Monday, October 03, 2005

Finished but not done.



Saturday October 1st, 2005

12:00 Noon

Tour de Coast is finished for 2005 with over 600 kilometres cycled by both teams, the Coast Mountain group ( Whistler, Squamish, North Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Bowen Island RCMP and West Vancouver and Vancouver city police), and the Greater Vancouver Region group ( Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam, UBC, E Division RCMP and Port Moody, New Westminster Police ).

Both teams met up at breakfast at Whitespot at 1616 West Georgia before heading off again to cycle the last leg of the tour around Stanley Park, to Queen Elizabeth Park before arriving at noon at the Plaza of Nations, our starting point one week prior.

As a rider on the Coast Mountain side, to attempt to put in to words the highs and lows of the week would simply be impossible on these pages as since the wrap up 'Finish Line Gala' held on Saturday night at the Four Seasons Hotel, I've been experiencing many emotions on a daily basis.

However, I'll do my best.

With a crowd of over 100 at the Plaza of Nations, the riders and their families and 'buddies' wished each other well before we set off on our journey. We heard the words of Jordan MacDonald, a cancer survivor and Camp Goodtimes alumnus thanking us and our predecesors for helping raise needed funds for research and camp. While my buddy Victoria Fawkes was not there as she was camping, her mother Heather and sister Virginia were. Before leaving, Virginia and all of the other buddies presented us with a necklace which held different coloured beads. Each bead representing a procedure, a needle, a chemo treatment, or surgery, or a good day or bad day, it would remain a powerful reminder of why we are riding and raising funds for Cops for Cancer. Attaching a photo of Victoria to the necklace, I placed it over my head for the week to come, keeping Victoria literally close to my heart.

Saturday September 24th saw a lot of promise and hope as both teams rode from the Plaza of Nations to Park Royal Mall where we were shuttled to Brohm Lake near Squamish to begin our ride. Three hours later, we arrived in Whistler village having fantastic weather and climbed a few hills. Dinner and a silent auction of sports memorabilia and golf and spa packages raised a few thousand dollars and got the ball rolling on the fundraising machine.

Waking the morning of September 25th to temperatures of minus one, we set off towards Pemberton and rode to the north 'Whistler' sign along Highway 99 for a group photo.

Riding back to Whistler Village, we paused for a moment of silence to commemorate our brothers and sisters who have died on duty as our fellow officers did September 25th at Swangaard stadium at the BC Peace Officer's Memorial service. After our moment of silence, we headed down in to Whistler's village square to kick off our route south along the Sea to Sky highway. With the square full of people, Corporal Peter Thiessen of Richmond RCMP told those gathered why we were riding 600 km and how monies raised would help not only send kids with cancer to camp, but to continue the pediatric cancer research which has made huge strides in the last few years.

As Cpl. Thiessen spoke his last words, we pedalled off arriving in Squamish in the late afternoon. A stop at the Detachment and then our hotel before heading out for dinner.

That night, we enjoyed the hospitality and culture of the Squamish people at their long house which was the site of a community dinner. After salmon, chicken and baked bannock, we took part in cultural song and dance. Very personal stories of how Cancer has affected members of the tribe were shared and I felt for the first time on tour how much our riding seemed to mean to people. The next day, we knew would be a little tough as our 'Tour' would split teams.

Morning of September 26th was not as cold as the day before and the sun came out early in the morning. We rode off at 8:00 am and headed towards Horseshoe Bay, our side, the Coast Mountain team needing to catch the 11:20 ferry to Langdale.

With some of the climbs, especially out of the Cheakamus canyon, our sense of teamwork was firing on all gears as those struggling to get up those hills were helped along by stronger riders. With some of the cyclists reaching speeds of 89 kilometres down the Furry Creek hill, the ride with its tough ups and quick downs all the while framed by the natural beauty of the Howe Sound area was a highlight.

Off we went to Horseshoe Bay where we caught the ferry to Langdale and offloaded at the bottom of the bypass.

Our team now on its own, the experience over the next few days intensified.

