skate4life2012

Really really North

After leaving Thunder Bay we headed towards Upsala. The scenery was nice and the big hills were behind us. As we skated the road became flatter and flatter. It was great for skating on. We barely saw any vehicles and the roads were smooth.

Everything was uneventful until we came up to a sign that said “Time zone plaque, 1km.” I didn’t realize the time was going to change in Ontario, I thought it was closer to the boarder.

We stopped at the spot where Central Standard Time Zone started and took some photos. 

After we left it was awesome to know that I had an extra hour to skate!

By the end of the day we made it into Upsala. We stopped at the Can-op, it was a little bit of everything, a restaurant, campground, mini mart, and helicopter training center. The people who ran it were very nice and gave us a free campsite for the night. They also asked us to come back to the restaurant at 5:30pm for dinner. 

I was very excited for a homemade dinner!

Before that, we headed to the campsite and started our routine of cleaning up the van and getting all set up. 

Finally, we realized it was 5:30 Central time, so 6:30 eastern, and we headed to the restaurant. Only we found out that we were an hour late! 

Apparently, Upsala runs on eastern time, even though we were technically in central time. That meant it was both 5:30 and 6:30. It was different! 

Luckily they didn’t mind that we were late and we were treated to an amazing homemade burger and fries! It was really good! 

So even though we thought we gained an hr, technically we hadn’t yet!

Over the next few days we headed towards Kenora, I could write a few more paragraphs on the next few days but there isn’t much to talk about… the terrain flattened out and we barley saw any people for the next few days.

The only highlight was that we were treated to a motel room in Ignace by a couple we met in Thunder Bay. They were teachers from a small community in Pickle Lake Ontario. We were very grateful! 

Over the next couple days we hit Dinorwic and then Dryden and then a provincial park just outside of Kenora. The scenery was very nice once again and the roads were fairly smooth.. We were getting so close to finishing the province… but first we would be tested to the limits in Kenora!! 

Flying through (Manitoba)

After 45 days in Ontario I knew that Manitoba was going to go by really fast, but I didn’t anticipate it was going to go this fast! We entered the province on August 31 and will be leaving the province on September 5, thats less than a week it took to get across the friendly province. It started out pretty good, we skated to Winnipeg over the course of two days and we had to cover a lot of KM which means its a long skating day but it was definitely worth it, not just for the cause but for the fun day we knew we were going to have in Winnipeg! 

We only made it halfway to Winnipeg before we had to drive in so we didn’t miss our tour of the MTS center where the Winnipeg Jets play. It was really neat to see the dressing room, the equipment room, and lounge room where the players hang out. The tour was conducted by Barrett and at the end of the tour he presented me with a Winnipeg Jets signed jersey so we could auction it off for the cause. After meeting him we decided to head back out to finish the skate into Winnipeg. 

We were lucky because there was a nice shoulder for most of the skating, I just had to watch out for loose rocks, but I was really excited to skate on the flat ground. 

September started off really well as we headed out of Winnipeg. I was able to skate 70 km to Portage La Prairie in about 4 ½ hours which is a really great time for me! It wasn’t very sunny but it wasn’t cold the weather was actually perfect. 

The next day we headed to Carberry and Carberry was a very very small town, it actually looked pretty deserted so we decided to drive ahead to Brandon to stay there for the night. KX96 radio station got us a hotel for the night which was really nice of them. The next night we were offered the hotel again so we skated into Brandon from Carberry and some of the terrain was really bad, my feet were really hurting but after the skating we were able to relax in the hotel room again, which was really nice after skating in the wind.

Today was a very long day although we didn’t do much skating, I had two interviews first thing in the morning and they were really good interviews. The hosts at KX96 and 101 the Farm were amazing. After the interviews we went to the CMHA here and Brandon to receive our shirts that have been sent to us. There was an error on the shirts though, they were missing a tagline that we wanted printed but they still look good anyway.

After getting the shirts we realize our rollerblades hadn’t come in and they weren’t scheduled to arrive until tomorrow so we had another interview and then we grabbed some lunch and started skating to the next town but we knew we were going to have to come back to Brandon to pick up the rollerblades so when we finish skating to Virden we turned around and drove back into Brandon. 

Tomorrow is going to be my last day in Manitoba and we will be skating into Saskatchewan, so that should be an adventure!

