ride, it's been the focus for about seven months of our lives. From here we're taking a few days to enjoy St. John's before settling back into our lives in Toronto.

The iphone has a lovely feature where you can view your photo collection as a musical slideshow. This afternoon Vanessa and I sat down and watched snaps of our trip from start to finish. Looking back at the early photos from Vancouver, they seem like a lifetime ago. In some ways it's hard to group all of the memories together as a single trip. It's difficult to convince yourself that you've experienced so much in such a short period of time.

There is a wonderful rhythm to the images. These stunning photos of landscapes lead into the rehab centres and the people we had the privilege to meet, and then fade back out onto the road. Chronologically they really convey the extreme contrasts we felt floating back and forth between wilderness and civilization.

As we've said before, the real weight of this trip is only starting to sink in and we need a bit of time to really process it all. In a week or so Vanessa and I are going to publish some final thoughts, but this is our last post of our day to day.

All we can say is thank you all for supporting a cause so close to us and for supporting us personally through what will likely be the one of the most difficult and lovely experiences of our lives. We feel privileged to have had the chance to share it with you and we sincerely hope you all enjoyed coming along for the ride.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,

Alex and Vanessa

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 95: Daily Photo

Day 95: Fitzgerald's Pond to St. John's, Newfoundland! (105km)

There are so many posts that I have wanted to start with, "we're in (blank) city!". And of course, arriving in St. John's deserves that kind of excitement, but it is also so hard to fathom that we haven't yet had the chance to react to it. As momentous as this occasion is for us, it comes along with a touch of sadness and even loss. Don't get me wrong, there have definitely been many moments, days, and even weeks that we have simply wanted to just be finished, and we are eagerly anticipating our return home. But out of all of the days and places that we've ridden, Argentia to St. John's is the only route where there has been no hesitancy about whether to go forward, no desire to turn back. Starting out in Vancouver, we tried daily to quell the innumerable doubts about our abilities while suppressing anxieties about the battery of risks involved in taking this trip. Three months later, all of the time, costs, sweat, and struggle have introduced us to hundreds of people and communities, and fostered a lifetime's worth of laughter, joy, and memories.

If there was any lingering uncertainty about whether going the full distance was 'worth it', arriving in Newfoundland yesterday was more convincing than any conceivable argument. Riding onto the expansive island was like entering another world, one with a mystifying sense of openness. Our ride today took on a similar mystical quality as we rode undulated along the steady hills. The roads were in great shape and the grades were just steep enough to remind us to slow down and savour the sweeping vantages of densely treed peaks cutting sharply into valleys.

Our lack of moose sightings during this trip has become something of a joke after months of riding past 'moose night danger' signs on the highway. By the time we reached Bathurst and Miramichi, people would chuckle and say, "just wait. You're in New Brunswick". The chuckling stopped as we cycled through Nova Scotia but we were assured that Newfoundland would bring us better luck. Today, with the passing of every boggy pond or glistening lake, we expected to see moose as it's impossible to imagine a more suitable habitat. At one point Alex stopped and peered into some trees, proclaiming, "now there's a moose if I ever saw one".

I looked in and saw a long tail swishing back and forth, "really? Are you sure that isn't a horse?". Sure enough two horses came trotting towards us, excited by their own wildlife encounter. It seems that moose have continued to evade us on this ride but I'm sure we'll see them again in Ontario.

Riding into St. John's after hours of boundless wilderness felt like we had parachuted into a city. We stopped at the welcome sign and felt awash with so many emotions that have so far mostly manifest as disbelief; after 7262km, 739 granola bars, and 23.5kg of loose granola, we are finally here. I'm sure the realization will sink in over the next few days as we spend some time enjoying St. John's and making preparations for our flight home. So far we have found a warm and delicious welcome at the Delta Hotel St. John's, which has very generously donated two nights stay on their Signature floor. We have already delighted in a gift box of chocolates and complimentary hors d'oeuvres this afternoon. Tomorrow we have a big and exciting grand finale planned at a rehab centre here in St. John's along with Mayor O'Keefe and other distinguished guests, you won't want to miss Alex's post on the event!

Day 94: Daily photos

Day 94: Argentia Ferry Terminal to Fitzgerald's Pond NL

A few hours after our post yesterday we climbed aboard Marine Atlantic's brand new ferry and started on our graciously donated passage to Argentia. The ride was relaxing and smooth. Neither Vanessa or I have ever been very far from land on the ocean and it was a treat to leave the shoreline behind and see nothing but blue in all directions.

We docked in Argentia around 2:30 pm and made the short trek to a campground about 26 km from the terminal. We wanted to go further, but by the time we were finished with pictures of the Newfoundland sign and the rugged coast it was 4:30 by the time we reached site and pushing to the next campground 80 kilometers down the road might have been pushing our luck.

Tomorrow we have a full day's ride into St John's and will complete our cross country trek. It's hard to believe we're so close to completing this challenge. We've been riding for so long now that it's become more of a lifestyle than a journey.

If you are reading this post we are most likely minutes from our goal. Tonight we're camped in a valley and are without reception. We'll post this as soon as we can.