2 was successfully completed on June 11, 2001!
RWC team have been chronicling
their adventures and thoughts as they motor 'round the world.
These are Mike and the Team's Challenge entries.
more, read the weekly articles
appearing in The Ottawa Citizen.
2: Britain (March 25-April 12, 2001)
12, 2001: North London
"The timing to get such a major repair done could
not be worse." Mike reflects on the week past - an appearance
on Irish television, a visit to his birthplace, Glasgow, Scotland,
more London media and truck repairs.
April 10, 2001: Hempstead, England
to Mike's 'legs' (his wheelchair) and a very special trip
to Stanmore Rehabilitation Centre where Mike was treated after
his injury, 16 years ago...
7, 2001: Scotland
The Scottish countryside reminds country-girl, Christine,
of "a Sunday afternoon road trip back in the Ottawa Valley"...
6, 2001: Belfast, Ireland
The team is slowed down by a different sort of road
blocks - the fight against foot and mouth disease is in evidence
in highly agricultural Ireland...
5th, 2001: Dublin, Ireland
"Beast" (a.k.a. the truck) has survived its trip
overseas intact and it and the Team begin Leg 2 in fine form...
29, 2001: London, England
After successfully completing Leg 1 of the Challenge (Ottawa-Halifax),the
Team enjoy a much-needed rest in London and Mike "takes
stock of where we've been and where we're going"....
25, 2001: Essex, England
reflects on Leg 1..."My mind was filled with wonder at
the delicate balance between being able bodied and being disabled
or being dead...it's so easy to forget that one's life situation
can change so drastically..."
Read about other legs of the Challenge:
London - April 12, 2001
Here we are Thursday morning, Day 24, sitting outside a noisy
garage in Watford, North London trying to get the truck's
transmission repaired as quickly as possible. The timing to
get such a major repair done could not be worse. We are heading
into the Easter holiday weekend and all the companies we've
approached have either been unwilling to take on the job because
the truck is a North American vehicle or they are completely
booked up servicing other customers prior to the long weekend
... what to do?
As I reflect back on the past week everything was going remarkably
well as we headed north from Dublin to Belfast and I started
feeling at ease behind the wheel after the truck's long trans-Atlantic
crossing. Following a full day and night in Ireland and Northern
Ireland, I was invited to appear on the Kelly Show. The program
is a live one and a half hour variety show and this particular
show had among its guests some British pop stars from the
eighties including Paul Young and Nick Kershaw in addition
to an actress from Coronation Street. Apparently every second
household in Ireland tunes into the show every Friday night
religiously. The interview went very well with the presenter
offering some insightful questions and I had about 10 minutes
to talk about the "Challenge".
The following Saturday morning our RWC team woke up at four
in the morning to catch the fast ferry from Belfast Port to
Stranraer, Scotland where we joined approximately a thousand
jubilant Glasgow Celtic football "soccer" fans on
their way to cheer their team to victory. Celtic were vying
for the Scottish Premiere Division League Championship. Upon
our safe arrival in my place of birth, Glasgow, we hastily
made our way to Southern Scottish General Hospital's Queen
Elizabeth Spinal Cord Centre. We were taken for a tour around
the very progressive centre which serves a wide majority of
spinal cord injured people around Scotland. Later that evening
we shared a pleasant evening dining with my Uncle Kenny, Aunt
Margaret and my sole surviving grandparent, Granny Ferguson.
The next morning we caught up on a little bit of sleep and
were soon on the road again winding our way up through the
very picturesque Scottish Highlands en route to Aberdeen.
We stopped to take in some of the spectacular views but the
highlight was spotting and listening to a lone Scottish bagpiper
wailing away at the top of one of the passes in the highlands.
Back in London, with a little bit of help from some new friends,
remarkably we managed to locate a transmission installer who
just happened to be called "GM Automatic Transmission
Centre" who conveniently specialized in North American
vehicles, happened to have in stock the exact transmission
required and was kind enough to fit us in late on Thursday
afternoon just before the holiday ... fate was on our side!
Needless to say, the team and I were quite relieved that we
were able to get this major work completed which allowed us
to stay on schedule and not be stranded in London for the
entire Easter Holiday period. In amongst our mechanical setbacks
we managed to fit in interviews with Channel 5 - Breakfast
Television, the London Evening Standard newspaper, the Julia
Somerville Program - LBC Radio and a feature spot with a crew
from Reuters Television who followed us around for the afternoon.