That night after riding some tough hills, we arrived in Powell River and were greeted by a warm welcome at the Recreation Centre. A spaghetti dinner for over 200 people was the event and we were introduced and led in to the hall to a standing ovation. Tyson and Scott's buddy was pleased to receive a plaque of appreciation from them and they were pleased to announce the community of Powell River raised $20,600.

September 27, 2005

On our bikes at 7:15, we rode to Saltery Bay and tackled a 8 kilometre climb along the way. Again, with the sense of team strongly instilled in us, we helped each other up the hill all of us eventually making it to the crest. A short break at the viewpoint saw the girls get us guys good by standing behind us on a concrete barrier and pouring the contents of their waterbottles over our heads as we posed for a group photo.

With not much time to rest, we hopped on our bikes again and rode to Saltery Bay where we caught the ferry to Earl's Cove. Riding along the Sunshine Coast was beautiful and the magic part of the tour began. As we decended upon Pender Harbour Secondary school, its 100 students and dozen teachers were on the side of the highway, screaming encouragement and making lots of noise. Racing past at 45 to 50 km, we gave many students whose arms were outstretched, 'high fives'. A short time later, we arrived at Madiera Park Community Policing Centre which is behind Madiera Park Elementary School. All the of the students were there to greet us and made us feel welcome. With lunch donated by the Sunshine Coast Credit Union and home made cookies and carrot cake, we fuelled up as we thanked the school for another fantastic year of fundraising.

With our stomachs full of wondeful sandwiches provided by Jill's Place, we rode to Sechelt where we arrived at the Sunshine Coast Detachment. Staying at the Rockwood Centre, we enjoyed a feast of salmon barbeque and home made salads, baked beans and lasagna. We spent the better part of the night bonding as a team as we dyed each other's hair blond. Some of us looked good, some not so much. With the tour going so well and each rider's buddy in good health and spirits, our hopes for 'good news' to continue came to an abrupt halt.

My roommate, Inspector Rob Rothwell of the Vancouver City Police told us his buddy Spencer received bad news from his last scan. Spencer who lives in Port Coquitlam and is 10 years old had spots visible on his scan. Spencer is battling Neuroblastoma. Please visit his page at:

http://www2.caringbridge.org/canada/spencer/

Our team decided to split on Friday with half of us heading to visit Spencer at his home before heading off to his school that day.

Waking on September 28th, we rode back to the Langdale ferry and headed in to West and North Vancouver where we visited businesses and schools that have supported the fundraising. A highlight for me was heading in to Carson Graham Secondary where we walked in to the darkened gym behind a Police motorbike to 1,600 students screaming loudly in support. After a rock-star like introduction, the lights were turned on and numerous students who had fundraised hundreds of dollars each took to one of the five barber chairs and had their heads shaved. The visit to Carson Graham was particularly special for me because I met Victoria, my buddy who came there knowing I'd be arriving. I had not seen Victoria at the opening ceremony as she was away enjoying camp so it was very special to see her big smile when we saw each other in the hallway.

We would see each other when the Tour stopped at Victoria's school, Boundary Elementary in North Vancouver on Thursday the 29th.

We spent the night of the 28th at the Ramada on Capilano and woke to one serious rainstorm. Within a minute of riding our bikes, we were entirely drenched. Breakfast at Tommy's warehouse warmed us for the ride to West Vancouver Police Department and then to Bowen to visit Bowen Island Community School.

Arriving in Snug Cove at 10:40, we rode to the Detachment waving to everybody as they honked their horns or yelled out words of encouragement through their slightly opened windows. We headed to the Detachment, met Cpl. Dan Guilfoyle, and then headed off in the rain to BICS where we received a fantastic welcome with the kids dancing and screaming as we rode in behind the police motorcycle.

After a few plaque presentations to members of the Bowen Island Golf Association who helped me raise over $26,000 to date, a plaque for the Youngson family and for the school and Bowen Island Undercurrent for helping spread the word about this cause, the team rode downhill to Doc Morgan's pub where we were treated to a great lunch and hot chocolate which buoyed our spirits. The girls at the Snug Cafe graciously donated their tips, with Holly coming down to Doc's to present me with the first part of the days' take.

