After a few days of orientation and team-building with the NKCR riders and crew we got an early start from our basecamp hotel in Surrey, BC. Skies were clear and promising a great day of riding ahead.
After a quick shuttle to White Rock Memorial Park the crews had set up a terrific launch site in the parking lot. This photo is typical of the great work the crew do to emphasize why we are riding. Ambassador boards line the starting line with our support vehicles standing by.
The official ceremony started off with an incredible dedication from Patrick Sullivan, the chair of the board of the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation (and a former national rider!). I was ok and listening thoughtfuly until Patrick opened his water bottle and slowly pulled out the bravery beads from his son Finn who passed away at the age of 3 after fighting cancer for much of his short life. Thankfully I had my sunglasses on for the sunrise ceremony to hide the tears. I had completely forgotten about Jacqueline’s bravery beads, each bead representing each procedure – blood draw, infusion, test, surgery, etc. – endured with a brave face. Hearing Patrick describe Finn’s love for life between hospital visits was heartwarming, yet tough to hear. In a silver lining way, Patrick described a few of the advances in cancer treatment in the years since Finn’s passing that help improve the survival rate thanks to research funded by events like the one we were about to start.
After choking down a little plastic glass of OJ and bubbly, the riders and crew lined up on the White Rock shore for the traditional dip of the rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean. When we arrive in Halifax – seemingly a world away – on September 21st, we will close off the journey by dipping the front wheel in the Atlantic to close the loop.
Another tradition of the National Kids Cancer Ride is to carry a small rock from the Pacific and throw it into the Atlantic (don’t worry, I’ll wash it carefully and quarantine it for 18 days!). We also take one rock for ourselves as a little personal memento of our journey. The extra 3 rocks are for the three kids when I finally get back home to London.
Finally, we all gather around arm-in-arm for a group hug and some encouraging words from our event leaders. Ride safe. Look after each other. Remember why we are doing this. We got this!
By 8am we were finally off for a glorious day of riding from White Rock, through Abbotsford and Chilliwack and into Hope where our Jeff, our crew chef, and Fiona had gone ahead to cook us up an incredible meal of roast pork, fresh-baked buns, roasted potatoes. Wow, what a meal! We are definitely well taken care of food-wise. Three cheers to chef Jeff. Apologies for not taking pics, next time.
Finally, another special thanks to all my friends and family who have so generously sponsored me for this ride. If you haven’t yet and are looking for a special cause to support, I hope you’ll consider this one!
Tomorrow looks to be another great day of riding but it’s a big one. 195km with over 2000m of climbing. Wish us luck!