Monday, July 9, 2012

The End of the Beginning

As we roll towards Cape Spear, the most eastern point in North America, there is a lot going through my mind. It seems so long ago Dad and I dipped our tires in the Pacific Ocean to start our journey, yet so many of the days are still fresh in my memory as if they just happened. Even as I write this final recap, it’s tough to sum up the entire trip. We’ve seen so much, met so many people and pushed our bodies and minds to an entirely new level, leaving the task of getting it all written down and doing every moment justice is near impossible.

When I think back even further to all the things that happened to our family to lead us to this point, it’s truly overwhelming. That line from Forrest Gump keeps replaying in my mind, “You’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on,” and for each of us who are part of this ride that phrase takes on its own meaning. Whether it was the financial and physical hardships we had to overcome, or the changing personal relationships with the people we left at home, we put a lot of miles between us and the past. We set a monumental goal and we are only miles from achieving it. Surely each one of us has changed on some level, I’m just not sure I know quite how just yet.

One of the most common questions we’ve got along the way is, “What has been the best place you’ve seen?” Seems easy enough but I assure you, there is no easy answer. How do you compare the pure bliss of riding through the desert in the sunshine on 5A towards Kamloops with the sense of accomplishment you get summiting Roger’s Pass? Can one possibly rank the feeling of a perfect descent with a sweeping view of Lake Superior going into Montreal River versus the awe inspiring scenery of Gros Morne National park in Newfoundland? For every diverse climate we’ve ridden through in our glorious country, there is a day that could be listed among our best. Here’s my best attempt, in no particular order, at a list of our top rides

·      *Merrit to Kamloops – riding along the quiet highway 5A was the day I truly fell in love with my new Trek 5.2 Madone. Rolling hills through the desert climate with beautiful lakes along side us brought back the pure joy of riding a bike.

·      *Rogers Pass – Pat and Dad climbed one of the toughest passes in the Rockies bordered by head high snow banks and rain and wet snow falling from the sky. Just witnessing this incredible riding by those two makes this a highlight for me.

·      *Riding into Calgary – Nothing makes you feel like a big shot more than having the Calgary police block an entire lane of the Trans Canada Highway including every on and off ramp so you can ride your bike into town with 30 supporters. The reception we received at the Boys and Girls club was an unforgettable moment. I only wish every person could experience that to understand how truly special the Boys and Girls club is.

·      *Riding into Brandon – The prairies were supposed to be boring but in reality they were anything but that. The vast open skies inspire a sense of awe and wonder and with the wind at our back we covered a massive 360km in no time at all.

·      *Lake Superior Provincial Park to Sault Ste. Marie Just like the prairies, we hadn’t heard too many positive things about Northern Ontario. To our pleasant surprise, riding along Lake Superior was both challenging and beautiful. With rolling hills that added up to enough elevation gain to rival the Rockies and unbelievable views of the largest of the Great Lakes, this ride was one of my most difficult and favorite rides of the trip.

·      *Ontario Small Towns – I’ve driven the 401 between Ottawa and Toronto hundreds of times but until this ride most of the small towns were nothing but names on a highway road sign. Discovering how beautiful these towns was like finding a small treasure in my own backyard.

·      *Kingston Parade – Seeing a town come together to support a cause like Kingston did for us was one of the most special moments of the trip. Huge thanks to Rick Smith and everybody who arranged a full parade into town complete with military band, fire trucks, local hockey players, mounted police, war veterans and hundreds of people.

·      *Ottawa Reception – Coming home is always special but riding right onto centre ice at Scotiabank Place to the incredible reception the Senators put on was amazing. The plaque signifying June 4th, 2012, as "Brad Marsh Day" will always have a special spot in the Marsh household. 

·      *Highway 132 to Riviere-du-Loup – This place is almost indescribable. The majestic St Lawrence River winding alongside me as I rolled through beautiful French Canadian towns will never leave my memory. That road seemed to be made just for me, and might be the best cycling road in Canada.