Heading in to North Vancouver after leaving Bowen, we made stops at a few more schools. Visiting Argyle Secondary again provided us with a reminder of why we were riding and raising funds for pediatric oncology. Our teammate from the West Vancouver Police, Cpl. Fred Harding told us on the way that his buddy, Bayan is really sick and was back in Children's Hospital, likely too sick to meet us at the school stop. However, as we left Lynn Valley school and headed towards Argyle, we were pleasantly surprised to see Bayan and his family waiting for our arrival. Bayan had to get back to the hospital and it was touching to know he was determined to leave the hospital on such a horrible day as sick as he was to meet his buddy Fred.

As we left Argyle, I got excited as we headed to Boundary to meet Victoria, my buddy.

It was now 3:15 pm and despite that, most of the school and parents were waiting with banners and signs for our arrival. Victoria's smile as I approached her on my bike made me forget about the rain and I said a few words in apprecation on behalf of our team for the welcome we recieved. Victoria had a 'freezie sale' some months ago and had drafted a poster size cheque with the total she raised to help me meet my $10,000 goal. Victoria had sold $250 worth of freezies. I thanked Boundary school for its support of the cause and for supporting my buddy, Victoria.

Leaving the school, we headed to our hotel.

Friday September 30 would see us split our team to allow half to remain on the route and half attend Rob's buddy Spencer's house in Port Coquitlam. Rob told us a couple of days earlier that Spencer received bad news from a recent set of scans which seem to indicate his cancer is back. We were driven to Port Coquitlam in time to ride a few blocks to meet Spencer at his home before he headed off to school. Spencer treated us to a ride in his go-kart and with his brother riding shotgun and his friends Jared and Keaton riding beside his go-kart on their bmx bikes, we were led with a police motorcycle escort to Spencer's school, Kilmer elementary.

It was tough to keep things together with such a raucous welcome as we made it to the gym. Everyone in the school seemed to outdo themselves as they had been visited earlier in the week by our other 'Tour' team, the GVR side. Needless to say, Spencer seemed glad to have Rob there and we were glad to see the support Spencer's classmates show him.

Leaving Kilmer, we were reunited with the rest of our 'Coast Mountain' team and headed along our regularly scheduled route visiting more schools and some sponsors as we rode the streets of Vancouver.

Again, we learned Fred's buddy Bayan was not doing well and was back in Children's hospital. Fred and a few other riders spent lunch with Bayan in the hospital.

Friday night saw us stay downtown at the Howard Johnson Hotel on Granville. We headed to the 'E' Division NCO's mess for a barbeque. With both teams back together, we felt the energy of the final day to come.

Saturday we woke and met the GVR team at the Whitespot at 1616 West Georgia. Final words of thanks to our police motorcycle escort riders for keeping us safe all week, our support staff keeping us fed and hydrated between meals, our travelling bike mechanic and the volunteers at the Canadian Cancer Society were uttered and small gifts exchanged.

We rode again as a group of 35 through Stanley Park, to Queen Elizabeth Park and then to the Plaza of Nations.

Our buddies were there on stage holding a carnation to greet us with and we took our seats to hear great news. The Tour de Coast had raised over $400,000 to date and was well on the way to reaching its goal of half a million dollars. We heard from a couple of buddies who again spoke of how monies helped support research which has paid off in better treatment which has reduced the mortality rate by 50% in the past few years and how supporting Camp Goodtimes has been a help because it has been a place they can forget about being 'different' and just 'be'.

That night, we headed to the Finish Line Gala at the Four Seasons emceed by Terry David Mulligan. Auctioneer , Retired RCMP Staff Sergeant Ed Hill used his expertise in the live auction to raise a bunch more money for the cause.

With that all said and done, with money still coming in from this fantastic little Island I call home, I expect to be the single highest fundraiser of the 35 riders. In fact, Chief Constable Jamie Graham of the Vancouver City Police who had his legs waxed a few months ago raised $28,000 and I still expect to eclipse his mark.

Stay tuned for the final tally and thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Mike

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