Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brandon & Bison & More, Oh My!

Young fans surround Brad for an autograph & some road hockey!
There are always parts in a journey that stand out more than others. Some places make their mark on you and some people make a lasting impression on you that you know you won’t soon forget. Even though the trip isn’t even halfway done and by no means do I mean any discredit to the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met before but our time in Brandon has been truly special.

We arrived in Brandon coming off one of our stronger riding days yet. Team Marsh rode 360km in 9 hours and 45 minutes, Dad riding 280km and me riding 80km. We rode hard and enjoyed our reward, a cold beer and some great food at Joe Beeverz in Brandon.
It's a bison's life.
The next day we headed over to our hosts house. P.J. and Sheila Crane are friends of ours through Visalus and they kindly offered to take us in to their home while we were in Brandon. That night we had plans to meet up with more Visalus friends of ours at their bison ranch just outside the city. I’ll admit I was expecting a great bison BBQ and a fantastic home cooked meal but I was completely overwhelmed with the hospitality our friends showed us. With a handful of families assembled at the ranch, Trev, the owner, loaded us all up onto a trailer behind a tractor and set out to show us the lay of the land. His son Bailey, an aspiring bull rider, drove us out and opened the gate leading onto the range where the bison were kept. Bison are not small animals. Some reach a hulking 2500lbs or more and there were over 100 in the section we were headed into. Needless to say driving into the middle of the herd was not what I had in mind when I found out we were going to a bison ranch. We came remarkably close to the huge beasts and while Trev explained what a day in the life of a rancher was like we all snapped photos of the bison. The dog bravely played with one of the bison, seemingly fearless facing the huge head and horns of the much bigger animal.

New momma Sammy with brand new calf!
One of the most interesting stories Trev told was of Sammy, their “pet” bison. Sammy was abandoned as a calf (when bison have twins they choose one and abandon the other) and Trev and his family took the young bison in and bottle fed her and cared for her until she was old enough to join the herd. Due to her upbringing, Sammy was unusually friendly around people to the point that you could stand with her and pet her. Later in the evening, we went back out for a photo op with Sammy the friendly bison to be surprised that Sammy, who was pregnant, was about to give birth to her first calf. As she calved we were there to watch the miracle of life right then and there. Trev, who had grown up on the bison ranch had only seen such a thing a handful of times in his life and never this close. It was such a special moment to see the newborn calf take her first wobbly steps into the world. It certainly was pretty fitting for Mother’s Day.

Picture perfect with some of our ViSalus family!
The next night Sheila made us a great dinner before we headed to our friend Dale’s studio for a challenge party. We met with some more friends of ours and many were kind enough to offer donations for our cause. Being in a photography studio, a simple group photo was upgraded into a full on photo shoot thanks to Dale, the owner of the studio. After a nice relaxing day we headed back to the Crane’s house for a good nights rest.

Brad speaking with students at Kirk Caldy School
The following morning P.J., Chad and Kyle took me out golfing at one of the premiere courses in Manitoba. While I was having a good walk spoiled (hardly spoiled, the course was beautiful and I hit the ball pretty well!) Dad went to the local elementary school to talk to the kids. There isn’t a Boys and Girls Club in Brandon but its great we could still reach out to the local kids and Dad could share some stories. He told the kids all about the importance of working hard, doing your best and having fun. The kids surprised dad by having a hockey jersey day, where all the kids wore their favorite hockey jerseys to school. For our final night in Brandon our friends arranged a fundraiser for us at Joe Beeverz. We all came by and had some great food and great laughs. We had such a great night and the outpouring of donations was genuinely overwhelming.

Our friends in Brandon had taken us in, shown us around town, taken us to their ranch, fed us, entertained us and supported us, and they also donated very generously to our ride. It goes a long way when you’re travelling when someone makes you feel at home and from the bottom of my heart Brandon sincerely feels like home. In a city that was so devastated less than a year ago by extreme flooding, its easy to see how they’ve bounced back so quick with such amazing people so eager to help in any way they can for a good cause. Thanks so much to everyone in Brandon, and a special thanks to the Crane family, we won’t soon forget our time here and your amazing generosity.

P.S. Happy 22nd Birthday Tory Marsh!

Erik (Team Marsh Co Pilot)

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