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Steve’s Blog – Aug 29-30 – 2 coffee makers – Athens to Cornwall

We tear away from the embrace of family once again, this time to spend two days hopscotching
along a route plan with so much complexity that it sounds like a law school admissions question:
Eg. Starting in Ottawa, cyclists A and B drive and ride the following routes.
● Drove east from Athens to Smithfalls for an event
● Drove west back to Athens
● Rode west from Athens to Gananoque
● Got in the RV due to lightning and drove west to Kingston to sleep
● Drove west to Belleville for an event
● Drove east to outer-Kingston and rode to event
● Drove east to Morrisberg
● Rode east to Cornwall in heavy rain
● Rode west 1 km for access road to accommodations for the evening
Do they violate their ‘no gap’ policy?
Answer: no violation. This route is what can happen to a straight line plan that needs to bend to
fit scheduling challenges. If followed by satellite, I imagine that our route would look like a huge
signature, like we are signing a cheque before leaving Ontario.
Our first stop is Smiths Falls, where we meet Pat Collins and her husband, the legendary voice
of the CBC, Robert Fisher. We join the Smithfalls support group for a little kick boxing in the
park, including visual descriptions of the body parts that each blow is meant to disable on their
opponents. I feel that my Parkinson’s training thus far has little combat prep work which has left
me vulnerable to attack, so I am especially grateful that it is covered here.

The Smiths Falls support group is so enthusiastic – it is a pleasure to watch such a close-knit
group trying their hardest. Pat is clearly a gifted fundraiser and organizer, two skills in very short
supply, and she deserves the recognition due her, even if she rolls her eyes in modesty. It’s
good to celebrate our champions.
We backtrack East towards Belleville, and are met roadside by Jim’s aunt, uncle and cousin,
bearing refreshments and confections. Turns out that it was a good time to stop, as an intense
electrical storm clears us off the road, and we land at the home of Judy in Kingston.
Judy is, by nature, one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. She was so eager to help
support our cause, that she acquired every type of convenience she could think of – foods of
every kind, air conditioning, beds, a coffee maker – just to make us feel welcome and
comfortable. She also delivers donations that she collected from her workmates. I am
overwhelmed by how much effort, thought and expense went into Judy’s planning, and a little
embarrassed that we arrive so tired, go to bed early, and arise early the next morning to
commence a particularly busy day of visits. I try to express the depth of gratitude but she will
hear none of it, fills our arms with food for the road and sends us on our way. Judy, you are
unique, warm and genuine, and your support means so much to us.
We wake early the next morning to ensure that we are on time for a cycling ride through
Belleville. Paul has arranged everything, and did every possible thing in his control (despite a
lousy weather forecast) to reach out into the community (venue, marketing, media
management, donations, etc), and we got the chance to meet some terrific people and to help
connect them with local resources. Paul is doing a great job of getting word out to people that it
is time for them to draw together into a community. It is hard work, and sometimes thankless,
but if it were easy, you wouldn’t need someone as talented and dedicated as Paul. Keep it up,
Paul. You are the champion they need.
In Kingston we are treated to a site that I won’t ever forget. We arrived by bike and rode down a
path that was flanked on both sides by Erin O’Brien’s huge Parkinson’s physical therapy group,
with each member cheering and clapping noise makers together. What an introduction! We
follow that up with some spirited questions and answers, all of which is covered by local media.
I’ll never understand where people like Erin get their limitless enthusiasm and positivity, but if it
could be bottled, I would take it over the cure for PD. [Note: I would safely make this choice,
since I could then go straight to the Media with proof that a cure to PD exists. I would explain
the whole ‘Erin’s bottled enthusiasm’ thing and work with them to locate the monster who is
keeping the PD cure under wraps and illegally marketing it directly to consumers via sketchy
ultimatum.]
As a special treat, we are joined by Jim Wilkinson, who we previously met in Saskatchewan,
and then again in Manitoba. As always, when a travel issue confounds us – in this case, the best
route through Quebec – he knows exactly what we should do.

Finally, to conclude this busy day, we reacquaint with Tom and Virginia, who we first met in
Nipigon Ontario. They had heard one of our interviews on the radio and decided that we must
come to Cornwall. Tom is 80 and has Parkinson’s, yet remains a force of nature, with his
exceptional intellect and energy. Trouble is by the time we meet to ride in together, the sky has
opened up with rain. Tom reconsiders riding, but his wife would not hear of it and Tom mounted
up.
We also meet Gil, our host for the evening. He is a judge in Cornwall and also an author of
books on advocacy skills. By weird coincidence, for a short time, I managed one of his books
while at Carswell. And we discover one more coincidence: for the second day in a row our host
has gone out and acquired a coffee maker for our arrival. Is there some rumour going around
about us and coffee? Like that we will explode or bring a curse on your house if we do not
receive fresh coffee each morning?
We cycle with Gil in the driving rain and the entire time he tells jokes and interesting stories.
When we get to his house and meet his wife, Sharon, and friends, Linda and Larry, all of whom
are funny and great conversationalists. So too are Tom and Virginia. Cornwall is starting to look
like a great stop on our tour. But wait, it gets better. … Details in tomorrow’s post.

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Why We Are Doing it

You have probably heard of Parkinson’s Disease. You may even know people who suffer from it.  Get used to it, as Parkinson’s Disease is the world’s fastest growing neurological condition, set to double in number by 2040.

Parkinson’s Disease occurs when the brain’s dopamine-producing cells die prematurely. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter necessary for many functions of the brain and body, including muscular control, and its loss affects all forms of movement and balance, as well as non-motor functions such as memory, concentration and motivation.  Think of dopamine as the electricity in an electric car: without it, the lights dim and the wheels stop spinning.

There is currently no cure, no bio-markers to aid detection, and little is known about how it is triggered, except that Canadians are disproportionately afflicted

Most people living with Parkinson’s reduce or even discontinue regular intensive physical activity after their Parkinson’s diagnosis.  Why?  Their actual skills and abilities do not suddenly evaporate on the date of their diagnosis, though their mental fortitude often does.  As a result, many abandon the very restorative health practices, such as regular exercise, when they are needed the most.  For people with Parkinson’s, intensive exercise can boost energy, sharpen the mind, elevate spirits and keep the body mobile.  Studies indicate that intense exercise can help train the Parkinson’s afflicted brain to use dopamine more efficiently and be able to do more with less.

Let’s use the dopamine we have to build the lives we want.

What are We Doing

Canada is a big country.  It is home to over 100,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease, 9 in 10 of which suffer in silence, isolation, or without the support of a knowledgeable organization or community.  Starting in June 2022, we aim to cross our big country by bicycle to meet as many of these people as possible to personally deliver this message: get moving to stay moving.  

We start In Victoria, British Columbia and ride east through every Canadian province, and hundreds of cities and towns along the way.  Our route is approximately 8,000 km, and we expect to average 125 km a day, six days a week for approximately three months.  Our Spinning Wheels Tour team will include two riders with Parkinson’s Disease, as well as two ride-along supporters to keep things moving.  Along the way, we will be meeting with people whose lives are touched by Parkinson’s, and encourage them to get moving with us, get engaged in support communities, and to set up their own group athletics.

We are not athletes, just people with the resolve to do what it takes to live well with this disease, and to encourage others..  

Along the way, we hope to hear these words, “If they can do it, I can too.”