As you can imagine were are all exhausted and looking forward
to a day off before we embark on our next jaunt through the
"Chunnel" and finally onto the European Continent.
By the way, as we rest for the night at our hotel in Kensington
- West London, the odometer reads 205,777 and we have now
clocked 3,780 kilometres throughout four countries ... we're
England, April 12, 2001
Greetings! It's now 5:30 AM UK time. Christine and Mike have
just headed off to do a media spot for Channel Five television
and I, being unable to return to sleep am squeezing in journal
entry while I can. We've been up since 3:30 AM as it takes
about 2 hrs to get Mike, or any quadriplegic ready to go every
morning. Details to follow when I get the chance.
How have the past few days been? Hectic the classic
man versus machine issues, coming as they often do in a nasty
bundled package. Where to begin? Wheelchair issues. Mike's
footplates often take a beating getting in and out of the
lift system, negotiating over humps and plowing through doors.
Hitting a bump while cruising the cobblestone of Edinburgh
castle at a 45 degree angle with Christine perched on his
shall we say "a wee bit" of extra
strain. Two days ago Mike asked me to do a routine adjustment
pull on the footplate to bend the metal slightly
necessary in order to be able to turn in the chair. The obligatory
"Schnathunk!" followed causing an almost complete
fracture of the joint. Rack one up for the "look into
while there's an available second" department.
We arrived at Steering Developments and hour outside of London
two days ago to get leaky seals replaced for the power steering
mechanism. Classically the wrong seals had been sent from
Canada, but fortunately we were able to improvise by replacing
a few "O rings". Five hours later we are back in
the truck in great spirits commenting on how "the Beast"
is almost like hour home for the next few months, the only
piece of personal space we can expect to be consistent throughout
our journey. Our smiles turned to concern as Mike suddenly
noted that we had no acceleration, and it appeared we stuck
in first gear
flashers on we, managed to crawl to The
Noke Thistle Hotel (nice place) that gave us a spectacular
discount on there rooms.
We returned to Steering Developments (a fascinating garage
that adapts vehicles of all sorts to accommodate drivers and
passengers in wheelchairs) yesterday and various mechanics
tried to diagnose the problem. Acceleration cable nada.
Electronic Gas and Brake system no. Transmission box
seems to be the problem, but unfortunately it was getting
late so that will be part of today's mission. To make the
day complete a mechanic broke a microswitch on the wheelchair
lift system (replaced successfully but we now have one less
spare), and the wheelchair footplate snapped off completely.
Machine definitely won that round, but worry yea not - human
will spring back soon.
Scar count? My numerous roof-rack scratches have healed successfully,
but new minor injuries have been acquired. One sliced scalp
a low and dangerous light fixture with a knifelike
piece of metal hit it NINE times while in Southend-On-SEA.
One large blood blister from slipped pliers while dismantling
Mike's manual chair. Two scratched shins electric wheelchairs
have sharp corners in every possible spot imaginable. And
one bashed toe from slipping on a wet bathroom floor
fortunately not while transferring Mike. There you go
the battle continues, off to start another day!
England - April 10, 2001
"Good Morning, England!" It's great to be back,
and this time we're on tour and the first stop this lovely
bright morning is in Hempstead at a shop called Steering
Developments. The vehicle needs a few little adjustments
and tuning up as well as Mike's chair, I'm afraid. The wear
and tear Mike puts his chair through is horrendous. Actually
when I think about it, Mike really isn't all that rough, it's
just that he uses his chair the same way as if he wasn't using
a chair. Does that actually make sense? Well, let me give
you an example. Okay, yesterday, when we went for a quick
visit to the Edinburgh Castle, we wheeled around with me on
his lap as we made our way around on the cobblestone pathways
inside and especially coming back down the steep grade caused
the steel legging of the foot plates to really bend. So not
only has it been difficult to get properly back into driving
position but to actually wheel the chair without causing his
feet to fly off. And with George trying to straighten them
this morning, a breakage occurred. So the first order of business
is to take care of the vehicle and chair because if we don't
have either one in working order, the tour stops here.
a much more happier note, today is going to be one amazing
experience. As it stands, Mike and the P.R. team have set
up a special event which is taking place at the Stanmore Rehabilitation
Centre. The very place where Mike stayed immediately following
his injury over almost sixteen years ago. I can't imagine
the feelings, emotions, the flashbacks that Mike will be going
through today as he revisits the facility with the very staff
- even doctors who were with him during that time. Dr. Middleton
was a key supporter in implementing what was considered very
progressive rehab. technique which included getting Mike back
in the driver's seat and designing a method in which he as
a high level quad can drive virtually independently. Anyways,
all I can say is that a person that cares for Mike very dearly,
I feel privileged to be a part of this very momentous day
in his life.