I’m really looking forward to the flat prairies of Saskatchewan, even though everyone has told me how boring it will be. The best part is that I was told there’s a brand-new road for most of the province and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hoping I can break a couple of personal records on the way.

One other thing I should note is that my mom is very sick, she’s been in the hospital for a few days and they’re not sure what’s wrong with her yet. I hope that everything is okay and that she has a speedy recovery. I check on her and I think about her all the time so I hope she knows that we’re thinking about her. Please keep her in your thoughts as she goes through this tough time. 

Love you mom! 

The long and Winding road (Kenora)

Today was an interesting day.. 

We started skating early towards Kenora. We were going to be welcomed by city councilors and the media early in the day so it wasn’t going to be a large skating day. 

We were about 16 km outside of Kenora when the unthinkable happened. 

The roads were smooth and there was a large paved shoulder. I was heading up a large hill on the shoulder when I noticed a truck up ahead of me slowing down. There were cars slowing down behind it, before I knew it, I realized the cars and I were going the same speed.

I figured something was up with this truck. Possibly mechanical or an animal was on the road or something? I just noticed it was odd that he didn’t have his 4 ways on to alert traffic. 

I took a couple more strides and then I heard a terrible noise. It wasn’t loud and it didn’t last long and I was sure it came from the truck up ahead of me. Within seconds Pierre radioed me and said, I’ve been hit. I quickly stopped and turned around to get to the van.

All I could see was a transport truck be hind Pierre on the side of the hwy and behind him was another transport half on the hwy, half on the road. 

Pierre was all upset and was rattled. He was ok, he had 2 red marks on his face where he hit the steering wheel. I was worried about him. Jacques was tied to the bed and didn’t get hurt and miraculously Pierre didn’t get hit hard enough to run me over.

I can only assume the driver swerved to the side of the road to miss hitting the cars on the road and didn’t realize we were there until it was too later. It is possible that he didn’t see the slow moving vehicles ahead of us and didn’t slow down in time. I am very thankful that we didn’t cause the accident in anyway, I have always said my biggest fear is to compromise ours or someone else’s safety. That is not what this journey is about. 

The driver of the truck will probably get charged, but we won’t know until we get the official accident report. The officer spoke to us first and wanted to get all the info from the drivers before laying charges.

After waiting for a couple hours we were finally free to go. We decided to drive up to Kenora to get to the tent where the city councellors were waiting. 

I was welcomed into the city with open arms and I am greatly appreciative. The coucellors presented me with a couple of gifts, a t-shirt which I am wearing as I skate out of the city today and a water bottle. Trust me, you can’t have enough of those! 

After a few interviews we headed to the hotel that was donated to us for the night by Crystal at the Super 8. I was so happy we had a hotel that we could go and relax in as we had more then our fair share of excitement for the day… Or so I thought! 

After getting settled in the hotel we decided to head over to Caseys for a bit to eat. They donated our food and it was amazing! We met up with Jack Martin, the manager of community services at William W. Creighton Youth Services in Kenora. and he came out to talk to us about suicide and what he does with the youth in the area. 

I learned a lot from him. I didn’t realize all the child poverty that was going on up here in northern Ontario. He said that a lot of kids have no hope and no opportunities and they learn at a young age that suicide is an option. A lot of the kids can’t see themselves past 20 years old in life. After these discussions I realized that part of the problem is that people don’t report or don’t talk about this. I had no idea this was going on.. So why don’t we ever talk about the child poverty in Northern ontario? Its been here for a long time and no one is doing anything about it. ______ Explained that they haven’t been able to get any government help and they need it. They need help saving these kids even if its something as simple as giving them opportunities in music, art, sports, whatever. Something to hope for. Without hope what are we doing here. 

We live in a world where we don’t want to hear about the poverty in our own country because it makes us feel bad and we don’t want to feel bad. We want to feel good and safe and sheltered from whats really out there…

I must say he opened my eyes to a whole new world. One I didn’t know existed, One you might not know exists. I plan on learning more and addressing this issue in the future and I urge you to do the same, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, comments or ways to help. I will keep posting more research as I find more. 

After that life changing conversation, we decided to go meet Mike Richards of the stanley cup winning LA Kings. He was a really nice guy. He signed some autographs cards for us to Raffle off and he signed a Skate4Life jersey, after all it was inspired by the LA Kings. 

