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LEG 2 was successfully completed on June 11, 2001!

The RWC team have been chronicling their adventures and thoughts as they motor 'round the world. These are Mike and the Team's Challenge entries.

For more, read the weekly articles appearing in The Ottawa Citizen.

Leg 2: Britain (March 25-April 12, 2001)

April 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
Repairs 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...

April 7, 2001: Scotland
The Scottish countryside reminds country-girl, Christine, of "a Sunday afternoon road trip back in the Ottawa Valley"...

April 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...

April 5th, 2001: Dublin, Ireland
The "Beast" (a.k.a. the truck) has survived its trip overseas intact and it and the Team begin Leg 2 in fine form...

March 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"....

March 25, 2001: Essex, England
George 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:

 

 

North London - April 12, 2001

Mike's journal:

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 getting there!

Mike

London, England, April 12, 2001

George's Journal

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 lap added…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!

Cheers,

George

Hempstead, England - April 10, 2001

Christine's journal

Well, "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.

On 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.

Christine

Scotland, April 9, 2001

George's journal

Wassup 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…

Lots 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…different 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 break down.

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…slept only three hrs the next night and another three the night after that…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 the documentary.

Time to kick back and enjoy the scenery. We'll be in touch.

Cheers,

George

Scotland - April 7, 2001

Christine's journal

Here we are on our way from Inverness Scotland along the A96 making our way north to Aberdeen.

After 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.

Last 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.

Today 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.

It 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.

It's 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.

It's 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 night.

Christine

Belfast, Ireland - April 6, 2001

Christine's journal

Finally, 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.

There 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.

I'm 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.

Appalling 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.

Earlier 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.

Christine

Dublin, Ireland - April 5th, 2001

Mike's Journal

Here we are, day 15 and I'm sitting in my room at the Jurys Inn - Dublin.

Apart 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.

With 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 left it.

As 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.

With 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.

Although 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.

Despite 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.

Mike

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK - April 2, 2001

George's Journal

So 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 business
mostly…the flight over was full of well deserved sleep…arrive 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… the sweetness 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…sensory 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.

This 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 sleep …may this adventure continue in the sawa sawa vibe!

George

London, England - March 29, 2001

Mike's journal

It's 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.

I'm 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!

Yesterday, 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.

On 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.

Before 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 Canada.

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 lay ahead.

On 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.

Importantly, 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.

Due 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.

Mike

 

Somewhere in Essex, England - March 25, 2001

George's journal:

Hello 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.

So Leg 1 is officially wrapped up. No snow here which in my personal and
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.

From 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.

"Stop and let the pedestrians cross," I'd reply, straight out of the driver's manual.

"Ati 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."

Memories 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.

Highlights 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.

The 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.

Spending 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.

It 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!

George

 


Read about other legs of the Challenge:

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

  
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