April 9, 2001
Yo! Cruisin on the A82 in Scotland on the way to Inverness.
Spent the past night with Mike's Uncle Kenny and Aunt Margaret's
bed and breakfast in Glasgow after a few days of media hell
of interesting and cool people along the way as well which
is grand and keeps us sane.
We, rather Mike, did a morning news show, while I helped out
on the set behind
news announcers reading the highlights
off a screen
I'd hate having to do that every day
strokes for different folks...
I loved Dublin. We picked up the vehicle, unpacked, cleared
customs all went smooth and Sawa Sawa. I managed to get in
touch with an old friend Annette, someone I hadn't seen in
8 years. Classic tale. I was chillin with one of the clerks
at our hotel, Jury's Inn Custom House, a guy from Pakistan
that let me in on the various ins and outs of the country.
Lahore apparently will be hot by the time we get there 47
to 50 degrees ok for me but for the Mike man who doesn't
sweat below the nipple line
air conditioning better not
As I showered to prepare for the evening, Annette popped into
reception and, having not seen me in 8 years, proceeded in
classic Annette fashion to drill Ramesh with questions about
me. Arriving downstairs and exchanging an ecstatic hug and
kiss, Ramesh gave me a stern glance said in his classic Urdu
accent "Remember do not do things of this nature in Pakistan."
So great to see Annette again! We caught up on the past near
decade... such a tease to see old friends for only such a
short period of time
poof just like a dream.
The thing was I had to wake up after just two hrs sleep
only three hrs the next night and another three the night
work early media shows, crossing a ferry from
Northern Ireland to Scotland
but last night nice 10 hrs
of pure bliss sleep
I am no longer a zombied monkay
and my mind actually functions to a reasonable degree - peace
be with you.
What else can I say, cruisin the highlands, snow capped peaks
here and there niiiiiiiiice. Jazz pumps on the box,
one of my favorite tunes with that slick piano riff is on,
feelin pretty good.
Intercession just jumped out of the beast to capture
a lone bagpiper on the betacam in the middle of some snowcapped
peaks should be a classic shot two points for
Time to kick back and enjoy the scenery. We'll be in touch.
- April 7, 2001
we are on our way from Inverness Scotland along the A96 making
our way north to Aberdeen.
hours of what is known as typical Scottish Highland mountains
and lakes with the likes of a lone Bag Piper playing a haunting
song (which by the way we captured on video), castles to drivingalong
the infamous Loch Ness. I am now enjoying what seems to be
very familiar countryside. I commented to the guys on how
it is very similar to what I know as God's Country otherwise
known as the area up and around Barry's Bay, Commermere and
Killaloe. Here we are across the ocean and it feels like I'm
going for a Sunday afternoon road trip back in the Ottawa
Valley but rather than feeling homesick I have a complete
feeling of being in the right place at exactly the right time.
night was the first time I spoke with Joshua and Matthew (my
sons) since the previous Sunday with a very quick call from
the Power house back in South End On Sea, Essex, in England.
With more time available, I actually was able to have a bit
of a visit with them as well as a follow-up chat with my mother,
where they are staying while I'm on my "Little Journey".
In the back of my mind I've had this aching concern on how
they really are handling our time apart. Mom reassuringly
tells me they are handling this all very well. Joshua is now
back on track will his school work which I'm so pleased to
hear, and both are sleeping and eating very well. Apparently,
Boo (a.k.a. Matthew) is really eating well, so I'm sure when
we see each other, he'll probably seem a whole lot bigger
than when I last saw him back on the 20th of March.
we will be driving for around seven hours with only two brief
stops. One to fuel up and the other we pulled over about forty
miles before Aberdeen for a much needed walk about and stretch.