What a day, although it felt like 3 days rolled into one!

Thanks again everyone for the support after our accident and for the well wishes… Skate4Life continues and tomorrow brings a new province!

Port Perry (Lost Blog #4)

After leaving my hometwon of Pontypool I was ready to roll! 

After a quick photo shoot at the Pontypool Grain Mill we headed towards Uxbridge. I was particularly excited to skate by my old school and the arena where I first laced up a pair of skates. It was only 7km down the road and it was freshly paved! I skated fast, up and down the hills. I hadn’t gone 40km an hour in a long time so it was fun. When we reached the school we pulled over for a quick break. I had done 7km in 20minutes. I was moving and the cars were all honking with encouragement! 

As we turned off hwy 35 onto 7a, the traffic lessened. We passed Janetville, and Viewlake, and headed into Nestleton. As we left Nestleton and headed towards Port Perry, the cars became bitter. They were honking and yelling and a few people were even giving us the finger! We were doing our very best not to back up traffic so I don’t know why they were all upset. As we approached Port Perry the honking and yelling became worse! I was very upset by this point so we took a break. I couldn’t wait to be through this town! 

A few hours later we reached our destination in Uxbridge, I was glad to be done skating for the day! 

Welcome Home. Thanks Pontypool (Lost Blog #2)

Pontypool…. Most people say Pontywhat?? and I usually have to elaborate that I grew up in a small town called Pontypool, its a small community on the south end of Kawartha Lakes, you blink and you miss it. 

It might not sound like much, but I was nervous for my skate from Peterborough to Pontypool. 

We started around 9:30am and I was especially lucky to have Dave Foster skate with me. Dave used to babysit me when I was young and has been very influential in my upraising. Whats even more impressive is that Dave’s almost 70 and was right there biking with me the whole time! :) I hope I’m that active at his age! Thanks Dave, for an awesome day! 

After an emotional stop in Bethany at Rachel’s farm, I was back on the road to Pontypool. I couldn’t help but think I was skating down memory lane. I knew every inch of the road. I had biked here as a kid and learned to drive here as a teenager. 

I met up with my dad just outside of Pontypool, he was driving around with a family friend. I was glad he made it out as I wasn’t sure if would.

I skated with Dave ½ way up a very familiar road before he turned to me and said he was going to go ahead to wait with my mom and everyone else. After he left, I decided to take a breather for a second. I was picturing skating into town, knowing that I have thought about this moment for a long time. Skating through your hometown is something you can relive every-time you drive through town. I was already a ball of emotions after leaving Bethany, was I going to be able to hold it together? 

We started skating again and I rounded a hill that would lead me to the crowd, as we skated towards the Pontypool pond, I couldn’t help but laugh, not because of the pond, but because there was a family of geese running across the road at the bottom of the hill in front of me, completely blocking my path. I waived Pierre over and he caught up to me so I could grab the van. He quickly slowed me down as I came down the hill and we waited for all the geese to cross. I was then able to continue skating.

I skated past Lydia VanDam’s house and I looked for a sign that I was told would be there. There it was! Big and beautiful, it said Go! Ashley! Go! and there were balloons! They were purple! So awesome! Thanks Harley!

I skated further down the road and I could see the gathering of people. Everyone was cheering and I raised my hands and cheered as I reached them! Immediately I was overcome with emotion as I thanked everyone for being there. Everyone was so great and started handing me donations. I couldn’t believe it. There were so many people from my past and present there. People who have shaped my whole life. My first hockey coach, my high school friends, childhood neighbors (in a small community they help raise you!) , and of course my family. My brother Andrew drove down from Ottawa and my sister was up from Toronto. 

My mom took charge and asked everyone to gather at the Pontypool Park so I could get in the shade. We all walked over and I was able to meet and greet with everyone (or at least I tried!). My mom and Lydia ran around and sold squares for the $100 draw (thanks again Andrea for the idea!). They sold all the squares and the Renegades baseball team won (there was a big mens league ball tourney going on). They came over for a picture and then donated the money back to the cause! What great guys! 

After everyone was gone I went to Tim Hortons with a few special people and 1 special friend of mine. 