·      *Epic Day – When Dad set out for “Epic Day” from Truro, Nova Scotia towards North Sydney, I was fast asleep. He started as the sun came up and we rode well into the dark of night. Our first major day with all 5 of our riders and three support cars. It was a new personal longest ride for almost all of us and even with that, our totals were still over 100km short of Dad’s ride. As our friend and support car driver, Johnny Barrett said, “I can’t believe what I just witnessed, that’s absolutely incredible.”

·      *Gros Morne National Park – Riding in Newfoundland you truly get the feeling that you are discovering another world. All we needed was Dr. Allen Grant there and I would’ve believed we were entering Jurassic Park. The climbing here is incredibly difficult and the boys pushed hard to conquer the overwhelming landscape. The Viking Trail gets Pat’s vote for the best cycling road in Canada.

Obviously, I could go on for days about the incredible rides we’ve had all across Canada. All I can say is that our country has so much to offer and every person needs to see as much of it as they possibly can. As we approach the end (surely another day I’ll never forget, no matter how many celebratory beers we have on George Street), I turn my thoughts again to how I’ve changed. This trip has been every bit as challenging for me mentally as it has been physically and it is still hard to put it all in perspective. When I get back will things be the same? Do I want them to be the same as they were? Part of me worries that I won’t be able to fit back into my former lifestyle, flawed as it may have been. It may not be a bad thing but after all this transient living, I’m hoping I can settle back into a little bit of normalcy. For personal reasons, I’m not sure that it will be possible but after this trip but I know I can handle anything thrown my way. As much as our journey is coming to an end, it is only one chapter in our lives. We’ll all get home and keep on going. The next challenge will be set and the next goal will be in our sights. Life keeps on going, 90 days at a time.

Erik Marsh (co-pilot and son)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Technological Advancement

Brad's new BFF

The past few months I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to ride all over Canada with my Dad and from time to time my siblings have also joined the trek. I’ve always loved going for a ride with my Dad and my brother (its been nice getting to ride with Maddy the last few weeks too!) but since we’ve left Vancouver, something has been different from those childhood excursions. As far back as I can remember those rides, I always remember Dad on the same bikes: a red Bottecchia road bike, a red Tesch road bike and Bontrager Mountain Bike. All three bikes were top of the line when Dad got them (as he always reminded us) but the newest of the bunch, the Bontrager, he received in 1992 as a gift from his Red Wings teammates for playing his 1000th game.

It was a thrill when I grew tall enough to ride those bikes but as a young kid I never did fully appreciate their “vintage” appeal. That said it was a little strange to be out for a ride with Dad and see him riding on his new bike; its carbon frame with black on black finish far different from the steel tubing and red finish of those old bikes. I’m just not used to seeing Dad being up with the newest sporting technology. Heck, up until last year he had the same Micron Medallion Skates he wore when he taught me to skate 23 years ago. He was finally was forced into a pair of Zdeno Chara’s old Bauer’s and when I asked him about the new skates he said, “I’ll be dead before these are broken in!” The stick he used when he played seemed more like a piece of lumber than a scoring weapon, his shoulder pads have numbers from each team he played for written in Sharpie on them because he hadn’t gotten a new pair his whole career. All you need to do is look into his hockey bag to see that Brad Marsh is a traditionalist when it comes to new technology.

This time though, it seems to be different. He has a little extra power up the hills, he is a little quicker to match the tempo when Pat tries to take off and drop us. Maybe this is a symbolic turning of the page. After all, this year Dad has finally wrapped his head around Facebook (not Facepagebook as he used to call it) and he even has a Twitter following. He’s got a smartphone and no longer asks if we have the UPS with us on a long drive (it’s a GPS, Dad). Maybe Dad is proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks, or maybe he’s been training harder than ever and that’s why he looks so fast on that new bike. Either way, Dad is looking right at home on his Trek 5.2 Madone and I can’t wait to tackle “The Rock” and finish off the 10th and final province of our ride.

Erik Marsh (son and co-pilot)

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