It's actually quite amazing that with all the constant time
we spend in the truck driving all day, I find that time goes
by very quickly; I don't know how Mike and George feel about
it. I have a feeling tonight we are going to have a much deserved
quiet time. I know there are the same old daily tasks and
routines to attend to, but at the end of the day we will have
a stress free evening.
takes a lot of energy to go at the pace we have been going
for the last few days. With all the media events we attended,
which means late to bed, early (I mean 4:00 in the morning
early) to rise, and all the rushing that goes along with meeting
all the schedules attached to it. But even with all the hustle
and constant lack of sleep, we persevere.
Sunday now and here I am travelling in the back of a Chevy
Blazer tapping away on a laptop. With the truck packed to
the brim with all our equipment, gear and luggage with just
barely enough room for us to sit comfortably for any length
of time. My head resting on the food bag which I'm using as
a pillow, I continue to put to words my thoughts of the day.
coming up to almost 9:00 p.m. as we are coming to meet the
welcoming lights of Aberdeen. Mike is pulling off the main
road to find a reasonable place to stop in for the night.
There are actually little bunnies rambling on the greens as
we pull up. The name of the establishment is Mains of Balquharn
Travel Inn. George has gone in and has come back to tell us
all is fine. So as we descend into the hotel I bid you good
Ireland - April 6, 2001
we're on to Belfast Ireland, and coming from Dublin, that
means driving north on the M1 to get there. So far we have
travelled 35 kms outside of the city; it's raining but it's
actually quite warm today, which helps keep our spirits in
good form. I really can't say too much about Dublin because
I didn't really get out and about to get a real feeling about
it. I'm looking forward to a little more time to myself in
Belfast. So far Ireland to me is...Sea, Green, Sheep, Daffodils,
Kilkenny, Football, Rain all wrapped up in smiling eyes. I'm
not sure of the landscape but all around so far now as we're
driving are rolling fields and not much in the way of any
significant mountains or even hills.
are actually small scale palm trees that not only are planted
in residential yards, but are all along the sides of the roads,
I wonder if they'll be as noticeable in the North. I like
the way that every day here it can be at any given moment
wonderfully warm and sunny then change to a blustery rain
shower. I can only imagine how pleasant it would be here being
out and about during the summer nights.
trying to appreciate the larger centers with all they have
but I find that I'm still drawn to the countryside and all
its natural beauty. Maybe it's the constant buzz of all the
traffic and the unpleasant noise pollution that comes with
it. But maybe once I have more time during the nights to see
things in its diluted atmosphere, When things aren't going
at such a fast, loud pace, I'll find my calm happiness.
I can't help falling in love with you..." It's 3:50 p.m.
and we are finally catching a glimpse of some of the hills
I was hoping to see. We're just driving past Dunleer and we're
clipping along at a good steady pace. Mike says that if everything
goes pretty smoothly at the border, we should make it into
Belfast at around 6:00 p.m.
road design and horrendous traffic considering this is the
main artery connecting Dublin to Belfast. That is the feeling
of Mike as we slowly inch our way to what George believes
is either a foot and hoof block or the border crossing. And
as George suspected it was sure enough "la bouche et
le pied" (foot and mouth) disinfecting road block.
we noticed a dead sort of coloring in the hills and as we've
come closer to the land it's obviously been a lot of clear
cutting going on. I wonder how long ago they decided to clear
the land in this destructive manner. As we make our way through
a highly agricultural community, we are going through a chain
of disinfecting road blocks.
Ireland - April 5th, 2001
we are, day 15 and I'm sitting in my room at the Jurys Inn
from our departure from Parliament hill, today was our second
most significant and eventful day. We made our way by taxi
to the Dublin docks to retrieve the truck which had been sitting
in its container over the NorthAtlantic for the past 10 days.
considerable trepidation and with baited breath, team members,
Christine Gundlack and George Swinimer and I watched as the
door to the container was carefully opened. Thankfully, everything
was in tact and the truck was in the exact condition we had
Christine was the most knowledgeable (not to mention the slimmest)
of everyone watching the procedures, she had the daunting
task of crawling on the roof and in through the driver's side
window to start the engine and reverse the truck out of the
container all in a standing position no less! The moment of
truth was answered with a resounding "Yes" as the
engine started on the first try and we were almost back in
business. George and Christine both quickly attended to my
directions which included re-attaching a control arm which
opens/closes the electronic door; re-engaged the logic board
which operate the hydraulic Elaine-Ann Lift System and re-fastened
the roof container to the top of the truck. I can't describe
how happy and relieved I was to finally wheel onto the lift
and position myself back in the driver's seat in preparation
for Leg 2.