Emily Hutcheon is a young girl from Pontypool. She went to highschool with me and she has struggled with mental health issues for a long time. She has struggled with addiction, suicide, depression, anxiety, etc. Not only has she struggled with this, she has struggled with this in a small town. That is not an easy thing. I have a lot of admiration for Emily for this. She has overcome adversity and obstacles at every turn. Skating across Canada is hard, but living and dealing with mental health issues is harder. Emily is an inspiration to many and I will help her tell her story so she can inspire the world and possibly save someone’s life. Love you, Emily!

 At the end of the day, Pontypool was everything I wanted it to be. I was embraced by the community in more ways than one. Pontypool raised $1,200! Second best ratio to Hastings and one I will never forget and even though many people don’t know where or what Pontypool is, it will always be home to me! 

Thunder Bay

We arrived in Nipigon after a long skate and we were surprised to find nowhere to stay again. We found a truck stop that would have to suffice for the night.

The next morning we asked the truck stop to donate two showers but they didn’t want to donate so we decided to rough it for another day. 

Our spirits were quickly lifted as we skated further up hwy 17 towards Thunder Bay because of a sign that read you are now on the Terry Fox Courage hwy. I knew we were getting really close to where Terry Fox stopped running 32 years ago. Before I knew it, I had skated 35km before lunch!

Later on that day, we had another surprise. A girl and her dad saw me skating and decided to stop so that she could skate with me. Her name was Diamond and she was a speed skater. She was really good! After a donation and a fun skate they said their goodbyes. I was almost done skating myself but we had no where to go… I didn’t want to pass the Terry Fox memorial as I had never seen it before. We made a plan to drive ahead to a  KOA campground. I hid in the back because I didn’t want to see the monument. 

The plan worked, I made it to the campground and luckily they were more then delighted to let us stay for the night. KOA campgrounds are very nice. 

We also met some really great campers! The kids were really interested in my blades and Jacques of course! 

After dinner, we met up with the campers beside us to have S'MORES! We talked for a couple of hours and they were really awesome people. They were teachers in Pickle Lake which is further north with a population of 300. I thought that was really cool! 

The next morning we said our goodbyes and we headed out on which would be a historic day. We were on our way to Thunder Bay!

I started the day 25km outside of Thunder Bay, within the first 15km we came to the spot where Terry stopped running. The lone mile-marker and plaque had been standing there for 30 years. 

We decided to pay our respects so I left a little bit of the Atlantic Ocean water at the site. After that we left one of the Skate 4 Life wristbands on the mile post to show that we were there to pay tribute to Terry. 

After we left the mile marker I knew we would soon skate up to the statue of Terry overlooking Thunder Bay.

I wasn't disappointed, when only 10 km later we saw the sign for the memorial. I skated up the hill and came up to the very large statue that was facing west, overlooking the city of Thunder Bay.

Terry was and still is a Canadian icon and the statue is a tremendous tribute that captures the icon as a true hero. It was very inspirational to know so much history, passion, and courage was right before me. 

We stayed at the statue for almost an hour, taking photos and just marvelling at it.

Finally, we decided it was time to hit the road. We headed into the city and we skated right to downtown where we did a quick interview. After the interview we decided to have lunch at Boston Pizza and find a hotel room. Luckily the Travelogue was nice enough to offer us a room, so with food in our belly’s and a bed to sleep in after 2 weeks, we decided to get back out on the road. 

We skated another 30 km outside of Thunder Bay to give us a head start in the morning. 

After that we went back to the hotel unloaded some stuff and took the van out to find a car wash. It needed a good scrubbing and a vacuum. After that we headed to the Canadian Superstore to get more groceries, we figured we won’t see any large grocery stores for a while. We were lucky enough to have a $25 giftcard donated which went a long way. We stocked up and before we knew it, it was 10pm and we were exhausted. 

With only 500 km left of Ontario, we will see what it brings us!

Gravenhurst and Parry Sound (Going North)

I was excited to start heading towards Northern Ontario the morning we left Orillia. We were going to skate towards Parry Sound down hwy 13 to 169. We would have to mark our spot and head into Gravenhurst for the night. 

