Steve’s Blog – July 29 –  the other Steve and Darlene – Winnipeg, Man to Richer , Man

3 years ago I met Steve and Darlene (confusing, I know) at the Scarborough Bluff Marina. Steve, then late 60s, diagnosed with PD 8 years prior,  former body builder, now sailor, was in town to promote his tour of the Great Lakes. Mike and I attended to support, and we were then invited aboard to sail for a day and struck up a friendship. They live in Winnipeg, so Mike made plans to meet today for breakfast.

They are both warm and wonderful people. The sail boat is gone, replaced with an RV (land yacht), and a new passion – photographing derilect cars in their natural state and location. They bring a collection of print examples to show, which they will be producing into a book as a fund raiser for Parkinsons Canada.

After catching up, we meet them again  20 km East of Winnipeg at a location calculated to be the geographical centre of Canada. We are halfway to St. John’s in distance, though not in time – it took us just over one month to get here, but it will take over two months more to finish, owing to our convoluted path through Southern Ontario, and the various places that we need to get to for meetups.

I did something next that scared me – I switched bikes to Dan’s repaired recumbent, to ride along the TransCanada. Scared? In training, I crashed at least once per ride, and I am concerned that a crash here could land me underneath a passing transport truck. The remaining route is short (30km), flat and straight, with a decent shoulder, so best to try here. Results are okay – no deaths, but slower and it works heretofore lazy muscles. Still, happy to continue with it.

Our campground is fun, with a pool and zip lines, but no wifi. I go for a twilight zip, and I am nearly beheaded when I crash into a drone. Worse, Mike forgot to record, so no record of it. Tomorrow, we will be home-ish – in Ontario, but a post that I have never been to in my 57 years living there. It will also be the start of a stretch of road that I have been told to fear. We’ll see.

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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.”