little time to rest or reflect, we were quickly on-route to
the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dunlaghaire - just
outside of Dublin. It was a little tricky adjusting to driving
a left-hand drive vehicle in a right-hand drive country, but
within a half-hour I was getting into the groove and driving
more confidently. At the hospital we were greeted by Joan,
a representative and quadriplegic representing the Irish Spinal
Injuries Association (ISIS). We were quickly escorted to the
hospital's "day room" where I gave an impromptu
presentation on the 'Round the World Challenge to a group
of 25 patients, doctors and clinicians. During the following
question and answer period I learned about some of the issues
affecting people with spinal cord injuries in Ireland. Similar
to other parts of the world, including Canada, most of the
patients complained about the serious lack of accessible public
transportation in addition to no existing legislation protecting
the rights of people with disabilities. It seems as though
the same issues affecting the Irish are worldwide concerns.
the past couple of weeks has progressed remarkably well and
we are on track in terms of the itinerary and schedule, we
are all feeling a little overwhelmed and tired. Certainly,
staying in Essex in a real home and in one place for the past
week was refreshing and relaxing, but the logistics involved
in planning each week and dealing with inaccessibility such
as continually lifting up and down a flight of stairs to bath
and go to bed take their toll on Christine, George and I.
Importantly, we are all eating well but not getting enough
sleep as we usually have to get up at approximately 6:30 a.m.
in order to get all our tasks completed in the day.
the pressure and frantic pace we're all quite happy to have
the truck and our independence back and to finally be on the
road again ... next stop, Belfast, Northern Ireland. By the
way, the odometer reading this morning was 203, 792. For the
record, on Leg I we clocked 1795 kilometres ... only 38,758
kilometres to go.
Essex, UK - April 2, 2001
it's been awhile! Late Monday night and we're off early tomorrow
morning to Dublin, taxi part way by Les, Barbara Broccoli's
personal driver, then ferry, find a hotel
set up media
etc. Soon we'll be reunited with our funky beast hopefully
in one piece cruise around the UK, fly by Europe, then the
fun will begin. What's been going on
cold chillin' and
the flight over was full of well deserved sleep
to meet Mike's mate from the past Justin, his mate Buzz, drive
to Essex, crash
meeting with Barbara Broccoli for lunch,
along with public relations people from Octagon. Odds and
ends for media launch in London sorted
two nights away for me, a break in London to hook up with
blasts from the past.
So I chilled with the Kahana Kid yet again, one of my oldest
friends from back in the days filled with classics. Last time
was in Uganda in 1998. Stories of survival struggles in London,
working in Huxton, East End London. Relived a plethora of
memories. Robert, an ex-band mate was met again too
almost 8 years since I've seen him last
Curry and memories
were had with by cousin Ira, not seen in 8 years, Moscow
overkill. One of my favorite things hooking up with people
from the past.
Returning to the Southend was difficult, return to work, lack
of independence and space
fun night with Mike's old
buddy Peter, now a master masseuse, technical advice on posture
and exercise given. Large crowd of people arrived at around
9 pm, and a small party followed, a few hours of mayhem, kids
running and playing in the meantime.
town has a desperate trash tourist vibe Niagara Falls
of Southern England. The longest pier in the world though,
over a mile out to sea crazy winds blowing, knock me over
burnt end. I must sign out, up at 5:00am tomorrow, speak a
few philosophies with our host Justin, then sweet glorious
may this adventure continue in the sawa sawa vibe!
England - March 29, 2001
been 9 days since leaving Parliament Hill in Ottawa and with
Leg I successfully behind us, I can finally relax and take
stock of where we've been and where we're going.
presently typing away in my good friend's (Justin and Sandra
Power's) dining room in Southend-On-Sea in the county of Essex
- some 50 miles south-east of London. It's typical English
weather with a little sun an hour ago and rain showers at
present. We arrived in the early hours last Sunday, March
25th at Heathrow airport on a direct Air Canada flight from
Halifax. Christine Gundlack and George Swinimer and I slept
in until 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon recovering from our frantic
pace in Canada. That was the first time I had slept in past
7 a.m. in over 2 months!
