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LEG 1 was successfully completed on March 24, 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 1: Ottawa - Halifax, Canada (March 20-24, 2001 )

March 23, 2001: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
And the team rocks on... The press awaits as the Team prepares to tour the Halifax Rehabilitation Centre.

March 22, 2001: New Brunswick, Canada
"Wassup world!? I am under the impression that my tremendous thirst for novelty will be temporarily quenched for the months to come...."
Team member, George Swinimer,reflects on the first few days on the road as the team makes their way through Canada's east coast.

March 20, 2001: Quebec City, Canada
Launch Day! At long last, after three and a half years of planning, the big day has finally arrived! And what a day it was...a send-off from Parliament Hill with Prime Minister Jean Chretien, no less!

Read about other legs of the Challenge:



En route to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada - March 23, 2001

George's journal:

Its raining now as we cruise along to Halifax, for a conference/tour press release of a rehabilitation facility. We just passed through a toll booth, myself stretching awkwardly across Mike to grab the receipt. Glory Hallelujah! No new scars on my hands today from my arch rival the roof rack today: Human 2 Machine 0. Scars so far, scratched left index finger knuckle, cut palm, scraped back of the right hand, light slices on right index finger, several broken fingernails which makes playing my nylon string guitar slightly awkward...tsk tsk...

Pulling in for gas, Peter films some shots as Gary pops the hood. Out I go to stretch. 67 Kilometers from Halifax. Just chatted with with our main man Randy Waugh about computer communication glitches, ironing out them wrinkles. One step at a time we work out the details.

The first "Sawa Sawa Connection" (Round the World Chapta) watercolour has been presented to Carmen, the night clerk at the Holiday Inn in Charlottetown as we chatted about the ins and outs of the town.

"Message In a Bottle" by the Police, one of my favorite bands of all time, booms on the box. Numerous memories flood to mind, particularly nights chillin' at the Carnivore when I was growing up in Kenya. I always find it amazing how particular songs can stimulate memories so vividly that they recreate that unique emotional cocktail of the original experience. Life and bliss...

Hello Halifax, ships in the port, bridges, rain, people...good vibe...I was last here a year ago visting my father who was in between jobs in Saudi and Lebanon. I have a funky aunt in the vicinity that runs an animal sanctuary...hopefully I'll have a split second to hang out and speak the good philosophies. Time will tell. OK world, for now Leg one seems pretty sawa sawa (read "mighty fine" with energetic emphasis - Swahili). We've just arrived and the press are waiting. Cheers!





The end of Leg 1...Mike leaves the truck at the Halifax docks


The press greets the Team




Mike chats with patients at the
Halifax Rehabilitation Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada


Mike enjoys the view as he heads east of Quebec City towards Kamouraska - the opening door of eastern Quebec and the Bas-Saint Laurent.





Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, March 22, 2001

George's journal:

Wassup world!? Apologies for the lateness of our first communications but our first couple of days have been rather hectic as we settle into the full swing of our little journey. We've just left Gould's - a small restaurant outside of Moncton - guts stuffed with deep-fried clam. Crash Test Dummies plays on the box as we cruise on our way to Charlottetown, PEI. Main man Mike is at the wheel bopping to and fro, singing along with Brad's lyrics. Christine looks philosophical as she stares out the windscreen.

How to describe the quarters of our adapted cruisin' machine? This vehicle is contraption city. In front of me, to my right, lies digital camera to capture Mike at the wheel. Side pouch - communications device to talk to Road Warrior Extraordinaire - the right just honourable Gary Sowerby. Mounted on the dash - GPS tracking satellite system ... you get the idea this beast can almost take us to da moon!

The great journey has begun. Four continents, eighteen countries, seven months. Three years of preparation. How can one possibly begin to comprehend what we are about to experience? For me, one of the ultimate sensations of freedom is waking up in the morning, not knowing where you're going to be, who you're going to meet, what you're going to experience. I am under the impression that my tremendous thirst for novelty will be temporarily quenched for the months to come.

We are about to cross the bridge over into Prince Edward Island, Curtis Mayfield singin' in the background. This bridge is one seriously large papa! Chunks of ice in the water ... rather picturesque... onwards to Charlottetown!


Canada's Prime Minister, Jean Chretien,
wishes Mike a 'Bon voyage!'




From left:
Christine, George, Garry, François Belisle,
Mike, Don Sancton, Marlene Catterall




The official launch on Parliament Hill






Quebec City, Canada - March 20, 2001 - Launch Day!

Mike's journal:

At long last, after three and a half years of planning, the big day has finally arrived!

As I "write" this, we are approximately 45 kms outside of Quebec City, cruising along on highway 20 at just over 100 km/hr. After a healthy dose of the new Tragically Hip album, "Live between us", I felt inspired to write my very first journal entry albeit dictating while George frantically tries to keep up to my random thoughts. As I recite this journal entry, Garry Sowerby is in mock pursuit in our donated Ford Explorer from Budget Rental Car.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of events planning, meetings, media, packing, technology training, conflict resolution sessions...phew!

The final trip preparations were even more overwhelming than I imagined...installing all of the technology in the truck (web-cam, digital camera, laptop, VCR, satellite tracking, sound-system, cell-phone, satellite phone, etc. etc.), trying to pack everything needed for three people to travel in a truck for seven months (and still remain relatively sane!), emergency tools, car and lift parts, manual wheelchair, the medical drugs and supplies I need as a quadriplegic (antibiotics, drugs to control muscle spasms...), an arm-cycle to provide me with much needed aerobic work-out while on the road....the list goes on and on. I can't believe we actually fit it all in...won't be much room for souvenirs on the road, I'm afraid!

But here we are! And, as I think back to the events of today I am overwhelmed by the support of friends, family and sponsors who turned out en masse for our official launch from Parliament Hill. I can't imagine a better way to have begun our odyssey. If you weren't there I can tell you that the event proceeded better than planned. After touching addresses from long-time supporter Marlene Catterall, MP, Don Sancton, representing my very generous sponsor, Pfizer Canada, François Belisle, my friend and CEO of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, and Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons and our MC, Peter Van Dusen I was given the opportunity to speak to approximately 200 friends and well-wishers. It was finally an opportunity to publically thank all those in attendance who have believed in and supported the dream and took time out of their busy day to see us off.

As the official ceremonies wound down I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to hear that Prime Minister Chretien wanted to greet me and the team as he was leaving the House of Commons. The PM was extremely gracious and supportive of the project. I had the privilege of presenting him with our official Pfizer/Roots leather team bomber jacket and baseball cap which he proceeded to try on with the help of Marlene Catterall. Fortunately it was a good fit!

I have to say a huge thank you to Ellyn Holzman and Anne Chartrand at unconventional planning inc. for their tremendous effort in pulling together the launch. And thank you to the J.S. Woodsworth Senior Concert Band for helping to make this a very special occasion.

We're now entering Levi on the south shore of Quebec City and approximately 10 km from the exit of our first hotel and night on the road.

On a final thought it feels great to have our first day on the road and arriving safely at our first destination the Comfort Inn...hoping to get a much-needed rest before moving on to the next city!

I'll talk to y'all soon!



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