The skating was the easy part for the day (even though I was still getting over being sick). The hard part was when we finished skating. We drove into Gravenhurst and couldn’t find a hotel or campground anywhere. We finally decided to just drive into Bracebridge. We drove up to Bracebridge and after 2 hours, same thing! Couldn’t find a place anywhere! We figured it was because we were in tourist town that everyone was so up tight about it. We decided to drive back into Gravenhurst to see what we could find… Still nothing.

After a long debate, we fuelled up and drove back out to our starting point. We figured we would just pull over on the side of the road and sleep. Luckily, we saw a sign for a camp ground right by our starting point, we drove to it. It was a bible camp for kids. They were full and couldn’t take us… back to square one… or so we thought.. the  bible camp let us know of another camp that was basically hidden up on clear lake road. We drove out looking for it and to our surprise at 8:30pm at night, we found it! 

They too were full.. 

grrrr…. 

but wait, the owners said we could park in the driveway and run our extension cord. How nice! Finally, at almost 9pm we were finally settled in. 

If this was what it was going to be like in Northern Ontario, we were in trouble!

Luckily the next day we got a good start and skated into Parry Sound before the storm rolled in around 4pm. 

We nervously decided to test our luck at the Comfort Inn. The owner was amazing, she didn’t even want a deposit, took us right in! What great hospitality. Thankfully this meant we had time to go do groceries  (as we wouldn’t be in a town for 2 days) and our laundry before finding supper and settling in. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day. The rain poored and poored  and I was super glad I wasn’t skating in it, but we will see about tomorrow!

BP in Barrie

As promised, I would like to back track a little bit to the eventful day I had in Barrie. On the morning of August 8th I was scheduled to arrive in Barrie, due to my stomach issues, we were already in Barrie, so Pierre and I got ready to head back track to skate into Barrie. I skated a little bit but my stomach was still in pain. Finally before lunch, I gave up and went back to Jen’s. 

I slept and slept, and slept until almost 3:30pm, thats when Pierre tried to wake me. He was scared to wake me as I was grumpy. He wasn’t far off. I was really frustrated and sick and just wanted to sleep but as Pierre reminded me there were kids waiting for my arrival any minute not too far up the road. I was supposed to skate up to them and meet them before our big event later that night. 

I hate to say it but he had to drag me out of bed and I wasn’t a piece of sunshine thats for sure. 

As we arrived I saw a whole crowd of people and I was even more upset, more-so at myself for disappointing them. I stepped out of the van and they welcomed me with open arms. It was amazing, even though I felt sick. There were so many people who were there to support my journey.

I met some amazing people and youth. Like Ally, a student who has become a youth leader after surviving through drugs and depression. She was a true inspiration, and Nya who was 7 years old and already up to speed on youth mental health and its importance. 

Rachel was the person who put this whole thing together and it was finally nice to meet her in person! 

After a lengthy interview and meet and greet, we realized we were late to get over to the restaurant, we quickly went back to Jen’s so Nya could meet Jacques and then headed over to Boston Pizza.

When we arrived there was a reporter waiting there to talk to me. She was fantastic! One of my favourites so far! Her name was Kim and she was with SNAP! Barrie. We have remained in contact ever since!

After that I went inside and was able to enjoy the evening. Actually as the evening wore on I felt better and better from the last few days. I guess its true what they say, Laughter is the best medicine. 

At the end of the night Rachel presented me with a gift bag full of cool stuff but my favourite is the wind breaker jacket that said “Start Talking” on it. It is awesome! I wore it the next day.

Of course, by the end of the night I was exhausted but it was worth it, it really kicked the bug right out of me, and I was ready to get on with my journey. 

So a big thank you to Rachel and Nya, and Jen! I couldn’t have done it without you Jen!!! and everyone who took time out of their lives to come out to B.P that night. You really made a difference, not only with your donations but with my spirits to continue on when I was feeling weak. 

Thank you everyone!

The Big Tdot

After the journey through Port Perry I was nervous about getting into the GTA. We headed into Newmarket from Uxbridge and then started down Bayview towards downtown Toronto. At first I couldn’t tell I was only 50km outside the biggest city in Canada because it was all farm, but I knew that would change.

Around lunch time I started to see the city appear before my eyes, the lanes widened with heavy traffic on both sides and there was a Tim Hortons on every block! Ok not every block but close enough. 

The cars were really good with me, only a couple of negative honks but nothing like Port Perry. The only thing giving me problems were the roads! They were cracked and pitted and uneven. I couldn’t get a good stride going but I learned to cope and I kept pressing on. 

Eventually we made it to the downtown core, perfect timing too! The weather was taking a change for the worst. Right as we pulled up to the hotel it started to poor like crazy and thunder and lightning. I was safe and sound in the van but Pierre had to get out and run into the hotel. O the irony! 

We spent 2 days in Toronto. Mostly sight seeing. The second day we decided to explore downtown but decided the van was too hard to drive around the city so we decided to skate! We skated all around the city and took a lot of pictures. We went to my favorite place in Toronto, Wayne Gretzky’s Resturant! They donated a free desert, a chocolate hockey puck to us! It was awesome! We skated to the Air Canada Center where the Leafs play and took some photos and then we skated to the CN tower and decided to head back to the hotel. It was now about 11pm and I had to skate in the morning! 

The next morning I skated towards Burlington. It was going to be a big day. We were scheduled to meet the MPP of Oakville before arriving at the big event at the Nines Brick Bar in Burlington. Plus before all of that I had to skate through downtown Toronto! 

Luckily the skate started off great. I skated down Lakeshore and it had a big paved path leading out of the city. The view was beautiful! Once I was outside of the downtown core I jumped back on the road, followed closely by the van. The roads were again uneven and pitted for most of it. We hit Oakville just before lunch and we were scheduled to meet Kevin Flynn around 1pm. We ended up having a problem with the GPS and when we though we were there, it was actually 20km ahead! We had to drive up to meet everyone who was waiting! (we went back and did the 20km later that day). As we arrived at Mr. Flynn’s office I was greeted with applause. I was so excited to meet everyone! They offered me a Gatorade and the best gift of all …. A massage! Thats right, right there on the sidewalk they set up a table and tent and everything. It was fantastic! After a quick talk with the media and some photos I started sharing my stories with Kevin about the journey. He is a huge advocate for mental health, he used to work for the CMHA. It was really inspiring to know that someone in government is making mental health issues a priority. Towards the end of our visit Kevin and his office offered me something that I haven’t even been able to talk about yet, he offered me a signed Sidney Crosby All Star Team Jersey. I lit up like a kid at Christmas. What a gift! I am still stunned to this day. I have moved it to a safe location so that I am not carrying it around in the van from town to town.

After we left Mr. Flynns office, I skated as fast as I could to our event at the Nines Brick Bar. I was energized and feeling good so it was easy to skate. I think the massage had something to do with that too! 

After we arrived we went to the hotel room that the Nines Brick Bar donated for us. 

The evening was great. We enjoyed great food, company, and entertainment. Sean Bush performed and he was fantastic. Randy, the owner of the Nines, did a wonderful job of putting together a burger/beer combo with proceeds going to Skate4Life. He had posters everywhere and the waitresses sold the wristbands. It was fantastic. We even auctioned off the signed Claude Giroux jersey! It was a great night. I can’t thank Randy enough for putting everything together. 

30 Day Yoga Challenge - Day 2

Day: 2

When/What Yoga Class? 8pm Yoga for Beginners video (see previous post)

What was my stress level? Physically tired, mentally tired of being sick

How relaxed was my body after the yoga session? Although my head was pounding my neck muscles felt the greatest improvement - not as tight. 

What was my mood like? Tired, sick, ready for bed

What was most challenging? Holding the poses while my body was weak from being ill   

Yesterday was the 2nd day of my 30 day challenge - and it was the 2nd day I was sick. I ended up calling in sick for work on account that I couldn’t speak. I spent all of the day on the couch eating soup and drinking tea while watching daytime TV. By the end of the day I was ready to do my 30 minute yoga session. 

I was a little more confident going into this session - One of the challenges I knew I was going to have to face was learning the new terminology. In yoga each move is a ‘pose’ and each pose has a name.

I have become a bit more familiar with the poses in my first video. Some of the poses I have done are seated cow, seated cat, seated dog, mountain pose, childs pose, and dolphins pose. All of these are basic poses, but I am sure that with a few more days under my belt I will feel more confident. I also had Pierre buy me a yoga mat so now I feel more comfortable - you know like I fit in with the yoga crowd. 

Hopefully in a few days I will see more changes in my body - so far 2 days in - Im just getting started!