Wednesday, March 28th, it was back to business as usual and
we made our way into London for our first meeting to organize
publicity and events in the UK. When my good friend, Barbara
Broccoli (Producer, James Bond Movies) realized we were about
to board a train into the city she quickly offered us a ride
up and back to town with one of her drivers. Her kind offer
was graciously accepted and Leslie (an old friend) promptly
arrived Wednesday morning with a new wheelchair accessible
London Cab fully equipped with portable ramps. Like clockwork
I wheeled into the back of the taxi with Christine and George
occupying the back seats.
As we were driving through the round-about in front of Buckingham
Palace we noticed that traffic was being halted to allow for
a police escort of a carriage exiting St. James Park. Quickly
realizing that this was no normal carriage, but in fact the
Queen's horse-drawn ceremonial carriage, Christine rapidly
jumped out the cab to snap a few photos. Much to our dismay,
as we were being moved along by the police we discovered that
the Queen of England was nowhere to be seen. The carriage
was being occupied by what looked like a dignitary from India
and a member of the Clergy. Amongst all the crowd that gathered
for the photos, it subsequently took about 15 minutes to relocate
Christine. All of us found the episode hilarious especially
our driver Leslie who couldn't stop laughing, pointing out
"if we lost one another in London, how were we ever going
to make it around the world!"
Arriving 15 minutes late, we met for lunch at the Copthorne
Tara Hotel - off Kensington High Street with Barbara, Nikki
Turner and Emma Timms (Octagon Marketing) who have been retained
organize publicity for the UK part of the journey. Barbara
reaffirmed her support for the project and offered her EON
Productions London office as our administrative base while
we're in the UK.
Upon reflection, Leg I across Eastern Canada proceeded quite
smoothly. Some of the highlights were crossing the world's
longest covered bridge at Hartland, New Brunswick which spans
the St. John River a distance of some 1,282 feet. The other
spectacular bridge crossing was the "Interprovincial
Bridge" crossing from Nova Scotia into Prince Edward
Island. Spanning a distance across the ocean of some 15 kilometres
and hundreds of feet above the water, it is an amazing feat
of engineering. Once on the bridge it seems never-ending and
there is no shoulder to turn onto in the event of an emergency
... a little disconcerting.
March 23rd, Day 4 we drove 355 kilometres to Halifax and our
final destination in Canada before shipping the vehicle to
Britain. We arrived at the Halifax Rehabilitation Centre some
5 minutes after our scheduled arrival time of 2 p.m. to be
greeted by news cameras, reporters and a welcoming committee
of representatives from the Rehab. Centre, the Mayor's Office,
the Provincial Health Ministry and a local Research Laboratory.
We were given an extensive tour of the Centre before going
up to one of the wards to give an impromptu presentation on
the "Challenge" to a group of approximately 50 patients,
nurses and doctors. Following the presentation which addressed
the preparations, purpose and expectations of the project,
we had a very enlightening question and answer period where
I learned about some of the important local issues facing
the newly injured patients in Halifax.
departing, we passed out some of our posters, received a $500
donation from the Centre and had the opportunity to talk to
some of the patients one-to-one. We talked about everything
from muscle spastiscity to attendant care to accessibility
issues. Everyone was highly supportive of our endeavour and
we were invited back to the Rehab. Centre upon or return to
Of tremendous support throughout Leg I was the escort in the
vehicle donated by Budget by our Technical Adviser and one
of the world's top drivers, Garry Sowerby. Garry candidly
addressed issues that would need to be addressed over the
coming five months including vehicle preparedness, on-road
communications and team harmony. As one of our vital team
members, Garry's presence and past experience have helped
us to zero in on what's important in the many challenges that
an inspirational note we had the opportunity to visit "Garry's
Shrine" - an underground garage in Halifax which is home
to all the vehicle's which Garry has driven around the world
and from tip to toe on all the continents of the world. This
glimpse into Garry's past validated all we had read about
his previous world records and inspired us for what lay head.
our last order of business March 24th, Saturday morning was
to drive to a deserted CN rail yard where we rendezvoused
with the forwarding company and proceeded to prepare the truck
for placement into the container which would be home for the
vehicle for the next 10 days.
to height considerations, it was necessary to remove the roof
top storage container and for safety we had to disconnect
my electronic hand controls and disengage the electrical system
which controls my KVB Manufacturing wheelchair lift system.
