From what I can tell in the few photos I’ve seen, his face is almost coffee brown (no cream) and deeply weathered. This is what happens when you always face the rising sun. It also bares a nearly permanent mischievous smile. Dad has been cycling across Canada for more than two months this summer attempting to complete the epic ride he began last year at the Alaska border. He wants to touch Canada’s farthest reaches. His compass points due east toward Cape Spear, Newfoundland.
I haven’t seen many photos recently because when you have Parkinson’s Disease typing on a little hand held device or even a laptop is, if not impossible, terribly painstaking. You probably never consider how lucky you are to quickly snap a photo and effortlessly zip it off in a text or email. It takes two seconds, right? For people with PD the fine motor coordination needed to do that simple task is incredibly challenging. He would be no good at pick-up-sticks. I could totally kick his butt!
When I spoke with Dad this morning from Berthierville, Quebec (home of famous Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve!) I asked him if he was having fun? “Oh yes, I sure am”. His normally whispered quivering voice was strong and clear as it is once the morning medication has kicked in. I could easily envision his freckled cheeks dented with dimples and that Santa-esque eye twinkle. Despite the effort it takes to simply brush his teeth, fill a water bottle or zip his jacket, my Dad is having fun. He is finding the joy in every day. He is revelling in his fresh air freedom. He is stubbornly ignoring everyone who tells him it’s too dangerous or that he’s not capable. I seriously hope to inherit this obstinance… in spades. Maybe I already did?
Dad is riding with a small sign on the back of his bike that says “Parkinson’s Awareness”. He would be so happy to help others with PD by raising some funds for research. There is a giving page here if you are able to give a small donation and some words of support.
He’s not doing this trip alone. Dad has had a lot of help along the way. Family have joined him and friends from his years in the world of long distance cycling keep surfacing to fly across the country and ride shotgun while he steadfastly carries his torch ever closer to Canada’s most easterly point and the finish line. Two of these kind + crazy souls are Peter and Diana Pazdera. Here is a note I received from Peter while he and Diana pedalled with Dad through Ontario:
“Dan is doing great, and I’m really happy to provide the little help he needs. I’m trying not to get in his way, as I am pretty sure he is a fully alive and aware ‘Dan’ inside his challenged body, and I only try to assist when I see he needs it. You’re right, he doesn’t ask for much. It is his tour, and I don’t want to impose on him. He has embarrassed me a couple times in the past when I thought I was the expert with the right mechanical fix, and his years of experience gently suggested something else and was correct. So, knowing he is the master of cycle touring, I am sure he knows what he is doing. No need to worry too much.”
Though I always worry about Dad being out on the wild highways of Canada cycling solo, it’s less and less now. I’m assured because he continues to show every day that though he struggles, he has the heart to override every challenge that surfaces. This is a note from Dad’s cycling friend Ross Ens who is with Dad this week:
Dan asked me to update you. He seemed to be hell bent to ride to Kingston today. Left Trenton at 9:15 am, real early for him. Hot day. I thought he was fading in the early afternoon but after he got the cold coke he wanted, there was no stopping him. He insisted on going thru Kingston to the east side and arrived at the motel I picked with 99.78 km on his computer so he rode around the parking lot to 100 km. A young kid who has ridden from LA, going to NY, joined him for about 25 km. He was very impressed, knew about PD, had pictures with Dan. Good day, got prescriptions filled and a new camera battery charger, laundry done. I think he will sleep well tonight.
Having travelled with Dad last summer through the Yukon I can vouch for this ‘hell bent’ mentality. Dad will look you in the eye, hear what you have to say and proceed to do exactly what he wanted to do originally. (Oh shit! My husband is right, I do that all the time!) Yes, he sometimes takes 4 hours to get ready to go in the morning. Yes, he rarely mentions if he’s struggling with pain from his arthritis or scoliosis or other symptoms of his Parkinson’s. Yes, he always stops to take a million photos and yes, he will continue one way or another until he reaches his goal.
Far from being an excuse, his Parkinson’s has provided a motivating factor to keep-on-truckin’. Dad says keeping ‘Parkies’ at bay is easier with lots of exercise. He should be the poster boy. Frankly, if I had PD, I’d probably be sitting grumpily in my pyjamas, sipping gin through a straw watching Discovery Channel waiting for it all to end but he prefers to wring every last drop out of the sponge while he’s able.
So far my Dad has cycled more than 8,500 km’s and has touched the farthest Western (the road to Inuvik was washed out twice so Northern hasn’t been reached yet) and Southern points in the biggest country in the world. He is 81 years old and has Parkinson’s Disease. Before he began this journey last summer Dad asked me to inquire with The Guinness Book of World Records to see if he qualified for a notation in their book. They responded that he didn’t meet their criteria. Well, he certainly meets mine.
Go Get IT! ~ tara