When I was young, Dad would take my brother and I on his bike rides. Early in the morning, with the dew still on the grass, Mom would pack us a plastic bag full of cereal and we'd cram into the trailer attached to the back of Dad's red road bike. I have no idea where we went or how long we were gone. I couldn't even narrow down exactly what city I'd have been in during these trips, however somehow I do remember them. At the time I couldn't comprehend the meaning of those rides and I didn't really care. The pure joy of going faster than I ever could on my yellow bike weighed down with its training wheels was all I needed. As I've grown older, life happens and I can't fit into that little trailer anymore but in different ways I still jump at every opportunity to get into that trailer and tag along with Dad, wherever we may be going.
It’s 20 some-odd years since the last time I rode in that trailer and Dad's not riding for the same reasons as he back then but in many ways, its all coming full circle. Dad played 15 years in the NHL with Atlanta, Calgary, Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit and Ottawa. I didn't know it then but all those long rides were training rides to prepare for the upcoming season. Those rides were one aspect to achieving a goal set to be accomplished, whether that goal was to get in better shape to be able to keep up with the rigours of playing 20-25 minutes a game or to keep his conditioning up to play another year in the NHL. It’s been almost 21 years since Dad's last shift in hockey's best league, but this spring the goals are being set once again and we take to the road, as a family, to accomplish them.
The goal is to bike across Canada, the second largest country in the world. But that in itself is not what this story is about. It is not about riding through each of the country's eight distinct forest regions or conquering the Rocky Mountains or seeing how flat the prairies truly are. This story is about the people along the way and what brought my Dad and our entire family to this point.
It’s been done before, riding across Canada. People have covered these kilometres in a shorter amount of time. Older people have participated, as have younger individuals but what makes our ride and every other ride out there unique is the story behind it. Dipping our wheels in the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver at the beginning of the ride and jumping into the Atlantic in St. John’s at the completion of the ride will leave us with many experiences that make up a journey that will leave us forever changed.
Dad will be the one on the bike but he won’t be alone. I'll be along for the entire trip, riding when I can, driving the car when needed and documenting the journey. Mom will help see us off to a good start and likely stay with us through most of the west coast portion of the ride. My brother, Patrick, lives and trains as a speed skater in Calgary and we'll tap into his cycling abilities to help us over the Rockies and into Calgary. Victoria, the oldest of the girls will join us when her final exams at Western University in London, Ontario are finished and Maddy, the youngest, will also join when her studies at Middlebury College in Vermont are finished for the year. This trip, just like every other challenge we've faced before, will be a family affair. Whether on the road or not, the entire family will be chipping in from time to time and contributing to give their perspective on this journey.
We look forward to sharing this challenge with all and hope you will check both Facebook www.facebook.com/BradMarsh90DayChallenge and Twitter @BradMarshNHL for regular updates. We also welcome your comments and stories and encourage you to participate with us online.
See you on the open road.