With all the preparations taken care of, Garry Sowerby took
control of the vehicle and from a standing position, very
carefully and slowly drove it from a 5 foot high loading ramp
into the shipping container and then proceeded to exit the
driver's side window, onto the roof and out the back of the
container! The forwarding company then went to work padding
the sides of the truck and bracing the tires, etc. in preparation
for its potentially rough voyage across the North Atlantic
Ocean. With strong feelings of separation anxiety I waved
goodbye to my vehicle and trusted that we'd see the truck
the condition we left it on April 4th in Dublin, Ireland.
in Essex, England - March 25, 2001
world! We're in the UK after shipping the vehicle packing
and all that crazy jazz. Doing the jetlag recovery thing.
Mike is now soaking in the tub with Christine helping him
out. It's very quiet out here in this suburban environment
and already I miss our travelling beast, but a few nights
and some sweet sweet sleep are a welcome change. I'm under
the impression that our noble audience has little idea what
a typical day is like for us what we must do etc...all in
good time people you shall receive the supreme education.
Leg 1 is officially wrapped up. No snow here which in my personal
evidently biased opinion is magnificent. I am not a snow monkey,
ironically neither is Mike, rather strange for someone who
spent so much time cruisin' the slopes. Flowers and green
grass. Lovely lovely.
my perspective Leg 1 was the pre-trip warm-up. We get in gear
for life on the road, organizational and packing skills improve
at an exponential rate and we feel out whether we'll be able
to tolerate one another at such close quarters for such a
long period of time. So far so good, but the Canadian and
European stretches are peanuts in comparison to what we will
encounter once we encounter the Middle East and Indian sub-continent.
I think back nostalgically to my days of driving education
at the Rocky Driving School in Nairobi, where Satch Mo (as
he called himself) would educate me on the practical vs realistic
aspects of driving in the so called "developing"
world. "George what do you do you do when you come to
a zebra crossing," he would ask a classic Kenyan accent.
and let the pedestrians cross," I'd reply, straight out
of the driver's manual.
no that would cause accident because the car behind you would
not be expecting such behavior and would hit you in the rear.
The correct solution is to drive faster."
of India pop to mind travelling in buses dodging potholes,
cows and incoming traffic, diesel smoke belching from overcrowded
vehicles, every turn every instant within inches of a fender
bender. Driving attitude reflects the harsh realities of survival
the majority of our planet's population has to face on a daily
basis. Not quite the pristine yet sterile conditions that
permeate much of western society.
of Leg 1 you ask? We ended up in a ditch in Quebec en route
to New Brunswick. Mike and I were discussing my sense of humor
as he tried in vain to coax a smile out of me with his endless
stream of one liners. I explained that I rarely found jokes
amusing, but laughed most readily at ironic situations. My
opportunity promptly arose when Mike, needing to take a break
from driving, decided to pull over delicately on what appeared
to be the snow covered shoulder of the road. Whoooooooomp!
Suddenly we found ourselves at a 45 degree angle, Christine
covered in files and computer gear and Mike wedged into his
chair at an uncomfortable angle. Garry Sowerby rushed out
from the support vehicle to make sure we were alright, while
I climbed out of the passenger window only to find myself
knee deep in snow. As we waited for the CAA to arrive I pulled
out my guitar jammed a few tunes in the barren and silent
winter landscape and shared a few laughs. The various forms
of weather we will experience on this journey will be phenomenal.
Halifax Rehabilitation Facility proved fascinating, one interesting
character, a quadriplegic of only 8 months called Willie,
managed to convince me to give up my hat. The room was full
of mostly men in wheelchairs some only in their late teens.
My mind was filled with wonder at the delicate balance between
being able bodied and being disabled or being dead...it's
so easy to forget that one's life situation can change so
drastically any time, anywhere... just like that.
the leg with the right honorable Garry Sowerby was fascinating.
Story after story emerged from his various journeys around
the world and to the extremes where roads begin or end depending
on your particular perspective. We had the honor of visiting
his shrine of vehicles that including the truck that was ambushed
by bandits in Kenya in 1984, bullet holes and all. The aura
within the place was mind - blowing.
is about 1:30 AM UK time and I must get in some 'Z's. Tomorrow
I'll have the privilege of being able to sleep in till 7:00
am or so, probably the most sleep I've had within a month.
Until our next entry world, keep funky!
Read about other legs of the Challenge: